Henrik Zillmer is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in Product Management, Strategy, Execution and Operations. Involved in 10 start-ups (previous and current) including Zalora.com (€1bn valuation) and Lazada.com.
How did you get into the tech industry?
I always knew I wanted to work with tech and online business as I have a general interest in new stuff and entrepreneurship.
My years in Silicon Valley after college confirmed that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Tell us about AirHelp. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
AirHelp was started on Bali almost two years ago. I had been flying like crazy for 5 years in my previous jobs and experienced delays and cancellation. I finally did what most people don’t, which was to investigate the law on air passenger rights and claim my rightful compensation from the airline. The first time it took me several hours and 2-3 months before I got the money. Later, I started doing it for friends and family. I created a landing page and got some press coverage. The next day, we had 3000 emails from disgruntled air passengers who wanted to know if they were entitled to compensation. We had a business.
Since then, our vision have been to help as many air passengers as possible, by making flight delays less painful.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that have attributed to AirHelp's success?
We are working with a lot of online travel agents who informs their customers if their flight is entitled to compensation. That has allowed us to reach a lot more passengers who didn’t know about the law and wouldn’t have claimed compensation from the airline.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
AirHelp is one of the companies who is leading the Justice-as-a-Service (JaaS) movement of tech startups becoming the consumer advocate and mediator between customers and big companies or public municipalities. People don’t want the hassle of fighting these big corporations, so they seek fast and simple online services that can help them with no or very little effort from their side, but with a big upside, if successful. We will see a lot more of these startups in the future, as tech enables higher levels of automation and consumers becoming aware of their rights.
The most dangerous risk of all - the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
Proud to be hated by the world's leading airlines.
Your greatest success as founder of AirHelp?
Every little success have paved the way for the next, so it’s difficult to point one out. But I think Y Combinator Demo Day had the biggest impact on the company, so that is probably one of my biggest success moments.
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The first year of AirHelp was one long hard moment where we learned not to die.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Start now and don't look back. You will not regret it.
Favorite travel destination?
Tough one. New Zealand, Hawaii, Bali or Thailand
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Danish rice pudding pan cakes and coke zero
What literature is on your bed stand?
I don't read. Audiobooks only.
Role model - business and personal?
Business: Richard Branson
Personal: Winston Churchill
Work, work... and New York
What's next for AirHelp?
Very big things that allows us to help millions of air passengers, but that's all I can say right now… :)