What’s the inspiration behind 1World Online?
I was looking for the next big thing after a successful exit in 2010 (my previous startup 4Home was acquired by Motorola Mobility and then Google bought Motorola in 2011).
The concept for 1World Online came from a feeling I had that people don’t get enough perspective of the events when reading news/articles/feeds online. I realized that it’s mostly a one-way street: although it allows us to consume information, it lacks the opportunity to express one's own opinions.
I did come to the realization that people want to express their opinions and brands want to hear them and connect with engaged users, which creates a true value for all involved. 1World was created as an interactive platform where people participate, not just read news. Essentially we combined engagement, research and advertising in one organic experience.
This is not your first time founding a company— what do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
After founding two startups and being an executive of three more, I think the main skills required for founders are a true readiness for long, hard work, making sacrifices, hitting rock-bottom and dealing with tough and even existential problems. As much as I support entrepreneurship and wish for all smart and passionate people to pursue it, I'll be the first to say it is not for everybody.
How do you handle risk and competition?
Competition is the last thing any startup should worry about. Each and every segment of the market is open for disruption if your product provides value and has something unique. Uniqueness can be technology, focusing on a specific niche/use case or in business/operations. You just have to stay persistent and listen to your customers.
As for the risks, some of them (e.g. running out of money, technical and business model challenges, losing team members) are unavoidable, so the best course of action would be just accept these risks and do contingency planning. Have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. The key is to stay determined and not give up regardless of how bad the situation gets.
I am a big fan of Guy Kawasaki and his “Art of the Start” book—it has all guidance in it.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
There have been times where I have underestimated how people can or cannot handle the stress and challenges of a startup. This has led to situations where key team members are not able to deliver even a fraction of expectations. Over time I changed the approach to not give too much upfront, rather have compensation based on key results and actual deliveries.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Yes, I certainly tested my own limits to the very extreme and a level I would never anticipate. Some moments were so dark that I prefer to not even mention them, but those are the moments that define an entrepreneur.
What draws you to this space?
The fast-paced nature of startups is what draws me to them. I find joy in building and scaling products from scratch with a team of motivated individuals. Moving to Silicon Valley from Russia was a step I had to make in order to put myself in an environment that was conducive to my growth.
What’s your team culture like?
We are a very diversified and globally distributed team. We have team members, advisors and investors residing in various US states, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. We use all the modern team collaboration tools and were adjusted to remote work even before the pandemic. We are working on projects around the clock, as different regions wake up and start interacting with colleagues and customers. It’s a bit stressful, but very fascinating and creates unparalleled dynamics and a sense of constant progress.
What is your superpower?
It's a combination of determination and ability to present or explain and bring people into my vision. I am convinced that the Internet will change to a decentralized model (aka Web 3.0). This will cause existing monopolies to be challenged and disrupted for good. As a result, the entire landscape of business will change drastically, and users will be prioritized and be compensated for their online activity.
That’s how we grow and build allies, we are living in the era of ecosystems and not companies anymore, and every entrepreneur has to build one around his vision.
What’s your kryptonite?
I tend to put too much trust in people. I think trust is required for a team to run effectively, and I always see a glass half full, rather than half empty. It’s sad to see the empty half taking over sometimes, and I have been shocked when my trust has been betrayed.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I love to talk to random people when I visit other countries. Whether it’s getting advice from them on places to visit, music to listen to, what to buy and what to experience overall. This has given me deep appreciation of our world in its variety, colors, cultures and personalities.
Do you have any other hobbies or things you like to do in your spare time?
I am a huge art lover. This is across mediums: traditional/modern, painting, photography, architecture, nature etc. Fun fact: I suffer from a condition that involves rapid heartbeat, fainting, etc when I am exposed to objects of great beauty (Stendhal syndrome). I like to spend most of my time at exhibitions and tours. Art makes my life complete and meaningful.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
1. Think critically; and
2. Never join the aggressive majority, no matter how hard it is to preserve your personality, your views and beliefs, regardless of the pressure.