Украинец в Америке. Ярослав Ажнюк – совладелец Petcube

Jun 03, 2018 7K Views 18 Comments

I sat down at Petcube headquarters in San Francisco to chat with co-founder Yaroslav Azhnyuk about: Ukraine, his journey to the US, life philosophy, SF/Kyiv, and his passion of dancing.

so here with Yaroslav and in petcube
which is a very impressive headquarters
I have to say here in San Francisco
you also have offices in Keith that’s
your big office right yeah and then in
China so you’ve really interested me
because okay you’re one of these guys
that had an idea when halfway around the
world
to the place where these types of ideas
you know this is the ecosystem this is
the place where the funding is and you
and your co-founders gave it a go
and now you’re what five years in you’ve
been here five years yeah I’m in San
Francisco I think four and a half four
and a half and now you have products on
the market it’s a very proper popular
product I just saw your cool new video
your new app and it’s probably been
quite an adventurous ride so I want to
get into that here so tell me tell tell
all of us like how the idea came about
how you ended up leaving he’ve coming to
San Francisco sure sure so we started
about sixteen five and a half years ago
the two co-founders besides me
Alex meskan and Andre clan Alex was the
original inventor of the pay cube camera
he had a dog dog was barking all the
time and he came up with this idea for a
camera and added the laser pointer made
an interface he would wash his dog from
work sure and he could play with his dog
moving the laser pointer around the room
and the dog would chase the laser as
dogs and cats laugh right right and then
you know he basically showed that to
folks in the office we were working this
digital advertising agency prodigy and
give back back then and everyone would
have a pat would say wow this is cool I
would like this this thing for my man so
that’s how they do well maybe we should
make this product
we you know put it in shelf selling one
be cool right and then we sort of
thinking okay we could make it did this
product but is there a place for
business and I think that’s one of the
things for many entrepreneurs to kind of
pause and think you know whenever you
have idea for something cool mm-hmm is
this an idea for like a product maybe
for a feature to existing product or is
this something that can evolve into a
business and our thinking was we
basically had these three hypotheses why
this would be a great business and first
we looked at the market market for pet
care is really big only in the u.s. is
like seventy billion dollars and that’s
one of the markets were you didn’t see
much innovation lately so over the last
20-30 years
sure you know things pretty much remain
the same unchanged with the coming of
intranet with the coming of smartphones
and we realized okay if we’re making
this like way to remotely connect with
your pet with really technological way
but you know latest things available and
if we continue in that way kind of
building this technology company for
pets like Apple for pets right then this
is really powerful so that was like the
first hypothesis this big market no
innovation if you build disruptive
technology company here that’s that’s a
big business opportunity the second
thought was well we have these cameras
that are filming funny cats and dogs
videos all all day long right so the
internet was built buildings Katsidis so
we thought if we have that like people
share that and like all of that comes
with like a cue watermark or whatever
this would significantly reduce our
costs of user acquisition cost of
marketing so it’s secondly okay this
this actually has very big potential and
terms like brand-building is on and the
third one and probably the most like
conceptually important was that we
realized that this device is is like an
interface for pet to go online and is
like these devices they connect best to
the Internet
it’s like a smartphone for your pet
right and if you can connect millions
tens of millions of pads to the intranet
you suddenly have this network and you
have all these kind of platform effects
and network effects you can and that
historically if you look at history of
Technology like starting from like
telegraph or roads rather than network
early networks or to you know Facebook
connecting all the people to Internet
we’re connecting all the cars this
should be very powerful so with that in
mind we kind of started a company and
the mission was to connect pest to the
internet you will recently added to
connect pest to the Internet and give
them a voice so with with hundreds of
thousands of cameras that we’ve sold so
far what we’ll realize we can watch pets
and make computer mystery artificial
intelligence algorithms that learn pest
behavior and can understand pets
using all the latest advanced and
behavioral science but also using the
data coming from these hundreds of
thousands of cameras over all of the
days and we’re making some amazing
advancements and hopefully we’ll be able
to say okay giving it you know we’ve
been looking at your path for the last
couple days it looks like your dog might
be getting sick you should go see if
that interesting or maybe you need
anti-anxiety try
or your dog is barking too much because
of this and that so long-term you for
the company connect pass to the Internet
and give them a voice and hopefully we
will make some contribution to science
and our understanding of animals in
Americans are crazy about pads right
well crazy in a good way like pets are
family members here just you know it’s
becoming more and more all over the
world you know when I just came here to
San Francisco people would ask me like
well how is it to Kiev and then and my
answer would usually be well you know
hipsters are all the same around the
world likes true and every big cap has a
good beer yeah yeah every big like
megapolis around the city big Kiev or
sale or New York or Mexico shop people
living pretty much very similar senses
and lives right right so when so you
guys you’re your co-founder Alex had
this idea right and then you guys teamed
up and you’re working on something over
there like what was that first step
where you said guys let’s let’s go to
the u.s. let’s go to San Francisco we
need to if we’re gonna run at this we
gotta go full speed and we got to get
over there like walk me through that
process um well I I was I was gonna I
running a couple companies before pet
cubes I had my own digital advertising
agency and I sold it so I started with
Andre who is another co-founder now in
order chief design officer
so under and I were running that for a
couple years some good clients like Sony
Ericsson Microsoft when we sold that to
this other agency called prodigy and
that’s where we met Alex and we worked
there on different digital ad projects
for another two years and then we
started thank you I also have this NGO
called dinner tonight
internet initiatives I was promoting
digital literacy in Ukraine I was
traveling around the world at different
conferences getting people meeting other
entre
and I was reading TechCrunch of course
right and you read TechCrunch you kind
of understand okay this is like Silicon
Valley is like the center of this
technological world and that’s where
everything is happening and obviously
your view is very distorted I was
thinking okay I read that I should
pretty much understand how it is here
well no 5% maybe but with that when we
kind of start thinking about building
company you know the guys were like wow
there’s this this this accelerator out
of Ukraine maybe we should you know take
their money like and I was pretty much
like now we should go and apply to the
best accelerators try raise from the
best investors in the world and we
should be thinking in this kind of
worldwide framework as opposed to
Ukrainian the framework you know when
you when you born and raised in certain
country you tend to compare yourself to
other folks in this country or in this
city or whatever and instead the goal
that the world is so open and connected
these days you should be comparing
yourself to the best known in the
universe right so that’s that’s one we
kind of from the very beginning we have
this view okay well some point we’ll
build an office in and San Francisco and
we’ll need it to hire really smart
people with lots of experience and what
we’re doing and we’ll need to you know
be able to work with some of the best
investors and advisors in the world of
the right net so you guys got no Y
Combinator right yeah but that was a
long time after we started a lot in the
Y Combinator in we started in 2012
uh-huh kind of autumn ish September ish
and we got into YC in November 2016
mm-hmm and you would say like the
Ukrainian Ukrainian audience this is one
of the best ecosystems absolutely I
think like every every single founder
entrepreneur should be targeting to get
– y combinator so you got a lot out of
it absolutely yeah and you know if there
is anything I regret is that we didn’t
get into YC earlier but we were trying
we have applied four times – I see until
we got accepted my first time Wow
and when we were accepted we were we
have like 30 person team we raised
almost four million dollars in
investment we have booked almost 4
million almost 2 million dollars in
revenue so we were like an OK company
really we had the product on the market
and things like that but hey this year I
I posted on Facebook like if anyone
advised – I see you should like message
me and I’ll review your application I’ll
recommend you because along these they
have ability to to recommend right and
NYC tastes it doesn’t matter where
you’re from right just absolutely
absolutely yeah
and I think I recommended 14 teams five
of them got an interview so entropy is
happening last weekend this week so
hopefully some of them will get accepted
ok so how was it when you first let’s
say culturally when you first landed in
the u.s. right you know those especially
those first 24 hours euro like your mind
is absorbing all this new information
everything’s different
you’re comparing to what you know but
then all the sudden things are different
for me it’s always an interesting part
when going at a new country so what were
those first feelings you had when you
came to the US yeah it was funny I was
expecting you asked to be not not much
different from Europe
I thought well maybe yes as as much
different from France as France is
different from Italy and it appear that
no that’s not true yes is a different
world and it was funny because you can I
walk down city and you see like this
steam going from like whatever the sewer
system yeah and like you see the yellow
cabs or whatnot and you get this and you
hear like perfectly clear American
English and you get this feeling like
you’re in the movie because previously
you’ve only seen those things those
signs like all those things and so many
Hollywood movies that to everyone
watched you know so that was a funny
feeling it was almost like cartoonish
especially when when the child speaks in
the cartoon really funny so was there
anything that really other than being in
the movie let’s for the same was there
anything that really grabbed your
attention or shock to you or surprised
you or yeah I remember like I was
staying in this small town that said in
San Francisco called San Bruno and for a
couple weeks at the beginning and I
would in the morning I would wake up and
I would go to Bart which is local like
underground transportation train thing
and I would have to walk like for
fifteen minutes and I would look around
me you know would not not see a single
human okay no pedestrians like everyone
is in cars it felt like you know some
zombie apocalypse like you like the
weird guy where are all exactly and let
books and like and like do drivers are
quite polite so folks would actually
stop like when I’m crossing the road
folks would set off from afar you know
and I was like oh my gosh they must be
freaking out what is this guy
[Laughter]
but okay so San Bruno is out of the city
a bit in the city it’s it’s walkable so
weird like that like it’s very car
driven culture obviously and most
infrastructures set up for cars
hey merica is different right so I only
realized that for some some time that
San Francisco does not equal all the
America right and it’s very different
even as samhsa’s compared to Los Angeles
and then there compared to New York
taxes or rounding to Florida all this
different those are almost like separate
states like separate countries well
there are separate it’s almost like so
how long did it take from when you got
here did it start feeling I mean I don’t
know if you call it home now if it’s if
if you consider it your home but how
long did it take before it started
feeling like like okay this is my place
yes my home
yeah I think maybe two or three years
and I was like it’s gonna didn’t feel
any anxieties or like I’m like stranger
here but I think like in general the
answer is very welcoming to you to
people from other cultures and countries
and I just you know it depends on your
previous experiences sure and the agent
saw on yeah I think they’re just like I
think people who learn in services
coming going 30% of those people were
actually born here everyone else right
all these different culture like Indian
people Chinese people South American
people different Europeans everything
mixed up and yeah that’s that’s nice
it’s comfortable does it feel home sure
and Kiev it feels home and I think you
know because trying to feel like home
have you spend much time there
no not for me but I think for for my
couple hundred Alex it does he spend
maybe around three years living Wow
they’re comfortable in China they are
yeah that is definitely more of a
culture stretch but actually not not as
far it’s just like what’s Johnson’s
gonna feels like half Chinese almost
Harley to you well I mean it’s I don’t
know if the demographics are but I think
it’s like 35 or 40 percent Asian
something like that yeah it’s really
high I’m just saying well Chinatown in
San Francisco is the biggest Chinatown
in the world yes and it’s interesting
because some people never leave it and
you have people that were born there and
lived their whole lives and don’t speak
English Wow because you don’t need if
you’re surviving in that ecosystem you
don’t need I guess the outside American
world this is funny so what um what
we’re what is it like now when you go
back to Kiev now look for me I I live in
Kiev now I go back tomorrow actually and
I learned more about my own country and
living outside of it absolutely that’s
how you learn about your country
absolutely because when you’re in it
you’re that this is what you know if
you’re a fish in the water all you know
is the water right and you don’t really
learn until you get out for a while and
this trip coming back to America I felt
like a foreigner for a few days mm-hmm
seeing it through maybe of foreigners
eyes mm-hmm like all the incongruity
zand weirdnesses and coolness –is and
the bad things about america right off
the front so what is it like when you go
back to keep these days like in you’re
going back what once every couple months
every six months every year yeah I mean
historically has been like once a year
last time we’ve been there this fall and
actually spent like September till
January and PS so you’re seeing it like
it like it like a child when you don’t
see a child for a year you can see
marked differences on this child like
how much they grew yeah how much more
they’re speaking so years a good chunk
of time that’s good so what are you
seeing say the last few times as you’ve
gone back to
country yeah well I’m very closely
connected tea to Ukraine I guess even
when I’m here lots of friends there sure
I follow the news and when I go there I
think like I have maybe very idealistic
view of Ukraine I won’t almost have this
picture all Ukraine what I wanted to be
and I think my view might be filtering
out many of the worst things sure
they’re happening but yeah I mean the
most striking thing is that everyone is
why it’s around you know racism because
there’s no race it’s very mono-ethnic
and that’s funny but yeah you can say I
noticed that much I feel like those
changes I still observe them okay as if
I was skyping with my child or whoever
like every week so don’t have that
effect so you you really have one foot
solidly in that world in the Ukraine
okay yeah interesting so what do you
think about um you know you’ve you’ve
done this this tech let’s call it a tech
dream though I’m sure there’s been
nightmarish moments because that’s how
it goes right it’s not it’s not like the
movies what would you recommend to
someone in in Ukraine who’s young
doesn’t exactly know where they’re going
in life but they’re they’re educated and
they have some skills yeah like if you
could be a mentor let’s say what would
you say to them well you know I kind of
have this framework of how one should
build the technological company out of
Ukraine uh-huh and I believe that today
Ukraine is one of the best places in the
world to start a global technological
company sure and there are three reasons
for that one is that Ukraine has very
very rare
knowledge in multiple industries like
Ukraine is one of like a dozen countries
that can build an airplane right
building a name pliantly airplane is a
big feat you know knowledge in very
different industries and you have all of
those specialists and the reason number
two whether it’s a great place is
because the the wages these these people
get compared to you like American or
like global markets are much lower yeah
and with that sad these people are
actually living often why it’s good
professional living much better lives in
Ukraine with those like four times lower
wages than here like like like I’m not
only talking about computer science
engineers but let’s say someone like
who’s a programmer in Kiev with their
salary that they can afford more than
the person was salary for acts of that
here in San Francisco right so okay if
you have a family say you’re married you
have two kids yeah like what would be a
good salary to live on like okay your
zero services no in Keefe like okay
you’re you’re living a comfortable life
Wow it’s hard to say like you’re
developer I never had a family or two
kids I saw but I think like you know it
depends where you live but it say for
example if you’re making is three
thousand dollars a month to three
thousand like I think like to two to
four thousand dollars you can live
pretty comfortably in the Ukraine yeah
if you get like 4x or even like five
acts of that in San Francisco it’s not
not a fact that you can live with live
like family into kids and like write
brutal yeah if you’re doing it down so
so that’s like the second reason why
Ukraine is is such a great place to
build this because you know you give me
if I earn a dollar on the global market
more like a dollar in a dollar of an
investment you know for the money I can
build like one factory here or five
factories in Ukraine right I can hire
one engineer here or five engineers in
Ukraine I can build like one feature for
my product here five features in Ukraine
try out competing me that’s it that’s an
unfair advantage yeah right and that
when you compare that you know breadth
of knowledge and level of them and the
level of kind of standards of living
that you have in Ukraine right with what
those wages there is definitely like
disconnect with what people the global
economy and if if you’re an entrepreneur
that’s up to you to leverage that right
finally the third reason why I think
Ukraine is an amazing place to start a
company is because it has this
incredible energy that you know were
talking to share any other countries
cannot cannot show alright like these
people they’ve done like three
revolutions in the last 30 years in 91
and 2004 in 2014 sure and my theory is
that it’s because Ukraine as a nation
Ukrainians didn’t have their kind of
sovereignty their country for over 300
years and this nation was try to get us
independence and sovereignty and
manifest itself and like show itself to
the world like here look at us look what
we can do very similar to how Jewish
people and didn’t have their their state
for for 2,000 years but kept their
nation and now all that energy is
pouring and you have it manifesting
itself in beautiful restaurants in the
cities and like Olympics or whatever
different victories and sports and
different things are happening you had
the war that definitely you know
strengthens the people and you have all
this creative potential into
ecology sector that is now booming in
Ukraine you have all these new companies
right so these three factors the breadth
of knowledge the difference with the
global market and the incredible energy
I think make Ukraine one of the best
places to build a tech company yeah
interesting and I find like um whatever
you can leverage currencies to advantage
here obviously you have that advantage
and I don’t see in in what you just said
in the second point you made nobody’s
losing in that except your competition
am I going you’re paying people and so
my goal is you pay you pay well like
it’s gonna be better than the normal
paying Ukraine so people are living a
better quality life right your business
will do better because your costs are
down this is like someone getting
underpaid no it’s not that
exactly see what I found in I have some
friends working in Ukraine right now if
you create a good environment right
treat people with respect and dignity
structure things in the right way demand
a lot but be fair like highly capable
population at least for the young people
phone I’ve seen sure like the young
people are very ready for that and I’m
trying to think of another part of the
world that has the things set up as good
as you just said and I can’t think of
one offhand to be honest because if you
work for the India there’s a cost
benefit in India such a cultural gap
I’ve done it way harder mmm it’s much
more difficult from my experience so so
do you think this is like Ukraine’s in
some sort of say red Renaissance right
now or there’s like it’s got this window
where this nice window that’s sort of
opened up yeah how things can go in and
out of it and work I certainly hope so
yeah I think so I think you know for for
anyone who’s starting a company it just
well I’d say you should you should
definitely think globally like don’t
close yourself to like you know building
some food joint in some Kiev district
you know it was like this is not the
biggest thing you can do every young
person should try to do the biggest
coolest thing they can do people what if
their that’s their thing they just want
to have a nice restaurant in like live a
simple life and that’s maybe no that’s
fine it’s just like ask that question
you know you should ask yourself that
question is that the biggest coolest
thing I can do and if you are sure this
is actually what you want to do didn’t
you really do it right yeah I’m not
saying everyone should build like the
next Google right but what I’m seeing is
many of my friends in Ukraine incredibly
smart people are just as smart as some
of the smartest people I meet around the
world but some of the smartest people
here in the valley or in China or in
France are starring these companies with
global ambitions right and some of my
really really smart friends in Ukraine
are just maybe thinking and not such a
broad way and do you think that’s
because um maybe that’s residual
residual reality from the fall of the
Soviet Union when that part of the world
was so closed off yeah and it’s still
baked into the the mindset is that why
or why sure I mean all of these things I
believe are explained by by the history
by the heritage and you know obviously
Soviet Union you didn’t have any like
free markets you have like this crazy
Soviets control type Reaganomics no
entrepreneurship there was this movement
in early you excited to your 20s or
whatnot where actually that the Soviets
would would the rest all that kind of
wealthy people all the entrepreneurs
like wealthy farmers or not and the
message was well these are like bad
folks because they’re exploiting like
that whatever village man and song
collective common good exactly and we
should like take everything they’ve
earned and like distribute between
everyone right so that’s how the class
of entrepreneurs was basically killed
100 years ago and obviously they didn’t
have kids they didn’t pass
their knowledge to their kids and were
here you had the golden Russian people
who made their money in golden brush
like transferring their wealth and
knowledge to their children and that it
was on and anon you had like Wall Street
and all that it wasn’t happening inside
the union right and obviously obviously
that’s why entrepreneurship is not that
strong another thing is you know what is
called a short planning horizon so
that’s that’s what happening in many
like Eastern Europe countries or many
poorer countries in the world people are
so much stuck in this daily grind that
they don’t have that they can’t think
like fathers had ten years ahead the
only thing you know months ahead they
don’t know what’s gonna happen if the
next war gonna hit or something like
that or next economic crisis so by
having the world is your your audience
or your consumer base these geopolitical
incidents that happen in parts of the
country or whatever really aren’t as
once it’s it’s almost a security measure
yeah to be thinking of the world right
because if you’re baked into that’s your
your clientele only then you’re going to
be moved around quickly by the whims of
geopolitics and politic political sound
bites and whatever that are completely
out of your control
well I mean geopolitics exists for any
just any place in the world sure right
and just recently we had this crisis
situation with North Korea and like we
you know I’m sure many people were
scared of that right were unsure but it
wasn’t gonna happen so or you you can
have like a natural disaster or
hurricane tornado striking whenever so
like you can obviously follow market
signs and like Luke it okay you know
here’s what American administration
giving Ukraine some like weapons or like
placing a huge contract and that’s
probably a sign that they trusted you
know I I personally don’t think there is
even the slight probability of a big war
and you know but I think making world
economy one global and in kirkuk
interconnected tool is one of the best
ways to ensure like stability and for
sure it’s the MacDonalds theory have you
ever heard of this like two countries
that have McDonald’s have never fought
each other yes but I don’t know if that
still stands I’m trying to think but
yeah that’s it’s true if you you don’t
you don’t try to destabilize the person
that gives you money
yeah or how’s your money yeah that’s
pretty pretty bored china-us is kind of
really you’re really connected couples
so what about okay so I hear living in
current Ukraine corruption it’s probably
the number one word right you would hear
if I bring up business or we’re starting
anything
corruption Zinta get in the way love to
hear what you have to see it yeah yeah
well you know maybe it’s easy for me to
judge because you know no one tried to
do something bad or unlawful to my
business but you know certainly
sometimes people are that they’re
telling that you know they have all the
all the right to claim that but also
oftentimes they hear that from just
naysayers from right from people who
never tried starting anything and they
just like blindly repeating things that
proves good excuse I’m not going to
start my business because of corruption
like really that’s the vs there is this
Ukrainian rocket scientist and
constructor of some of the first Rockets
in the world said he Korolev and he has
this quote that I really like and he
said the the one that wants to work
looks for opportunity right the one that
doesn’t look for an excuse exactly
I think there are a lot of excuses I
think there are a lot of excuses and I
think no corruption in like different
crazy things exists around the world and
like here in the US
well you don’t have like blatant
corruption you know kind of pressuring
that the business but you have things
like crazy high taxes like if people who
are talking about that corruption in
Ukraine would even like think a little
bit about the taxes in the US like
convert it to Ukrainian taxes maybe
think about like if you’re a businessman
if like we put aside the ethical side of
things like even if you think of
corruption and certain tax on the
operations in the country it’s actually
much slower than paying taxes India well
how do you know how do you feel about
your payroll taxes every two weeks does
that make you happy well have you seen
that I mean I I run a payroll and the
reason I say that it’s just like
astronomical how much you have to pay
per employee data taxes and in Ukraine
is something like I think if you have
independent contractors just like 5% or
something like that right yeah which is
unheard of here I mean if you if it was
5% in you also add your sales tax and
then income tax to pay income here yeah
here yeah and then you’re like whoa whoa
I was like suddenly like almost half of
everything you’re like if you do
something almost in California it’s
about a company like half of that will
go to the state and all that this it
sound like the roads are great in San
Francisco either right that’s a popular
belief that are better than Q but you’re
better than he but they’re pretty damn
bad for the amount of tax revenue coming
into the city you think they would have
that together yeah well I hear one:1
people from China come from here they’re
like really this is like that capital
the world look at this Airport look at
these roads it’s not like the movies but
that’s the paradox right they really
have you have this ecosystem and
infrastructure there was build you know
half century ago
state-of-the-art yeah and their
infrastructure will be old fifty years
from now and they will probably won’t be
a rebuilding than that often yeah so
yeah it’s really interesting so Ukraine
is that even no corruption exists right
and that’s that’s a big loaded word it
depends what you’re doing what you’re
gonna deal with you haven’t dealt with
anything my friends haven’t dealt with
anything I think in business models
where you’re working in the ones and
zeros it’s not as much of a problem
versus building it apart my problem
actually there were lots of the tax on
technological companies recently and
were very much condemned by by the
community and as they basically decrease
the chance of any Ukrainian company
getting investment or anything like that
and there were like meetings with the
Prime Minister and the president and the
Prime Minister was going for the kale
stand behind it there was even some some
law was signed for you know to disallow
these random you know tax service checks
in companies I’m not sure how that helps
but definitely there is a way forward
out of that and you know one of those
things when you’re building your
business and such places that tend to
have these corruption issues and Ukraine
is not only a place like that in the
world actually in China there are big
corruption races you just try to get
some extra insurance as a businessman
right and you you work with some of the
reputable investors in the country you
build your your relationships and those
things give you provide you some layer
of extra insurance that nothing bad will
happen and if something bad will happen
again those will be the people you’ll
you’ll call first and that sounds like
an insider type stuff so if you’re
talking to some American guy who wants
to do something there that’s
very threatening I would say I like know
this guy know that guy and then yeah I
mean that’s that’s definitely not not
how we prefer doing things in the
civilized world it is just it is just
how it is right yeah it’s like you want
to move away from that but then if you
want if you want to do business in that
place those are rules of the game in
that place we’re in different countries
with different rules of the game so not
all of them with with those pre-existing
rules of the game in Ukraine you’re
saying it’s definitely worth it for
Ukrainians to start whatever it might be
there and for foreigners absolutely I
think you know with with all the great
things of sad about why Ukraine is one
of the best places to start a company
yeah the raw definitely challenges and
you talk to Solomon we talked about
geopolitical challenges sure I think
there’s little you can do here but
they’re a everywhere we talked about
internal challenges with corruption and
you can do certain things against that
and also being like pretty publicly
well-known the company helps with that
and I mean look here like with with a
new Trump administration right you have
risks with that sure you know Jeff Jesus
is paying some price now I’m sure after
you know Donald Trump’s tweets against
Amazon their stock went down right so
that’s and then the third reason that
the third problem is lack of experienced
managers we talked about this yeah
historically there was no or for them to
come from and what do you do with that
well I think you you need to hire great
managers where you have them including
here in Silicon Valley so that’s why I
think people from Silicon Valley coming
to Ukraine to start their own businesses
will be very pleasantly surprised but
what they can achieve and we’ll bring
that necessary experience and knowledge
and there are connections with
other people who are experienced and
knowledgeable and their ability to
recruit some of the great managers right
you know I think you or want one of the
examples you know people who came to
Ukraine and then realized wow this is
this is originally a treasure trove
right and there’s another friend of mine
Johnson Kim another entrepreneur from
from San Francisco who’s building his
company new crane now after selling
couple businesses I think the last
company he saw solved is now trading
their stocks like market cap is over 1.5
billion it’s a really successful
businessmen and it’s really enjoying you
know first life in Ukraine and second
you know that the magnitude of tech
talent he can gather right so I mean you
have a very like you said at the
beginning sort of an optimistic
rose-colored yeah last look at it all
but look I I’m gonna back it up because
I look I look it you can look at the
world there’s two realities always going
on in every situation right and there’s
a parallel frequencies and there’s a
positive and the negative you can walk
down that Street the streets and Ukraine
every day and just look at the negative
or San Francisco I can look at the bums
on the ground and they didn’t get all
bummed out about stuff or you can look
at the opportunities and it’s not it’s
not like they’re there no opportunity
there’s plenty of opportunities that’s
the thing so I think I think personally
from my experience and I haven’t been
there that long is there’s a lack of
correct me if you think I’m wrong here
there’s a lack of positive reinforcement
that people are able to achieve amazing
things if they go for it yeah I agree I
think one of the most important things
in human learning is learning from from
an example right role models right and I
think we definitely need need more good
role models and
preying on I have the story you know
that they always tell you it was was
traveling by train maybe 10 years ago
and Ukraine had this one babushka
telling to me that you know if you were
a member of parliament you you would be
corrupt as well you know what kind of
her all of her you know fifty years of
knowledge and wisdom and sure really
speaking from authority and I was like
really and it struck me that that’s a
worldview that many people sharing these
post-soviet countries that you know to
be successfully have to be corrupt
because they’re role models were corrupt
members of you know village councils
member members of parliament sure the
corrupt President Yanukovych the kreb
judges the corrupt police and they were
looking in those folks ok these folks
can do whatever they want they have
expensive cars that is success right
right and what we need in Ukraine also
in Russia and Belarus
we need new role models and I believe
entrepreneurs could be those models but
not only which will basically show you
that to be successful you’re gonna you
know be get a good education like learn
hard and then work hard and then you’ll
be successful and create something
valuable for the world so I think the
more Ukrainian entrepreneurs can succeed
the batter will be for the whole country
and that’s that’s why I want you know
Ukraine to have hundreds of companies
like pay cube and and bigger and better
yeah and I think it is important to go
after global markets to set a goal to
become a leader in one of the industries
and to basically go to that goal and
never give up because you’re actually
going for something bigger than just
your personal success and success of
people who are doing this with you
bigger than just creating great product
for you can see
as you’re going for you know becoming a
role model for the whole nation example
of the good the right way to do to be
successful and and to do something great
and it is also again important as we
said from from like national defense
standpoint the more interconnected you
are with global economy Brahe the more
world cares about you
you know when Paris and when Paris had
those attacks at Charlie Hebdo mm-hmm
everyone was like Jess you surely Abdo
rate was was management like this
manifests around the world right when
something like terrorist attacks happen
somewhere in Libya why doesn’t work but
here’s this much right because everybody
here’s my theory with that everybody
knows something good about France and
Paris exactly I know that my fault our
they know they understand everything and
so you take a country like Ukraine and
it’s one of these countries in the world
you know that only the bad information
gets out that’s the only export is bad
it’s it’s post su post-soviet dirty
politics its corruption it’s bad
economics it’s bad governance mail-order
brides yeah and those are the messages
right so when hits the international
news and then now in Ukraine is in the
sentence it’s surrounded by negativity
and that’s what everyone sees and I see
this all the time but like to put it in
context a Ukrainian thinking about
Colombia it’s usually a negative thing
right if you say Colombia think it’s a
drug ridden yeah dangerous yeah this and
that and Colombia’s made huge strides in
the last ten years it’s been a lot of
time there are like every country
African countries like Zimbabwe that’s
you can hear at the new friend someone
would be talking like well this is legs
and Bob with something like right it’s
just wrong it’s the information you ever
been to that country yeah I went to
Africa last
bigger GDP than Ukraine like but right I
went to your your a trail last year
small country to Ethiopia and everyone’s
like be careful it’s gonna be dangerous
uh-huh this is one of the safest
countries on the planet huh right so
it’s just the lack of information right
but that’s the beauty with the way doing
these things guys like you speaking
about your story when you go to down
Market Street to little or tenderloin do
you feel as safe isn’t Kiev I don’t
think so way no there are less crazy
people in Kiev I don’t know if they
remove them I don’t know what happens
yeah but in San Francisco is much more
dangerous nobody believes me and Keith
just coming back straight up it’s way
more dangerous people in San Francisco
they don’t go to Bayview have you been
there
baby you it’s not that far it’s over
here doctors point baby yeah yeah I’ve
been there that’s a nice place but
people there are it’s gonna walk around
at night and I don’t see you feel that
comfortable right well but the guy with
the knife isn’t that maybe not right a
friend of mine was it was marked with
with with a gun I’m just like a year ago
here in the mission that’s crazy
I mean it’s hit and miss in the US I
think like 80% of crimes take place in
five percent of the zip codes something
like that I grew up in a home where we
did not lock the door ever we had no
keys for the door okay but you wouldn’t
want to be around here like that so it
just depends where you’re at right but
if I’m gonna compare cities okay I know
there’s some so-called bad neighborhoods
free Hashanah which I didn’t think was
that bad just from my impressions of
walking around things can happen
everywhere for sure yeah but it’s prizes
the hell out of me that that City is as
safe as it is despite all that like look
at the history the recent history huh
it was part of the Soviet Union not long
ago look how much change has taken place
and the fact that it did that’s stable
and I come
down a street and go into a park and
just chill out and everyone’s doing the
same thing
it’s pretty amazing and remarkable it’s
not Latin America where you get a knife
for you I mean that’s very being very
bumpy and generalistic here but like go
to go to San Paulo in compare it’s not
even comparison Ramona Sade’s or Lima
Peru these are proper dangerous places
Ukraine is not one of them
okay there’s skirmish in the in the Far
East that’s taking up a very small
percentage of the continent but overall
the country is super stable and I think
for foreigners when they first get there
it’s more intimidating than the actual
reality like there’s the you know the
guys in the full black coat like me
right now right but like full leather
head-to-toe you know that that stone
face and that you know people are not
smiling bit much and you’re crying
that’s one of the things right I’d love
to change that actually so like it that
I like I like the authenticity of the
place where like nobody gives you a you
earn your smiles
you only get a smile if it’s a hundred
percent meant ya know like I think that
there is a graduation oh if you’re if
you’re like buying something in the
store and like like they’re pissed off
you bought something so that’s that’s
not cool but not at all that that
blatant rudeness sucks like that there’s
no space for that hey this you know
that’s your perspective come from
California a lot of authenticity here
many many people from Ukraine what I
hear like all these Americans are like
always smiling you derive they like you
or not this is fake and so when I was
coming here that that was what I have
what I heard and when I lived here for a
while I understood it’s not fake it is
it is just a kind of culture that people
are generally positive and trying to
create this certainly positive
environment which you’re welcoming and
so on and it’s actually nice and it you
know there’s this research that if you
hold a pencil
in your teeth you make your muscles kind
of smile
yeah and that it actually changes
something in your brain and you become
happier because of that so it works both
ways you might be smiling because you’re
happy but you also might become happy
because you start smiling when you smell
that the world the world smiles back
that’s basically work from one jazz song
which you you okay that’s another thing
I want to talk about you love it’s not
swing dancing you’re doing what kind of
do it is way man it is swing dance yeah
but you said you took that up here right
what I’m doing is called Windy hop and
then yes that kind of the most popular
kind of swing dancing there is also this
thing called West Coast Swing which is
different okay awesome dancing Lindy Hop
yeah so is that like you’re you’re
obviously you’re gonna start up so
you’re working your face off so that is
that’s your outlet right yeah pretty
much
dancing is maybe one of the single best
decisions I’ve made in my life
why beginning to dance why it just made
me a much better person on so many
levels and it is just one of the most
fun activities I can think of I start
dancing in Kiev actually yeah but eight
years ago there’s there’s great dancing
community in Kiev and all around Europe
and then you actually get to travel to
different like dancing events around
Europe one of the biggest conventions is
in Sweden and when I came here obviously
I was like well this is almost like
American national dance and Lindy Hop
so I can easily you can plug in almost
in any big city of the world that’s a
good that’s good advice actually Sophie
Ukrainian or someone from abroad moving
to the states it’s like figure out that
niche what what your passion is and then
get into that stuff like if you
passionate above you know any kind of
sports yeah play with local folks that
you know football or basketball there’s
everything reacting yes surfing hiking
biking whatever you want
so dancing is taught I mean okay so it
it takes off that social element of life
like it’s social obviously FaceTime with
people you think like I’m an engineer so
from from an engineering standpoint
dancing is a very efficient activity
because and like those couple hours that
you dance you actually do a number of
things at the same time so this is a
physical exercise this is your social
time meeting new people this is a time
to learn something about yourself and
your body and then self control this is
this is a way to make art this is your
artistic manifestation every dance you
do is an act of art yeah and it’s also I
think for for any engineer it’s good
because that helps them to become less
socially awkward it’s kind of a cliche
that engineers are socially awkward but
there is some truth to that like we
can’t have everything
no human everything right I don’t
believe you can terrible you do believe
you can you know there is this concept
of there renessa a renaissance man
sure that means you as a Renaissance man
of course that can do everything and I
like that’s okay you can go everything
but you can’t do everything well I
cannot engineering well and be okay
here’s the caveat and be happy with my
life because it’s just not what I’m
interested in if you have to sit me down
to complex mathematics
not enjoying myself yeah maybe you
didn’t have a great teacher but you know
the problem I think the problem with
education and it’s changing a lot but in
my education it was just it was just a
procedural process and there was no
there was no hands-on element to it
there’s algebra in this room and I never
could apply I need I I didn’t understand
how it applied to my life but also like
if I can’t tangibly connect something
mm-hmm with it’s not there has to be
used like I can’t wrote memorize it
language I have to like connect it with
something and I can remember when so
it’s just the learning stuff I think
they’ll like the learning system all
around the world is so broken
it’s like yeah the thing I’m most
passionate about like after petcube I
would really like to go and do something
in learning and education I think
there’s so much opportunity for
innovation that space really so
interesting after Peck there will be an
after Peck here then was that there will
be an after Peck you well I hope so yeah
it’s but why education would you feel
like well let you speak for yourself why
would you pick that I think if you if
you I mean I I got this idea when I was
probably like 16 and I was it’s kind of
always really interested and how to make
like the country better
Ukraine better
and then I started participating some
conferences around the world and I like
doing some NGO stuff those kind of that
worldview can expand it to the world
like how do you make this world a better
place and you can’t really make one
piece of it better it’s like it’s like
it’s like it’s one all interconnected
thing it’s like healing your finger
hoping to heal all of your body you
cannot do that
so like the most efficient thing what is
the most efficient activity if you want
to make world a better place and it’s
not a figured that education is probably
that because if you improve this
education like what what everyone like
does to learn or I should say learning
because education is institutionalized
learning is not institutionalized it’s
it’s a deeper concept and if you can
improve how people learn you basically
improve all the areas you improve
science you improve medicine you improve
human rights you improve how democracies
work democracies cannot work in in
societies that that have bad education
and when that happens actually we see
things that some might might call is
failing democracies you know kind of
democratic but results in choosing
corrupt leaders or crazy things so I
think that’s why learning is the most
the most important thing we should do
and it is also so broken I just feel I
just see so many opportunities like it
hasn’t changed for centuries for
centuries like the fact that we
transported the textbook from like from
from like the walls of the cave to like
two paper and then to electronic medium
it’s not innovation just like medium
change and yeah and especially with like
artificial intelligence getting more
advanced and taking over many jobs I’m
sure
like not like trying to scare anyone
with this dystopian future but it’s like
given that cars will be driven by robots
with within the next like five to ten
years it’s like a no-brainer right and
many other jobs like translators all
those things so we’ll have huge
population that will need to relearn
learn new skills and how do you do that
efficiently how do you you know you know
these billions of people around the
world with smartphones in their pocket
with access to their all the world’s
information and that are playing candy
crush saga in silence instead right
they’re like playing those dumped games
there may be like making $10 escapism
you want to escape the world you’re in
right but then I believe there are ways
to do engineer those experiences in the
way that people also learn and improve
and maybe earn more money and and then
kind of move up away from this poverty
into into a better society I mean you’re
an educated guy did you go to public
school thank you
I don’t okay any went to university
there one two key of polytechnics
that’s one of the best technical
university in Ukraine so even though
you’ve been here almost six years you
your country stays strongly burning
within and you would love to go back and
have a purpose in regards to education
and yeah well I I think I you know those
are different things that are not
necessarily interconnected okay well my
country is definitely something that’s
within my heart and will always be there
because you know it’s you cannot forget
your mother or whatever that’s not say
I’m not feeling in a way patriotic about
the United States because this is a
great country love it and I really
wanted to be you know a great place and
then you know things I’m thinking about
in terms of education also they’re not
necessarily to prove that a key
in Ukraine there to improve education
everywhere sure and in Ukraine included
and then the third part of it
am I going back well yes but not because
I want to do something in education or
because it burns in my heart because
just I just love that place you will go
back to Ukraine I’m going back and forth
I don’t think there is like one kind of
home yeah like the meaning of home is
becoming blurred I can completely relate
at this you know what it makes it makes
many people uncomfortable when you can’t
give them exact timelines because we’re
so conditioned to know when there’s a
beginning and an end with everything
right so it’s like so when do you leave
how long you staying new credit I don’t
know no I’d be there for a while I
really like it I feel like I’m just
getting started there but where are you
settling down I don’t think it really
matters you know what I mean like if you
have what matters is what’s inside of
you right and it does the actual
physical place is not as important it’s
becoming less and less important because
if your economics aren’t tied to it
right yeah and I have a great tribe of
people in San Francisco it’s great
hanging out with it I’ve loved it and
then I’m going back to Kiev
I’m having a party Saturday night bunch
of people over seeing my girlfriend
seeing great friends and it’s like
that’s great too and it’s I don’t really
identify with the geography as much it’s
just like the people I have in these
places right it’s just new concepts
people need to internalize like right
now because there is no need to have one
class with you there’s no stability in
it right there’s no stability in like in
a specific place in a job in a marriage
if you look statistically can’t have
stability but you actually lose if you
choose stability in London world you
lose you want to be flexible to be on
the winning side exactly just I don’t
mean I don’t mean there’s okay let me
rephrase that these institutions that we
were conditioned to believe was being
stable yeah might be and they might not
be there’s no there’s no direct
correlation
actually I mean if you look more than
half people get divorced here so does
that mean marriage is secure no it
doesn’t actually
doesn’t mean your marriage isn’t gonna
be secure mine isn’t gonna be secure
right but yeah right friends
statistically is not and I think the
more the world like you said you need to
reinvent yourself and change with the
times the more you can keep your toes
light above the earth more you can
follow this opportunity yes now in pivot
and alter and you know go whatever path
you need to go down is enough I think
about you know some of the life choices
I’ve made and I’m making I’m not always
choosing almost always choosing
flexibility instead of stability right
and that’s I think that’s also kind of
pretty foreign concept for for people
living under a lot of stress and not to
say I’m not living under a lot of stress
it’s different in my in my own way yeah
if it’s existential stress it is very
different so if you’re not sure if
you’re you know your bottom of your
masla pyramid is not filled yeah not
sure but where are you gonna sleep what
are you gonna eat those people really
strive for stability sure but once you
have that you actually begin striving
for for flexibility and different
options and being able to react to
changing environment in the upper upper
part of that pyramid self-realization
yeah I bet yeah cool
you’re a Slav it’s been very cool
talking with you yeah you’re an
inspiration
you’re like an inspirational just
character in general doesn’t matter if
you’re Ukrainian American or whatever
like what you’ve done is quite cool and
your outlook on life and you’d look I
mean you’ve aged quite well I’ve no idea
your age actually how old are you 29 29
you’ve done an insane amount and I feel
like you’re just getting started so
congrats yep thanks for that I was great
conversation
right thank you thank you see see on cue

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