World, meet one of our co-founders and brains behind our product -Thomas Dobereiner. He is an engineer and a globe trotter, who likes surfing and drinking coffee from his periodic table mug. Thomas has always been interested in startups and solving complex problems. He is fascinated about combining tech and people related problems. Thomas is a Brazilian, who landed in Tallinn, Estonia to work for one of the hottest fintechs: Transferwise. At Transferwise he met his future co-founder and decided to take the leap to build his own startup.
What is your background and what did you do before Xpass?
Before getting into college, I initially wanted to study chemical engineering. I’ve always loved chemistry, and I have a big passion for science. I even have my periodic table mug, which you cannot see right now. And I use it all the time. But I didn’t pass for chemical engineering. But I did get accepted for an electronics engineering program. My goal was to specialise and work in environmental engineering. My focus shifted during my first semester when I got an internship as a sales rep in a software company, where I stayed for 2 years. The whole experience was very much out of my regular scope. It had nothing to do with engineering. It shaped the way I viewed my skills and interests. I realised I could see myself working in business and with people related topics.
As a next step, I tried out consulting, more exactly, I was consulting how to accelerate startups. I had a chance to learn the basics of how you get a startup running. But after 8 months I realized, that wow, I miss my technical side so much. During my next internship I had the chance to do people’s analytics. It was a great mix of technical side and people side. It gave me a chance to dive into the tech scene. Yes, I knew about science but not so much about computing at that point. I got to learn more about APIs, about coding and data science. So I decided that product seems like an area that makes sense for me. And I was over the moon when Transferwise offered me a role in their product team. Xpass is a continuation of that, which is working as an PM for the team. Building a good product for our customers.
How would you explain to your grandma what Xpass is doing?
Same things as cards and cash. Instead of having to pay someone with cash, you can transfer money to them. So it’s the same relation with paper documents and digital documents, we allow you to say who you are, verify that you are that person in digital channels without physically showing up somewhere to prove your identity.
Why are you building Xpass?
There are two main personal motivators: First, I wanted to work with great people. Ernesto [CEO of Xpass] initially brought me to the team. And Ernesto was a guy that I saw was a great professional. So I wanted to work with him and learn from him. Second, one of the things I hate the most in the world is bureaucracy, and our product has the potential to eliminate so much bureaucracy in Latin American countries. Coming from Brazil, which is a super bureaucratic country, it seems like an excellent opportunity to create a product that really will help to make life easier and a bit less bureaucratic on a day- to- day basis. So the product and the impact of that product is very motivating for me.
What do you see Brazil or even in general Latin America could learn from Estonia?
Oh, Latin America could learn a lot. I won’t get into the political reasons why digitisation is moving slower there, but there’s definitely so much to learn from countries like Estonia. For example about the implementation of digital identities, how to facilitate digital innovation and how to build a digital nation in only 30 years. It is really interesting because I ask that question from myself all the time: digital identity makes so much sense, why hasn’t anyone already built it for Latin America? The thing is two years ago I was in Brazil, and I had no idea about digital identities, I did not know this was possible for countries. I guess the benchmark of living here [Estonia], and the experience of living in different cultures makes me see that every country does something really well. I think it’s about trying to bring this back to our home countries, whichever country that is.
The biggest change Xpass could bring to Latin America?
It is pretty easy to say when you are in Estonia. People in Latin America could operate with the same sense of simplicity like it is possible for Estonia. Simple and easy processes and access to tax declaration, voting, health data, doctors appointments, in that sense everything. And that should be a government backed initiative, same way it is in Estonia. Today, Latin America spends millions and millions on bureaucracy, where the current process is that people need to move from one institution to another one to get their documents signed- it all could be simplified.That is what would change.
Most of the team is very young. What is your counter argument for the prejudices of “you don’t have enough industry experience or skills”?
In a way I would say they’re right, but that does not mean I am not able to create something to make their life easier. Yes, I will make mistakes, but at the same time, I do have the responsibility of fixing those mistakes. If the person is not happy with the product, we can discuss the product, but I would not spend too much time discussing our age. If the product is good, it does not matter who created it. If we are able to deliver value, they should not be questioning who did that.
Your top 3 strengths you bring to the team?
- I am very hardworking. I will learn whatever I need to learn if the team needs it. Whether that be a new programming language, a framework, how to be a leader, anything. I will learn, If means the people around me are better off.
- I believe I inspire people in the sense I never bring down ideas. If someone brings an idea to the table, I will never say “that’s not possible”. I would always make that person get to the final conclusion and maybe the final conclusion is that it is a great idea and it could work. I don’t let people get demotivated, whatever they can dream, they probably can do, if they put in the effort.
- I think I am very good at mediating a conflict. I tend to be very rational when arguments come. I will be very logical about it, so that means i am usually able to solve conflicts.
Thomas sound like a cool guy and you would like to discuss more business with him? Check out: xpass.me