Curiosity Code Host Interview 001: Alexey Khomyakov on Freedom, Life-Business Balance, and Startups
26 Apr, 2024
In this episode of the Curiosity Code podcast, Alex takes a unique turn by becoming the interviewee rather than the interviewer, offering listeners a deep dive into his personal and professional journey. From his early IT ventures in Russia to his eventual establishment as a successful entrepreneur in the tech industry, Alex shares the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that have shaped his career. He discusses his experiences with moving across continents, from Russia to Canada and eventually settling in Portugal, driven by a quest for freedom and a better quality of life. Alex also delves into the intricacies of running his businesses, Productera and Kodebusters, emphasizing the importance of treating people well, understanding customer needs, and the value of strategic thinking over mere hard work. His narrative is sprinkled with personal anecdotes, including his initial reluctance towards entrepreneurship, the lessons learned from parenthood, and his passion for music and surfing. Throughout the interview, Alex's story emerges as a testament to the power of resilience, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of one's passions amidst the challenges of life and business.

Alex: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Curiosity Code podcast. Today is a special episode because it's not going to be an interview of one of our guests actually being the one who is interviewed. I hope this episode inspires you and my experience that I accumulated over the years will be helpful for you. I will share my career path, everything that's happened to me over the past 20 years, my experience with both running a business, and being a project manager, and a little bit of personal stories. Enjoy that episode.

Guest: Okay, let's go. How's life, Alex?

Alex: Good. Life is always good.

Guest: How do you find Helsinki?

Alex: Cold as usual. It's gray. I already missed some sun.

Guest: Get to the sun already.

Alex: I get used to sun a lot now. Yeah. You know Portugal spoils you.

Guest: Right? Maybe a couple of words. Why we are here in Helsinki? Because as far as I know, your residence is in Portugal.

Alex: Yeah, I have a client here in Helsinki. It's a large fintech company called Alpha Sense. The headquarters is in New York, but their engineering office is here in Helsinki. So the team that works on this project as part of Productera and engaged in building the product for Alpha Sense, they come to here from time to time for sync up with product managers and engineering team.

Guest: So maybe tell us a little bit about product. Sarah. First let's do a short introduction. Right? Tell us about yourself as you usually do with your podcast guests. Who you are, what you do, what is product era, what is it all about? So tell us about it.

Alex: Well, I think these days I call myself it entrepreneur. That's who I am. I started my career path back in Russia in 2000. And actually I started my IT career even earlier than that. It was in the early nineties where I started doing some early IT projects and building local network in the neighborhood that I used to live and end up selling Internet to the neighbors because that was the time when the Internet was only provided by Dialab. So that was my kind of first business. Anyway, I got so sick of doing business back then that I said, I don't want to do it anymore. I'm sick of entrepreneurship. I don't want to do business. I just want to work in large factory, do something with my hands or something engineering. And that's how I end up being in the mechanical engineering department in our local university in the city that I lived in. Moving forward, that's what I accomplished. I got my degree. I ended up working in a large corporation in modern factory. And then I moved to Canada. Moving forward, continue studying mechanical engineering. I was more focused on design and project management. I got fascinated about project management and managing things. And then at some point I just realized, hey, I spend most of my time at the factory, I just get two weeks of vacation per year. It's not sustainable, it's not the life that I want to live. I want to change it. And that's the time when the product management became a thing and everybody was talking about product management, hey, what's the product management? So I googled it. That sounds interesting. It's a combination of project management, business. It sounds interesting. So I ended up being in evening school, I took evening classes in Toronto, I took product management, web development, UX design, a couple more courses in it. So my life was a mess because I started my day like at 04:00 a.m. I spent the whole day in office and then I drove to the school and then I came back to home like 10:11 p.m. And that's the time when I realized, hey, it is the way to go. It actually gives me freedom that I need. And I founded my first business IT business. That was a little service that was providing scheduled posting, Instagram. It was back in 2016, as usually startups tend not to go as the founders want them to go. It didn't fail, but financially it couldn't deliver the money that I wanted to have back then. And that's how I started my own web development company. Because based on what I learned running my role startup, I now could actually build similar or even more complex products for the clients. So that's how product era started moving forward five, six years. I, with two other co founders, founded no code development agency. So that's my two main businesses these days. Product error is a conventional development and codebusters is a no code development agency. So that's who I am sure sounds.

Guest: Really familiar to me. Those companies and those co founders, one of them. I see so many ways to go from these points, so many interesting directions to take. I remember the times where we met first time, I think it was back in 2017 or something like that. And we met over coffee. I posted a message in a local product managers group like, hey, PM's, let's meet, let's chat our coffee. And you were the one who responded actually to that message. So we met in the local cafe and you were talking about that startup, that Instagram scheduling startup. You had some, I think you had some difficulties because Instagram has started changing some algorithms or APIs. You were struggling with that, you talked about that and you were only starting with Productera and then we took our own path. I went back to Tallinn when I was working as a product manager for you, working in Canada on your startup, and then on Productera as well. And then like five years later, I see like Productera, it's a 30 plus person people company. Like, one exits with one client, another big client. Like, what do you think? What is that secret sauce? What is that secret ingredient that you have that helps you grow Productera and helps you to get that customer loyalty because customers stay with you, they, like, value you and their relations with you. What is that secret?

Alex: I think if I can nail it down to one secret, I would call it treat people the way you want people to treat you. And that applies both to employees, partners and customers. So when engaged with customers, I always think back of the time when I had limited amount of money because I bootstrapped my startup. It was all my savings, most expensive education that I ever had, but most useful. So I invested all my savings, and I remember seeing numbers on my banking account decreasing every day. They are smaller, smaller, smaller and smaller. And it builds up stress. So with the clients, when engaged with the clients, especially those that are bootstrapping their projects, I always reflect on the time that I was in their shoes. And we're trying to come up with the strategies, how we can achieve their business objectives with the least amount of money spent possible and the fastest way possible. So this is the client side, with the employees side, it's the same strategy. I mean, treat them as you want them to be treated. I work in large corporate for a long time, and I learned a lot from very talented managers. I also learned a lot from people who were not so good managers. And I always reflect to the times when I felt intimidated, when I felt empowered, when I felt supported. And then I want my employees, the people that I work with, feel the same. So. And when your team feels empowered, when your client trusts you, that's a magic combination of factors that allows for the project to succeed.

Guest: So good. So good. So many entrepreneurs, they are transactional in their relations, in their business. So they try to close you, they try to charge you and then leave you. It doesn't work in business, right. Especially for the long term relations.

Alex: Right. And that's one of the things that I think we've done well at Productera. Like, we're not trying to sell you as many hours, man hours as possible, because the business model as product area is simple. We sell developers, we sell manpower, essentially, but that's not the value that we deliver. We actually deliver quality product. And it doesn't matter if you sell 1000 man hours or ten man hours if you don't know what you're doing with these hours. And that always happens with any project that we worked on. At some point you get to the point where the mvp is done, it's built, it's live. So founders happy, they want to see positive cash flow happening in this project and that's the time when they want to slow down the development. And if we were greedy and not getting their side of things, so, oh, no, no, we want to maintain the same team. We want to keep increasing, increasing the hours because we want more money and that's how we build our business. That's not the case with Productera. So with producterra, I always come up front to the clients and say, listen guys, I get it, I've been there myself. If you want to slow down development, we absolutely can do that. We have a system in place that allows to move people to different direction in the company, to different projects. We can always get them back whenever you need. So what always happens is that there is a slowdown and then there is a success and the ramp up. So you sacrifice your business immediate profits for the long term while maintaining trust and quality relationship with the client.

Guest: So if I try to rephrase it, reframe it, like your personal experience as an entrepreneur, it enables you to better understand the customers because you've been there, you've been in their shoes. And you know how it is when your burn rate is like decreasing rapidly and you need to think, how would I generate revenue in the next clip, three to six months? You need just to survive and you can make it.

Alex: Which also leads to another point, is there are many instances when the founder, the client comes to us and say, hey, I need to build this feature, I need to build this, this, this and that. And then we may look at this and say, listen, you don't need this, you don't need this. This could be built in another way and we actually end up building like 30% of what he originally wanted or he thought he needed that. So that helps to minimize the initial investment or cost and accelerate the time until he actually gets the positive cash flow. So that's another value that you're getting from the team that actually knows what they're doing and they've been in the business before.

Guest: So you are leading the process, you are leading the customer in a position to say no to their requirements. Because many companies, many software houses, they just, yes, I'll go build this. And they don't, like, consider if it's really necessary for the business. And you, with your product expertise and entrepreneurial background, you reassess what they actually need to build. Right?

Alex: Right. I mean, as I said, business model in this business is simple. You build as many hours as you can, and that's where Eugene rate profits. But that's a really straightforward way to look at this. And that's where most of the development houses actually get burned out. I look at every single project as a partnership, even though we're not partners legally, but I treat every client as a partner. So I always ask myself, all right, if I had a stake in this project, if I had an equity in this company, would I do this? Would I actually say yes to this feature, to investing? I don't know, 100 hours to build this? If I say honestly to myself, no, I would tell to the client, listen, either, I don't know, some aspect of a business which I'm curious to learn, or there is something wrong, and we need to look at our roadmap and backlog, and maybe you will learn something from our expertise. And there is always a collaboration and partnership.

Guest: Awesome. I was wondering, when you mentioned that you were working in your early years, selling the Internet of the local Internet provider, then working at a company, at a factory. What was your relations or experience in selling stuff? Like, which lessons have you learned about sales in the first place?

Alex: You know, my first sale, real sale that I made was when I was seven years old, eight years old. We're talking about, like, early nineties, like, crazy time in Russia. It's time when my parents started to sell clothes on the public market because my father is a military man. My mother, she's a teacher in a kindergarten. And my father's salary was $10 per month. And my mother didn't even get paid because that was the situation in the country. So they end up having this business. And me and my brother, we were just around them in the market as well. And, you know, during summer, people will go to the market. It's a large, large, like, enormously huge area where there are thousands of people going and looking for stuff. And during summer, it's hot, they want to drink. And my first sale that I was doing, I had a backpack with, like, 1015 bottles of water. And I was going in the market and just screaming and yelling, like, hey, cold water, cold water. And that was my first sale. So then you make this money, you go to the supermarket, you buy the water again, you make a profit and go back to the market that's so.

Guest: Classical, almost like a cliche. Your own lemonade stand.

Alex: Yeah, yeah, that was my sort of lemonade stand.

Guest: So awesome.

Alex: But back, back to the times when I was more mature, because the Internet, the Internet business, that was when I was in my high school and I think first year of university, plus minus more high school, I think I, by doing that business, I started to learn more about people because you would come to someone who was just knocking through the door, hey, do you need Internet? No, I don't need Internet. Well, we also have local servers with lots of music and movies. Again, that was dark times when everything was illegal, but that was the time in Russia. And then, oh, yeah, client would say that interested. So you would get something that actually interested him, and then you would upsell Internet because then he will realize, oh, actually I need Internet. I want to download more music and want to download it faster. So I think back then I learned how to do the, what we call customer development, product discovery on a basic level these days, I think that was one of the major lessons.

Guest: So you have realized that they don't actually need the Internet itself. They want that content, that media that's pirate software or pirate videos. And this is what they wanted, actually. And you nailed it. You discovered that, and then you offered the main product that you had, the Internet. So this is how things work today, these days, right? You don't sell software. You sell solution to their problem, right? They don't need software. They don't need code. They need something that works that brings them from a to b to revenue generating engine. Tell us about your life in Canada, and why did you consider, why did you move to Portugal? Because it sounds like a big cultural shift, changing the cultures, changing the climates. So how did it happen?

Alex: Yeah, I'll tell you more. There is even another step between Canada and Portugal. There is Indonesia, Bali. I lived in Bali as well. Well, I lived more than ten years in Canada. And primary reason why I moved to Canada because I wanted to live in North America. That's what I dreamed of since I was a teenager. My older brother lives in California, so I was inspired by him, and that was my dream. So I also wanted to get western education. I think I watched too many pop student movies about life at campus, and I dreamt, you know, being one of those students. Anyway, so Canada is one of those countries that actually has really transparent immigration laws. And you just apply, if you have enough points which are based off your education, your age, your experience, language, whichever, you just get in. So that's how me and my wife back then got there. That was a beautiful period of life. I had two kids that were actually born there, but then we actually moved out from Canada because of COVID mainly. Canada was one of those countries that actually had really big restrictions for your freedom, and freedom is really important for me. So we were looking for a better place, and we were already in Bali in 2017 during the time when I was launching my startup and Wallace wanted to come back. We just never had a chance. So that decided, why not? So we moved to Bali, spent beautiful time in Bali. Unfortunately for our marriage, we decided to divorce. And that's where, you know, each of us will make a decision. Where do you want to live? My ex wife decided to live with kids in Russia, and I wanted to explore the world because I didn't want to move to Russia because of the war. So I was free to go, and I started to explore the world. And I've been traveling most of 2023. And when I was in Austria, in alps, I just felt like, hey, I need to go to Portugal. Just a feeling. I don't know. And for me, I just learned from my experience, if I got a strong feeling, you need to follow it. So I bought a ticket to Portugal. I came in and I fell in love. It's just a beautiful place. It's a beautiful place. And then I did the research. Hey, it's quite easy to get residency. There are tax laws that actually work for my benefit. I would pay less taxes based on the business that I'm doing. Ocean with surfing, sun, fruits, expats, friendly environment, like, everything that I need for my life. So that's why Portugal, and that's why I've been there since last year.

Guest: Our box sticks. All right. You mentioned you were married. You have two kids. Yes. What are the life roles were you taking so far?

Alex: Life roles? Yeah. I think father is one of those roles that plays a significant part in my life. I'm a son, obviously, helping my parents from time to time as I can. Brother. Hanging out with my brother again from time to time when they have a chance to come to the US. What else? I think being a CEO of a company is also a big role, one of the main roles in my life, now that I think about it. Because as you grow your business, you start feeling responsibility in the way that you feel when you have kids. So, like, before, I would go do some crazy shit, like, I would just snowboard from a cliff and would not think of anything. Now, like, when I see a really big wave and I'm going surfing. Like, no, probably I would skip that one. So if something happens to me that will impact my ex wife, my kids, my parents, my employees, businesses, like, no, just start feeling responsibility. So I think being a CEO and founder of the company actually becomes one of those roles that you learn to live with. Of course there are ways you can mitigate that in terms of running the business and delegating things, but I think there still be some level of responsibility that you cannot delegate. It's just there.

Guest: Yeah, I think parenthood changes a lot in your life in some aspects. For myself, for example, I changed my views, like 180 degree, completely different from what I was before. My question is, like, how has that influenced your leadership style? Being a father, being a parent, what has changed somehow since then?

Alex: I think my kids helped me to realize and to see more clearly that every person has different personality. Son is quite an emotional guy, and I've been raised by a military man, so I have certain, or I would rather say I had certain perception of how a boy should behave. And my son is different. And at the beginning, it made me angry and I was frustrated, like, how come? Just get your shit together, let's do some serious boy things. And he would be emotional, he would be crying, and I was just frustrated. But that helped me to realize that people are all different. They have strengths and weaknesses. And while his emotional, or I think that he's emotional, he is really artistic, he's really creative. So it's more like acceptance, more or less. Same applies to my daughter, which is different in a way as well. So I think what I learned because of being a parent is to accept the people the way they are, see their strengths more clearly, and focus more on how to improve their strengths and not on their weaknesses, because it's so easy to focus on weaknesses. Oh, you're not like that. Oh, you cannot do this, this and that. But in reality, the person may be really brilliant in something else. So me as a leader, as a manager, I need to see it with a laser focus, like, oh, yes, this is your talent. So here is the domain of business that I want you to be involved in so that you can apply your talent to the maximum capacity possible, so that the business would strive and you as individual will become way more happy because you feel that you're making the difference.

Guest: Was it, was it difficult to come to this realization to such self.

Alex: That.

Guest: Kind of, that kind of empathy towards your employees, towards your kids?

Alex: It took me maybe a few years, at least, at least three. I think three, four years it took me, because, you know, the thing that I was telling you about my son, you don't get it. When he's a baby, you started getting it when he starts to walk, more engagement, he starts to talk. And then, all right, you kind of have a mismatch between what you imagined, how your son would be because you painted some sort of picture, and then you see a reality, something doesn't match. So that's a big shift of paradigm that I experienced, and I think that helped me a lot through the life since then. And now when I spend time with my son, I truly enjoy it. I truly enjoy him being him and not anybody else.

Guest: Some say that our kids are our biggest teachers.

Alex: That's so true. That's so true. And I mean, come on, he's only ten. He will be turning ten in May, so I expect to have more lessons.

Guest: I know that he's coming to Portugal.

Alex: Yeah. He and my daughter, they come to Portugal from time to time to spend some time with me. Yeah. So that's the arrangement.

Guest: Speaking about the cultural difference between Portugal and the US, like, how different they are, what has changed for yourself and for the business of product era in terms of relations or business culture?

Alex: I don't do business in Portugal, at least yet. So I'm not sure. How would that look like on practice? The way I look at the location that I'm based off these days is that I should be relaxed as much as possible outside of the work context. The more I can relax, the more I can do things that actually reduces stress in my life, the more accurate and effective would I be when I actually do business. Because the realization that I came that the success does not depend on the number of hours that you put in the business. I been there, I work 60, 80 hours per week. And I thought, oh, yeah, I can do more, I can do more, I can do more. And then you burn out. I believe that success of the business, and I'm talking about the role of a founder, a role of a CEO. Success of the business is on your. On the way, how you feel inside, how balanced are you, how relaxed are you, how clearly you can feel things, how clearly you can feel the client, the employees, the project, the world in a general sense, and then you can come to your work desk and spend 1 hour and make so much impact that you couldn't have done, like, in 100 hours if you were drained and just, you know, without any energy. So in that sense, the reason why I select places like Bali, Portugal, to live is because you get so much energy, you get so much fulfillment from being in this place, enjoying the nature, enjoying the people, enjoying the culture, that when it comes to do the business, you already know what to do. You just come, you focused, you apply your energy to one point, and here you go. And it's tough. It's tough to come to this balance. I'm still learning how to do that because our mind is a complex mechanism. You always keep thinking, oh, probably I need to go back to my office and work. While in reality, even if you sitting on the beach, you would probably think of work in some way. In some way. I try to battle it sometimes, but in most cases, you would think of strategic things. You would think about certain situations. It will be somewhere in the back of your mind. I think the only place where I don't think about anything related to business and work is when I'm surfing an ocean. That's no place to think of anything else because you need to be focused on incoming wave, or if you're riding the wave, so you're always there. You're always just there.

Guest: So we may say that the ocean is one of your coaches or teachers in business.

Alex: Yes, yes, yes. Ocean surfing. I think it's a great analogy to business. You cannot control ocean. You can just write it. And if you're lucky, if you in the right place and you have right techniques, and you have the right board, and you in the right shape and the right state, then you can catch the wave. If some of these variables not there, you will just fall down and you'll be hit by a big wave.

Guest: So it's not just success, it's a combination of everything.

Alex: Yes.

Guest: All the factors. Like in business. Yeah, like about the desire to control everything or like to go and to work with your hands. I don't know, do some typing, do some hands on work. I remember a story about a monk who was sitting in a cave and some terrible things were happening around, I don't know, like people were suffering because of hunger or any disaster, whatever you can imagine. And one person came to that monk and said, like, how could you sit here and do nothing? And the monk would just smiled and said, why do you think I do nothing?

Alex: Right.

Guest: So it's all about the state of mind.

Alex: Yeah, state of mind is. I think it's under valued, under communicated thinking business. I know many titans of info business. Talk about it like Tonya Robbins, name a few. But I still think that it's something that we need. Could keep talking. Keep talking about it again, it's not about the number of hours in the hustle mode. It's more about the state and clear mind.

Guest: So we have learned about surfing, but what else feels you? What else brings your energy? What helps you to recharge.

Alex: These days? Meditation. Meditation is part of my morning routine. I used to do lots of yoga. Now I'm trying to catch up. Still. I don't know. It probably it's just a period of my life when there is not so much yoga, but it used to be more. I learning paddle. I love hiking. What else?

Guest: Music?

Alex: Yes. Right. Yes.

Guest: I've seen keys on the back of your camera.

Alex: Right, right. Yeah. Music. Music is one of those activities where I don't think of anything but what I'm doing. It's a complete creative flow and enjoying it so much. And it's interesting that I dropped off music school when I was a kid, and I never. And I didn't touch piano for, I think, 27 years. So by the time I realized that I want to play again, I opened the notebooks and I couldn't even read the notes, so I had to learn everything from the scratch. But since I had some background and I remembered things, it was really fast. And then the fingers remembered muscle memory and stuff. So been playing since then. And now I'm also taking vocal lessons, trying to learn electric guitar. Yeah. Music is a big part of it. Yes, you're right. What do you play? I love blues. Blues, jazz. I love improvisation. I also enjoy. It's a silly thing, but I enjoy lots of russian music. It's interesting. When I moved to Canada for the first five years, I didn't want to listen any russian music at all. I was just saying, no, no, no english music. That's what I want to know. But then after five years, I started listening primarily russian music. It's been like that since then. So, you know, old songs from nineties, from eighties, but with the twist of, you know, jazz, blues improvisation. That's what I play.

Guest: How big that part, that russian identity, how big that part of your personality, how important it is for you to be, to have that russian background, to be russian, to have that russian culture, those great writers, musicians. What does it give you?

Alex: You know, I'm only. I'm considering myself half russian because the other half is ukrainian. My mother is ukrainian and the whole family is from Ukraine. My father is russian. So, like, I'm russian, ukrainian, canadian, mixed mixture. How, you know, after a certain time when you live in Canada, people call themselves russian, canadian, ukrainian, canadian. So they add the Canadian at the end. So with, in case of myself, I don't know, I feel influence of both cultures, both of ukrainian culture and russian culture. I think ukrainian culture, ukrainian impact on me is I tend to relate a lot to ukrainian people and to the way they create. The creative aspect, I don't know. I find Ukrainians are really creative and really artistic. And my russian part is more about structure, some sort of competitive approach to things, open minded approach to things. And I'm really proud that I have these two parts of me inside. Most of my friends, they're russian speaking. Most of my friends are either from Ukraine or from Russia. My girlfriend, she is from Belarus. So I'm exploring this culture now as well. And it's funny in some ways, really interesting. So yeah, interesting.

Guest: If you weren't steering product era today as a CEO, as a founder, what other career path you might have followed? I don't know, some other professions, some other roles.

Alex: I like to create. You know, entrepreneurship is a nice way to create things. So whatever would involve process of creation, I think I will end up there. Whether it's creation of music, new physical products, because at some point, remember when I was saying that I discovered product management and that was the point in my life where I was thinking, hey, what I want to do with my life? And it was really tough. I didn't know where I want to go. I knew that I didn't want to be in physical location anymore, attached to physical location anymore. And I remember a conversation with my ex wife where I said, listen, I want to be an inventor. I want to be an inventor. I want to invent things. And I remember googling, like, how do you become an inventor? And back then I was limited by the idea of inventing physical objects, like, how do you invent, you know, new mechanisms and stuff like that. But I didn't think of it. So then when I realized, hey, there is an it where you can invent pretty much anything you want. It just depends on amount of money and talent that's around you, technology development. So I don't know, definitely someone that will be creating new stuff that's part of my identity.

Guest: Right, so you were an engineer, you were a product manager.

Alex: Yeah. Right, right. Yeah. And what I do these days, I help our clients to create, help them to create new products. Yeah, their businesses, those things that actually will make difference in somebody's elves lives. So it's still same pattern. What are the core values of Productera? I treat Productera as extension of myself in a sense. So my core value is freedom. Everything that I do in my life is directly linked to freedom. You know, it, business, I don't know, even surfing, traveling, if I send something limiting my freedom, I would try to cut it off from my left as soon as possible. So same applies to product terror. Freedom for employees so they can work from anywhere they want, even though we work on hourly basis. We have so much trust in embedded into the culture that employees have freedom, complete freedom to manage their time however they want as long as we deliver on the objectives. So freedom, trust, respect. I think respect is another important aspect of engagement, both with clients and employees. And finally, agility. It's so easy to create a mess with lots of people and not deliver. You have to always keep an eye on your processes, on how accurate are you in what you're delivering, what kind of quality you're delivering, if there is any waste. I learned so much of agile being an actual production environment where you can see the waste actually physically waste cumulated on a production floor. And it's really easy to relate to that when you actually seen that. But in a digital world, waste is, you cannot touch it, it's just there, but people don't sense it. So I think agility is another core value of Productera.

Guest: I think this is something that we have talked about earlier about not taking in all the requirements of the customers, but carefully considering what exactly they need to build, right? Not multiplying that digital waste.

Alex: Kaizen. Yeah. I was lucky enough to be introduced to lean manufacturing, to Kaizen, to five s, to all more and lean and agile approaches when I was young and it was production environment, as I said. And I was part of the groups of engineers who were actually implementing in the actual production floor. And that helped me now to have it so embedded in me, so that when I establish new businesses or new processes, somehow I have this mindset, I have this tool set in mind. It doesn't mean that everything comes out perfectly, but you know, it's a continuous improvement. That's the beauty of it. The lean approach doesn't mean that, hey, you're perfect, day one. No, it may take you years to become perfect, but it's a process, that's what's important. That you cautious of waste, you're cautious of problems, and you don't just turn your back on it, you're actually dealing with it.

Guest: It's so cool that you rely on your previous experience, on your earlier experience as an engineer, as someone from manufacturing, and you apply those experiences, those skills to your daily work as a CEO. Right? Your advice to Alex ten years ago, to 20 year old Alex, what would be your advice?

Alex: It's a tough 120 year old. Where was I? I was still in Russia. I would say, make as many mistakes as you can bear. Enjoy your freedom and life till you get kids. Keep an eye on it. It is the future you see now that I'm thinking and just connects to the previous talking points. If I didn't have the experience in manufacturing, probably I wouldn't have have so much connection with digital problems that I'm solving. So I don't know. Yeah, I think to summarize it, be brave. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Everything will be fine.

Guest: Everything will be fine in the end, if it's not fine, it's not the end.

Alex: That's true.

Guest: Awesome. Is there anything else you wanted to talk to tell to the listeners of this podcast? Any thoughts? Any idea?

Alex: Yeah, I think one of the core things that I learned over the years, don't be afraid of making mistakes. It's so hard to live in a position where you're constantly in a fear of making a step. Even if you know that it's the right step, you have to do it, but you'll be afraid of making that. So be brave, of course, to the extent where it doesn't hurt your life. Yeah.

Guest: Thanks to that man.

Alex: Thank you.