Alex Svinov is the CEO and Co-founder of Insquad, the platform to build remote development teams. He believes that the future of work is in remote teams – and this notion will radically change the world as it will bring opportunity and talent closer to each other.
Alex launched Insquad after facing challenges in hiring senior tech talent for his previous startup. He tried staffing services, but they were expensive and did not give a lot of value to him as a startup. So he decided to solve this problem and help the startup community as well as offer great opportunities to the talent in underprivileged countries.
Now, Insquad holds an 80%+ interview-to-hire rate and has worked with over 300 tech startups
Alex is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor — 10+ investments in IT companies all over the world — Forbes council member and Alchemist mentor.
In the past 10 years, he has created several successful startups in industry areas that he had no experience in before — FinTech, outsourcing, HRTech, and food service. He is passionate about making new tech products and services and helping distributed teams achieve their goals.
Alex met with Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth in Moscow’s high school. Outside of work, he’s a father of 3, plays tennis and regularly participates in amateur tournaments.
What you will learn
- How the pandemic dramatically accelerated remote work
- The techniques Alex uses to keep his remote team feeling connected
- Behind the curtains: Discover what Alex’s business plan looks like
- The hardest challenge Alex’s company faced this year (and what he’s doing about it)
- Learn more about Insquad’s hiring process
- Find out why content marketing is a long game
- Learn why client testimonials provide rocket fuel for your business
- Discover the future of software development: AI and the Metaverse
- Plus loads more!
00:00:04 - 00:01:27
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Alex Svinov. Now, Alex is the CEO and Co-founder of Insquad, which is a platform to build remote development teams and as the world basically circulates around technology these days, it's very very important to get a great development team and remote now as we know with the pandemic has produced change the way we work. He believes that the future work is in remote teams and this notion will radically change the world as well bring opportunity and talent closer to each other.
Alex launched Insquad one year ago because he faced challenges hiring senior tech talents for his previous startup. He tried staffing services but they were expensive and did not give a lot of value to him as a startup. So he decided to solve the problem and help the startup community as well as offer great opportunities to the talents in underprivileged countries. Now, Insquad holds an 80%+ interview-to-hire-rate and worked with over 300 tech startups.
Alex is a serial entrepreneur, he created several successful startups in Fintech, outsourcing, HR tech and food service and maybe we will touch on a few of those, Alex, met with Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth in Moscow's high school. Outside of work, he's a father 3, he loves and plays tennis and regularly participates in amateur tournaments.
Welcome to the show, Alex. Great to have you here.
00:01:28 - 00:01:30
Yeah, thank you very much, Jeff, pleased to be here.
00:01:31 - 00:01:58
So Alex, this is what's great about remote with today's tech, you and I can have a conversation and you're in Serbia and I'm in Sydney. Let’s get back to the start, originally you're from Russia and you have been in the startup community for quite a long time. What inspired you to get involved in startups as an entrepreneur? What was the inspiration?
00:01:59 - 00:03:03
Yeah, the first part of my career I spent in finance, although I graduated from IT, I spent it in finance because I felt that, you know, I'm more interested in numbers than in in doing the code and maybe 10, 12 years down the road, I kind of knew it all, like I didn't feel, you know, I made good money, I was working in investment banking, I was doing these big deals and it was like a lot of hype, but I felt that, you know, the only people I'm actually helping, I'm helping rich people to get richer right, and it didn't feel a lot of, kind of rewarding and it didn't feel a lot that I'm helping, you know, the world to improve, and I just at one point felt that, you know, I want to do something real, so I went out, I did MBA at that point and I went out and found a partner and I started my first start up, that's that's basically how it started.
00:03:04 - 00:03:11
So it really wasn't about the money, it was more about fulfillment. Is that really?
00:03:11 - 00:04:13
Yeah, it absolutely is. It is absolutely true. I mean, I would discourage everybody who thinks that doing startups is first and foremost about money from doing or from thinking this way just because obviously, you know, we all enjoy making money right, that's don't get me wrong, but money comes after. First, you have to do something that really adds value, that really brings great product and you have to be prepared for the world to not notice you for a long time and to go through a lot of struggling because that's the, you know, there are just so many startups out there, there are so many, you know, so many things that people try to do and to invent and if you are only focused on money that you're gonna get tossed quite fast.
00:04:14 - 00:04:37
Yeah, I totally agree with you. You got to come with the right motivation and I think to add value, to solve problems and do something that is particularly, I think suited to your own interests and skills and experience is very, very important and you've got to be able to play the long game.
00:04:38 - 00:05:17
I also think one important point about money is that, I actually like that you touched on that, is that even if you make something that doesn't make a lot of money, even if it doesn't make any money but it gives, for example you've developed some service that gives something to customers but you didn't find a way to monetize it. You still learn a lot about how to build a startup, how to talk to your clients, how to build a team, a lot of things, a lot of skills that you need down the road, you need them every day if you want to be in a startup.
00:05:18 - 00:05:37
So that and the other thing I'm curious about, have you started businesses or startups as a side hustle? In other words, you kept your day job or you had another job, did that ever happen? Or did you just leap into, you said, had enough savings to do it and just left in?
00:05:38 - 00:06:39
Well it kind of, the first one I started as a I had a job and I started it's like a side hassle but quite I think a month or two months down the road, I just figure out that I cannot, you know, combine these two because again to do something great and these days you actually, you really need to deliver something new, something great, something really changing the experience or some new product, right. You need to really dive deep and in my case it was just impossible, you know, to spend daytime at one job and at night trying to do something else. So in two months time, I quit my day job and I was actually lucky because I started making some money quite soon and we were able to raise capital.
00:06:39 - 00:06:43
So what was your first startup? And where did that idea come from?
00:06:44 - 00:07:13
Well, it was very simple. I mean at least today it seems obvious right, we were doing outsourced software development, but at that time it was like something that I didn't know a thing about. I got lucky because I had a partner who knew something about outsource software development. And I was there doing more finance and he was doing more operations. So it kind of clicked together.
00:07:13 - 00:07:26
So you saw there was a problem or a gap that needed to be filled in the market. Is that really what it was about? You're going this, I need to fill this.
00:07:26 - 00:08:11
Well I've seen that the world is going more and more towards this concept of remote work and that when you have a lot of demand for software engineering services in developed countries, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, US, Australia. At the same time you have a lot of great talents elsewhere and that it kind of made perfect sense, right? You build teams in Eastern Europe and you exploit the services to the United States or to Western Europe and make good profit margins on that.
00:08:12 - 00:08:40
So that's raised another question in terms of remote work. And also raises the question of timing. Because quite often timing can be the most important thing to get right when it comes to doing a startup or launching one. So now in terms of timing, the pandemic is basically accelerated remote work, hasn't it?
00:08:41 - 00:09:03
Oh absolutely very much so. I mean I think everybody who is in IT and startups has seen a dramatic increase in capabilities and availability of revolt staff and a lot of people start to accept the fact that remote work is now here for the good.
00:09:04 - 00:09:22
Yeah so I think work and business has changed forever since 2020 when the pandemic raised its head and we all had to work from home. And I think people realized that you can actually trust your employees to get work done.
00:09:23 - 00:10:40
Yeah and this is, you know, I like this subject that you brought because I was the guy who was like, you know, no I want these developers in my office even though, you know, I'm providing staffing outsourcing services, I still want to see all my teams in the office because it's, you know, it kind of felt like, okay, all these people are here now, I know that they're working and when the pandemic had come, you know, there was no option. We had to get everybody remote and a surprising thing has happened. A lot of the developers that I had in my teams, they actually started to, their performance has improved and when we started, the reasons why it didn't improve, one of the main reasons was because they did not get distracted and they were focused very much on what they were doing.
So it kind of splits, I mean if you want your developers to be sitting in your office just to make sure that they're working, most likely your developers are not very enthusiastic about what they're doing, because if they are enthusiastic, they will work 24/7 and they don't need to be in the office. That's the fact.
00:10:41 - 00:11:18
So there's out of that then if they're self motivated, of course you want self motivated staff, on the other hand, you really do need to make sure that you feel like you're part of a team. So how do you manage that as an entrepreneur, as a leader? How do you make sure that you still feel that they're a team? Do you have a routine each week, each month that you used to try and, you know, team meetings, what's your routine and tools and tactics to keep the team, make sure you feel that they are part of a team?
00:11:19 - 00:13:52
Oh sure. Yeah, I think everybody has their own tips and tricks about what we're doing in our teams. First of all, we encourage the team to have a, like a short coffee break every day and speak about something totally irrelevant but we don't do it on a global scheme because we have, what is it? 300 developers right now, right? But every team, when they're 5 or 10 developers and testers and so on. We want that. We encourage them to do that at least like their coffee breaks. Then every week, we do have a meeting when everybody is welcome to come and say whatever they want to talk about but not work, right? There is one limit, don't talk about work. Typically we talk about something new that happened this week, something book I read or maybe, you know, film I saw or I did something great or you know, I took a bicycle ride or whatever, but it makes people feel that they are people, they're not just, you know, colleagues who need to do this job right there. They have actual lives and of course we have every now and then we have offline meetings. It's getting tough though because we're, you know, truly international camps these days, so we cannot do it like for everybody, but we try to do it like when we have a few teammates in one area, we bring them together. So it's a combination essentially, I think it's important, to be honest, people get together in our teams because they want to do some great product or do something, right. So that's their main motivation. So having some top two topics to discuss outside of work is something that kind of makes their job easier because they feel that they are more comfortable talking to each other. They are more open, you know, more trustworthy to each other. So they typically find a way to talk it through if you give them this opportunity.
00:13:53 - 00:14:46
Yeah. And I think people obviously gravitate to the people they like. So it's, you can't force people to be social. In other words, you gotta let them find their own place in space to actually hang with people they want to hang with.
Now, the thing I'm always curious about, a lot of people ask this question. Okay, so you've got your idea for Insquad, you see that there is a real need for startups to hire great developers and you're going, okay, so this is a problem that needs to be solved because you had a problem with the previous company you're working for. Next, you got the idea. Okay, so how complicated was your business plan? And the next question after that is how do you go about raising money? So number one, tell me a little bit about how complicated or simple was your business plan?
00:14:47 - 00:16:50
Well, I'm a big fan of bootstrapping. So my business plan was very, very easy. I first find at least one client and I, you know, then I'm not trying to make all the money in the world and trying to sell super high margins. I want to, you know, just somebody who is genuinely interested in my product and then I arrange with them that okay, well you are our first client. We're gonna give you, we're not gonna make any money on you, but we want information. right. And that's where I would do the market survey and that is what saves me a lot of time on business plans. Now, of course there are types of businesses when you need to invest quite a substantial amount of money up front. So you need to build a detailed business plan. But my business plans were always, you know, a small excel spreadsheet that I could get, I could do in like a couple of hours and then go and try basically. Yeah, I think one of the things that I prefer to do the most is go out and try because you're going to get much way more information, way more insights and also you will, the important thing that I, at least in my experience, is that every time I try to start something new, my mind starts to do some pictures, okay, maybe and this is how it's done, you know, and this is how this market works and the reality is that your mind, my mind comes up with these ideas of having no initial information. It's just something because I saw somebody there or I saw a movie about somebody doing this and it's totally irrelevant to the actual market. So because I want my mind to stop playing tricks on me, I just go ahead and say, you know, I try and then I think about it.
00:16:51 - 00:17:01
That's fascinating. And I totally agree with you. You learn by doing and I love the quote by Mike Tyson who said everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.
00:17:02 - 00:17:03
Oh yeah. That's a strong one.
00:17:08 - 00:17:30
Yeah, and guess what? In business, you're gonna get hit in the face and many times, and you got hit in the face earlier this year. Tell us about that, that was a real challenge. So if something happened in the world earlier this year, and I think people can guess what that is and you were based in Russia.
00:17:30 - 00:17:31
00:17:32 - 00:17:36
So what happened? And what did you do?
00:17:37 - 00:20:46
Yeah, we started maybe mid-last year. So by early this year, we already had some clients and because we started in Russia we will focus more on the Russian market and Russian developers and we had quite a few of them in our database. And then of course the political situation has changed and as a CEO and Co-Founder had made probably the hardest hit in my face ever because this is something that I could never take into account. And I mean if I have, if I would have thought about such opportunity, I probably wouldn't have started in the first place just because you know, this is something that you don't think about.
And then I had a challenge because most of the clients could not work with the developer who is located physically in Russia any longer. And so we've, in the course of 48 hours we had to evacuate our development team and marketing teams. I was actually very nervous and I was very much concerned, that you know, I would have people inside my team discussing and kind of reflecting on what's going on instead of focusing on the job because when things like that happened and it's somewhere very close to you, right. It's not remote, it's right in your backyard. You feel that you feel a lot of pain. No, of course you're not the, you know, we're not the hardest hit. We’re not in Ukraine, but we still felt a lot of pain. And I was concerned that this is, you know, gonna have an effect on the team, but everybody was like, you know, hey, we really want to focus as much as possible and work. We don't want to get into the politics, we don't want to get drafted, we don't want to kill anybody. So we want to just go away and do our thing and we managed to move pretty much the entire team in the course of 48 hours. And maybe in six days, we entered new markets, we started recording developers from India, from Nigeria and from Latin America. And so, you know, six months down the road, we're feeling much better now and we are very much international. So, you know, I tend to find a good things in everything that happens. Of course, there's nothing good about the the word that's gonna but the good thing for Insquad particularly is that we learn how to be international in the course of one week, you know, I had a plan to do it in the course of two years, we did it in one week.
00:20:47 - 00:21:16
So you've moved and it sounds like you continue to grow, so you have two sides to your business that you need to run resource, in other words, find developers and then you need to sell those skills and those developers to start ups. So I'm curious about how you source good developers, that I'm curious about that first and then we'll talk more about how you find customers.
00:21:17 - 00:23:09
Well, the reality is that there is no way to source only good developers. The way we did it is we've looked at the whole process of hiring and identified the parts that are taking a lot of time and are taking a special a lot of time of the of the tech people, because the problem with hiring in tech is all about, you know, identifying the talents takes a lot of times of other talents on the team, right, so your entire development team ends up spending time interviewing and checking the tasks and asking questions instead of writing code. And developers don't really like to interview. They like to write code. I mean, good developers like to do that. So that's also kind of de-motivating them. And so what we've done is we've built a vetting machine, we've used some artificial intelligence algorithms and that we basically ask every developer that comes onto our platform to pass the vetting on the skills that he or she claims to be proficient in. And that will be a way we can separate the strong developers from the ones that are not that strong yet and or vetting typically, you know, let's in 1% or 2% of the flock. So it does a good job of saving a lot of time for our technical recruiters to see all the talents.
00:23:10 - 00:23:24
This is interesting. So you use software to do the vetting for you or part of the vetting or the heavy lifting. So did you write that in house or was it a tool that you adapted and found and adapted?
00:23:25 - 00:24:19
Oh no, no, we had to do it in house. It's basically the core of our business is this platform that actually it's not only the very part it's also a lot of it is motivational part because when you get get somebody onto a platform, great developers these days, even today, you know, with the market softening still, you know, great developers will always find a job, so they are kind of reluctant to take all the tests that are out there. One of the things that we've encountered and that we had to learn how to work with is to motivate the developers to go through the tests and pass them and get their profile fixed on our platform. So that's a big part of what we've been doing for the last year.
00:24:20 - 00:24:28
So do you use paid advertising to reach out to developers or is it organic as well?
00:24:29 - 00:25:46
Paid advertising is, you know, I mean I would try that, it did work but it didn't work very well because these days, paid is very easy. right. So anybody can do that. And then you again start to compete with the budgets and we as a startup, we cannot compete with the big guys who can invest millions into advertising. So what we're focused on is content, is communities is building our own word out there and working with some partners who have large networks of developers that are located in some particular area because what we found is that if you go to, you know, there there are separate communities for developers from India, from developers from Ghana, from developers from Argentina and so on and so forth. And likewise for the developers in any particular, for tax c sharp for jobs, this would be all different communities. So they're opinion leaders there, so we did it the smart way and that's when it clicked.
00:25:47 - 00:26:00
Right. So basically one of your top ways to find good developers is to basically participate in different software development communities all around the world, is that correct?
00:26:01 - 00:26:34
Well, that's one thing. We do also have a bunch of events for developers that when we get them together, we have some interesting task for them to solve. So we are, that's the value we bring to developers is we make the process interesting to them so they that they don't feel that we bought them, they feel that we make something interesting that, you know, we give them a challenge that they want to want to solve and that's when you get them real onto the platform.
00:26:35 - 00:26:38
Okay, So is that running events like a hackathon?
00:26:39 - 00:27:04
Well maybe, I mean hackathon is one of those events but there are some conferences that we sponsor and then we go out and talk. So it's not just one event, I think essentially what we've built is a machine to generate interest for developers to join our platform.
00:27:05 - 00:27:19
And the other thing you mentioned too is content. So do you mean that you regularly publish content on your site? Sounds like you're doing some content marketing, is that correct?
00:27:20 - 00:28:35
Yeah, I mean we do obviously have blogs on, we do have content on our blog, we do have some content on Medium, we do have Twitter. So I cannot say that there was a single channel that has done it all right. And when we first started, we thought, you know, the customer journey will be like, I've seen your test Twitter and then I got into your platform, I passed the test and here I am, it doesn't work like that. I've seen your test in Twitter, then I heard about you somewhere else. Then I read something, something that I came to your event. And then when you had like 5-10 touches, then, you know, you kind of have, you know, I remember something about you guys because there's just so much, you know, so much content out there. Then you have to stand out. You have to, you know, have people to see one or two or three or more pieces of text about you guys before they actually commit any time on your platform.
00:28:36 - 00:30:02
A lot of time the sales funnel is seen as this lovely linear journey. It's not a linear journey. It's more like a matrix. And it's, so you've got to learn to go into the matrix and produce a lot of content that comes from all sorts of places. But content does create credibility and trust. So the Edelman trust barometer, I remember reading quite a long time ago, I saw that one of the things that was measured was if people see you once or twice, your trust level is like below 5%. If they see you five or six times, in other words, different pieces of content, a tweet, a blog post, maybe an ad, potentially, once they see you five or six times, the trust level goes like 55. And another thing too is the journey of someone contacting you, because we've got so much content online these days, is that 60-70% of the research has been done before. Anyone can even send you an email or contact you directly, they’re checking you out quietly. And that's why content becomes very powerful. And that's what I discovered when I started the blog in 2009 was just relentlessly create content. And then over time when you play the long game, then the magic happens, doesn't it?
00:30:03 - 00:30:37
Oh, yeah. Oh yeah, that's exactly what we felt like 12 months down the road. First, you kind of felt, you know, we're working, there is no result. We can't because you cannot see it, right. You cannot until you touch them five or six times, you see nothing and you're like, well maybe we're doing something wrong, you know, we should change our content manager or we should change, you know, or the way we distribute, but then, you know, it started paying off after or maybe after 12 months we've seen a dramatic spike and interest.
00:30:38 - 00:31:05
Yeah so and that raises another interesting thing about trust. So you sounds like you spent a lot of time, especially the first client as you mentioned, you're saying, look, we're going to do this, we're not gonna charge you much. In fact, we break even what I want from you is information. That's what you mentioned right off the bat on top of that, how important are testimonials from your clients to you as a business?
00:31:06 - 00:31:50
Well, I think there is nothing better in our business, in a business to business world, and there is nothing better in our world if somebody is recommending your business. It's much cheaper to win a client if somebody is recommending you than to, you know, do all the marketing tricks and that's I guess, you know, it puts a very right motivation for us. You know, don't screw your clients because each client you have will refer two or three clients, you know, a year or two years down the road and you will pay nothing for them. And so I think it's very important.
00:31:51 - 00:32:30
Yeah. And that's, for me, it was quite an interesting, very interesting and important point you made about the fact that your first client or a few clients is much more about gaining information than about making money. And that's, I think, worth gold.
Now that raises the other question I asked a few minutes ago as the second part of, because you've got these two sided marketplace, you've got the developers and then you've got the companies. So how do you market to get new clients that want those developers? What's your most important strategies for you and the team and your marketing team?
00:32:31 - 00:34:33
Well, over the course of, you know, the last 18 months, we've tried a lot. Well, like I said, you know, we try more probably, I think the single most important factor for the startups just to, you know, to succeed is how fast can it, you know, test hypotheses and out of all outbound and inbound channels, what we found is that content is actually doing the best job. Again, it's the same with the developers, right. If you build trust with the content that you create in the minds of your potential clients. If there is something that, you know, they find interesting and if it resonates they will come right, if the product you're selling is something, you know, as a competitive software developer, I mean that, you know, we're not the only guys out there, right. We're not, this is not like a rocket science, what we've created. So it's very important to be consistent and it's very important to deliver value in the content that you produce and this has worked way better than any outreach strategies, because I'd say maybe 90% of all the clients that came from inbound not. So they came, they knew something about us and that's why they were ready to go out and talk to us as opposed to and only 10%, you know, with outreach somebody. So yeah, that's how it works, at least in our world.
00:34:34 - 00:34:51
Well, I think it works in a lot of B2B, you've got to build trust through content, you've got to showcase your credibility through content. So what type of content do you create that helps get that inbound inquiry?
00:34:52 - 00:37:18
Yeah, well, we do a lot of examples that I think are most probably most relevant and that worked. The best one is case studies. That's when we actually, you know, talk to one of our clients and ask them to elaborate a little bit how it felt on their side and it's very important not to make it a marketing case study because there is a fine line but you will feel it there is no doubt, you will feel it if you see that it's like, it has been written by a marketing person and that it wasn't like a testimonial because as it doesn't give any depth it gives, its tries more to sell than to give you some information. And that's when you stop, you know, when you stop responding to this kind of information. That's so one thing and another thing is when we do have some very strong talents on our team and we actually ask them if they do have something interesting about technology, they're talking about, they are working on developers have actually, even though they don't really like to talk, they like to write and they don't only write the code but they can also write a lot about the code and about the technologies, about the evolution of party. Any particular technology, we had this developer who was writing for us about the front end technologies, how first was angular. Now it's react and what's gonna be the next step, you know where it's all going, this is actually a very fruitful type of content because you know our customers are essentially the technology guys the CTOs, the appeals of engineering that that type of positions and they are very deep into the technologies that they are working on and they are always interested to learn something new. Every developer, every great developer I've ever met is always interested to learn something new and it's always interesting to talk about the technologies.
00:37:19 - 00:38:18
And that raises another question then about me is that a lot of companies especially knowledge industries are very much about technology and tools. In other words, having and quite often, to grow as a company is that there's two arms races, in other words, number one is a battle for market share. The other one is a battle for technology. In other words, is your technology better than the other companies? So there's this ongoing and this is not a destination. This is a journey all the time of continuing to develop software internally in the company. And I think a lot of more traditional companies haven't realized how important it is to go down that to invest in technology. So where is the future of software development going? You mentioned things like AI, what are some of the big trends in software development that you think are emerging and emerging over the next 10 years?
00:38:19 - 00:38:52
Well I'm not probably the best person to answer these questions. I'll tell you, I'll give you my take. I think that AI, we're seeing only early days of AI. I mean what the AI can do is truly revolutionary. I think it's one of those technologies, you know, comparable to what the Internet has done to our lives in the past 20 years. We'll see AI doing it going forward maybe in the next 20 years. That's one thing I'm a bit more pessimistic on the Blockchain. I don't know, maybe I'm not fully appreciating that technology but I think there is too much hype about it and it still is very early and you know it kind of has to find its way through and I think a lot more we'll see in the metaverse and the interfaces and the way we actually consume information. That's that technology I think is gonna definitely take off and it's gonna solve a lot of existing problems. So basically these two bets that I would make, we'll check it out a couple of years down the road but I think AI and metaverse.
00:39:53 - 00:40:15
Yeah and that's very interesting. It's that topic of the metaverse and Mark Zuckerberg is almost betting Facebook's future on middle earth. So is he too early or did he got their timing right? I'd be interested in your take on this since you brought up the metaverse topic.
00:40:16 - 00:41:38
Yeah, I mean, I think metaverse much broader in a sense that I have three kids and they all you know when they were little, I mean there were like 5-8 years old, they were playing Minecraft then they're playing roblox and I mean this is right, they spend at least 6-8 hours a day in the gadgets and they're not not necessarily playing but also learning and that's I think the metaverse is there for them already. So I definitely think that, I'm not sure if Facebook will succeed with this because it's always to me it's always the question when one company develops the technology, it's always one sided and it's much better to do it like an open source type development.
But I definitely think that there's still a lot more to come, a lot more to learn. People just you know, if you travel these days in the subway you see everybody's in their smartphone, right. So even though they're sitting in the subway, they're not there, they're in the metaverse, right.
00:41:39 - 00:42:13
Yeah, I agree with you. I think the metaverse is already here, it happens to be a smartphone. How many people are going to wear headsets? And I saw an open letter from one of the big investors in Facebook who said that they're a little concerned of Mark Zuckerberg's investment in Capex for development, Facebook, well metaverse, is spending 30 billion a year on software development.
00:42:14 - 00:42:55
Well, I mean it's a tough call because obviously Mark is the guy who built this company from the ground up and I mean obviously he is a visionary, you know, he may succeed or he may not succeed. Well the future will tell us that definitely what he has made with his huge investment, he has actually brought a lot of interest to this particular technology and this is definitely is gonna work its way to become one of the main streams at least in my view.
00:42:56 - 00:44:00
I think the term you used when we started talking about this topic, the metaverse that came up was how we consume information has changed and if you think about it, we now have information everywhere, which the smartphone did in other words, social media actually emerged before we actually had the democratization of smartphones so the smartphone was this perfect and social media is this intersection of how we consume information that created the perfect storm that opened up the whole social media verse which is heading maybe towards a metaverse, but I think how we consume information is a big topic and Elon Musk has a different idea how we can do that with a brain implant. So maybe he's got the picture better than Marquez, we're going to find out if you go over time.
00:44:01 - 00:44:23
So yeah, it's great, you know, really, really I think because you know Elon is definitely the guy who is, you know, trying every crazy thing that is out there, he ought to try. I mean every now and then he does, you know, he's a home run but he's trying a lot of interesting things, a lot of interesting things.
00:44:24 - 00:44:34
Yeah and I suppose he's got the money to do it, so, but we'll be interested to see what happens with Twitter as well saying he's just sacked 3,000 Twitter employees.
00:44:35 - 00:44:58
Yeah, I mean we're, you know, we're heavily dependent on Twitter in terms of, you know, building our loyal base of developers and also we talk a lot of customers on Twitter, so I'm just hoping he's not going to ruin whatever there is, but these days you don't know.
00:44:59 - 00:45:45
Well it's Twitter for me was a really big deal and helped me grow my brand early on and so we've ended up with nearly 600,000 Twitter followers, but that was important for me to grow the blog and the traffic and attention, but as with anything and this is the other thing that I battle with all the time and I think everyone in marketing battles with is the battle of the algorithms. In other words, how much visibility are you going to get to your content as the algorithms are tweaked to make money for the platforms? So what do you think about algorithms and the ongoing challenge as a market and as a business? And it stands in the software as well? It is software.
00:45:46 - 00:46:57
Yeah, absolutely. It is software and I mean we really depend on them because obviously we work with content, so we work on LinkedIn, we work on Twitter, we need to understand the way they work. And I think as long as algorithms are out there to make this particular platform more relevant to you, you know, give you the most relevant information. I think they're good. And they actually like Twitter algorithms a lot because they allow you, even when you don't have a lot of subscribers, even if you're somebody new, but you can write well, you can express yourself and you got something to talk about, you can easily advance there. So it's, I think it's a very democratic way to communicate and it's very fast. I mean, you can gain a lot of attraction there in a matter of months, not years.
00:46:58 - 00:47:56
And the other thing that's fascinating too is watching TikTok the rise of TikTok, which is not so much follower centric with its algorithm, but more content centric. In other words, you can grow a following out of content rather than have to have followers to get content out. It's so and also that raises another interesting question too. And I haven't explored marketing with TikTok very much, but I think we're going to go down that route shortly. The other thing that's interesting is Apple throwing a bomb in the middle of marketers because of privacy. And so that's affected Facebook because it relies upon information about consumers and companies to be able to do effective marketing and advertising targeting. And Apple said, no, you're not going to actually get access to it. How is that impacting you? And what are your thoughts on privacy?
00:47:57 - 00:51:05
Well, I think, I mean this war is not over. And obviously, I mean, yeah, we can see that the market has punished Facebook and you know, obviously they're the innovations that Apple made last year. They are already seen in the top line and the bottom line of Facebook, but I think the, you know, the fighting of the future is all about information, it's all about what you know about who you are trying to sell anything to. And I don't really see, I mean obviously I know I'm a consumer, I enjoyed a lot that I have an option to click, you know, please don't record information about me. However, I think that as a business it's definitely gonna be going the route of collecting more and more data and more and more information. I mean that's the only basically when you're online, the only differentiator is how much information do you know about your customer? And I cannot say that it's bad. I mean obviously there is a question of that now I know more information about the customer that the customer knows about himself and that he was ever willing to give out. That I can definitely see a point there. But on the other side, if this information is used to give me better offers that are more relevant to me that the algorithms know that I'm male and I'm in my forties. So I probably need my health insurance and I have kids. So I probably don't need to be related to 20 year old guys and then it just doesn't waste my time. So it makes the offer more relevant to me. I see that there is a a good argument for actually allowing data companies collect some of that data only that maybe that would be a good niche too to explore is to make actual pro services or products that would allow me as a consumer to delete whatever information I don't want them to collect, but to leave everything rest. Because the rest, because so far what Apple has done is, you know, completely allowed to completely eliminate any data tracking algorithms. But what if I want to track my presence on any particular side and don't want to track on some other side, whatever it would be, right, that I think would be probably a good compromise.
00:51:06 - 00:51:44
Yeah, information is a two edged sword and how we both collect it and then how we consume it. Big big questions. So I'm aware of your time and it's late in Serbia and just a couple of quick questions to finish up. So as an entrepreneur, what are some of the biggest lessons that you've learned that you'd like to share with fellow entrepreneurs and people that may be thinking of starting one or starting a side hustle? What are some of the biggest tips you could offer to our listeners and viewers?
00:51:45 - 00:55:12
Yeah, I think the biggest one, I would definitely start with go out and try. Don't think that you can't do it. Don't let your mind paint all the different pictures of how you will not succeed. You may not succeed in a sense that you may not build, maybe it will end up that you don't build whatever you think you want to build, however you will gain a lot of experience, you will gain a lot of new contexts and you will be much better position to do it next thing in your life, so stop hesitating and try to go out and do it. One that's one thing, another thing is beware of whom you choose as your co founders because if you want to build something big, you cannot do it all yourself. You know, there are lots of solopreneurs out there and this is, you know, phenomenon these days, but I don't really believe that you can build a great business doing it by yourself. I mean, you need people to validate your ideas, you need people to help you build a great product. So, you know, try to find yourself a great co founder, it's a very important, very, very important thing and don't, a lot of times I see people, you know, try to find an idea and then find a team, but I actually think it's quite the opposite because if you've got a great team, if you've got a great partners to rely on, you will end, you will find your great idea, the great ideas, the idea is not that it's not worth much execution is hard, you know, a lot of great things have fallen apart just because there was not enough execution, but you will never hear about that, you know, from people, you will always hear, hey, this was a bad idea or for something didn't work out, but we don't know what, but in reality, you know, people have a lot in there, you know, control when they, when they are motivated and when they are smart and when they're sharp, you know, and when they're energetic, so it's finding a great uh co founder partners uh is a very important and that the second and the third thing just to finish is that, you know, before you try to scale, try to sell, that's also the thing that I love to do with, you know, if you have a great idea, okay, don't hire anybody, go out and try to sell it to somebody. You know, if there is nobody who is gonna buy your product most likely you don't need to scale it right? You first need to find the product market fit and this is another thing that people overlook a lot of times, I mean, it sounds very easy, but then when you start building you, a lot of times you get caught up in the processes and you know there are so many people and there is a lot of things going on that you don't really keep your eye on trying to sell this product to your customer and that's the first thing you should do, don't take on the costs, take on their revenues.
00:55:13 - 00:55:43
That's very very very good advice. And that along with that is I think for me and I'd be interested in your thoughts just to wrap it up is not over complicating creating a minimal viable product. And I think as entrepreneurs we're gonna add too many ideas to the mix, but we've got to execute the main thing well don't we? So what's yours and what's your thought on a minimal viable product and how important it's been to you over your entrepreneurial experience?
00:55:44 - 00:57:36
Well I actually, you know, I think the sales should go first, so even if I tried to do the sale before I have the product at least that I would have here the feedback right? You know, am I selling crack or am I selling something that people really need because then I can spend on building an MVP, obviously, you know, as a startup founder, I'm always about the MVP and how we can deliver something faster, maybe smaller but faster. That's all about, it's not even the concept of MVP. I think in the startup, I think it's even in a big company I mean so far right now where we're established company and we still every new feature that we make, we still try to first do a small part of it, roll it out and see how it goes because a lot of times we think that people will want to use this this this or that feature but they really don't. And a lot of times they will even tell you, oh wow that's great, I really need this feature but then they don't use it. So it's creating a great application these days more and more try and see approach because you cannot predict whether this feature that you're building is ever gonna be used even though it may seem as you know as great as
00:57:37 - 00:57:44
In essence, you've summed up what you would recommend to everyone to learn by doing. Ideas are cheap, it's the execution they're doing to find out whether you've produced something that the world wants.
00:57:45 - 00:57:45
00:57:46 - 00:58:11
So Alex, thank you very much for your time. I know it's late at night in Eastern Europe and congratulations on starting a company and surviving even during some tough challenges like you had earlier this year, hats off to you! I learned so much by listening to some very clever entrepreneurs around the world and I feel grateful to have had the time to share it with you and thank you for your insights. It's been an absolute pleasure.
00:58:12 - 00:58:21
Oh, thank you very much, Jeff, for having me. It's great to be able to talk to guys like you. I enjoyed it a lot.
00:58:21 - 00:58:23
Thank you very much.
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