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Pioneers Get All the Arrows

A Slice on Sergio Radovcic, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of DYPER

The question driving Sergio Radovcic’s entrepreneurial spirit is, simply, “Why not me?” When he has an average or notably poor experience, Radovcic decides to take matters into his own hands if possible. He started a financial services company to solve his frustration with filling out paperwork when applying for a mortgage, a movie streaming service because he wanted access to more foreign movies, and a telehealth company to avoid more paperwork. His current venture, DYPER, came out of a need for a more sustainable diaper for his kids. To date, they’ve raised $20 million in funding.

Radovcic saw a disconnect between his “desire to live a plastic-free life” and the options available for diapers at the time. “Your choices were cloth diapers, which are fantastic but very hard to pull off if your kids are going to daycare or when traveling, and disposable diapers, which are made with twice as much plastic as a bottle of Coke. I was taking a garbage can with diapers to the curb and I said to myself, ‘Come on, there has to be a better way.’”

DYPER’s solution is responsibly sourced bamboo diapers coupled with a composting service to reduce waste. Though this is a great solution, Radovcic recognizes that not all parents will utilize the composting service and there’s an added spotlight on the company drawing criticism. 

“The pioneers get all the arrows.”

The more you put yourself out there as a sustainable brand, the more criticism you invite. But if we just did nothing because we’re afraid of the progress, then that’s not a good solution. For us, radical transparency is the only way to go: being open about the things that we cannot fix. I can’t fix the fact that most of my parents are going to roll the diaper in a burrito and toss it in a landfill. I don’t have a solution for a diaper that ends up in a landfill, but I’ve given my customers a way to not do that.”

Radovcic also faced some difficulty fundraising in Arizona as a CPG company. He notes that capital for CPG brands tends to be more coastal, forcing him to go outside of Arizona to fundraise for DYPER. Arizona does have its perks for businesses, though, serving as a “destination” place to live while still maintaining a low cost of living compared to neighbor-state California. Radovcic has also observed that capital raised in Arizona, though limited, tends to last longer than more abundant coastal capital. 

Due to Arizona’s “destination” status, it hasn’t been difficult for Radovcic to recruit and build his team. Once they passed the initial “founder cult” and began to scale, Radovcic recalls having to change his mindset of what kind of people to hire. They had to “look for people who are less jack of all trades and more specific to their sort of job function… while keeping a fun spirit.” He let us in on a little secret, his trick for interviewing: “look to what motivates the person to make the move right now.” They look for someone who “lives and breathes activism” because they’re a purpose-driven brand. However, some people may just be looking for a paycheck or may be in a transition period. 

Throughout the course of his entrepreneurial journey (DYPER is his 14th startup), Radovcic has learned many lessons beyond interviewing tips. Since most of his companies started out of a need he saw, rather than in his area of expertise, you may think the lack of familiarity would be a big hurdle, but that’s not the case for Radovcic. He notes that “you’re never really familiar, but [as a startup] what you have is speed. You have the ability to think, execute and adjust faster.” An important way of getting past unfamiliarity is to “surround yourself with people who know more than you.”

In addition to finding people with the right expertise, Radovcic stresses the importance of iterating. “You’re failing fast but you don’t actually have to consider it a failure. We joke internally, if it works out it was planned, if it doesn’t it was an experiment. That’s a pretty healthy outlook as a small company, you are going to fail at more things than you’d like to admit… But sticking to your plan can be very dangerous.”

Radovcic looks to make a difference with DYPER through a “rapid succession of small progress over time” and “elevating the conversation” about sustainability in the diaper category. “We as a company can be a catalyst for change and help clean up the industry because it’s very dirty.” Though he has big goals, Radovcic hopes to maintain a healthy work-life balance too. It can be easy to get caught up in the work, especially during a pandemic where the “separation between workplace and the place you live” is practically nonexistent. “You just need that time off and something else that’s not looking at your Slack. It gets to be very long and addictive.”

Founder Bio

Sergio Radovcic is a seasoned executive with broad experience in all aspects of business development, marketing and strategic growth for tech-driven, consumer-centric companies. He has helped launch 10 startups and been involved in various roles with 15 companies operating in real estate, lending, software, wireless and e-marketing fields. He is currently the Founder and CEO of DYPER. Connect with Radovcic on LinkedIn.

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