My dream is to help Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian startup founders to build great businesses and become billionaires
Konstantin Sinushin, the co-founder of the Untitled Ventures, about his background, experience and future plans.
I graduated from a technical university in the field of space nuclear reactors with the direct conversion of thermal energy into electrical energy. My work experience lays in a research institute developing similar installations in the department of the ground and orbital tests, including experience in creating automatic research systems.
After the end of the Soviet era, I started working in the IT business. For a quarter-century, we have launched five companies with various partners in the field of creation, sales, consulting and implementation of software for corporate customers. Three companies with my participation in the capital were successfully sold to foreign strategic investors such as ePam Ink (US), Software AG (DE), EMC Corp (US). One project ended up unsuccessful and was closed, and one still successfully exists without my participation in operational management.
After the deal with the American multinational corporation EMC, I worked for four years as the regional director of the product division in the CIS countries. After the end of this career as a hired employee, I returned to the private IT business, at this time as a business angel. Later with our partner Igor Lutz, former co-owner of the Moscow office of the international advertising group BBDO, we created the Untitled Ventures seed fund for $ 5,000,000 from our own funds.
We invested in 25 early-stage startups. Several projects were bought out by startup teams; one was acquired by a Russian strategic investor on x3 terms; also, we sold one on x33 terms to the Baring Vostok fund. The remaining 20 projects continue to develop, of which half are actively entering the international markets and attracting the next rounds. We expect to make at least five large exits from the first portfolio in the coming year.
People often ask me why I chose to become a venture investor from a former serial entrepreneur. Probably it’s all about my curiosity and exploratory behaviour, which was manifested since childhood. In adulthood, when I freed myself from past projects, it became clear to me that I want to learn and learn too much to try to implement some new ideas in the number I have on my own, I would not have had enough of the rest of my life with their consistent implementation.
Investments make it possible to learn a lot of exciting things in business and technology more quickly due to the parallel work of many teams. I think that I have a rather original approach to determining the investment focus.
My colleagues and I try to independently come up with a project of our dreams at the junction of new technologies, new business models and industry problems. After that, we need to find the most promising real project with a product and a team in real life, similar to his ideal image of our imagination.
The most interesting practical takeaway I’ve learned over the years around startups and investments is that sometimes startups fail when they have great technology, a great business model, and a great team because they try to go out with them too early to a market that is not yet ready for such revolutionary innovations, or, conversely, on a market that is already oversaturated with similar products.
And most importantly, in this regard, the art of the investor is to understand the right moment for investment between these two extreme points of failure. In fact, you need to have an excellent idea of how not only technologies are developing, but also different industries where they can be applied in addition to an exceptional skill at first glance to understand the people from the startup team or assess the applicability of a particular business model in this case, as well as the abilities team in the best way to implement each of them.
A venture capitalist solves such equations with multidimensional matrices every day. And I understand how important is my experience in entrepreneurship in building a business from scratch to selling, my high level of technical education and my work experience in a massive project in creating a high-tech product.
Probably, for venture capital funds of later stages, other skills and experience, for example, financial analysis, are more critical. Still, the early stages definitely love the entrepreneurial experience and technological expertise.
I am confident that now that we have come to the idea of creating the next more mature stages fund of 50,000,000 dollars, new financial partners such as managing partner Oskar Stakhovyak, a former investment banker, will be of much greater importance for the development of the business.
We hope that our new fund will inscribe itself in the history of the venture business, occupying a free niche so far for bringing successful projects from the countries of the new eastern Europe to world markets. My dream is to help Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian startup founders to build great businesses and become billionaires.