В поисках выхода: для Forbes

Недавно, написал про стратегию выхода для российского издания Forbes…


Стоит заметить, что это одна из основных целей Фонда — способствовать качественному, своевременному выходу, обеспечивая прибыль и успех для всех участников проекта.

My column in Forbes on blockchain investment and best practice

Recently, I’ve written a column for Forbes about how to become a successful blockchain investor. The article is available in Russian.

Моя колонка про лучшие практики в blockchain в Forbes:




Инсайты Азии для Forbes

В выпуске, приуроченному к #SPIEF2018 я поделился инсайтами про Азию, с журналом Forbes.


Азия это растущий рынок, который открыт к российским разработкам. Не стоит забывать, что венчурная активность исходящяя от Азиатских фондов и корпораций скоро обгонет США. В 2017, она составила $70.8млрд, по сравнению с $71.9млрд в США.

Altair startup selection insights

A lot of times I get asked how we manage to be successful. What’s the process and how do we manage our selection. Every investor looks for advantages, below, I will talk about how we find ours.

We take great care to analyse a lot of companies, trying to locate the projects which have great potential and are suitable for our portfolio.

We have many inbound and proactive sources for our dealflow. Today I will give an example of us working with accelerators.

Recently, AltaIR has attended Y Combinator, as we attend many other accelerators including TechStars , 500 Startups and others. YC is one of the strongest acceleration programs, taking companies through their toughest stage.

The Demo days are twice a year. We always attend and spend a few weeks in the Bay area to speak to our existing portfolio companies as well as new prospects. We take great care to get a feel and keep informed about what’s happening inside.

Our strategy most of the time is to choose new and disruptive projects and technologies.

When assessing projects, we look at team and market potential first and foremost. Then we attempt to understand the go to market and scaling strategies, as well as possible competition and what advantages the project brings. Often, AltaIR starts to accelerate its portfolio, seeing how we can help our teams.

Most of our startups are in USA. We have made a few investments in other countries, for example India and Brazil. However it is rather more difficult for us as our understanding of local markets doesn’t offer benefits for the startups.

In general, growth is what we look at – how fast and can it grow in the first place, what will their market be like in 2, 3 or 5 years. As we are early stage investors we usually exit at a more mature stage.

We have many success stories – companies that have signed international partnerships, have seen leading VC’s come in after we have joined.

Some of these are ThisisL making female products, Vinebox, which is a wine delivery service working on a subscription basis. Yoshi offers your car fuel refill delivered to your door, and Suiteness offering to book suites and villas to global clients. Eight Sleep helps you manage sleep, Wallarm – a server securing service, as well as DocTalk – a powerful medical messenger.

Most of other projects are also showing good growth.

We continue to support the projects on next stages too. We provide them a lot of vision and contacts through AltaIR ecosystem, bring new opportunities and business models, leveraging experiences and best practices.

I would say that the team and market strategy are what we value most – and we always help talented teams reach for the stars.



Keepgo: Disruption for Telecoms

I spoke to Guy Zbarsky, co-Founder of our portfolio startup Keepgo – which is going on their ICO.

Guy told me about the company vision and prospects in the industry, which is dead set on decentralization.

Keepgo story started 9 years ago, when David and Guy were developing tailored roaming solutions, when the first smart phones began to appear on the market. Roaming was expensive, and they began to rent out mobile phones to savvy travellers, offering them a personalized “mobile travel assistant” with a data setup, local SIM, local GPS maps as well as local travel info.

Later came major international partners like Vodafone, AT&T, Telefonica, Switzerland’s Salt and others that offered unparalleled access to global data networks at reasonable rates…

Now, calling themselves the Uber of telecom, they are going on ICO to disrupt the communications industry by completely decentralising and reforming the way data ownership works.

Data, as Guy puts it, is yours if you buy it. Just like an apartment you own, or the car you have paid for. Just like Uber and AirBnB you have the right to do with it as you please, including making a profit from something that’s already yours.

Using blockchain and sophisticated virtual SIM technology, Keepgo (which is already a profitable, existing business with many patents on vSIM) will provide peer to peer data exchange, enabling anyone to buy and sell data as well as eventually to take advantage of virtually perfect global mobile coverage, as your phone surfs from provider to provider via virtual sim technology (invented and developed by Keepgo), in search of ideal reception and the best deal around. Keeping in mind that virtually anyone can become a provider on the other side of the platform.

Sure, existing providers may find it confusing at first, and may resist change – but AirBnB coexists with hotels, just like Uber coexists with car sharing.

Keepgo believes that later telecommunications companies will adapt similar models as well, that’s why in the long run the ntire Keepo solution is open source.

The telecom market is extremely dynamic and the tech very adaptive. Few years from now all telecoms and HW manufacturers will switch to a SIM-less standard (Apple and Samsung have already started with some of their products). This standard will introduce an opportunity for new ventures and business models, and Keepgo has a strong vision how to take advantage of this opportunity.

Stay tuned for the Keepgo ICO, meanwhile visit www.keepgo.com

Cinezen rocks the movie industry with the first BVOD: Blockchain Video on Demand | Сэм Клебанов cоздает прорыв в киноиндустрии с помощью Блокчейна. Встречайте Cinezen!

Available both in an English and in Russian version

Доступно на английском и русском (русская версия следует за английской)

A World Cinezen: Sam Klebanov Disrupts the entire film industry, with one of our portfolio companies
Cinezen is one of the more disruptive projects I’ve encountered in recent months. We’ve provided seed financing for the world’s first BVOD – Blockchain Video on Demand platform. Sam Klebanov, who’s IMDB profile and industry expertise represent over 600 movie titles either as production or distribution partner, is based in Sweden. Together with co founder and CTO Pavel Rabetski, who’s experience extends from Volvo to Telia he is launching something which will change the landscape of movies at home forever. Сinezen will bring back choice and individual curating of movie selection, and with it, reinvigorate love for films.
All the existing VOD-platforms control both the information and the cash flow, which puts the content providers in a disadvantaged position. The platforms receive payment from customers, then at some later point (next month or next quarter) send royalty reports to the content providers. Content providers have no way to verify any royalty reports and can only blindly trust them.
Cinezen changes this and a whole lot more, and provides a much awaited disruption. 
Every film is treated as a smart asset and every digital sale or rental is stored as a transaction in a distributed public ledger. Both the platform and the rights holders have the same access to the information, which nobody controls, and nobody can manipulate.
The rights holders will be able to integrate the public ledger with their own data systems or to export the information from it in any suitable format. No more issuing invoices, tracing them and making angry phone calls about payment delays – the rights holders will receive the money automatically, according to smart contracts, in tradeable crypto tokens, with zero administrative efforts on both sides.
Choice is also often limited. Cinezen opens the way for a much wider choice,  where rights holders can make every film globally available through a blockchain-based marketplace, which would guarantee them instant revenue sharing and transparent incorruptible reporting. Smart contracts for every film would define the recipient of revenues generated in each country: either the local distributor if the film is sold for this territory or international sales agent if not.
Independent third parties can also run their own virtual video stores at the VOD-marketplace. Each of these stores will have full access to a vast film catalog and enjoy total creative and managerial freedom to select, arrange and structure the content for their stores in any way they wish to attract their target audience. Smart contracts will guarantee store operators a fair share of revenues generated by their customers.
I asked Sam where he sees Cinezen in 5 and 10 years from now:
Cinezen, according to Klebanov will be as serious a player in movies as Spotify in music. For this to happen, Sam and his team will create the largest library of movies. He sees it as an opportunity to have the widest possible selection for watch-at-home viewers, as well as for anyone to try themselves in the movie business via Cinezen’s online tools.
The project provides an answer to the most important question to any investor: why on Blockchain. Cinezen provides a solution that benefits not only the B2B but the B2C relationship also. Sam Klebanov pioneered a solution that will widen choice, and create a seamless and powerful solution to the pains of today’s entertainment market.
I wish Sam luck and look forward to experiencing world cinema with Cinezen soon!

Мир Cinezen: Сэм  Клебанов кардинально меняет киноиндустрию при помощи одной из компаний в нашем портфеле

Cinezen – один из самых революционных проектов, с которым мне довелось столкнуться в последние месяцы. Мы предоставили венчурное финансирование для первой в мире платформы BVOD – Blockchain Video on Demand. Сэм Клебанов проживает в Швеции. Его профиль на IMDB и опыт в индустрии представлены более чем 600 названиями фильмов, для которых он выступал в качестве производителя и дистрибьютера. Вместе с соучредителем и техническим директором Павлом Рабецким, у которого обширный опыт работы в крупных корпорациях, от Volvo до Telia, Клебанов запускает проект, который навсегда изменит домашний кинопросмотр. Сinezen воскресит самостоятельный выбор  фильма,  вместе с чем оживит любовь к кино.

Все существующие VOD-платформы («видео по запросу») контролируют как информацию, так и денежный поток, что делает положение контент-провайдеров невыгодным.  Платформы получают платежи от клиентов, после чего чуть позже (через  месяц или в следующем квартале) отправляют отчеты о лицензионных платежах поставщикам контента. Однако у поставщиков нет возможности проверить проверять отчеты о  платежах  и им остается только  слепо доверять им.


Cinezen в корне меняет эту систему, обеспечивая давно ожидаемую революцию.

Каждый фильм рассматривается как смарт- актив, а данные о каждой цифровой продаже или аренде хранятся в виде транзакции в распределенном публичном реестре. Как у платформы, так и у правообладателей  есть равный доступ к информации, которую никто не контролирует и которой никто не может манипулировать.

Правообладатели смогут интегрировать публичный реестр с их собственными системами данных или экспортировать информацию из них в любой другой удобный формат. Больше не будет выписки счетов, их отслеживания и разъяренных звонков насчет задержек платежей – правообладатели будут автоматически получать деньги, в соответствии со смарт-контрактами, в свободно обращающихся крипто-токенах, с нулевыми административными затратами с обеих сторон.

Выбор также часто ограничен. Cinezen открывает двери для более широкого выбора, где правообладатели смогут делать каждый фильм доступным всему миру при помощи маркетплейса, в основе которого лежит технология блокчейн, что гарантирует мгновенный оборот платежей и прозрачную отчетность. Смарт-контракты для каждого фильма определяют получателя доходов, каждый из которых разделен по странам:  будь то местный дистрибьютор, если фильм продается для конкретной территории, или же агент по международным продажам.

Независимые третьи стороны могут также запускать свои собственные виртуальные видео-магазины на VOD-маркетплейсах.  У каждого из этих магазинов будет полный доступ к широкому каталогу фильмов, что позволит полностью насладиться творчеством и полной свободой выбора, упорядоченным и структурированным контентом , который можно любым способом организовывать для своего магазина  целью привлечения определенной аудитории. Смарт-контракты будут гарантировать операторам магазинов справедливую долю доходов, поступающую от их клиентов.


Я спросил Сэма, каким он видит Cinezen через 5 и 10 лет

Cinezen, по словам Клебанова, будет столь же серьезным игроком в кино, как  Spotify в музыке. Для того, чтобы это случилось, Сэм и его команда создадут самую большую библиотеку фильмов. Он рассматривает это как возможность предоставить пользователям самый широкий выбор для просмотра контента на дому,  так и шанс для кого-нибудь попробовать себя в индустрии кино при помощи онлайн-инструментов Cinezen.


Проект дает ответ на самый важный вопрос для любого инвестора: почему на Blockchain.Cinezen предоставляет решение, которое выгодно не только для B2B-сегмента, но и для B2C и которое может существовать только с помощью blockchain. Сэм Клебанов предложил прорывное решение, которое расширит выбор и создаст цельное и сверхмощное решение для индустрии развлечений.

Я желаю Сэму удачи и с нетерпением жду возможности посмотреть кино при помощи Cinezen!


Miko Matsumura founded crypto exchange Evercoin, is a Venture Partner with BitBull and investor in the Pantera Capital ICO Fund (a $100M ICO-only fund). As a 25 year operating exec in Silicon Valley, he has raised over $50 million in venture capital for Open Source startups and over $200M in ICO capital.

Recently we discussed questions that are not just on my mind, but on the minds of everyone who is in the space.

What’s most important to you in an ICO?

First of all, I think your characterization is too kind. There are so many incredible people in the space, and I have a unique vantage point from which to study my own fallibility and weaknesses. What I can assert is that I do love the cryptocurrency movement and the incredible people that I’ve met along the way. 

As far as looking at ICOs, the first thing I would like to tell everyone is to please pay the most attention to their allocations. First and foremost, please allocate a comfortable portion of your investable net worth into cryptocurrencies. If you are going into debt to buy cryptocurrencies, you are way past any reasonable allocation. When I say comfortable, you need to be comfortable with that amount going to zero. I don’t believe Bitcoin will go to zero, but there are scenarios such as the appearance of a new dominant cryptocurrency that could cause something like that. The second thing is to think of ICOs as a risky subclass of cryptocurrency. Yes there is huge growth potential in ICOs, but there is also substantial risk and most ICO cryptocurrencies will go to zero value. So ICO allocations should be a fraction of a small fraction of your investable net worth.

As for what I look for in an ICO, my basic mindset is similar to that of an early stage Silicon Valley venture capital investor or angel investor, so if you pick up a copy of Jason Calcanis’s book “Angel” you will have at least a base platform from which to understand my mindset. There are several key factors on top of that that are unique to either the ICO space or to cryptocurrencies in general, and some to me in specific.

The most important variable to me is my own enthusiasm. I find that if I am excited about something that I have boundless energy and time to work on it, and that I am much more effective at everything. This is fairly intangible, but some of it is chemistry with the founders. This is a personal matter and there are many reasonable and even venture-class opportunities where I just don’t have personal enthusiasm. In those cases I have to apologize and decline and I hope the founder entrepreneurs don’t take it as a belief that they won’t be successful, rather it is a statement about my opportunity cost and the rate limit of my effectiveness, which is limited by my personal enthusiasm.

Another screening criteria includes certain vertical domains where I feel like I don’t have a significant experience or ability to diligence. Areas such as AR/VR, Real Estate, Health Care, Energy, Natural Resources, Insurance. I tend to pass opportunities like those onto my friends and partners because I don’t have enough domain knowledge to comfortably understand good from bad businesses. In addition, post ICO I am less likely to refer business or to provide strategic and operational advice, so I am less useful to those entrepreneurs. Again, hoping people don’t take that personally either.

Specific to token sales, what I like are good governance practices, which you can see on http://icogovernance.org and I also like good tokenomics. I tend to like pre-existing products with pre-existing customers and pre-existing revenue. All of these things de-risk execution. In the case of deeper blockchain technology I am willing to go without those things, or in certain cases where I am excited about certain founders. For example Propy and Bee Token were both in fairly early stages with product, but I have great confidence in those people.

When you advise ICO’s – what do you focus on usually?

When diligencing ICOs, I focus on the people, but as far as advising, the first thing I tend to focus on is the mindset of the entrepreneur reflected in the mindset. If the mindset is wrong then no amount of investment can create success. This kind of engagement helps me and the entrepreneur a lot because it establishes the foundation of the source of shared enthusiasm, the coachability of the entrepreneur, and it tends to set the strategic direction of the opportunity. In many cases what is missing is the balance between the huge opportunity and the grounded pragmatic execution. I find most entrepreneurs are focused on one or the other, but it’s hard to find pragmatic executors with huge vision. Other topics that are exceedingly important include token economics, legal / regulatory compliance, executive coaching topics, hiring, and industry specific things such as introductions to investors, exchanges and domain experts.

What made you believe in ICO’s in the first place?

From the perspective of ICOs as a whole in some ways there are many troubling practices and because of the inrush of opportunists that is a lack of professionalism in many cases, and in some cases incompetence or even outright fraud. That’s disturbing and so my belief in some ICOs should not be construed as a belief in all ICO or a blanket glorification or valorization of what is clearly an overheated and overvalued asset class.

That said, I consider myself to be an “Open Source Money” maximalist, so I feel that there is a huge positive opportunity for open source smart financial infrastructure to help improve and reinvent the economy. I know as a community we have a lot of proving to do given the large valuation of cryptocurrency, but I believe in the fundamental mechanism that combines open source competition and brilliant developers because I have been working on open source software for the past 25 years and have seen the incredible results. Open source developers have created “immortal” projects that have forever changed the course of software and arguably human enterprise, and I see Open Source Money doing the same. When I say open source money, I am looking past just financial infrastructure, since money is the utility that enables financial incentivization across all vertical industries.

Where do you think regulation will take us?

I don’t have a crystal ball here but I can report what I am seeing. In the US I am seeing an ever tightening regulatory framework, but regulatory organizations which are taking an approach of gradualism and caution to not stifle innovation. So you can see the beginnings of enforcement action, and you are seeing staffing up in this area. Anyone is able to enter into email exchanges with the SEC, as I have, and it’s encouraging to see them providing individual guidance and directing people towards relevant resources.


For sure KYC and AML are going to be dominant themes in 2018, and with the SEC being more aggressive it is advisable that most ICOs should stay away from selling to US retail investors or from US investors altogether.


From a global perspective, the genie is out of the bottle and impossible to put back in. China experimented with banning ICOs and Exchanges and it merely enabled countries like Japan to benefit hugely from the cryptocurrency boom. We see governments around the world moving to suppress or embrace cryptocurrency, and the ones that remain open will gain the largest economic stimulation. Because the people want an alternative to the problematic combination of too-big-to-fail banks and governments controlling money supply, we see huge appetite for cryptocurrency. Because of the huge appetite it becomes hard for governments to outlaw it. When all the cars on the highway are exceeding the speed limit by 5 miles per hour, the police find it hard to enforce the letter of the law and instead focus on pulling over egregious and dangerous offenders.

The other trend are things like Petrocoin in Venezuela. I was invited to go to Caracas to advise that project which is now endorsed at all levels of the government there and will likely become a strong stabilizer for the country’s struggling currency. I believe that governments launching their own cryptocurrency will increasingly be an effective approach for governments to participate in and help guide the fate of cryptocurrencies. Government backed cryptocurrency is a way forward because if you establish KYC within a novel cryptocurrency environment, you actually gain an unprecedented transparency across every transaction in the entire cryptoeconomy of that currency via the public blockchain, which is something that every government should want.

What do you think will be the future of bitcoin?

I’m not someone to participate in price predictions because I believe it’s unfair to people to throw numbers around that they could misconstrue as financial advice. I am not a financial advisor, nor a licensed broker/dealer of securities.

That said, without declaring any prices, I personally am not selling bitcoin right now, and I will say that the thesis of Open Source Money maximalism suggests that through the mechanism of many forks and variations and through huge participation and innovation and hard work of developers, many of the existing problems and complaints around cryptocurrencies will be resolved. Some of these problems include the lack of scalability for transaction volumes, the lack of stability in price to facilitate usage as a currency (I don’t see bitcoin itself as a payment system, but more as a digitally improved store and transport system of value such a gold). Another problem is the burning of electricity, which is wasteful since the computations are effectively throwaway computations and they contribute to global warming. By enumerating these major concerns (among others) I want to recognize that bitcoin isn’t perfect–and the result will be either bitcoin being dethroned by an alternative open source money platform or bitcoin itself will be forced to improve along all of these lines.

Because of my belief in open source software development and developers, I believe these problems will be solved. The danger to bitcoin is that they will be solved by some other cryptocurrency, and that the code will somehow be hard to port or absorb into bitcoin. Thus far bitcoin has done a good job defending itself by absorbing features of other cryptocurrencies, and open source software generally makes it easier for bitcoin to do just that.

So I am bullish about the future of bitcoin but also believe that there will be a “power law” distribution of cryptocurrency value–thus in my belief it’s important to hold bitcoin but also to diversify your crypto holdings to hedge against risk in bitcoin as well as participate in the growth of smaller crypto assets. But again, please be safe and keep a level head, don’t invest more than you can afford to lose, don’t invest in any ventures that seem at all scammy or ponzi or pyramid like, please don’t invest in any shady or unethical people, and please maintain good computer security practices and be safe.

Interesting points from Miko. I hope to continue the conversation soon.


AltaClub co-investor Vitaliy Polekhin on why its important to coinvest in early stage (Eng/Rus)

I discussed co-investment with angel investor legend Vitaly Polekhin, one of the co-investors with AltaClub where we invite to join Altair Capital in growing companies that have gone through extensive diligence and our assessment.

As a member, you receive the same protection as conditions as AltaIR Capital, and split the risks with a seasoned VC partner. As Polekhin explains – this is an important factor of success . Our discussion is both in English and Russian.

Я обсудил венчурный капитал с бизнес-ангелом Виталием Полехиным, одним из инвесторов AltaClub, где частные инвесторы получают возможность делать высокодоходные венчурные инвестиции вместе с AltaIR Capital, снижая барьеры и риски входа.

Участники клуба получают те же условия, и разделают риски с опытным VC. Как поясняет Полехин, это важнейший фактор успеха. Наша беседа доступна на русском и английском.


How long have you been in investments?

I started in 2008. This was the moment I understood that there are more interesting projects than I have time for, especially to develop myself. Investment allows me to be a shareholder in a large amount of fast growing companies.

Как давно Вы занимаетесь инвестициями?

Инвестициями занимаюсь с 2008 года. Это был момент, когда я понял, что интересных проектов больше, чем и времени и сил развивать каждый самостоятельно. Инвестиции позволяют быть акционером в большом количестве быстрорастущих компаний.

What do you pay attention to when you evaluate projects?

I dont like projects that are the product of “a good bunch of dudes”. Projects have to be seriously disruptive in an existing industry, or in a particular country. This only can be done by done by as seriously capable, experienced and enthusiastic team that has all the necessary expertise.

На что вы обращаете внимание когда оцениваете проект?

Мне не интересны просто хорошие проекты, которые делают просто хорошие ребята. Проекты должны серьезно менять существующую индустрию в мире, либо в той или иной стране, а сделать это может только серьезная команда энтузиастов, закрывающая все необходимые компетенции в проекте.

What do you feel when a project takes off?

Pride for taking the right investment decisions. There is a big difference between buying shares of a company – where you are a shareholder but your status is essentially nominal, as it would be in the case of Gazprom, and buying a large share in a company when it is yet unclear whether it could grow into a serious business. Business angels, venture investors – these are people that are able to see serious potential where the every day guy and investor just don’t see it yet.

Что Вы ощущаете когда видите что проект взлетел?

Гордость за правильно принятые инвестиционные решения. Есть серьезная разница между покупкой акций компаний на фондовом рынке, при которой можно только очень условно считать себя акционером “Газпрома”, и покупкой доли в проекте, когда ещё непонятно, сможет ли он вырасти в большую компанию, превратиться в бизнес. Бизнес-ангелы, венчурные инвесторы ранних стадий – это люди, которые способны увидеть серьезный потенциал тогда, когда обычным людям и инвесторам его ещё не понять.

What is a unicorn according to your vision? What qualities does a company have to have to become a disruption?

Companies become unicorns if they are solving a serious problem on a large market. For most late stage investors, finding that unicorn that will reach a billion dollar valuation is the only chance to show serious profitability.  The advantage of early stages is that you can show good profits at centaur stage, with a company that’s valued at $100 million.

Что для вас единорог? Какими качествами должна обладать компания, что бы стать прорывом, на Ваш взгляд?

Единорогами становятся компании, которые решают очень серьезную проблему на очень большом рынке. Для большинства инвесторов поздних стадий, поймать единорога, компанию достигшую миллиардной оценки в долларах,  это единственный шанс показать хорошую доходность. Преимущество ранних стадий в том, что очень хорошую доходность можно достигать уже на уровне кентавров, компаний с оценкой от 100 млн долларов.

How fast do you make a decision?

If I have all the required info, I take the decision immediately. In case of a lack of a lead investor,  it takes a while, since all the DD has to be performed, and everything is rechecked for accuracy. If the company has as serious lead investor then its possible to make the decision and join faster, relying on that investor’s assessments. This is the nitty-gritty of early stage – realistically it is always about co-investment.  

Как быстро Вы обычно принимаете решение?

В случае наличия всей необходимой информации, решение о том, что проект интересен для инвестиций принимается сразу. Далее, в случае отсутствия лид-инвестора, долгим является процесс комплексной проверки, когда вся полученная информация проверяется на достоверность. В случае наличия авторитетного лид-инвестора, к сделкам можно присоединяться быстрее, ориентируясь на него. В этом специфика инвестиций на ранних стадиях – эта стадия всегда про со-инвестирования.

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We discuss ICOs with Kenzi Wang of Superbloom Capital

Recently I talked to Kenzi Wang – Superbloom Capital about his views on ICOs.
Kenzi had some interesting thoughts…
In your opinion, are ICOs here to stay?
Do you believe equity is important in investing in ICO’s? 
ICOs are to be regulated and they should be. The current boom is not sustainable and not all companies will last. The ones that have an amazing team, product and vision will go on to define the space. In the long run tho, ICO as a new mechanism of funding will drive a lot of innovation in new industries powered by blockchain. ICOs removes a lot of dependancies on big VC players, levels the playing field and breaks the geographical barriers.
Would you invest in a project that gives tokens and equity?
As long as they are structured correctly due to the purpose of the ICO, the specific economic model and token design, both security and non security based ICOs could flourish. I’ve seen successes in both models and also plenty of failures in both models.
What aspects to you look at when assesing an ICO investment?
In addition to the traditional venture assessment on team, product and tech, it’s also vital to look at the token economics and application of blockchain. Is blockchain truly applicable in this case? It’s a question we always ask. In addition, it’s also important to look at the category of business. Will using blockchain technology revolutionize how traditional business was performed?
What position do you believe the SEC will take in regards to ICO’s?
SEC will likely come up with more guidelines on ICOs regarding processes and security regulations. The process of regulation is good for the industry in general because it will make bigger companies more comfortable to go through an ICO.
What do you think the Chinese regulator will do in the long run?
The Chinese regulations have been seen a few times in the past. The impact of Chinese regulation is not as impactful at this time as the concentration of trading volume from China is not as significant as before. In the long run, regulation in the Chinese market will also stabilize the supply and demand and set tone for the next phase of growth.
Who do you think will take over the Chinese volumes?
Nearby countries and regions, such as Hongkong, Japan and Singapore will pick up the volumes. Bypassing VPNs in China will also provide some volume as well.
I have to add, that Kenzi’s outlook proved true. We really are seeing regulation, but not closure, and Hong Kong and Japan are taking over influence, with the added significance of Korea.
Which is why we will be taking a lot of our projects on a roadshow with local players.

Bad advice: how to quickly kill a startup

People often ask me to advise them how to achieve success. What is to be done is a perennial question. But one has to face so many ways to nowhere that it becomes even more important to understand what is not to be done.

I broke my advice into several sets, such as team, concentration, money and investors, product and growth. If you want to kill your project as quickly and effectively as possible, use this advice.


Don’t think what you do, and whom you are doing it for

Begin to build a startup, because this is what everybody else is doing. Don’t ponder on what you are going to launch and what for. Just watch The Social Network, quickly understand how to become a millionaire and go for it! You will figure out later whether your product is useful to the customers or not. It’s obligatory to make as much noise as possible, and when it’s evident that nothing came out of it, just go around and take offence at clients, partners and investors.

This is a very pervasive problem: come to any event for startup founders, and you will meet a bunch of people who are infected by the idea that something needs to be done, whatever it is.

Copy other people’s projects

When you are looking for an idea, just go online and replicate a popular product or service.

Unfortunately, only a few super-professionals can successfully copy, and even they don’t have a very good hit ratio. And there’s no point in doing so for startupers anyway


Listen only to yourself

When creating a startup, rely solely on your competence. Don’t think about what the market needs right now and what it will need tomorrow. If you know PHP programming, launch whatever you’re able to write, and figure out later what to do with it. Next morning you will have a B2B product, the night after that you will have a B2C and the next day you will have a B2B2C.

One should start from business needs. Obviously, the technology is very important, but it is always an integral part of the business. There are only two ways of successful development: become stronger than the competition or make something absolutely new. But anyway, you should understand the needs of the market and be able to get across to the users the idea that they need your product.

Believe that you are unique

Fall in love with your product, because it’s the one and only. Carry it around and argue with anyone who tries to criticize it. Take offence at clients and investors. Your goal is to morph into an unrecognized genius, and then become a Facebook troll, whom nobody wants in real life.

The world is arranged in such a way that any thought could occur to many people at once. That’s why products bearing close resemblance to yours are probably being developed by scores of new teams. Young entrepreneurs who come to me for money often claim that they have no competitors. It’s always fun to hear, because anybody who wants the money and time of your potential client is a competitor. And if you truly have no competitors, remember the old [Russian] joke about Uncatchable Joe: nobody has ever managed to catch him, because nobody needs him.

Kick off as many startups as you can simultaneously

 Don’t focus on one project – what if it doesn’t take off? Work on three or five projects at once, eight better still. Go around the market and tell stories about how you like them all and how exciting they all are.

No project will be successful, however. There are some exceptions to the rule, but not for the startupers. Yes, there are idea factories, where corporate innovation is streamlined. But even there, there is a designated person responsible for each project. Even successful serial entrepreneurs do not manage several companies at once, only in turns, one after another.

Every day I receive several emails asking me to look into “one of my three projects”. A popular joke comes to mind: Could one drive, drink beer and embrace a girl – all three at the same time? Yes, it’s theoretically possible, but you will be very bad at all three activities. At least such a parallel entrepreneur would have a hard time convincing me that I should give him money. If I do, that would only be because I forgot to re-read my own advice.

Ask for it all, now

Don’t bother too much. Write three lines of text, draw a hockey stick chart and go straight to the investors. Don’t nickel-and-dime asking friends and acquaintances, angels or seed funds for money. Go straight to the largest venture capital funds, or even better to direct investment funds. Just tell them you need some money to make the world happy.

Don’t ever take interest in the investor you are going to. Just bluntly send your proposal to everybody and their dog. Try to seem faceless. Don’t be polite.

Such carpet-bombing, of course, sends your emails straight to people’s spam folders. You need to investigate your potential investor, to understand whether the phase of your project is suitable for him, to train yourself for communication, to write an explicit personalized proposal. Go for the money only if you can show your product or its prototype with confidence. And if you want to receive financing from somebody you don’t know personally, try to spend some of your own money and time first. 

Hire somebody who will do the work for you

In order to prepare a proposal, hire a big consulting company, preferably a multinational one.

Creators of one such startup recently came to me. They had spent 200 thousand rubles to have their business plan written for them. They were astonished when I refused to read it. But why would I study the work made by somebody unrelated to the project?

 As an early stage investor, I need simple and concise information, which startup creators should possess. We offer them to put together a short description of their project, including its team, its market, its launch plan, a business plan and so on. Those are simple but important issues. If financial modeling is needed, it could be very simple as well, but you should be able to explain every number in it.

Don’t bring smart people on board

 Don’t hire smart employees. They will argue with you. You need somebody who will look up to you and agree with everything you say. Better distribute leading roles among your siblings, lovers and best friends. Usually in such a case a startup initiator claims that those people were with him from the beginning, that they are family, and so on.

There’s nothing bad about loyalty. But if a project grows, and the team is now reporting to customers, investors, and shareholders, this is a serious issue. It’s clear that, as the business grows, somebody would no longer be up to his job. Fire them. They are great, but you already paid them back with interest, using shares or options. And now, if you want to develop your business further, you will need higher-level professionals. Yes, such professionals would be less accommodating, and you will need to constantly prove your competence, but this is the role of a leader of a growing startup.

Seek the limelight instead of creating product

Don’t be too preoccupied by the product. Instead, seek publicity and spend all your free time on it. Conferences, newspapers and magazines are more important than the product.

A startup recently asked me for money, bragging about having won a prestigious competition in 2010. They would be better off keeping silent about it. As an investor, I immediately asked why such an up-and-coming project didn’t show any progress for four years.  

Learn how to receive money, but not how to earn it

You should become a professional fundraiser.

In the market, there is already a fully formed social class of people who know how to speak eloquently and how to look investors in the eye in order to receive money. But even those of them, who are not actually just fraudsters, would not be able to lift their startups off the ground. They just don’t have time for it. They spend all their time looking for money. In the end they will blame the team, the market or the customer, but not themselves, because they had good talking points and got financing from prominent people. Ostap Bender, [a fictional con man from the novel The Twelve Chairs,] comes to mind with his four hundred “relatively honest ways of money-extraction”.

Don’t make life easy for the investor

Don’t think about how to prepare a pitch or what to tell your investor. Just make several dozens presentation screens loaded with technical terms and unclear definitions. Let the investor grapple with it. He will surely understand how smart and hardworking you are.

When conducting master-classes for startupers, I talk a lot about communication with investors. Every single time I try a simple experiment. In the end of my lecture I intentionally mention some general (and very simple) rules for preparing an efficient pitch. I know for sure that after the class, there will be a line of people waiting to tell me about their startups. But no one ever used the advice he or she had received just ten minutes before.

The rule is quite simple. You have only a couple of minutes to sell your project to a total stranger, who sees scores of people just like you every day. You should think of how to get him interested and make him want not to let you go.

Investment is the main goal

Having received investment, relax and just be a star. Stop trying to lift your project off the ground; this is investor’s problem now. You can now spend money on advertising, office space and equipment, and everything else will be sorted out somehow.

The investor will surely help you, but this help will come in form of mentoring and financing. He won’t be growing your business for you. You just got a more demanding job, because your company got a chance for fast growth.

Giving this advice, I am absolutely sure it’s unlikely for anybody to follow it. I myself didn’t follow the advice of Steve Jobs, who, having seen my project, said that it was five years ahead of its time. (Jobs was mistaken: it turned out it was more of a decade). Jobs added that being even six months ahead of the market could be devastating for a project. Should I have listened to him, I would save a lot of time and money. But, just like most entrepreneurs, I preferred to learn from my own mistakes. This is only natural. The difference between a bad entrepreneur and a good one is only that the latter comes to understand his mistakes and recall the old advice a bit earlier than the former, when the problem still can be fixed.