Entrepreneurship is not always associated with something exciting, and sometimes it is full of ups and downs. But I always knew it was my path. I established my first business venture at the age of 14, founded a CRM marketing agency and wrote a best-selling Email Marketing Strategy book at the age of 27. A desire to establish a global business brought me to the United States: right now, I am launching my third automated food service business in just two years and getting ready for a new investment round.
Define Your Way from Point A to Point B
An agency is a classic business, profitable and transparent. But in terms of personal ambitions, it’s not something I wanted to do for the greater part of my life. As my 30th birthday approached, I decided to figure out what I’ll be doing in the next five-seven years.
This brought me to the Skolkovo Business School (No.1 in Eastern Europe in terms of quality of corporate programs according to the Financial Times ranking). There I understood that I need to launch new projects while using the agency’s current resources and my personal marketing competencies and this is how I figured out my point B.
Find an Inspiration in Your Peers
Business school has that effect on people, bringing them closer. It also creates opportunities for cooperation: during the program, I found a partner and the first investor for my new business – Yury Mashentsev. I came up with an idea for Foodcast.ai, a service that forecasts sales for the restaurants and optimizes food waste. He shared his market expertise and was responsible for our ideology, while I used my entrepreneurial skills to look for partners and raise investments.
We got Foodcast.ai “in shape” six months after graduating from business school.
Don’t Be Afraid to Compete
I decided to move the service to the U.S. market because I wanted to try myself playing against the world’s top ranked entrepreneurs. For the new market, the project was renamed Foody, and we began to build it up as a marketplace for restaurants, stores and food vendors, allowing our clients to optimize not just their food waste, but also their purchases. The service’s first clients were about 30 eating establishments but the project soon came to a halt due to the pandemic.
So, I had to look for an alternative in the adjacent markets. I realized that the only ones who survived the pandemic intact were the regular stores whose sales actually grew and there were no services on the grocery delivery here. So, this was the business model that I chose for my new service called Food Rocket that was launched in March 2021.
Ask for the Advice
I called my friend Philip Bashyan, one of top managers at Russia’s Yandex.Lavka, which is comparable to Glovo, and told him that I want to launch 15-minute grocery delivery in California, using proprietary dark stores. Philip became the project’s adviser. On the other hand, thanks to Foody, we had a ready-to-use automated order system with a network of vendors, and an understanding of the local market.
Using the first investment, we launched trial delivery using a large supermarket as a dark store and the sales just exploded. This helped us to raise other investments and close the first round. Using my network I called a new round to build the first four dark stores, scale operations and start marketing. In a matter of one week, I received so many bids that we actually had to decline many of them.
Be Flexible and Healthy Self-confident
I don’t consider my first projects, Foodcast and Foody, a mistake. I knew that I have to start somehow, dive into the market and find a real growth business model on the back of my entrepreneurial talent and the skill of reading market signals well.
I call such healthy self-confidence a key skill for any entrepreneur, along with flexibility that helps to continually reinvent oneself. This is especially true in the United States where IT business is highly competitive: people from all over the world come here to build their technological projects.
Make Ambitious Plans for the Next Years
My personal plan is to become a dollar billionaire by the age of 35, but money is not a goal in itself. I dream of becoming a role model for other entrepreneurs and want to show them how to earn money in America and invest it around the world, for example, in development of rural territories and education.