“The growth is the only one criterion for a successful startup” - expert Dmitry Kim shared his opinion about the startup industry in an interview with IT Park

IT Park cooperates with leading industry experts and mentors. One of these experts is Dmitry Kim, founder of the Venture Roof startup, CGO at the American startup Speechki, mentor and judge at the Alchemist B2B accelerator.

In an interview with IT Park, Dmitry talks about the main criteria for a successful startup and what to focus on when looking for investments, as well as share his opinion on the development of the IT sector and the startup industry in Uzbekistan.

— Tell us about yourself and your professional activity

— I have been in sales for over 10 years. I worked as a sales manager both in large international enterprises and in many American startups. Now I am the founder of the startup VentureRoof, and in parallel I am engaged in sales in the American startup Speechki, in which GreyCroft VC, a two billion dollar fund from New York, has invested. At the same time, I help as a mentor and judge in the American accelerator Alchemist, which is the #1 B2B accelerator in the world. In addition, recently I was invited as a mentor by IT Park, where I gave a couple of lectures.

I will also add that now I am developing a new competence - fundraising, there are successful cases. And my big dream is to give lectures at Stanford.

— What were your first steps in these areas?

— As I said, I have been in sales for more than 10 years and have been an expat all my life: I have lived in Belarus, Russia, traveled a lot and I want to continue further.

I probably want to share that I started out as a wild introvert. When I first got into the sales industry, at first it was not easy: I was rather a silent person, immersed in my inner world. But I understood that I needed to somehow achieve goals and for this I needed to make every effort and work on myself. In the early years, there were sleepless nights with work, and preparation for a performance, and pitching in front of a mirror, and many interesting things.

As for the startup industry and the venture world, these industries brought me a great interest and desire to do something good. Since IT is not only new technologies, but also changing the world for the better, yes, I still believe in it, I wanted to become a part of these bright changes and a new life.

— What do you think what are the conditions necessary for the development of a startup ecosystem in the country?

— This is a very good and important question. I think that, first, it is worth focusing on the international awareness of everyone who is in the startup ecosystem, creating conditions so that this awareness grows for everyone and as widely as possible.

In general, I believe that observation is one of the main skills of a person and the foundation for his further development and decision-making.

— What can you say about the development of the startup sector and the IT sector in general in Uzbekistan?

— As for the development of the IT sector, we are moving in the right direction. The only thing we would like at all levels is maximum transparency, accountability and the absence of corruption.

Regarding the startup sector: I am very pleased that there are various acceleration and incubation programs being carried out. In general, in recent years, this “movement” around the topic of startups has appeared in Uzbekistan, and I really like it. However, I still believe that it could be more and faster, and I hope that it will be so.

— What are the main criteria for a successful startup? And what ideas are especially attractive to investors?

— There is only one criterion for a successful startup — it is a growth!

The problem with many startups is that the founders focus on the product, its development and the development process in general, but they don’t do sales and traction, and you can’t do without it. I also often come across the fact that founders do not want to sell their product themselves and find a bunch of excuses not to do it.

As for ideas that are attractive to investors, I will answer this way: the idea is worthless. Can it be attractive? Yes, but only if supported by traction.

— How can a startup understand that it is ready to scale?

— Everything is very simple. The scaling starts from the moment when the point of growth was found and the exact definition/approval of the Product Market Fit. I can share all the lead generation channels, I am sure subscribers will be interested: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lIR0Ol8=/.

— What is better and more profitable: to scale a startup in the regions or to bring it to the international market? (under the conditions of Uzbekistan)

— I must say right away that such unicorns as Tinkoff, Yandex, Kaspi are exceptions. Usually, you can’t make a unicorn in the local CIS market, and you shouldn’t be guided by these examples.

Every day I get a question whether I should enter the international market. The founder's decision is always his, but my goal is to inspire to start with an international one. I offer various arguments:

1. If you look at the scale of 10 years, then, naturally, your startup will be more successful if you enter the international market from the very beginning. If you exit later, not immediately, then most likely all your achievements in the local market will be equated to zero for international funds.

2. The founder must accept that he does not start an international project only because of fear: lack of knowledge of the language, incorporation or understanding of the growth hack in the international market.

3. Well, if you go to the USA now and you do not succeed, you can always come back and try locally.

If you just want to make money in the coming years and understand exactly how to do it in the local market, then the answer is obvious.

— How to make the product work in the regions?

— I like to say that any country in the CIS in terms of business is one city — Moscow/Almaty/Tashkent. Going out to the regions does not seem appropriate at all. I would not focus on regions. It seems that this is not the task of a startup, but of the government to create or improve the current status of infrastructure. Therefore, it is better to pay attention to something else, for example, the search for investments.

— What should be emphasized when looking for investments?

— The fact that you have leverage when talking with an investor. Usually it is traction. And if a startup does not have traction, then it is almost impossible to raise investments.

— And what about those who have ideas, but no team?

— In this case, I would focus on validating my idea that it is interesting for your potential clients. Try to sell your product when it is not available or even get paid by the client to develop it.

— How to sell a new product?

— Products are always sold in the same way. If you can communicate the value of the product to the customer (cost reduction, revenue increase, or whatever), then why not let him test your product?

— What sales technique do you, as an expert, consider the most effective? Which one is the most successful (from your practice)?

— It is difficult to answer this question, because there are different sales methodologies, and they are applicable in different ways. I can offer one link where you can learn more about them, and I highly recommend studying them. It will be useful for any startup.

By the way, last year I wrote an article The Great Guide for Startups to Sell in the US Market. The article has received over 22,000 views. I think many people will be interested.

— What would you advise to do if sales do not go?

— The answer depends on the stage of the startup. For example, if you are a large enterprise, you may not need new sales, but rather stick to current customers and your market share.

But if we are talking about early-stage startups, then we need to understand what the problem is. Most likely, the question is in product-market fit, that is, the conformity of the product to the market, and the value of your product.

In addition, there is the issue of timing. This is the biggest problem of all outsourcing companies — to hit exactly the right timing. At any other time — either sooner or later.

Founders often think that now they will find sales for themselves and trample sales. They believe that sales should be able to do everything: find customers, lead them, and generally do everything, everything.

However, FullStack Sales Managers are practically non-existent. And if they exist, then most likely they already have their own business.

In the sales team, as in the development team, there are various positions: Business Development Rep, Sales Development Rep, Account Executive, Account Manager, Customer Success, Sales Operations, Sales Enablement, Revenue Operations, etc.

The main ones for early-stage startups are two: SDR (search for leads) and AE (closing deals). Thus, selling in startups is about finding relevant contacts of potential customers/leads and communicating with them before closing deals.

— What do you like about your profession?

I like to bring value to people. I love my profession and I believe that to become successful sales professional, you need to focus on the process, not the result. The result will come. It's a matter of time.

— What can you advise young startups?

— I advise you to look only towards the international market and understand that there is always a solution for every blocker. Of course, I wish success, patience and strength to all startups. Believe in yourself and go only forward!

Thank you!