Tell us a little about your background.
I like to turn good ideas into projects, and build great companies that become market leaders. I founded my first company in New York in 1994. Since then, I have founded, invested into and developed over 10 companies in IT, telecom, internet and media.
In regard to the venture business, I created AVentures in 2001 as corporate fund with my own money, and with the mission to invest and build global companies with the help of Ukrainian, Russian talents and technologies. In 2011, together with partners, I launched a new corporate AVentures Capital fund with a focus on early-stage companies in the following targeted technology categories: consumer internet, including e-commerce, cloud services, mobile technology, payment systems, online gaming and social media.
Why and when did you become an investor and how important is the financial return to you?
Honestly, I’m an entrepreneur in my soul. However, in 1999 I had my first experience with an angel investment in the first telecom publication in the media sphere in Ukraine. At that time, I didn’t think about the financial return, rather I wanted to create a telecom and IT environment that related to the IT and telecom sphere. Currently, the AVentures Capital Fund is investing for the third time, which is why we are now focused on the return of the financial investments and we invest only in companies that can become market leaders in their niche the size of over hundred million dollars.
What has changed in the investing scene from your first investment until now?
I would say that now there are more tech-oriented companies in Russia. In 2001, we were probably one of the few VC investors, while now there are hundreds of VC funds. I would say that at that time entrepreneurs knew much less about how to start a company than they do now. Today, there are also more people with a passion to build global companies.
You (AVentures Capital) recently invested in VOX. What are the specifics of investing in Ukraine and in music?
VOX was created by Ukrainian team Coppertino. Before we invested, the guys already had a good track record in building products for the Mac and Apple ecosystem.
Speaking of the music industry today, we have to think about global competition from day one. VOX has a mission to build a global product, and they will be one of the first to develop an audio player that will allow listening to music in HD quality. The team also aims to be more than just a player – rather they want to provide a different music experience, which was not available before.
Working with other people
What kind of people do you work best with?
I like to work with people who are passionate about what they do, and are not afraid of doing everything possible to make their dream come true – that is to build a global product and company.
What do you look for when investing in a company? How important is the technology when you’re looking at a new investment opportunity?
Very often technology is not crucial for a business. However, we like companies, which use technology to build a business that doesn’t exist on the market. It also gives advantages in competition with the companies that have created the same technology. But in general we look at the team and their previous experience and what they want to achieve.
What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about you?
They think I’m a billionaire – and that I do what I do just for money.
How do you spend your free time?
I have plenty of spare time because work means so much to me, I can say that it’s my way of life. Besides, I like reading books, listening to music, and I enjoy yoga and meditation. I love to travel to different countries, getting to know foreign cultures. Also, I spend some of my free time thinking about new ideas.
Working with me…
…is usually fun but when I want to get a good result from people, I tend to be very demanding.
Invitation to startups
Tell us about your last investment – what attracted your attention, and what made you close the deal?
The last investment we made was in VOX. We met the team a year ago, and during this time we were advising and mentoring the team. They took some of the advice, some of it they didn’t, but at the end, they paid attention, changed the product and their marketing strategy. When they eventually launched the product, we closed the deal.
Do you invest in international companies?
All our companies are international, both in terms of legal structure and operations.
Which music startups have you invested in? Tell us what attracted you.
In 2009, I became a co-founder of DIVAN.TV, the first OTT Smart TV provider for the Russian-speaking community worldwide. The service streams TV-channels, movies and music over the internet and on any device. Such consumer behaviour is becoming more and more a trend these days.
Besides capital, what is it that music startups need in Ukraine? What do you offer the companies you back?
If we talk about Ukraine, it is very hard for a player in the music industry to monetise because of piracy. We offer our connections within the industry, for example with content owners and independent artists.
What would you recommend to the people who want to get you onboard?
Rule of thumb: They have to be passionate about what they’re doing, and need to have not only an idea, but an already selling product because we invest in companies that have an existing customer base, revenues, etc.
How can startups get in touch with you?
That’s easy. They can get in touch on LinkedIn, directly on the website (firstname.lastname@example.org), or using connections through the partnership network.
Don’t even think of getting in touch if…
… you don’t believe in your idea, and won’t risk your time and capital to make it a reality.