NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fred Schebesta started a digital marketing business while still in college in Australia, working on a shoestring out of his dorm room.
After he sold that, he was able to start fresh, and later co-founded Finder, a conglomeration of websites that help people make decisions on purchases such as mortgages, flat-screen TVs or car insurance by comparing data.
Schebesta, 36, spoke to Reuters about selling his first company, and why it has been critical to his success today. He had some unconventional advice for teaching children entrepreneurial skills.
Q: How did you first learn the value of earning money?
A: My parents were studying to become doctors when I was growing up, and for a very long time, we lived super-frugally. There was a time where we lived in a caravan at the back of a doctor’s office.
We re-used everything, and I hardly ever asked to buy anything. If I did ask, it was very important. One was to buy a computer. That’s how I learned the business I am in. I used that until it fell apart, and when it did, I was emotionally devastated.
Q: How did you figure out how to handle your own finances and the company at the same time?
A: I always kept some safety money and financed everything on credit cards. I kept every dollar I could in the company I started in college. I never had the money in my hand, but at the end of the month, I would collect enough to pay the credit cards. It got me off the ground. Then slowly over time, I learned how to make it into a business.
The company got into a very good place at the end. To me, that was heaven. I got to buy some lunch every day and eat dinner – as opposed to one meal. But it still wasn’t making a large amount of money.
Q: How did you decide it was time to sell?
A: I sold in 2007, which was a boom time, and everyone was bullish. So I thought, it’s about time. They paid me a reasonable amount, like more than a million dollars. That was more money than I had ever seen in my life.
Q: How did you keep that money safe?
A: I took 80 percent of payment in cash and 20 percent in stock. That stock turned into literally 2 cents. I lost all that. The people we sold company to didn’t run it quite the same way, and that was tough to deal with it.
The other part of the money I paid off the mortgage on my apartment and put some into another house, and some stocks – just some conservative banking stocks and tech companies I understand.
Q: What money values do you want to pass along to your two children?
A: I don’t want them to have jobs. I don’t think that they should trade their time for money. I’m trying to open their minds to the fact that you can take risks in alternative ways to getting a job.
For instance, they can get unlimited pocket money - they don’t have to work for it. But they have to pitch to me. We call it the five reasons game. Five reasons why and five lessons they will learn from it. They have to draw diagrams and make a presentation.
We’ll see what happens in good time. I was thinking about upgrading it – next is PowerPoint. If they want a car, I’ll need a market analysis.
Q: What legacy do you want to leave with Finder?
A: Our intention is to find a way to compare everything, so it becomes part of humanity. You are a product of your decisions. If you’re tired and you make poor decisions, that affects your life.
Editing by Lauren Young and Frances Kerry