Rasmus Merirand from DoBu: a 16-year-old founder not afraid of taking the plunge
It all started at the age of 13 when Rasmus read Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk as part of a school assignment. “Reading about Elon as a youngster, I realized that you should find what you love and start doing it early on to become Number 1 at it,” he recalls. “After that, I dabbled in things, like dropshipping, until stumbling upon an article about Bolt CEO and Co-Founder Markus Villig, who had started the company at 19. I looked up some of his talks on Youtube, which were really inspiring. After that, I started consciously educating myself about the startup world on Youtube.”
His first real contact with the startup world came in the spring of 8th grade when he participated in a youth program by Changemakers Academy, where he collaborated with the wellness app YuMuuv. “Our idea was to encourage youngsters to spend time outdoors actively – it was the time of the first COVID shutdown – so we organized an interschool competition. We managed to get a lot of media attention, including appearances on one of Estonia's biggest TV channels and morning radio shows, creating a lot of interest in the competition,” Rasmus recalls. “I saw how much it is possible to achieve during a short period with a focused effort.”
For Rasmus, this would be the first of many startup events and competitions he would participate in. He also went on to collaborate with YuMuuv for a while as part of their sales team, and spent a summer working in the AML startup Salv.
Building a startup for homeowners
Two years later, at 16, Rasmus is the CEO and Co-Founder of DoBu, an online platform that helps homeowners manage their homes. The startup keeps all of the home information in one place so the homeowner can quickly access and search for manuals, measurements, product codes, and the like, get automatic reminders on the next maintenance and repair dates and order the right service providers and parts with minimal hassle.
Rasmus founded the platform with two co-founders (aged 18 and 19) in the autumn of 2022. The idea for the service was inspired by real life. “At some point, I learned that the air filter in my room needs to be changed every 6 months – I hadn’t done it in 10 years. Then, my friend Siim told me about his friends who had bought a home and ran into a lot of problems, including lack of documentation.” They presented the idea at the Garage48 Digital Construction hackathon, where they won the 2nd place (and tickets to sTARTUp Day), and “got validation that the problem is real.“
The team has developed an MVP they plan to launch in the coming months, first in a free version to collect user feedback, then as a paid service, which will mean “facing the real moment of truth,” as Rasmus says.
Taking chances and enjoying it
Regarding hobbies, Rasmus took up winter swimming in 8th grade and still practices it regularly. Recently, he has taken a plunge into cold water in the Ajujaht Icehole Pitching competition at sTARTUp Day 2023 and the Estonian TV show Ringvaade. “Take chances and have fun” is also one of the key takeaways Rasmus shared on the Techchill 2023 stage as part of the festival’s speakers contest.
Rasmus and his Co-Founder pitching DoBu at the Ajujaht Icehole Pitching at sTARTUp Day 2023.
“A lot of good things have happened because I talked to someone or sent one email,” he says. He cites as an example conversing with Peter Vesterbacka at an event, who suggested Rasmus apply to volunteer at the Slush festival. So he did, only to find his application initially rejected. “I then emailed the organizers, saying I’d really love to come. And because a group lead had just dropped out, I could fill in his place, eventually taking care of Slush VIP partners.”
As Rasmus is finishing 10th grade, where does he see himself in two years? “It depends a lot on how it goes with DoBu. However, I definitely see myself as part of the startup world. There’s no doubt about that,” he is convinced.