09:33 GMT04 August 2020
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    Global Entrepreneurship Week: Russians in the Silicon Valley

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    What does it take to be an entrepreneur and why if at first you don’t succeed you should always try again? Moscow city government joined the GEW by sending the entrepreneurs from Russia to the Silicon Valley, Boston, Singapore and other hubs to get exposed to different ideas and bring the experience back home.

    Find out more from Arik Akhverdyan, managing director at VCV and Veronica Peshkova, business trainer, and general director of consulting company XI DE Ventures.

    GEW invites entrepreneurial people from about 150 countries in the world to share success stories and lessons learned with each other. The project was marked in Russia by a wide range of activity, from forums to competitions to identify the promising startups. Tune in to learn more.

    In Russia there is a lot being done to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And I know that both of you have participated in a unique project that was set up by the Moscow Government to train the future entrepreneurs, to develop the entrepreneurial atmosphere and spirit. Tell me more about it?

    Veronica Peshkova: The project is unique, but the Moscow Government has already advanced it for the third year. And under this project the Moscow the managers and founders of small and medium enterprises have an opportunity to visit several countries all over the world. For example, this year the short-term scholarship was arranged to the UK, to the USA, where we – me and Arik – participated. Then, there was the opportunity to visit China, Germany and Switzerland, also Singapore and Denmark. Each scholarship is devoted to a particular issue of business. And as a result, a specific group of Moscow entrepreneurs was invited into each group.

    How you were selected and what does your company do?

    Arik Akhverdyan: This year it was the second time I participated in the program. It was the second time in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, the US. Last year I just saw the information on Twitter, thought why not to try and filled in the application, and I was so surprised that I was selected. This year there was more information. It was on Facebook, in the media etc. And I also chose the Silicon Valley, because the project I run is the video interviewing service. I joined the project and the team who invented it last year. It is a b-to-b tool for selecting the candidates. It is like a screening tool before inviting them to the live interview.

    As somebody who trains and who is in this field constantly, how would you assess the entrepreneurial environment in Moscow and in Russia?

    Veronica Peshkova: When I compare, for example, the tax environment in Russia, I see that for the small and medium enterprises and for me as an entrepreneur I have a rather beneficial tax regime, compared to the Western Europe or the US. Here there is an opportunity to find a market for yourself. The market is not so saturated, as it is in the mature markets. And I think that one of the advantages that we have here is that there are a lot of people who have creative ideas.

    In the Silicon Valley it is easier to start your business, because there are people who believe in their ideas and business. In Russia it is sometimes very difficult to convince a business angel to believe in your project. And this I guess is the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face, do you agree?

    Arik Akhverdyan: I would agree, but I would say that it is not about an idea, I think it is about the development of the market as a whole. Skolkovo and other organizations helping us as the start-uppers, they are just a couple of years, maybe, five years old. But in the States it is more than 50 years, I think.

    Do you think it is possible to learn to be an entrepreneur?

    Veronica Peshkova: The first characteristic of such people is that they are able to take risk. In our country, traditionally, you are an entrepreneur and at the same time a top manager of your company. But what is the difference? When you are a manager, you have a resource and you try to manage it to achieve the profit and to minimize the risks. When you are an entrepreneur, you are a person who must take a risk to find an opportunity on a market, and recruit some resources which are necessary to realize this opportunity. So, to be an entrepreneur and a top manager at the same time, sometimes it is very-very complicated.

    It is like – is it possible to learn how to sing. You can have a natural talent, but if you are not educated as a singer, you’d not be so professional. The same is with entrepreneurship, you can learn to be an entrepreneur. And you can be talented, but in this case you must have your team to structure your ideas and support you, and provide an opposite mind to your ideas.

    Why is it that so many startups fail?

    Veronica Peshkova: It is the market. The success of successful startups in the Silicon Valley is like a Cinderella story and the first question is where and when there will be the ball.

    Arik Akhverdyan: I would say it is always about a team. The wrong strategy, the wrong timing etc, it is always about a team. The main criterion for investing into a company is its team. If you trust this team and this team is really has a passion to succeed, they will do everything. 

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