Le Wagon Brussels alumni Thomas Vanderstraeten is Seraphin’s cofounder and CTO. The company just raised €1.2M and Thomas did us the honor of sharing his story and telling us what led him to be where he is today.
What were you doing before Le Wagon?
After graduating as a civil engineer in applied mathematics, I worked as a strategy and management consultant for a big consulting firm. I actually took a 9-week break from this job to learn how to code at Le Wagon, at the end of which I decided to get into technology and development - and to quit my role as a consultant. This is basically how I pushed the doors of the entrepreneurial world.
Why did you join Le Wagon ?
With a group of four friends, we had the idea of creating a platform which would allow different non-profit organizations to get in touch with volunteer workers for specific and qualified missions. The only thing missing was to get the technical skills to actually develop the platform. I thus joined Le Wagon to develop the app under the name of Fovento, which we introduced to the press two days before Demo Day. I even had the opportunity to present it to King Philippe a week after the bootcamp ended. I truly believe the pitch I made that day was the coolest I ever did! As of today, the app runs successfully and the non-profit organization is still standing.
What were your expectations?
I was expecting to be able to develop my app and to launch my non-profit organization project with my friends. My expectations were met 100%. However, I didn’t expect to love the atmosphere of tech startups so much to the point that it would actually become my full time job! I had no idea I would live such an extraordinary experience, one of the most intense experiences of my life in fact.
What were your key motivations?
What motivated me was that I had a concrete project in mind and more especially, that I was given the means to launch it in a short amount of time. It’s crazy what you can learn in only 9 weeks, and more importantly, how you’re taught to think like a developer. Suddenly, it’s as though the connections are all naturally made in your brain: the other students and I became creative as we were learning how to make our code work. It’s as if learning how code works behind the scenes helped us come up with new ideas, it’s absolutely fascinating!
How did you decide to embark on the Seraphin adventure?
After launching our app during the bootcamp, my goal was to create my own tech company. After exploring several new personal projects, I heard that Seraphin, a digital broker business, was currently looking for a Ruby developer with a good knowledge of the financial industry. Bingo! I applied and eventually joined forces with the team as a co-founder (CTO).
Can you tell us a bit more about Seraphin and the fund raising?
Seraphin was launched in 2015. We’re now working with 10+ highly skilled professionals coming from the insurance business who, based on your real needs, will compare and fine-tune your insurance coverage and make you save money! They are also really efficient at helping you to get through any claim or emergency. We just raised a €1.2m round from several angel investors and strategic partners. This money will help us to extend our guarantees, keep adding new insurances to our offer, and also scale up to become an established business with a strong presence here in Belgium.
What’s your role at Seraphin?
Seraphin is one of the first insurance brokers that simplify this opaque industry thanks to digital. Insurance is a highly regulated industry – whether it being on processes or data management - in which the trust of our clients is key. The code behind the online application must be perfect, we have to test it constantly in order to provide a flawless service.
As Seraphin’s CTO, I manage our in-house technical team as well as the work done by a web agency and several freelancers. I already had good managerial capacities thanks to my previous job and I can say that Le Wagon has provided me with a much-needed technical base for my everyday work.