Australian expansion plans for internationally based GBS grad

Jacob Hansen Karaduman at Griffith's Nathan campus in January 2020

Many people work towards their dream of creating and steering their own company but few achieve that only a few short years after graduating, and then look to expand internationally.

Griffith University Masters of International Business graduate Jacob Hansen Karaduman proves it is indeed possible, and hopes to inspire others to follow his footsteps.

He has shaken up the Scandinavian loan industry as co-founder and director of fin-tech company Enklare, which now employs around 150 people.

“We spotted a gap on the market, we knew we had something really good and we had a good team and it’s just grown from there,” Jacob said.

“Private debts and your own personal finance is a topic that is a bit taboo, I think not just in Sweden but here in Australia as well.”

Jacob’s entrepreneurial skills were recognised with Griffith Business School’s 2019 Outstanding International Alumnus Award, and he now travels the world mentoring other young startups and entrepreneurs.

He visited Australia in January, looking to expand internationally.

“We’re looking at international markets, we’re going towards a more online presence and we’re balancing having a personal contact over the phone and having that personal contact that I think a lot of banks are missing out on,” he said.

“I can’t tell you where we’ll be in another four years or five years time.”

Jacob said he had to forge his own path to success, and his journey shows how crucial education is, helping him move beyond his childhood to lead and international company.

“I’m born and raised in Sweden, in a suburb of Stockholm, quite an ethnically diverse area, a sort of lower socioeconomic area,” Jacob said.

“Not a lot of people went or go to university, and so growing up in that area has, I’d say inspired me or motivated me to pursue my education.

“Growing up, it was always I had this ambition of having a career in mind and wanted to work within either finance or wanted to be involved in the startup community.

“So for me, education was more or less a necessity. I think you see a lot of entrepreneurs and you see a lot of people running their own startups that are more or less born into it and they’re surrounded with that environment, and I wasn’t.

“So education…. qualified me for my first job within the finance sector where I made that network, and those people later went on to to be my co-founders of my company, so I had to take the route through the educational system, which obviously also taught me a lot, but it gave me the opportunity to build that network.

“I think any university and Griffith especially, is a great place to hone those skills and be able to get you where you need to be in order to use those abilities.”

Jacob is now involved in a program called EFN, the Entrepreneurs Future Network, and travels the world mentoring startups.

“I think you are born with certain traits and certain personal characteristics, I do however think that you need a supportive environment to be able to really use those traits and really be able to flourish,” he says.

His company Enklare (meaning “simpler” in Swedish) started from his belief in making the loan application process fairer and more accessible to all, particularly young people.

“It was very challenging,” he said.

“I think a lot of old traditional conservative sectors, you’ve got these big players, they’re a bit slow to move, they’re slow to adjust to the market and to the consumers, and I also think they have a certain self interest in keeping status quo.

“There’s a clear lack of transparency on the markets.

“We started off on a really small scale. We completely bootstrapped, so we put in whatever savings we had left from our student loans, moved home to Mum and Dad to save up a bit of money on the rent and just put all of their money into the company and started off with doing all the work ourselves.”

He says in his experience the younger millennial generations get a bad rap, when in fact they have formed the backbone of his new company.

“I was 26 when I started Enklare, my company, but I was also the oldest person in the business until we reached about a hundred employees,” he says.

“So I think that says something about the work environment, and these people, the Gen Z, have a completely different outlook on their careers, on home buying and also in how they wish to build their futures.

“What you hear a lot is that Gen Z or these younger people are a bit entitled, they don’t want to work for it, they feel like they’re entitled to money and a career without putting in the hard work and the time, and I couldn’t disagree more.

“My experience from hiring and coaching and mentoring hundreds of these young people is the opposite. But it also requires more from managers or leaders than the traditional role of a manager is.”

Hear more about Jacob’s story on this edition of Griffith University’s Remarkable Tales podcast.