Gustaf Agartson is an international entrepreneur who set off to prove his business idea in a new emerging market. His venture has already raised over $100M in capital, while attracting tens of millions of new customers.
During our interview on the DealMakers Podcast, Agartson shared how travel has fueled his business and informed his understanding of leadership on a more global scale. Plus, his experiences proving new concepts in new markets, fundraising, and his insights on expanding your business.
Gustaf Agartson was born in a small town in Sweden of only around 5,000 people. That number is now far dwarfed by the number of customers his startup has served.
When he was around 15 years old Agartson moved to the much larger city of Stockholm.
After finishing school he found a Swedish mobile telecom with an entrepreneurial mindset. Tele2 had operations in 26 European countries.
They offered a two-year program. One that would give him the chance to travel and work in multiple countries, and also work in multiple roles. He would get to experience technology, product, and more.
They also gave you a mentor. His mentor told him that instead of worrying about producing work, he should focus his two years on learning as much as possible and having fun. He did.
Exploring Emerging Markets
Still focused on mobile technology, by 2009 Gustaf says he became interested in what he saw happening in emerging markets like Kenya.
One of Kenya’s mobile operators, Safaricom, invented M-Pesa, a mobile platform that enabled those that didn’t have bank accounts to send and receive money.
He says he saw that as proving that mobile technology and infrastructure could create access to financial products that people didn’t have before.
This inspired him. So, when he heard about Swedish investor Generac backing young consumer finance businesses in emerging markets he sought out a meeting with them.
He pitched them the idea of doing something in insurance in Africa. Generac agreed to provide financial backing if he would move out to Africa, and could prove the opportunity existed through local on the ground research and piloting projects.
Having never been to Africa before, he packed up his things in the middle of 2010 and moved to Ghana.
Gustaf took off for Africa with the purpose of providing insurance and health services to people in an emerging market that hadn’t had access to these types of services before.
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