Klarna Founder: From Burger King to Billion Dollar Start-up

From a part-time job at Burger King to the founder of the $6.7 billion company Klarna, Sebastian Siemiatkowski has been through it all—and he doesn't regret the experience.

Siemiatkowski and his future business partner, Niklas Adalberth, were both working part-time at Burger King when they decided to band together to change their lives. They went together to the Stockholm School of Economics to earn graduate degrees in Economics. And in the middle of their schooling, they took a year off to travel the world together—but only using cars and ships.

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"This was an amazing adventure," Siemiatkowski told EU Startups, "and I can confidently confirm that many days on cargo ships on the huge oceans gives you lots of time to think."

After they returned from their travels, Siemiatkowski got a sales job where he learned about the world of e-commerce. There, he found a gap in the market, as many people didn't trust the online payment systems available at the time. He contacted a colleague from the Stockholm School of Economics, Victor Jacobsson, and Klarna was born.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much initial faith in the product. The three partners entered their idea in the Stockholm School of Economics Annual Entrepreneurship Award, where their idea came in last. However, they were spotted by angel investor Jane Walerud, who connected them with a development team and the funds to get started in 2005. Just two years later, they secured another investment from AB Öresund, and in 2010, expanded to the Finnish, Norwegian, German, and Dutch markets.

Eight years later, Klarna had expanded to banking services and served 60 million users and 90,000 clients. By 2019, they had raised $460 million through investors such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia, HMI Capital, and Dragoneer Investment Group. Now, they're worth $6.7 billion and are the biggest fintech startup in Europe.

"We were told many times that our idea would not succeed, but we believed in it, and here we are today," Siemiatkowski told EU Startups, "so don't give up. And don't underestimate the value of good advice."