Sten Saar is the co-founder and CEO of Zego, a start-up that is helping to revolutionize the insurance industry by creating easy, flexible, and cost-effective insurance policies for gig workers. Since the company was founded in 2016, it’s enjoyed phenomenal success. Earlier this month, it became the UK’s first Insurtech Unicorn after its latest fundraising round pushed its value to $1.1B. To find out more about the man driving Zego’s success, read on for ten things you didn’t know about Sten Saar.
1. He thinks entrepreneurs should ignore advise
Considering he started his first start-up at the age of 17, Saar clearly knows a thing or two about being an entrepreneur at this stage. If there’s one piece of wisdom he could pass onto fellow entrepreneurs, it would be to ignore what people say (apart from him, obviously). Speaking to TechRound, he explained how staying true to your own judgment and instinct is crucial if you want to become successful in business. “Don’t believe what investors, advisers, and other people around you have to say,” he recommends. “They all come from their own angle and have their own experiences, so their advice may not be applicable. Your gut instinct is most important, and your duty is to filter what’s going to be helpful and what’s not.”
2. He launched his first business at 17
Zego is by no means Saar’s first taste of start-up success. He launched his first start-up, Realister Ltd, in May 2004, at the age of just 17 years old. The company, which specialized in selling innovative notepads for students, propelled Saar to international fame. Within a short time of its launch, it had enjoyed enough success to be bringing in over one million dollars in net revenue and to have expanded its operations to four different countries. Saar served as its CEO until 2009. In 2013, he sold the business, which continues to operate under new management to this day.
3. He served as operations director for Deliveroo
After stepping down from daily operations at Realister Ltd, Saar moved from his native Estonia to London, where he joined the start-up Quickstart Global as Head of UK Sales and Marketing. From there, he moved to the luxury property rental company Onefinestay, where he graduated from Reservations Manager to Head of Operations in just a year. In 2015, he joined Deliveroo, where he served as Operations Director until quitting the company in June 2016 to launch Zego.
4. He launched Zego after spotting a hole in the market
In the US and Europe, over 162 million people are employed as gig workers. Regardless of whether it’s by choice or not (a subject that in itself is becoming increasingly contentious), there’s one problem that afflicts every independent worker: affordable insurance. While he was working at Deliveroo, Saar spotted a gap in the market for the kind of flexible, on-demand insurance that gig workers were sorely in need of. In response, he launched Zego, a service that provides insurance for workers such as Uber drivers and Deliveroo couriers who work ad hoc hours and for whom traditional insurance wouldn’t be economically viable.
5. He doesn’t waste time worrying about the competition
If there’s one thing that isn’t keeping Saar awake at night, it’s worrying about what his competitors are up to. As he explained during an interview with TechRound. he’s far too busy focusing on Zego to spare a thought for any other business. “We are very much focused on what Zego is doing, rather than what competitors are up to,” he says. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve our products and build new and better ones so that we can better serve customers. If a by-product of this is that we move ahead of others in the market then it’s a win-win.”
6. He identifies with Winnie the Pooh
Speaking to Sifted, Saar revealed that his favorite book is “The Little Prince,” a novel he says gives him an ‘incredible feeling of energy, inspiration, and ‘yes, I can do it!’’ But as a child, he identified with a very different kind of fictional character: Winnie the Pooh. “Winnie the Pooh was just a nice friendly chap, caring and supportive. I’m a big fan of that so I identified with the character in a way,” he shared. “In school, I had a friend who was a lot smaller than I was and I always looked after him when people tried to bully him, like Pooh and Piglet. I was always very protective of anyone being bullied — can’t stand it, whether it’s in the playground or a work environment.”
7. The Green Mile makes him cry
During the same interview with Sifted in which he revealed he identifies with Winnie the Pooh, Saar revealed another little nugget of personal information: he can’t get through “The Green Mile” without shedding a few tears. “You see massive cruelty, bullying, suffering, but kindness at the same time,” he said. “Watching those extreme emotions being played out gets you really riled up. It made me cry!”
8. He was nominated for Bloomberg’s Europe’s Young Entrepreneur
After launching Realister Ltd at the age of 17, Saar was immediately hailed as ‘one to watch.’ In recognition of his success, he was nominated as Europe’s Young Entrepreneur in 2007 by Bloomberg. Although he didn’t manage to take home the prize that time around, he redeemed himself a year later when he scooped the title of Tallinn’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
9. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty
He may have enjoyed extraordinary success from a young age, but Saar hasn’t let his achievements go to his head. Speaking to ns-businesshub.com, Saar revealed that he’s intent on building a unique culture at Zego, a culture in which people (himself included) aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to get the job done. “If I see rubbish in the office, I’ll pick it up – there’s no job that’s beneath me because it’s our company and our environment,” he says. “If, one day, what’s best for the business is for me to be a customer service agent or do the dishes, I will do it. There are no egos as such, and that’s how you can build truly great businesses because you have to put the business first.”
10. Building Zego hasn’t been easy
Saar may have years of experience in start-ups under his belt, but building Zego up from the ground hasn’t always been smooth sailing, particularly in the early days. During interviews, he’s compared developing the company with ‘swimming up Niagara Falls.’ Considering Zego has now reached a valuation of over $1 billion, it’s clearly been worth the effort.