Dimitri Kouchnirenko is a seasoned entrepreneur, co-Founder of two global fintech platforms that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in funding turnover and attracted world-class investors such as Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital.
Throughout his executive and entrepreneurial career, Dimitri has successfully launched multiple new brands and projects that later on transformed into multi-million dollar businesses.
Today Dimitri is managing his own Marketing and Consulting Agency Rednet Global.
Rednet provides a large array of solutions for companies to grow their B2B lead generation and sales, including online campaigns, organic traffic generation and direct digital sales with the Linkedin platform.
Co-author of “The Rocket Startup” book, providing a guide to success for entrepreneurs, Dimitri is also advising startups with various incubators and appears regularly in major business media on entrepreneurial and tech aspects.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: My father was a Russian diplomat and ever since a young age, I have been living in different parts of the world, starting in Africa. My family finally settled in France, where I received my higher education and started working. Coming from the Soviet Union with a modest background, settling in a totally new Western world environment was hard for us both culturally and financially. It made me realize the importance of being independent, adaptable, and self-reliant in whatever circumstance.
Since then I got interested in entrepreneurship, to have something of my own, and went to Business school. I walked a corporate path after graduation while trying (and failing) different business projects in parallel. Until one day I decided to cut all ties with the corporate world and fully dedicate myself to my new company. This decision was triggered by a sudden realization that I was at a dead-end in my employment and that I could do so much more, be much more independent. It was in 2016. This is when I co-founded Incomlend and quit my banker position.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: Hard times are an integral part of an entrepreneur’s journey, and in fact, I can’t remember times when it was actually easy. For me, one of the hardest times was the very beginning, 2016. I was still employed, while in parallel trying to raise funds and build the foundations for my company which I already co-founded. We had so many rejections, people not willing to invest or believe in us, there was also the overwhelming work, tensions between partners.
At some point, I really considered giving up. I was scared this was not going to work, scared to lose the comfort of my job. But there was always that little voice that reminded me why I was doing all this, the bigger purpose, the vision of being my own independent man, able to make a significant impact and a difference in the world. So I kept going. Until one day we got our first seed investor and the rest is history.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: I would name the 3 most common mistakes entrepreneurs make especially in the early stages:
- Launching without testing: the fastest way to failure is to sell something people don’t want or need. Yet many of us think that our idea is the best and people must be interested in it. Well no. An idea of a new product/offer must be carefully evaluated, studied, and tested. It has to meet a real problem, it has to be a painful problem and a sizable one. And the solution must do something new, better, and different. It is always advisable, while confirming the market potential, to actually test the idea/product/offer with potential prospects. Their ideas and feedback could be very useful.
- Trying to make the perfect product: trying to create the perfect product/offer is a never-ending story. At some point, you need to launch and get it battle-tested. What you need are clients. The more time and resources you spend on the solution without client feedback, the bigger the failure will be when you launch. Remember, launch small, fail small. Get something basic out there and build it along the way.
- Being careless with the company’s equity: when founders start their company they often don’t realize how precious are the shares they hold in the company and how often they will have to raise funds. Each time you raise funds, you need to sell your shares. At some point, if you sell your shares too much and too quickly, you will be a minority shareholder in your own company and be stuck without any decision power. To avoid this situation, work carefully on your company valuation, plan carefully your dilution and your funding rounds.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: For me, resilience is the capacity to recognize the new situation and adapt quickly to it. Either companies are too complacent and refuse to recognize they need to change, or they know they need to adapt but are too slow to do it. It is simple really: whether you adapt, or you die.
Critical times are always an opportunity in disguise. I know a company that mostly relied on offline sales before the pandemic: they sold chocolate in a store. When the pandemic hit, they quickly realized that to survive they had to go online. They set up their online shop and now are generating more sales than before the pandemic. Vice versa, I know a company that was fully digital and did all their sales online: they sold online accounting services. With the covid they thought they were safe but didn’t realize there was a massive wave of new online competitors coming in. And they got hit,
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: Of course, all of them are critical and important. If I had to choose the one I would say Values. A dishonest company with a noble mission and an ambitious vision will do more harm than an honest company with a modest mission and vision.
Values are key and they must be spread across the organization: honesty, being of service both to the client and to the team, compassion, patience, hard work, passion.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: I would name the following three traits: faith, focus, client centricity.
Faith because it kept me going even when things seemed to fall apart. I believed in what I was doing and was certain it will create an impact.
Focus because it allowed to keep on track and deepen the expertise without getting distracted by other business ideas.
Client centricity because it allowed us to always make sure there is real added value in what we were selling.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: I believe a leader must be absolutely mindful of its own brand, as it has a direct impact on their company. A personal brand must serve the interests of the company first, before the leader’s own interests. Careful leaders will devise a personal brand that advances the company rather than eclipses it. Having a personal brand and presence in the media is especially important in the post-pandemic world gone online, with many voices competing for attention. It could be a powerful tool for making the company known and heard.
How would you define “leadership”?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: I would define Leadership as the ability to gather people behind a common goal and to inspire them to act. It implies deeply understanding and clearly conveying the vision, motivating people to deliver their best.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: I am convinced that entrepreneurship is something that we learn along the way. We become entrepreneurs because of the total sum of our experiences, our particular context, our entourage, our goals, and many other things. But while entrepreneurship can be learned, it takes a true deep desire to become one. Whether you become an entrepreneur or not, it will all boil down to one question: WHY? Once you answered it and decided to be an entrepreneur, you will be on your way.
However, learning about entrepreneurship is almost as important as wanting to be one: running a business is like driving a car, you need to learn the rules, techniques, mistakes to avoid, and practice before resuming operations. If you don’t know how to drive a car, you can injure people and yourself, this is exactly the same when running a business.
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Dimitri Kouchnirenko: “Good businesses generate missions to drive their profits. Great businesses generate profits to drive their missions.”—Tony Hsieh
In all of my business projects and decisions, I always want to make sure the company serves its greater purpose and delivers value to its target audience. This is the single best business argument you can ever have, whether you fundraise or sell to clients.
Esther Pinky Kiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Dimitri Kouchnirenko for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Dimitri Kouchnirenko or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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