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From Web-Admin To VC Fund Partner: The Path Into Venture World, A Founder’s Story with Vitaly Akimov

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Vitaly Akimov is a general partner of the B2smB.vc investment fund. Vitaliy is a business growth tracker of entrepreneurs whose total capitalization of companies exceeds $500 million. He is an expert in attracting investments and building relationships with investors, key partners, and employees, and has conducted over 100 investment transactions.

 

Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in Norilsk, the largest industrial city in the Far North of Russia. Later, my parents and I moved to more southern regions. My father has been in the retail business since the 1990s. Since we lived in a small village, he was a prominent figure. I saw the admiring glances of the other villagers. At the time I didn’t understand the concept of entrepreneurship, but my father became an excellent role model for me. I was always by his side, constantly learning something new. Even at school, I tried to do some trading. When my parents gave me my first computer, I realized that I was very interested in it. I focused on computer technologies and at the same time I studied English in depth. After graduating from school, I enrolled in the Mathematics and Computer Science department. When I received my diploma, the very next day I got on a bus and was on my way to take on Moscow.

 

How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I started my first business while I was still at university — we published and sold a student newspaper, StudentLife, and then we started selling advertising space in it. The newspaper continued to be published for a long time even after I had left the halls of the university. When I arrived in Moscow, I got a job as a web administrator, but I came to the conclusion that conventional employment was not for me. So on my own, I started creating an online service for compiling wishlists, but this project never ended up growing into a stable business. One day while browsing a website for IT specialists, I saw an announcement about a meeting of startup founders to be held in St. Petersburg. I thought it would be cool to do a similar event in Moscow. Thirty-three people came to the first meeting, and four of them were investors. When I saw the amount of interest in startups and innovation from investors, I recognized that bringing people together is my superpower, and it’s something that I should definitely pursue. This is how the StartupPoint project came about — a community of startups and investors. We helped people find each other: the successful supported the people with promise, and resourceful people supported the ambitious. Over the course of four years, we held over 100 meetings and investment transactions. Thanks to this project, I met Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark Zuckerberg and visited many countries. I stopped developing StartupPoint because my naivety finally collided with reality. I thought that if I created this platform, then interesting and promising entrepreneurs will receive the resources they need and will be able to do something more. But in the end, one and the same founders came up with new ideas, while investors who had only recently agreed upon investments with projects, came for other projects. I felt like I was deceiving the people around me. At that time I didn’t yet know that venture investment was a kind of mathematical game theory. Essentially, the investor is in constant search of his potential unicorn which will compensate for a percentage of his failures. At the same time, I was invited as an expert in networking and startups to the GoValley program in California. I got to see how everything works in Silicon Valley and get inspired by success stories. There they asked me, “What is the key to success for first-time founders?” I answered — mentoring. On the one hand, there is the entrepreneur with their ambitions and burning eyes, and on the other hand, there are the investors who say, “Here is money for you, we believe in you.” It always seemed to me that these two opposites lacked a third element — experienced entrepreneurs who are ready to support the investment aspect. After the closure of StartupPoint, I stood at the origins of the largest venture fund, being one of the leaders in the Russian market in terms of the number of transactions. And so began my eight-year journey in acceleration processes. We were the first to start popularizing the business growth tracker profession in the Russian market. In 2019, together with the investment fund Mestorozhdeniye, I began to develop the Tracker Academy. Thousands of trained business consultants and investors have taken our business growth tracking methodology and then they spread it to their businesses. We have trained the largest number of trackers on the market, and after eight years this profession has now become indispensable. Currently, I am fully focused on the B2smB.vc fund, where I am the general partner. Successful entrepreneurs have the problem of isolation. The more you develop, the higher you climb, and the more difficult it becomes to engage with other founders. This makes it difficult for founders to collaborate and pool their efforts. And we at B2smB.vc decided to help them break through this barrier. We do not invest in individual startups, but instead in alliances of several startup founders. That is, those who have learned to negotiate and team up, and were able to make their joint efforts lead to an important and interesting result. Our manifesto is “stronger together.” We have our own alliance and acceleration procedures, we give money in advance, and in this way, we stand out from the crowd of investors who can tease entrepreneurs for months, listen to pitches, and intervene in financial models, but in the end, never give any money.

 

What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
The pressures of running a startup are quite unlike anything else. Sometimes it’s very hard to share what you’re going through. The best advice I can give is to find a network of fellow founders for support. People who are going through the same things as you will understand, as will those who’ve been there before.

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