Where big companies are looking for innovation. Interview with Dmitry Izmestiev on the development of startups

Published on November 15, 2017

Where big companies are looking for innovation. Interview with Dmitry Izmestiev on the development of startups

    All the big IT companies were once startups. The most successful are themselves the forge of new businesses. What innovative projects are the most promising, what mistakes do young startups have to deal with investors - we talked about this with Dmitry Izmestiev, Vice President of LANIT for Innovations.


    “Meetings with startups sometimes remind me of a trip to the island of Papua: when different civilizations clash, you always have to look for a common language. The main thing is not to be eaten. ”

    - Dmitry, you participate in the selection and support of innovative ideas until a team with a good idea turns into a company with a good profit. How to find this good idea, how to be inspired and what external experience to focus on?

    The easiest “recipe” to find something creative is to look at the intersection of industries. If you apply an idea from one industry to another, in most cases you will get something interesting.
    And it’s safer to concentrate on evolutionary ideas. Unlike revolutionary ones, which have no background, evolutionary trends improve existing developments. Operating systems existed before Microsoft, search engines were before Google, and social networks were before Facebook. However, these companies were able to see the market and modify the product so that it turned out to be really cool, massive, bright. Evolutionary innovation needs to be dealt with simply because it is a more advanced path if you really want to make money, and not just crave fame.


    Source of inspiration

    For an IT solution to work out well, it must solve your problem. Let us recall the example of the creator of Uber, Travis Kalanik, who could not catch a taxi in Paris and thought about the convenience of the “magic” call button on the phone.

    Do it for yourself, but do not neglect the opinions of others: do not be afraid to tell your idea and receive feedback, including negative ones. In the startup world, there are many people who are focused only on themselves and are not ready to listen to customers. Their startups are doomed to failure.

    - How are startups selected in your company?

    Our group of companies practices two approaches to innovation. The classic approach to innovation involves investing in promising startups. This is what all world IT leaders do, such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft. We also understand that the company needs to develop in those areas in which it is still poorly represented, and the easiest way is to buy an external team and help in its development, not only financial but also expert. Therefore, we build a startup the right navigation in business, as well as help customers and vendor support.

    The second, less classic and more complex way of innovation is to grow ideas within the company. LANIT makes a huge number of large projects. Technical and product solutions that appear in the process are often no worse than the ideas of any innovative team drinking smoothies in coworking. Only the participants of our project teams may not even realize that they are creating some kind of innovation, they just go to work and solve a specific problem. This is another function of mine - to seek innovation in our own projects and products of a group of companies.



    - How do such IT solutions get into your hands? Catch them in internal meetings?

    Usually they come to me with some problem. At some point, the working team realizes that, roughly speaking, it has stalled. And the project is on, and we need to create a solution that has never been before. Yes, it is developed in the interests of one customer, but it should turn out no worse than external projects in hype areas. And here I observe processes very similar to innovative ones - we need to invent some approach, explain it to the team, put this team together around a new idea, we need to infect everyone with this idea so that they present the idea and realize it.

    To work with promising innovative ideas, Lanit Ventures Venture Fund was formed in LANIT. So I'm not the only one working in this direction.

    - What innovations is the company currently focused on developing?

    We are developing the following areas: big data, virtual reality, modern educational technologies and electronic publishing technologies, retail solutions.

    By the way, there are several retail solutions in our portfolio. And this has its own logic. I am talking about ZOZO - the ABC Solutions WFM system - and LANIT Omni's Right Way CRM system. The fact is that LANIT has an Inventive Retail Group - a successful retail chain of company stores. It includes world famous brands: re: Store, Samsung, Sony Center, Nike, ROOKIE, LEGO, kid rocks and others. Inventive Retail Group management is open to experimentation and ready to immediately innovate. Thus, we can work out the solution within the company and only then bring it to the market.

    It makes sense for you to come to LANIT with your innovative idea if its alliance with the products and technologies of our group companies will cause a synergy effect. It is always interesting to find this synergy - when a startup plus something in LANIT suddenly becomes not 1 + 1, but 1 + 10.

    - Are there any parameters that a startup must meet in order to reach the payback period in the planned period and make a profit?

    It is strictly necessary that you have a leader - the founder, co-founder, that is, the person who is “on fire” with the idea and is ready to make the project a matter of his life. Even better when more than one person is promoting a technological idea. In the startup world, projects that are developed by several leaders are more stable.

    Secondly, it is important to be able to focus on your idea and adhere to this direction. I meet a lot of creative people who gush with ideas one another better and can not concentrate on working out one. Working with such project leaders is absolutely hopeless. The only acceptable option is if such a founder finds in his team people who will refine his ideas. That is, the team as a whole should be able to focus on one, main direction.


    Source of inspiration

    Thirdly, a startup should be open to changes in response to an external feedback. The inability to hear clients and experts, the unwillingness to make changes to the project is just as harmful as the constant change of the motion vector. People who have to pierce walls with their foreheads to tell the world about their idea often become “stone” and generally cease to accept any criticism. This strategy will only work if the startup is initially developing in the right direction. But such successful stories - one in a million. You may not have a visionary mindset, but then you need to be able to listen.


    Source of inspiration

    Fourth, do not put off the sale. It is important that the team is ready to quickly start in the market. Perhaps you need another three years to finalize your product. But surely in three years your ideal decision will be irrelevant. Remember the stories of great scientific discoveries. Usually several scientists went to the same discovery in parallel in different parts of the world, not knowing about each other. So in the world of startups, everything is the same. You will not be in time, someone else will be in time. Fortunately, now there are flexible development methodologies that allow you to start quickly and literally every week to transfer the next update package to the user.

    - Father instructed future entrepreneur Chichikov with the words “take care and save a penny the most; this thing is the most reliable. ” How important is frugality for budding IT businessmen?

    I am alarmed by the stories when startups for the development of a product immediately ask for millions. Large investments at an early stage usually end badly for an immature project. It is much better when the team counts every penny, a very correct economy is born from this, with a good investment history - this can easily be a plus and increase momentum. Having a good economy from the very beginning is very important. And for this you need to be as economical as possible and use each resource to the maximum. Alas, not everyone is ready for this. And if not, maybe you should not do a startup?

    Companies are developing well, in which the founder combines two competencies - he understands both IT and business. More often you have to deal with developers who have an interesting idea and have no ideas about the business.


    A source of inspiration

    Sometimes, a project can be pulled out with the help of a competent, professional team. Remember the story of Google: two stellar founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page confidently developed a young company until the Sequoia Capital fund actually imposed on them the famous successful businessman Eric Schmidt. In a couple of years, Google has become a multi-billion dollar corporation from a company attracting several million investments each.

    - How can a startup build a business model?

    How to make money, you need to think first and foremost, and then - about everything else. Nobody asks you to invent a business model, you can always borrow it. And if your idea is unique, be inspired by business solutions from other industries. You can take a proven business model even from the fashion industry. For example, take the Zara brand, which has become successful with sales of couture replica models that have just shown expensive fashion houses. It looks like the Chinese market is organized - it can replicate other people's successful solutions very quickly and cheaply. Instead of a long production immediately to the market. Why not use this model in IT? It just resembles what happened in the open source segment: the open-source nonprofit project PostgreSQL has become a serious competitor to Oracle and IBM.

    - If a product is initially born in a highly competitive field, what should I look for?

    Young startupers come to us and bring their idea. Well, I say, only such a cool idea is still here for these guys in the market and for those. Then they promise to make the product a little better than the competition. Just how much better? If the difference is small, stellar history will definitely not work. You need to have the best product, like Google, whose idea of ​​cross-references has changed the entire history of search engines. It is also important how much you are in love with the product and how you know how to fall in love with others. The more people you managed to infect with your idea, the more willing to invest in you. Of course, I am inspired by new ideas. Only all of them require verification. Business cannot be built on the charisma of a founder.



    - How much time do you devote to thinking about the future? Is it possible to immediately understand that a new idea can change it?

    At home in front of me lies the book "Foreseeable Future." This is a popular work of the English physicist, Nobel laureate George Thomson. It was released in 1958 and describes just our time. And what do you think? Even the prominent futurologist Thomson could not make a true forecast. This book is interesting solely as an entertaining fiction, it is terribly funny. There is very little in common with our reality.

    Not even a science fiction writer could predict even cellular communications. Every second book contains descriptions of some universal means of communication - we are talking about projects similar to Iridium satellite communications, accessible from anywhere in the world. And the fact that all over the planet would have to place towers with transceivers for cellular coverage for a long time and methodically - such a thing could not occur to anyone. Therefore, personally, my approach is to work, not to read fiction. Rather than trying to develop foresight skills, it is better to focus on creating this future ourselves. Perhaps you will be mistaken several times and only for the tenth time will you do something good that will “shoot”. But you will not guess the bullseye in which to aim.

    - And in what direction to work? What do you find interesting?

    I am inspired by startups related to automatic design, the use of artificial intelligence in design. They are interesting because it is an attempt to answer the question of what creative thinking is. This area seemed inaccessible to the conquest of technology. The fact that a computer can think logically, recognize images has been known to everyone for a long time. And every year he does it all better. And the fact that the computer can think creatively has not been seriously discussed before.

    There is a persistent feeling that there will be a breakthrough in this area. The first solutions appear in website design and marketing products. There are already examples of projects where design is shaped by machine learning. This is not at all the same as a set of templates.
    Soon we will learn about solutions that, through the development of interfaces, new technologies, and the interaction of artists, photo banks and other players in this market, will create a truly original, concise, convenient design. At least I believe that.


    Your business ladder can be any. The main thing is that it is interesting to climb it (From a trip to Chile) - From what sphere did

    you come to “innovation”?

    I worked in IT education for more than 20 years, and before that I managed to work as a programmer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Once, while still in my second year at the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics, Moscow State University, I got to the seminar at the history faculty - it was organized by a team of specialists from the German Göttingen, which was engaged in the digitization of complex historical documents. They developed a system that allowed machine-readable documents such as European medieval books with complex Gothic fonts and illustrations.

    I decided to show the Germans the results of my work - in the early 90s, when there were only early and very poor versions of Windows, I wrote my operating system with a good graphical interface with youthful enthusiasm. The Germans asked me exactly one question: “How much assembler code is there?” After my answer, without any additional questions, I was immediately hired. I joined the team and wrote one of the first systems for marking up documents - those same medieval books. Every second is now engaged in the arrangement of tags in the text, and then nothing like it was in principle.

    - Then you significantly deepened your work with content, and the book remained in your profession for a long time ...

    Yes, in 1995 I came to the Network Academy and worked here until 2013 - first as a teacher and then as a technical director. I must say that these years were not monotonous, because we always invented, changed something.

    I got a big lesson in 1999, when I felt that I had reached an absolute maximum in the teaching profession. When my colleagues returned from abroad from a course on teaching technologies at IBM and brought a bunch of ideas that I have never used, then I realized how wrong. The feeling of a peak in the profession is usually deceptive, as a rule, there are always opportunities for development and growth.

    So, in the "Network Academy" we first engaged in individual IT training. Then, when it became clear that the state is taking an increasingly important place in the economy, we substantially reoriented ourselves to large educational and consulting projects. When the national research universities were created, our training center acted as an expert - we did a lot of research on how to create the most successful university. The uniqueness of this project is that IT education, in essence, began to prompt the best practices of the entire educational sphere.



    - What achievements do you consider to be true milestones in the development of the Network Academy and in your career?

    In 2010, LANIT Networking Academy won the Microsoft Global Partnership Project Competition. In fact, this meant that one of the coolest vendors at that time recognized us as the best training center in the world. So Microsoft evaluated the project for training IT employees of the Federal Treasury, which we implemented in a consortium with the training center Microinform. The Treasury planned to introduce a new information system in its branches throughout the country. And we personally trained (attention to numbers!) 10 thousand confident users of the system in 87 cities. We then taught more people, but it was no longer a full-time full-time format. But it is he who is the most effective and labor-intensive.

    In such an atmosphere, a colleague and I, from the hands of top Microsoft executives, received a figurine for first place in the Learning Solutions, Impact Partner of the Year nomination (“The Most Influential Partner of the Year in Educational Projects”)

    This is an incredible feeling when you realize that the world community thanks to your project saw Russia - that we are in an "IT" education.

    And the next milestone is the appearance of the “Personal training” format in the group (we already wrote about this on Habré). I am proud that I managed to introduce it, because it is a real innovation - through the use of information technology, people began to pass exams better. Compared to very high-quality full-time study, the effectiveness of the new format is 30% higher. And compared to distance learning, success is probably many times more.

    - What is your strength in IT? The main advantage?

    I just recently thought about this issue. I am often asked to join a complex project and help resolve the problems that have accumulated in it. The question is, how can a person from the outside come and help when there is an established team that has devoted a lot of time and energy to this? Most people in this situation will say - this is not my area. But I’m interested and not afraid to figure out something new for myself. This just led me into the field of innovation, and it is this quality, by the way, that unites many readers of Habr.