Trendsetter Raphael Paulin-Daigle got the entrepreneurial bug at an early age. At six, he was creating colouring books and selling them to his neighbours in Moncton. At 11, he become a magician and performed at parties, festivals and day camps. He then created an online magic store, his first experience in online business. “I think I might just have been born with it,” he says of his passion for business.
Now 18, after retiring from the magic business in January, he founded DucatFlow, a company that helps organizations integrate Bitcoin into their operations. “I got sucked into the Bitcoin vortex,” he says. “It’s instant, it’s free, there’s no middle man and it’s just like cash. The possibilities of it are endless. It’s so groundbreaking.”
Halifax Magazine recently spoke with Paulin-Daigle about Bitcoin, the lessons he learned while creating a startup and how his age affects his business.
Can you explain Bitcoin?
Think of it like it’s cash, it’s digital and you can email it. Let’s make a comparison to the postal industry. Decades ago, when we wanted to send mail, you’d write a letter, you’d go to the post office, you’d pay for it, you’d have to wait. It’s not instant, it requires lots of legwork and it’s sent. Then you have the emails: digital, instant, free. This is the same as Bitcoin. The cash we have at the moment is like mail. And Bitcoin is like email.
What was it about Bitcoin that interests you?
I first got into Bitcoin because of one of my mentors. At 14 or 15 I launched online businesses. They didn’t really work like I wanted them to work. I really wanted something that was scalable and would grow really, really big. None of the industries I had picked in the past would enable me to grow really big.
Tell us about your business, DucatFlow.
What we do is help enterprises integrate Bitcoin into their operations. So let’s say your company wants to look into paying their employees into Bitcoin and they have no clue how to do it, we’ll help them with that. If they just want to start accepting Bitcoin into their enterprise, we help them do that. With Bitcoin, it’s a bit more complicated than accepting cash. It’s still unclear on a regulatory perspective, on an accounting perspective, on all side of the finances. We have an array of partners, including the best Bitcoin lawyers in the world and the best tech intergrators in the world. We have a whole strategy to help companies integrate Bitcoin into their operations without a hitch.
What have you learned about the process of creating a startup?
Many things. Every industry, any company that you start that’s a tech startup, obviously the industry is going very fast, there’s innovation every day. But with Bitcoin it’s even faster. There’s not a day that goes by that there’s not something drastically new that appears on the market. Keeping up is a really, really big thing, especially if you want to be an industry expert. I expect it to be like that for a long, long time.
What about the bigger picture of running a business in general?
I remember when I started my first company, I was too shy to ask for advice and that was a big mistake. When you have access to some really bright minds and some people who have done what you want to do…it’s a great resource you have to tap in to. One of the newest things is enterprise sales. I’ve never been into enterprise sales. So it’s a bit more challenging as the sales cycle is way longer, it’s completely different than selling to consumers. I have to learn every day and refine how I sell the service.
Does your age work in your favour?
It haven’t noticed it lately. I noticed in the past it did work in my favour in a way that it’s a bit easier to ask for favours. People would remember me a lot more than if I were an adult. I remember I pitched at Launch 36, which is one of the accelerators in Atlantic Canada…and I was the youngest one at the time who actually pitched there, so obviously that made people talk about it. When was the last time you saw a 16-year-old pitch a company in front of an audience that holds $7 billion in net worth? That’s how I got into the startup scene. People really said, ‘Oh, I want to help this kid.’ Now that I am 18 I don’t notice it so much. I thought at first being young would not really help. I realized that is doesn’t make a difference. Where it makes a difference is on the legal side, when you want to incorporate and be director of a company.
How would you describe the help you got here in Halifax?
I love Moncton, it’s home for me. But there’s not a really big startup community. There’s not a space where I can come in and talk to entrepreneurs in the same field. In Halifax, with Volta Labs, what’s really great about it is I can come in, I have my own desk, if I have a question about something I can tap into resources directly. So there are many companies, many firms around the city that are really involved with startups. I think there is lots of talent around here. The startup community is together, we help each other a lot and that’s what’s really great about it.
What’s the future for you and your company?
I love the challenges, the pace and everything related to startups, especially the technology industry. I am into Bitcoins now; I am pretty devoted to it. I’ve even been invited to speak at a financial conference in Beirut. That proves to me that I am getting more knowledgeable in Bitcoin. I will go wherever I need to go to make my company succeed. I realize I was born to work. I want to keep building my dreams, building companies. That’s my favourite hobby. I am having lots of fun doing it. There are no limits to anything.