Sebastian Siemiatkowski

From flipping burgers at Burger King to leading one of Europe’s biggest fintechs, we chart the rise of Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Co-founder & CEO at Klarna

Sebastian Siemiatkowski is CEO of the Swedish fintech giant, Klarna, a company now ubiquitous in the payments processing industry for e-commerce, and a pioneer in Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payments technology.

A Polish national, Siemiatkowski’s family moved to Uppsala in Sweden during the early 1980s, where he was born soon after. Siemiatkowski took an early interest in leading entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin, and IKEA Founder Ingvar Kamprad. 

While respecting his national heritage, Siemiatkowski credits the origins of his career as an online payments leader to Sweden’s digital policy, which subsidised the ownership of computers, enabling his parents to acquire one.

Founding Klarna

Fast-forward to the end of his education, which saw him study for a Master’s degree from the Stockholm School of Economics, Siemiatkowski was on the path to establishing Klarna aged just 23. Not that he could have imagined where it would eventually take him. 

Siemiatkowski met Klarna Co-founder Niklas Adalberth while flipping burgers at Burger King, before they established Klarna in 2005 alongside Victor Jacobsson. The company was then launched as part of a competition at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Reflecting on the experience, Siemiatkowski previously told Forbes Europe: “We presented our idea at an innovators pitch, and they said, 'forget about it. It’s never going to work.’ I didn’t feel great.” 

However, an observer approached Siemiatkowski and co during the competition and gave them some welcome encouragement. 

“He said, ‘you know what, I don’t care what those guys said. Just go for it, and the banks will never understand what happened’. I’m still on that mission.”

While he may still be on the path to sustained growth for Klarna, Siemiatkwoski has already been recognised by Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and later Fortune’s 40 Under 40, making him a billionaire as a 7% owner of the company in the early 2020s. 

And although, like many fintechs, Klarna’s valuation has dropped in the last year, Siemiatkowski’s status as a fintech leader is all but confirmed. 

Klarna: From startup to leading fintech

That’s because today, Siemiatkowsi is heralded as the man behind the BNPL shopping revolution, as millions take advantage of future payments for the products and services they acquire online.

However, the road that set Klarna on a course for success really began in 2007, when it received its first bout of funding from the venture capital firm, Investment AB Öresund. 

This initial funding enabled Klarna to expand beyond its native Sweden, launching in European markets including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Denmark. 

Additional funds were then raised courtesy of Sequoia Capital, helping to propel revenue growth by more than 80% at the time. 

One of Europe’s fastest-growing tech companies by the early 2010s, Klarna raised a significant US$155m from General Atlantic and DST Global in 2011, as it began scaling to new heights. 

Klarna then merged with SOFORT AG to create Klarna Group in 2013, from which point the fintech was firmly on a path to becoming one of the world’s biggest firms of its kind. Signing an exclusive partnership deal with Macy’s in the US reinforced this further, marking Klarna’s first foray outside of Europe. 

Raising US$460m for expansion in the US consolidated Klarna’s position as Europe’s biggest fintech startup in 2019, before a further US$639m investment led by SoftBank Group’s Vision 2 Fund saw the fintech reach its highest valuation yet – US$45.6bn. 

It was at this time that Siemiatkowski saw his personal valuation soar to more than US$2bn before he’d even reached the age of 40, as Klarna expanded its partnerships to include H&M, Ticketmaster, ASOS and Footlocker.

A global fintech success

Today, Klarna remains at the top of the fintech tree worldwide, with more than 150 million active customers and partnerships with more than 500,000 merchants across the globe. 

Siemiatkowski remains as passionate as ever to deliver true partnerships to merchants, rather than merely providing a service, something Klarna achieves through the 5,000-plus people it employs.

Determined to see Klarna remain at the forefront of digital innovation, Siemiatkowski is committed to continuing the company’s growth in years to come. And with its Co-founder remaining at the helm, Klarna looks set to continue its rapid success as more and more consumers come to value BNPL services. 


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