Interview with Tatyana Tsvetkova

    At the end of last year, I announced an interview with Tatyana Tsvetkova, Business Development Director of Fast Lane Ventures, and invited you to propose questions for our conversation. I was lucky: Tatyana’s schedule had enough time for a thorough conversation, and we were able to discuss many topics: the principles and structure of the company’s business, relations with original projects, trends and promising areas of Internet business in 2012 and much more.

    I will start with the most relevant question at the moment: “Who are you?” That is, are you a venture company or do you have some other self-determination?

    We are still “not self-determined” (laughs). No, in fact, we have long been decided. Fast Lane Ventures, of course, is not a "venture fund" at all, although we have the word "ventures" in the title. Fast Lane Ventures, rather, is closer to the accelerator - the platform on the basis of which new companies are created. The fact is that the word ventures does not necessarily mean venture capital fund. “Ventures” implies, rather, a risky investment of money. Because any startup is a risky investment of money. Just in our perception, the word "venture" is associated exclusively with the fund.

    Well, in general, you can be defined as a business accelerator or even an incubator.

    The accelerator - yes, the incubator - no, it's still a little different.

    I agree, different projects are growing in incubators, but you have everything yours.

    Almost everything is mine. Although we also consider external ideas and teams. But for us to invest in such a company, it is necessary that several factors coincide. It is necessary that we ourselves believe in a business model. And in order for us to believe in it, it must have an American or European analogue, i.e. there must be some kind of successful example. The second project leader in itself should, let’s say, fall under a certain pattern. Those. besides the requirements traditional for the project leader, he must know English, he must have at least a little experience in a European company or his business — it is very difficult to find such a person.

    Well, I know that you "raised" such specialists at home. As part of your selection program.

    Yes, at the end of last year we made the “Fast Lane Challenge” program: we selected young promising people, boys and girls - we had a business game, stress interviews. In general, they went through fire, water and copper pipes. As a result, we selected 10 people who were “loaded” into different companies. Each "junior" in the area of ​​responsibility had a certain subproject, let's say, a satellite of a large project or some limited task within the company. Some of the guys continue to develop now, some moved inside the company to some kind of already functional position, and we parted with some. And two became the new company leaders.

    In the comments on Habré, there was an amusing observation that you have mostly women on your site among the company's management, and you say that you mainly selected men.

    The management team of Fast Lane Ventures is actually almost the only women, there are several men. And the leaders of specific companies are 80% male. We have two women business leaders. The shareholders of Fast Lane Ventures are only men, exclusively.

    And how much money do you need to launch a project like yours?

    Depends on how many companies you want to have in your portfolio. We declare that we give about 150-500 thousand euros as starting investments to our projects. Multiply the average by the number of companies and get the required amount of venture capital.

    But actually, your organization eats a lot? Or is it some modest amount of administrative expenses?

    If you look at the scale of investments, then the amounts are, of course, modest, although our office is not in the basement.

    What else is needed in order to create a venture company in Russia or a company of your type? Naturally, except for money.

    First of all, we need people with some expertise, experience from the “previous life”. The good thing about Fast Lane Ventures from the beginning is that it brought together two people with experience: Oscar Hartmann and Pascal Clement from Direct Group. People who believed in the model itself and with their own money began to launch projects. Oscar has good experience in marketing and attracting investments, and Pascal is a person who has a very powerful entrepreneurial experience. Marina Treshchova, our director, has been working with Pascal for many years and she also has a great deal of operational experience.

    So, point one is experts ... Point two is probably money.

    Money and expertise, required. These are the key points, perhaps. Clear. In general, when specialists meet with money, something good comes out of it. Yes, these are not industrial companies - there are no particular difficulties to start. Here the leader’s charisma is very important in order to energize the team, direct them in the right direction and see some kind of “light at the end of the tunnel”, i.e. what we ultimately want to come to and help projects find their way.

    And what light did Pascal Clement see?

    The Internet is large, the Internet is growing, Western companies are showing great interest in the Russian Internet, in its size. And the emptiness of the market itself simply attracts investors, including the founders of Fast Lane Ventures, who also saw significant development potential.

    Is paragraph "c" about the fact that our people do not like to pay for some things present?

    Oh, well, that’s not true.

    Those. are they paying?

    They pay, of course. The problem is the quality of the proposal. If a good supply appears, then demand also arises. That is, we are not as wild as is commonly believed. This is not the case at all. When we were just starting to develop, we often thought that a particular model should develop in a completely different way than its foreign counterpart, because the Russians are different. The Russians are not different, we just have a few historically objective reasons why something happens differently. It is clear, for example, that catalog trading was not widespread in our history, so distance trading is not particularly
    developed. But experience shows that the situation is changing - three years ago they did not buy clothes, now it is a boom; two years ago they didn’t buy shoes on the Internet, and now is growing like a mushroom after rain.

    What is your relationship with the original projects? Those. take the same story from and .

    We are in good partnership with many of these companies. We meet with them, talk about our company, get useful recommendations on business development. For example, Demand Media tracks the success of Rlevant Media, and TheLadders - our recruiting project Upladder.
    A member of the American WebMD team recently joined the Supervisory Board of Vitaportal, giving them valuable advice.

    But what is their interest in general? Did they help you with advice? Did they sell you a franchise or what?

    No, there is not even a question about any franchise, since we create a business from scratch, often without any knowledge of how this is arranged inside - we can only guess about it. Take, for example, - it was originally created according to the model Just recently we met with Kayak, they gave us a lot of practical recommendations, tips. The most important thing at the startup stage is to understand what KPI should be, digital indicators from this business. When you start a new project, then, as a child in the dark, "poke", try to "feel for the corners." When you communicate with an experienced company, it shows you which rake does not need to be stepped on, and that we may not have seen.

    And yet, why should they?

    Russia is a large and promising market (the world's 6th largest Internet audience with an average disposable income is higher than in Brazil, India and China). The forecast for 2013 is 70 million Internet users, so many foreign companies are interested in working here.

    I’m trying to understand: you are working on a “plot” for them, and after a while, when they see your successes, come here too? Already compete with you, or what does it look like?

    No, why, 100% or partial purchase of the company.

    But do you do these projects with the expectation of their further sale?

    Of course.

    Fine. There was just a question on Habré about how you feel about projects that are initially made for sale, and to specific companies. In general, it is now clear how you feel about them.

    Well, of course. The entrepreneur who does not want to sell his company at least in 7-8 years is bad. It’s just that you are already physically tired of doing the same thing. A true entrepreneur is one that is looking for. Family business is not entrepreneurship, but rather a craft. An entrepreneur is a person who is looking for new opportunities and directs his efforts to them. Therefore, Fast Lane Ventures
    put at the forefront the idea of ​​creating a company, its development, raising to a certain level and subsequent sale.

    Accordingly, closing the question of relations with the originals, the reason is even a visual copy of Pinterest is because it is its potential branch in Russia. And if the project doesn’t work and the “original” fails to sell it?

    It will not work for what reason? Because the model was wrong? Was the market not ready? Or is the team wrong? The reasons why this did not go may be different. If the market is not ready, then we can do some kind of revision of the business model. For example, we had situations when we started to work out a project, met with potential partners, but realized that it was too early, and rolled back.
    There is always the opportunity to revise the business model, for example, now one of our companies is significantly changing its concept and will be restarted in the near future. We are not saying that the original buyer is the potential buyer. As with any startup, buyers can be completely different. It can be strategic investors, it can be media
    holding to which the project is interesting because of synergistic opportunities.

    That is, you will in any case look for a buyer. Imagine this situation: we take the same, which is visually and conceptually a Pinterest clone. For some reason, they will not want to buy a project from you, but another investor will appear. As a result, it turns out that they voluntarily help create their competitors. Do you see any risks here? As in the automotive business - in China, for example, they love to produce copies of Mercedes cars. And the Germans are constantly suing them, always losing, of course, but there are certain reputation risks arising from this. Those. they gave an idea, shared a design with you, from this after some time a completely different company has a profit.

    First you need to explain why we have the concept of following the original. Now, you see, on our wall the word "SPEED" is written in big black letters. The key task, especially now, when competitors began to appear on the Internet, is to do everything very quickly, otherwise someone will get ahead of you. If a good business model appears on the horizon, we must launch it in 50 business days. Our
    strategy of “taking the best from the original” reduces the time it takes for a project to enter the market. This is the main thing.

    Well, this is understandable, I have a direct relationship to this market, that is, I not only write, but also work on it. I am interested in how the original looks at this situation, that is, maybe, from the point of view of business logic, this is not a topical issue, but I am interested in the ethical side of the question: “We
    gave you everything ...”

    World history knows many examples where an advanced follower has become more successful than a market pioneer. For example, from my point of view, Sapato is already much better than its counterpart - Zalando, although in the beginning much of this German store was repeated. Of course, if we copy pieces of code, then this is already a violation of copyright.

    What about the design?

    Take any online store: there is a catalog, there is a basket, there is a product card, there is a check-in field. Almost any other store is built on the same concept. And the content is different for everyone.

    I did not even speak about structure, but about visual similarity.

    Never mind. There is VKontakte, which has a visual resemblance to Facebook, there is a successful Biglion company - which at the very beginning was a complete copy of Groupon. Winners are not judged. Our task is to start the company first, and then improve the product by analyzing the market reaction.

    Yes, the vectors will then disperse anyway.

    If we talk about design, then of course. Over a year and a half of operation, the interfaces have undergone significant changes. The team is constantly working to improve the product: it monitors the reaction of users, conducts experiments and various tests.

    Well, okay. By the way, about speed, I also had a question - about your pace, life and work. What know-how do you have in time management and human resource management other than coffee?

    In general, everyone uses their own time and task management system. If we talk about time management, then we have what came from the Oscars, and it is used, as I hope, by many people, the system Getting things done. The idea is that all incoming information is collected in one box, and then you distribute it depending on the type of task: throw it away, assign it for a certain period.
    Those. in fact, it is a stream distribution system. Very simple and intuitive system. An Oscar receives thousands of letters per day, it is important that by the end of the day everyone will be processed to the last. This is the first.

    The second is mobility. We all use email clients on phones, tablets. I go down in the elevator and reply to e-mail, I stand in traffic and can do something. Third, we often work on Saturday. And in general, I believe that if you are the owner of a small, medium-sized business - even if you launched it and it works stably, you should work every Saturday.

    Let's digress from Fast Lane Ventures a bit and talk about more global things - new year trends. Well, except for the end of the world, of course.

    One of the trends that I see is the development of media, content projects. Our Relevant Media has grandiose plans for the next year - to enter the twenty most visited Runet sites. Also, it seems to me that the trend that can develop is any 2-sided market places formats, such as TravelRent, where a large number of market players appear on both sides, and they need to be brought together on a single platform, giving them some kind of mechanism for effective interaction. There are really a lot of such examples. And the opportunities that have not yet been realized here are also many. In America, for example, Eventbrite is a company that enables those who organize events to sell tickets to those who want to attend these events. The growth of smartphones continues - it is expected that in 2013 these devices will be sold more, than ordinary phone. And this will significantly change our behavior and give the world new business models, as was the case with the regular Internet. So there is where to turn around, so wait in 2012-2013 for a lot of new and interesting startups in this area.

    E-commerce is also a global trend that has been developing for many years and Russia is no exception. So far, the e-commerce market has only 1% of offline sales against 7% in America. We have where and due to what to grow. True, local players feel quite relaxed until such time as foreign companies with higher work standards have come here. By the way, it’s interesting that despite the size of the audience, many store owners are disappointed with the share of sales from social networks, while mobile commerce is gaining momentum. It is interesting to observe how all new categories are becoming familiar to most Internet users. In the travel industry, for example, now, in addition to online tickets and online hotels, online tours have begun to appear. This, it seems to me, is
    also a strong trend.

    Tours - meaning selling them online?

    Well yes, packaged information. What do people buy from us when they go abroad? They buy tours. Who sells tours? Travel agencies that are simply resellers from tour operators. And now there are projects that really learned how to sell whole tours - at least 2-3 of them came to us: they buy tours from tour operators and resell online.

    Do you have any specific problems related to the imperfection of Russian laws? How developed is the legal framework for companies like yours?

    We are building a business within the framework of the laws that exist, and they are not the worst.

    In general, you can work, and you have no special wishes?

    There are, but not within the framework of Fast Lane Ventures itself, but, for example, within the framework of our companies. Many people, for example, began to buy goods in the west. They order buy goods there, which they bring here as private parcels, and it turns out that Western sellers actually do not pay taxes, but get a very good market. And to some extent, Russian e-commerce companies are losing to Westerners. Here we can only talk about the need to control these flows so that there is some kind of tax on imported goods.

    I feel that this will be the most unpopular part of this interview.

    (Laughs) It will be interesting from the point of view of e-commerce companies. It is necessary to protect the Russian manufacturer from Western intervention.

    Since we are talking about laws, let's talk about politics. Your business is apolitical. But, nevertheless, I was pretty surprised when I saw video , where you campaigned to go to the rally on December 24th. I saw a familiar name, even climbed specifically to your site to make sure that this is exactly your project. You grabbed a trend and decided on it to earn extra social capital for yourself, or was it really the initiative of your politically active wing?

    Naturally, it was a trend that was “seized for the right place” and which simply was a sin not to use. We are simply sensitive to the market and understand that if there is a trend, then it must be used.

    Do you think that politics is a trend now?

    Politics is always a trend that greatly affects our lives.

    OK. The last question is on a free topic. What is important, which I did not ask, would you like to say yourself?

    For me, the problem of the lack of professionalism among most people and some kind of general unwillingness to learn are important. Therefore, for me a sore point is how to make in Russia so that there are many good professionals. There are several ways you can go. For example, we are going to take students for internships and give them the opportunity to work in the company, deciding on real business cases.

    And what specialties will it be?

    These will most likely be economic and managerial universities - Higher School of Economics, REU named after Plekhanov, GUU, etc. Not technical universities.

    And how many interns can you take for yourself, have you estimated volumes?

    There are no specific numbers in my head, so I won’t cheat.

    Well, this is a good topic for a positive end to the conversation. It is always good when someone opens up opportunities for others.

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