We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Alexander Riabtsev is an expert and mentor of technological startups and one of the international partners of investclub.vc. The last decade Alexander devoted to creating a community of IT entrepreneurs in Ukraine, supporting and developing the ecosystem. We talked to him about how the industry has changed in recent years, what Startup.In.UA project is and why he finds it interesting to be a partner of the Rocket DAO ecosystem.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
I’m from Kyiv and I’ve graduated from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After that, I got into the business administration sphere, in particular — investment management. My first step towards technological companies was the unofficial Google blog, which I started in Ukrainian back in 2005. In 2009, I founded Startup.in.UA — a resource that is completely dedicated to technological startups in Ukraine. I still develop it as a community of Ukrainian technological entrepreneurs. Later, I delved into the topic of startup development and now I conduct various trainings on business models, consult, help startups with the development of marketing strategies and raise investments, which led me to a partnership with Investclub.vc.
Investclub.vc is created for business angels and venture funds, who are actively investing in startups at the early stages. We regularly send traction reports of startups from the Rocket DAO pipeline, their reports with the evaluation from the venture fund’s analyst which is based on 4 metrics (product, market, business model, team) and post announcements about the beginning of the fundraising process. If you want to receive materials from the Club, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It all started in 2009, when Denis Dovgopolyi, one of those who started developing a startup ecosystem in Ukraine, invited people from Silicon Valley to Kyiv. They came to tell about the Valley’s ecosystem and what startups are, because there was too little information about startups in Ukraine back then. I was invited to that meeting and after the event, I asked myself a simple question: “Did anyone write anything about it?” Nobody did.
I registered the startup.in.ua domain, and this is how the resource was born. There were several iterations in resource development. At first, up until 2012–2013, the main goal of the portal was to tell what the startups are and how they develop.
Since 2013, an ecosystem has actively begun to develop in Ukraine, the count went to dozens, maybe hundreds of technological companies. From that moment on, I reformatted the resource, making it a community on Facebook, which today numbers about 3000 people.
Currently, from one side Startup.In.UA is an informational resource where I tell about startups, and from the other side, it’s a community where people do their projects and can share their experience, possibilities and connections.
For me, supporting and creating a community is a chance to share the experience, because the experience is the very thing that distinguishes a successful entrepreneur from an unsuccessful one.
I am an expert at the Ukrainian Startup Fund, founded by the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine. I evaluate the ideas that come to the fund and select projects that go to the pitch day, by the result of which, the teams receive grant funding from the government.
I provide mentoring support in several directions. The first is business model development. The second is marketing. Before I started developing my own business, I had about five years of experience in the marketing department of a Ukrainian telecom operator. There I was engaged in everything that is now called digital marketing. By the time I left telecom, I already had quite a lot of experience in the digital field, which I then passed on to technology companies.
Last month I launched Money4sport.com project. It is a crowdfunding platform for everything that is connected to sport: infrastructure, team, children sport support. We’ve managed to sign a memorandum with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine. So currently I’m not only an expert, I’m also a startupper.
Probably the first successful exit on the Ukrainian market was made by Viewdle company, which was acquired by Motorola Mobility in 2012. They were engaged in recognizing people on video and selling their service as B2B to news agencies. Clients got the opportunity to quickly tag the footage and get the necessary frames for the stories when it was necessary to show a specific person. Surely, today neural networks already allow making deep fakes, but for that time, it was a breakthrough.
If we talk about the mass market, the most successful example is the Rozetka platform. This is one of the largest Ukrainian marketplaces. It started as a small family startup where Vladislav Chechetkin and his wife started selling goods on the Internet.
I can also mention Petcube, which was founded by Yaroslav Azhnyuk. He and his team started in Ukraine, then left for incubation to China. Currently, it is a large international company that allows pet owners to play with pets and monitor them during the day without being at home. These are local stories of success on an international level: all projects started as small startups that took their first steps and I was able to see that.
When it is an empty market, you can take any niche and you will be the first one in it. In the last few years, it is harder and harder to create the blue ocean, and niches are usually taken but with this, you can use non-traditional business models, change them and create your blue ocean.
Over the past three to five years, there has been a qualitative increase in access to finance and experts, but I can remember that in 2012–2013 there was also a certain boom associated with the appearance of the first accelerators and acceleration programs in Ukraine. Most of them were closed after several years of operation, but they have given a good boost to the development of the local ecosystem.
The ecosystem is growing and developing. If 10–12 years ago you knew all the founders by name, today there are thousands of people who are trying to create their own startups.
In fact, there are trends in the technological companies’ development and they have been tracked for many years. But usually the most interesting projects are not in trend and stand out because of this. Startups that develop unpopular directions have the opportunity to become the pioneers or founders of a new trend that will come as the next wave of new tech companies. Companies that started developing before the trend started are leading the way.
It seems to me that it is more important for a founder not to follow trends, but to be able to predict and to some extent create them. It is surely difficult and expensive, because most investors invest in trends, and you need to look for the same visionaries like you, who will see what is behind the trends and calculate with you two or three steps ahead.
It depends on the industry. If we talk about technological companies connected to air transportation, tickets’ purchase, hotels’ booking and to the tourist industry in general, then this segment has suffered the most. There are minimal movements since it is not clear how the situation will develop in the future.
If we talk about the trend towards remote, then the companies in this industry have only benefited. Even a year ago, startups for remote work or learning were breakthroughs that took their first steps in the market, but now they are the ones who attract maximum attention from investors and the market.
I really do like the idea of creating syndicates, which allows you to attract large amounts of funding for interesting projects. Investors from other countries can invest in startups that are part of the club’s pipeline even if they are not in the country of the startup. That is, this is always a rather interesting story for the market: a startup can get access to more funding than local investors are willing to provide. It is known about the “10–20 miles” rule when investors try to invest in projects that are close to their “headquarters” and are reluctant to invest in startups located in another country or continent. Investclub.vc blurs these boundaries by opening up international funding opportunities for startups through syndicated deals, as well as allowing investors to enter syndicates and invest in startups from other countries.