Photo: Christoph Harder

Blue-skies thinker from Munich Photo: Christoph Harder

Start-up founder Sebastian Dominguez had nothing to do with insurance companies for a long time. The branch of HDI Global in Munich was very comfortable with that. This was precisely the perspective that had been lacking in the sales team.

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Published in March 2021 Author: Lilli Grüneberg, Markus Scheele

For a while, Sebastian Dominguez was travelling around Chile in a camper van with his foot on the pedal and one idea in his head. He drove past lots of places that nobody had visited for a very long time. Sometimes he just about made it from one filling station to the next. But he wasn’t on the road as a tourist. The young construction engineer was looking for a spring to produce mineral water. In order to buy it. And he wanted to bottle the water and make money from it.

Crazy, some people would say. A business model, thought Sebastian Dominguez: “It sounded pretty good to me”. The search for a spring and getting the project up and running took nine months. When he had wrapped things up, he handed the project over to his business partners and went back to Munich where he had previously studied.

Road route to becoming company founder

This was the first enterprise that Sebastian Dominguez helped get on the road to success. And it gave him a taste for this life. “I found the speed with which we made those decisions at that time really impressive,” he commented. “I learnt a great deal about business development. I wanted to get more into this.” So he went back to lectures. At Munich Technical University, he enrolled for an Executive MBA and learnt a lot about innovations, markets and successful companies.

And because he is a practical person, he didn’t leave things there. He joined forces with some students on his course and founded his own company: CAALA. The start-up offers architects and real-estate companies software that allows them to calculate the effect of items like windows and heating systems on energy efficiency over the entire lifecycle before the construction or refurbishment of buildings has even started. He built up a team, collected start-up finance running into millions, attracted venture capitalists, helmed the company as Managing Director for four years – and then got out.

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"How can you get out more of what you have?"

Today, Sebastian Dominguez is working in the Munich branch of HDI Global SE. And pretty obviously the first question is: why? His answer says a lot – about him and about HDI. “I always wanted to really get to know a large international company, to experience a joined-up global perspective and to play a role in shaping the digital transformation as an intrapreneur,” said Sebastian Dominguez. However, other factors also played a role. Firstly, in spite of all the inspiration and creative drive, he was very keen to spend more time with his small daughter. “As a founder of the company, I was sometimes working more than 100 hours a week. At some point, you have to say: If I want to spend more time with my family, then it’s time for a change.” And secondly, HDI made it extremely easy for him. Because the job he was offered in Munich was very much to the liking of this young entrepreneur.

A perfect fit

Eighteen months ago, he started work there as a Sales Innovation Manager. Robert Jurkin, Head of Corporate Clients at the Munich Branch, created this new position. “When we were talking to our customers, we noticed that many of them were addressing the same issues,” he said. “They were looking for new products and markets, they were developing agile structures, they were questioning the validity of entire business models and they were developing their digital positioning”. Up to that point, his team consisted of insurance professionals, some of them with decades of experience. However, there was nobody who had the mindset of an entrepreneur establishing a company. From the experience they themselves had gained from setting up a company as a founder. Somebody like Sebastian Dominguez.

“He knows exactly how young and agile companies tick,” commented Robert Jurkin on his protégé. “We need these skills and strengths in designing new digital solutions on the ground. We need this because we want to change as well.” Sebastian Dominguez was impressive in his job interview because he came up with his own ideas on how he could move the sales of HDI forward. Another plus was that he was fluent in a number of languages: his father comes from Chile, his mother from Switzerland. He lived in Uruguay for 17 years. The assessment following the job interview: he is a perfect fit.

HDI brings customers together

The 35-year-old is now a fixed element in the sales team. The aim is to help companies already in the initial phase of generating new and innovative business models to successfully move their ideas and plans forward – very much in the mould of the Talanx Purpose. And it works like this: One customer was actually operating a thermal power plant when they suddenly hit on the idea of starting up a prawn farm alongside the plant. They had ample space and there was no shortage of the necessary heat. What they lacked was access to the market. And that’s where Sebastian Dominguez came in. “HDI has a very good network of companies from many different sectors. We can bring partners together.” In this case, he mediated a partner who took over the necessary certification for food supplies. HDI brought the expertise of their risk engineers to bear for the new production plant and provided insurance for the newly established company.

“The great thing about my job is that we’re able to work together with the companies and take a closer look at strategic and innovative developments alongside dealing with the risk and claims management,” said Sebastian Dominguez. “As a result of this, we have significantly more contact with our customers, we are aware of changes at an early stage and we provide companies with proactive support for their digital transformation.”

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