Starting Y
Starting Y

Episode 12 · 8 months ago

Meet Luka, a 28-Year-Old Serial Entrepreneur Turned Investor


"Competition is one of the best things that can happen because you know that it works" Luka Ivicevic, Co-Founder/CEO at Index Health

Our Intro is based on Quantum Jazz’s piece “Orbiting a distant planet”, published under Creative Commons

Our Guest:

  • Luka Ivicevic (, is a serial entrepreneur, who already sold sneakers in his early teens. He was a contributor to the NY      Observer and co-founder of one of Germany’s most successful neobanks, Berlin-based Penta, he exited with his co-founders to FinLeap.

"If you don’t have competition, that is a red flag." Luka Ivicevic, Co-Founder/CEO at Index Health

The Host:

  • Jörn is a podcaster, startup scout and entrepreneur, who is based in Frankfurt, Germany. He has a background of more than 12 years of management consulting, with a focus on financial services and capital markets, mainly in Europe. He hosts an English startup podcast, covering the German startup scene ( You can learn more about Jörn “Joe” here:

"Before starting Index, I was guilty of not having any rules" Luka Ivicevic, Co-Founder/CEO at Index Health

Affiliate Links:

The Lean Startup

Trust Me I'm Lying

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Marcus Aurelius Meditations (Roman emperor from 161 AD to 180 AD):

Further “Listenings” and Readings

Investor Brad Feld on How Nietzsche Empowers the Entrepreneur on the Podcast The Daily Stoic

Gibbs Rules

You can suggest questions here, use #startingy

Twitter Michelle:

Twitter Jörn:

Or send us a message via Anchor:

This is a starting why podcast. Here we ask entrepreneurs, actors, investor in the native and hardest on the why why they are doing what they are doing, what motivates and drive them and why can't they stop? We will start in five. Hey, guys, this is Joe from starting why, and today again I have a very nice guest here with me. Actually he is currently are located in a coworking space in Miami. Hey, Luca, how you doing? Good? Good, how are you? Thanks for having me. I'm do great. Thank you, totally my pleasure. We may tell our audience that this is not the first interview we ever had together. I was looking at my block post from the past before this interview and actually our first interview where you've been my guests as well. WHO's published in September? Two Thousand and sixteen? That's crazy. Yeah, time flies. Yeah, quit some history, but first chill us a little bit about you, what you did and how you've gotten into entrepreneurship and, especially for this podcast, why he did it. So those excited and thought that you know, school and university film teach you so much. You have to just, you know, get up and do something about it, and I found that you know each other. Job I could possibly get. It just weren't actually be rewarding enough to if you do it, and so I just, you know, had rather the money in my pocket just after Graduate University and I said, you know what, I rather be prrible, happy and work for somebody else. And in reality, I basically never had a job for and just, you know, went after it and I decided to you know, travel my own luck, I see, try out you own luck. So with...

...this, like you went to high school, you went to college and then you graduate it and then you thought, oh now I want you and be an entrepreneur. Or did you do something like entrepreneurial before that? Sure, yeah, I mean so when I was twelve, thirteen, I was actually selling quite expensive but Nike sneakers, Nike Sp's and Jordan's, and some people are seeing will probably know the hyper and all that and or dunks and stuff like that, and you know, just kind of buying well, selling high, and so ever since really I was kid, I was really excited about actually just doing something that I created a value for people. But you know, since she also makes them happy, but it's also rewarded for me, right, and I always wanted to be an older, not necessarily if somebody was renting the time, and often times that we work for somebody. You're renting your time right just getting collecting that salider than the month and I said, you know, a rather rather put in the same amount of that. I put it for somebody else. You rather do for myself. So that was kind of my first touch with entrepreneurship at both thirteen. Then I went out try each other company at Nineteen. Where is half a million? That didn't work out well, will shut the business down. And then I finish university, moved to Berlin. Would basically not much or betters it with nothing. And I said, you know what, if I could do that at nineteen, he probably do a twenty two. And we you know, I said that was my pentacle pounder, who's also my mind, the scope bather, and we said hey, why don't we want we actually you know how small bos the songs say, a lot of time and money, but I didn't even event had it actually works and that's all I centure. And that was when we met. I was wondering, did your family think your totally crazy? You first had of entered that did not work out of course it's completely understandable that you want to start it again, but then actually relocate to even another continent, to country what you don't necessarily speak the language. What...

...was kind of a feedback you've got there? Yeah, sure, up until maybe two years into into building, into building Panta, my father so call me ask me when I'm going to go a law school. Just totally this. This is don't believe in it, but I was one of my friends. As always says, you know, Lucas, likelycause rules. So I just live my well and my roles bitedly. I can't imagine you as a lawyer. No, definitely not. That's a very big stretch of my imagination. I have to tell you when you thought about doing paint w way, thoughts there, and how did you prepare? Because this is all about entrepreneurship and starting successful venture. So let's dig a little bit into secret source. How you build up Paentel, which was eventually bought by fin leap, another Berlin based company, incubator turned investor. Yeah, I mean just to just the buying part. I think that that was a bit of pre mix up. We actually never got about. I think it does more just a funding round. The company is actually one or twos or seven a million bench capital. The last round, I think, was close to a thirty million series these. So it never was an acquisition of rother investment, but in terms of in terms of the the secret sauce. So first of all, I've ever really books my whole life, and a lot of them, and I started reading a lot of business books when I was fortune fifteen and it's really been your five six years of reading a lot of books, one of the books per week at some point. And when I when I first went out together with my with my both howers, to figure things out in reality, at that point of the O two of us we sat down. We said, Hey, let's let's speak to going thirty, you know, fifty small business honors to better understand some of the problems of the deal. And what we do is racimply. We didn't write any code, we didn't you of...

...spending crazy money marketing, we didn't try to raise money. Will do both. recentle rand page and it basically said, hey, we're going the best business banks count if you sublibrium address, you could even scroll on it. And then we want, you know, we want on twitter and like the random people's tweets. We like that. Actually, Seventeenzero that once at some point I was sevens it's out sitting in my room couick liking youtuding and dract myssge people seventeen thousand times more and basically, based on them, we just feel backs people speaking to people, and and our goal was if we can get one hundred people to sign up for the wait list without building any quote, and you know, everything else will take care of itself. So the the next thing that happens we apply for incubator accelerator, which is about started. We can, and with our initial traction we were able to raise your first small amount of money was fifteenzero yours. And the one thing that's in the next time another you say you already gave me answer. I would have asked for right now, because many startups, many entrepreneurs, they basically fail at the first step. So you did a very good step by interviewing your potential clients. I can't think of a lot of people who did not do that. And then you build landing page. Actually, there's now a lot of stuff out there where you have like two boxers, where you could build eight landing page is for something like fifteen dollars a year, so it doesn't have to be expensive. He said you went around liked and retweeted on twitter, which is a good approach. But with the new algorithm, we you still think that this would work? And would else would you right now try to get the first interactions, to get the first likes, to get the first sign ups? For this and another question. You said like Seventyzero likes...

...and retweets or something, and how many sign ups did this get you? So the point of the liking and the seventeen? By the way, that seventy s and the too much. But we were just know, we're just trying to do everything to get noticed. And that was those from over the right readn't know what we really just do. That A let's get initial traction, as though the weight list with s validate, before building or really raising money, and then everything else will take care of itself, include including getting customers and second most poor league investors. First, the most part, things as customers. But did those licenary tweets, you know, generated customers? I probviously know that it definitely did give us the opportunity to, you know, to get in touch with people, so, you know, to help us essentially build out the product. But even today with my new company and Exelth, which is a personal as a healthcare company based in the US, we also have written a lot of code. Yet we do have customers and we're growing and pretty quickly. It's just more of a question of that. We just trying to have as much as low tang as possible, because so we can focus more and actually understand the customer, understanding what exactly to build. Jeny to park marking for a better subjecting to the point where we're comfortable to scale and then writing code. This is a lot of founders things that I'm going to start my company and just going to start writing code, and this is stread. Courts just really never been easier. It's more about what were you going to build instead of just going out there and building it. So we're taking that APPROSIA. Yes, exactly. That's also something I've found very useful and it's something that is kind of underrepresented in the usual startup media, because then they're like people sitting there for days and nights and weeks and months and writing code and then them it's successful. But actually I met a few people who did that and this Bam success never really happened. So this...

...validation of the idea is a very important point. Talk to as many potential clients as possible. In German you always get all they'll steal my idea. They still my idea. But I also realized something, especially in interviews with my other podcast, because it's always good if you can point to successful competitor that is already getting funding, there's already getting traction, and you can say, well, I'm as good as them and I do this and this in this batter and I have, fear, a different opportunity, and so on and so fourth, for example, I remember a book tiger in interview I did, which is a home cleaning service, and there was also helping their competitor, and actually they helped each other because they were both successful. They both showed the business model is actually working. And then eventually book a Tigo went more into copperate business and started cleaning buildings and offices and something like this. So talk to the people early and if you get competition, it doesn't have to be necessarily bad, even though competition also keeps you on your toes. I think there's a lot more you can act. You that right? Yeah, absolutely. I actually like to say that competition is well, the lesson that happened, because then you know that it worse and often times actually good to get compared, because you know how a position of software, when you don't have a competition, you're just completely lost in the dark. Customers may not know where you're going. When you're not building, raising money becomes an every more difficult because there is not sure what it's work on. It's completely new idea. So you know, when I think two thousand saying like Oh, yeah, we have a competition, it's really reply. Yes, I know. For example, I had an interview guest. He found it...

...a digital health in turer called Outoova and he said for his fundraising it was extremely important that Oscar in ds did it successfully. They proved the model to be right. They could get funds rates with that and that actually helped him. I really like the quote. If you don't have competition, that's red flag. I think you're always good for some amazing quotes here and but let's get a little bit back to when you like to read books. We will be the books you would strongly recommend to aspiring on you. entrepreneurse. I would definitely start off with biographies. But people that you know, look up to our aspire to be right. I think it's always good to have some sort of the mental framework. You know, where do you want to get to my help? I think that direction people, especially young people, because you know, I when I just started building, suppose I was a teenageers and a twenty and I'm twenty today right, so I'm looking at it from kind of a very unpersons perspective. So definitely biographies. The one book that change my way of thinking and that really rules. WHO, in his industry is the lead start up by Eric Rise Heyby says they've read it and heard about it, but nobody really, you know, implements the properly. So I'd Sid just reading that to basically anybody. Another really good book is is a trust me online by Ryan holiday. I think it's good understanding how you know how the world works in terms of marketing pr and what the extensional doesn't. But I would, you know, I would start off with two of those, two three books and couple of biographies, and then what I would normally do is that out take those books out, that they're mentioned and that kind of gives me a entrance into other books, ideas and people that I find really, really interesting inspire and the teaching things. And I also found that a lot of successful entrepreneurs also like the big thinkers philosophy, for example.

If I don't forget it, I'll share here in the show notes there is interview where Bret felt is interview one of the Co founders of text ours. We see and so on, ands of forth. On the daily Stoak we're to talk about freetish meats, sure, and stoick philosophy and stuff like that. So I think it's really important in many different aspects to build, as is said, a mental framework. That is also a lot of entrepreneurs are talking about. Can you give us a little peak into your mental framework? Yeah, sure, and, by the way, my what's up photos in each other, as you know. Obviously I mean what's happen. So yeah, I mean that. That's I'm a huge gun. I said, I philosophy as well in university, but my mental framework actually haven't thought that. It's more that, you know, what's very important for me is that I'm sure everything can relate. People live very much in the future, scared about what's going to happen, kind of that anxiety about that and then regrets in the past, or, you know, at least thinking about the past, and my you know, what's very important for me is to be in the president, just really just be here now, at this very moment. I think that's that's extremely important, especially building a business, because you can get quite scary, a lot of anxiety, but a lot of things. I also meditate twice a day, or at least I tried to put it being meditate at least once a day, and so that kind of helps put me in that framework. But I'd say that it all circles down to just being here now and that helps control. Essentially, you know how you're thinking, what you're focused on. I feel like a lot of people want to find that very helpful as advice. You know, it's not like, you know, Steve Jobs be affectionist or whatever it is, and steep jobs is also, if you actually read a lot of his biographies, I was also to be very much in the moment, and so I just think it's just very important to be stoic round. You mentioned that, to unemotional human moment and just kind of understand your own fears and insecurities on and long term tentions.

In addition to that, I think very long term, I try to at least someone you thinking. You know what's true, and ten years from now, a good example is conten uars from now, will be more electric cars or, you know, engines on the road right and it's so just thinking about these types of things, whether it's technology or, you know how its medicine, with worth of ten years from now or thanking whatever it is, it is putting yourself in a very long term perspective and mindset and if you don't, you just optimize them for the short term, you're inevitably going to lose. I actually hear also quite frequently about meditation. I have to admit that I use a meditation APP almost every evening. I do it when I'm already in bed and do a ridexation meditation just to calm me down, and then I listen a little bit to the audiobook and boom I'm gone. So that helped me a lot and I only discovered it in my s, so I wish I would have done it much, much earlier. I think a lot of the benefits are totally fine, but for me it was like I was feeling ninety percent less stressed. That would just amazing for me. So we took from you. Now Talk to your clients. You don't need a lot of money to start. You start up. When you do it, build a mental framework, read a lot of books and meditate. I would be curious. One of my interview guests said he is writing basically rules down and then realize a then over time follows them and he then realizes if they need adjustments or if they okay. So that is a way of him building a mental framework just for himself. It doesn't have to be necessarily gibbs rules. I think there's seventy something out there. But do you also do something in that way? Not exactly like that, I mean definitely, you...

...know, some sort of reflection. I think that's it's something that you think about every day as a company. They have retros. I'm out to thinking about writingnything down, but I think the most important it, just kind of adding to what you just asked and when I previously said, is that it's the most important thing actually about meditation, being here now, etc. All that stuff, is surrounding yourself with really great people, for you know, who are very positive, who will help bring you up and even if you had to be ever, trade out with somebody who's, you know, let's say, good at what they do but it's extremely positively great, or somebody who's, it was great at what they do but is very negative and just not helpful. Always choose that the good one, because that person can actually can actually, you know, strive and actually change, actually be great, right, and I think that that is a number one. Think that's actually screw me up when, you know, when doing anything, whether it's a friendship or building business, it's it's been around with people that are surround myself with and that that's really something that's so detrimental to actually do, like bread and and I've actually taken people out of my life that the heaven detrimental. That and very negative and we happen bringing you down and and I just trst fround myself with people that I know that I just going to bring me up or positive and you know, and I can. I can obviously do the same vice versa. So I think in terms of reflecting, I think I'm always reflecting. You know, who am I around? You're the average of the five people that you're around, whether that's a book, a TV show or physical person, right, and so I took my five Iris, always trying to found myself with with Super Suire, positive and and help people or books I see, I see. I just try to imagine myself what I would be if I take really the average of those five people, especially taking into count that we just more or less getting out of corona. So it will be quite a lot of my two year olds on and they would be...

...pretty interesting to have a composite there. I'm also wondering because we are now talking a lot about business, a lot about doing business, and you already start a kind of opening the door to other parts of the life. So do you have, for example, some rules you established for working and not working, because, as you said, you're taking a very long term few and something I realized when I set out by myself to be an entrepreneur that I have to think in terms of not until the next vacation, but maybe I have to be healthy, relaxed and on the top of my game huntil maybe end of next year. So I already have to plan accordingly in my work hours, my vacation. That I also take vacation. Also established private rules for exam. Well, I don't work on the weekends. I don't look into my emails on the weekends. That is one of my personal rules already. Do you also have some let's call it limits, limitation on work? Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, I was guilty of not having any rules periously. Now, you know, I just worked those twelve hours, fifteen, whatever it is, right, and they just people in out, you know, a month later. So so I definitely didn't have any rules before and going into my building, my new company index, I decided that that I'm going to have actually very strict goals, because you know that it's in the number one will is definitely understanding. Understand, you know why you do these things. You know. Oftentimes, yeah, I'll during my fear or you know, it's sue is kind of just slipping at the runway and saying all, we have to work hard, or whatever it is. Right, speaking about it in Panta right, but in my new company index in just a different perspective. Words like I try to take off a week recorder if it's on a wesn't take off two or three days. You know, here, two or three days there, so it kind of...

...beds up work hours. Wise, I don't have a some sort of set limit, but it generally I'm working for like now six times seven and or even yes with something something like that, and it's I think it's just more about understanding your limits. But we definitely push all employees and just take a week out order and and just, you know, makeway or for certain things that help help your health. Right. So we have okrs and goals actually set where you have to have your own like health goals. I think those, those things are just so important. A lot of times down those and found teams, espressially are going to compromise and things like that. But if you're your mind isn't clear, if you're not even have a healthy body, that you just kind of have a healthy mind. And so we definitely protest things like that. And my number one was really destroying myself the very people and then just being cautious about how I working and what I'm working too, so that I don't he since s stas. So yeah, I definitely do as a sort of I also realized when I started out almost a year ago that in the beginning I was always pushing very, very hard, working until midnight like two or three days a week, which was pretty convenient because I could just walk out and get into my bed. But then I realized it takes you quite some time until you come down from the Adrenalin and can actually get rest, which also made me realize that I can't do this because it limits my sleep further. Plus, I didn't have enough time on the weekends to really recover, which then led me to being sick. So I'm really trying to limit lady work hours to one day a week. That, for example, another of my rules, and everybody is now strongly encouraged to also...

...think about that. I really, really like the rule what you're saying, like taking off one week a quarter or some days a quarter. That is a very important who will actually would I do? I stick to my wife's vacation schedule because she is still employed, and that makes it quite easy to always take the right amount of vacation. That helped me a lot. But let me skip a little bit here touch another topic, because you said in your company you have, okay, are rules, personal health goals and you encourage your employees to take one week off per quarter. Can you talk a little bit about what other rules you have and how this fits into the company culture, because that's something I found very interesting, even though it's not completely you to startups, but to have this combined in a bigger system, not only to say, yeah, work life balance is very important for me. Ah, by the way, can you work through the weekend? Yeah, I mean, I mean, you know, we're just always encouraging things like that, sircrecy that you know, sometimes you can't do it. So that's also the reality of having a small team, liberally small, right, and making assisisent. Hey, you don't want to hire as some people, but at the same time, you know, we just try to push people to take that tough cord the German and everybody has their goals. So something or track all the time. Too many rules is just too many rules, right, and some rules are just if they're not being followed and they're not rules anyone. And so it's at the end of the days, it's also up to people to follow their own rules and actually want to do it right. You can't force anybody to take time off, but you could tell something that, hey, you know, want you take the day. I feel today. So yeah, I mean, it's up to the person, right. And and that's also going back to, you know, hiring people who are not only smaller than you, but who also just understand the point, right.

So if these people aren't, you conscious enough that you know they have take some time off, go to the gym, you know, do what they have to do to stay statemental in this e. That that then you know we can help them. Is this also a question for hiring people? For you, do you regular work out or something like that, or is it just an encouragement after you've hired those people? Both definitely. I mean, you know, we're very small now. What is that going to look like in a year from I have no idea, but you know, it's it's something that we that we do into you for actually. So when we're speaking I candidates, we ask them that. You know, how do you look at health? We are a health company at the end of the day, right, so if you're not passionate about, you know, not only helping people improve their health but, you know, changing what would health really means, and you know, we're probably in the right company to work at. So it's our culture, is also what we do, right. So if you don't. If you don't kind of resonate with with our mission and you know the values that we have as a company and the goals that we have that you know, you should probably the job. As you you just touched another important point I wanted to talk about with you is hiring people. I already talk to you a lot of HR manager is head hunters on podcasts, offline and stuff like this. But I always see, especially in startups, the importance of the first hires, especially those people you don't know for like a few years, people that you've never met before, that he have to hire. Their actually crucial to your company's success. How did you approach hiring the first people for you small team? There? Is there something like a guideline of books as some rules you're following on just cut feeling? Yeah,...

I mean we're in next now. I have the luxury that I have a pretty strong mem work and then quite a people, so you know, whether it's your French are family or whatever it is. So I think with the hiring now it was a bit easier, but it definite does conduct to go right to intuition. It's understanding. What is this person's goals and intentions? And it just you know, it's much, much more different profile. Hire for early stage, presee, see to top. Neither. When you hire somebody for a series are series be company right, then employee profile is completely different. And so, you know, I remember, you know, basically had series a seriously. You have people, you know, talking about their pension and thinking about, you know, so security and all that type of stuff. Wall people that see you understand that, you know, salary is going to be small, but but the catial upside it's going to be a huge so it's different. Have a hustle. It's really just a different type of profile. And so yeah, I'm that that I just based basically on my my experience and the division. We said. You hire people differently for pre seats seat then for serious a series be. I was wondering how do you deal with the people you still have from pre seats eat that may or may not fit then in the company? That just shows with time. You know, some people been hoards. Is the hard thing about hard things. He dressed that as well. It's kind of like, you know, you hire something to say with me, like all will they be able to you know, to ipl or serious B or still a team tone to a hundred employees or whatever it is. I think that's it's such an irrelevant question. It's like this person should be able to tackle the problems at hand today. You know, today, amorrow, not in six months or six years from now. And so when, when looking at these people, you know either they make you know they don't, right. But that's more for them to see in something that they'll realize on their own and that the company to...

...see. So it has little to do with predicting the future and more to do with tennis person title Power Right now. Ha Ha, ha ha ha. I want her to quote that. Forecasts are always difficult, especially concerning the future. So you're not the only one there, and definitely, if you would have figured out how to forecast a lot of stuff, we wouldn't be talking right now here. You would reside in your own country. So I think, Luca, so far you've talked about your rules, recommendation of books, early startup companies, hiring people, your own philosophy and a little bit including health goals in a company. Now, okay, are so I would like to say thank you very much. We touched a lot of topics and everybody would like to learn more. Down here in the show notes, there will be a link to you linked the profile where people can reach out and, of course, learn more if they follow you. Sounds good. Thanks for having me. Completely my pleasure. Thank you very much.

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