Two-time winner of the Oxford Russia Fund scholarship. Previously, Vitaly Alexandrov was the CEO and founder of the international CRM marketing agency Out of Cloud that provides consumer data analysis and helps companies build personalized marketing. The agency’s clients include Puma, Panasonic, Nikon, Alfa-Bank, and Pfizer. The agency won the Best Use of eCRM category at Russia’s Tagline Awards in 2017 and Best Use of Analytics in Loyalty Programs at Loyalty Awards in 2018. At 27, Vitaliy wrote the Email Marketing Strategy book that was a bestseller at Ozon, Russia’s Amazon analog.
In 2019, together with partners, Vitaliy launched the Foody startup to optimize the restaurant procurement process in the U.S. Three months later, Foody was showing a monthly growth of 20%. In 2021, the startup pivoted and launched San Francisco’s first 15-minute grocery delivery service called Food Rocket. Food Rocket raised $2M from investors such as Altair Capital and Baring Vostok funds and several business angels.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Vitaly Alexandrov: I’m the founder & CEO of Food Rocket – the startup that provides the fastest grocery delivery in California. In 2019, together with partners, I launched Foody – a startup that optimized the procurement process for restaurants. Three months later, Foody was showing a monthly growth of 20%. In 2021, due to the pandemic, I was forced to pivot it and launch Food Rocket.
Earlier, I founded the international CRM marketing agency Out of Cloud that provides consumer data analysis and helps companies build personalized marketing. The agency’s clients include Puma, Panasonic, Nikon, and Pfizer. The agency won the Best Use of eCRM category at Russia’s Tagline Awards in 2017 and Best Use of Analytics in Loyalty Programs at Loyalty Awards in 2018.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Vitaly Alexandrov: Entrepreneurship is not a job, but rather a calling. Throughout the day, I both manage the team’s operations and plan for the future. Although we work 16-18 hours a day, there’s no burnout. Because entrepreneurship is a calling, not a profession. I don’t like the word “vacation” because I do what I like and I don’t feel like I need a vacation from it.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Vitaly Alexandrov: I’m a problem solver. I always say to myself: “Try to solve just the hard problems. The rest will be solved by others.”
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Vitaly Alexandrov: Over the last few years, I founded several startups in Silicon Valley, and they were always food-related companies. For example, my first company Foodcast helped retailers predict future sales and decrease food waste. We then created Foody Foody, a platform where restaurants could find all their suppliers in one place and place orders through a mobile app. Its AI engine and inventory auto-ordering software have proven to decrease food waste by 25% and increased the gross margin by 3%.
As soon as the pandemic began, the restaurants were shut down and we had to decide what to do next. We chose to make a pivot. The pandemic created a new consumer need for fast and safe on-demand grocery delivery, and the U.S. market has great potential in this area. As a result, Food Rocket became California’s fastest grocery delivery company. Food Rocket delivers groceries within 10-15 min after the order is placed. Exactly what people need.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Vitaly Alexandrov: Of course, the right team and partners are very important when you start a business, but I would say that the right idea is the most important thing. Another thing is that entrepreneurs must believe in what they do and have the will to persevere. They have to move from “I want” to “I do,” all the while believing that they are taking the right path. To move on this path successfully, you need a will.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Vitaly Alexandrov: Of course. It was choosing the right team, which happens to entrepreneurs often. We are inclined to trust each other and to believe other people just because. You often count on people but things happen. But I would say that to stop making mistakes you first have to make mistakes constantly. It’s best to test 10 hypotheses and end up being wrong than to do something for a long time and fail to launch it because it was an unworkable idea.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Vitaly Alexandrov: Do what you do and things will happen as they must. What I mean is that entrepreneurship is full of trial and error. And three things are essential to any entrepreneur: the will to persevere, the will to overcome, and the will to win.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Vitaly Alexandrov: The worst advice is the one you don’t receive, and by that, I mean the advisers who join startups. It happens sometimes that an entrepreneur gives an adviser a share option and expects them to help, but no help is forthcoming.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Vitaly Alexandrov: The world has changed as a whole, and so did the consumption scripts. People had certain patterns before the pandemic, such as shopping in a supermarket once a week. The lockdown engendered the development of online services that have remained with us post-pandemic. This is why entrepreneurs must be flexible to adapt themselves to the environment. There is one thing, however, that hasn’t changed. People still have needs: it’s just that these days they look online for ways to satisfy them.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Vitaly Alexandrov: I think a lot of people have certain inflated expectations of investments finding them on their own. When you achieve a certain result, you achieve it because you worked a lot. To receive $100 million, you have to travel a long way. In this sense, there are no miracles, you’ll have to make moves, whether a few or a few hundred. But some entrepreneurs think that as soon as they start doing something, they’ll automatically get investments and achieve success. I want them to look at Elon Musk: he’s dreamt of going to Mars, and he spent 10 years working on that. You must always make allowances for the road you’ll have to travel to achieve what you want.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Vitaly Alexandrov: As I said earlier, the three key aspects of a good entrepreneur are the right idea, their steadfast faith in it, and the strong will to keep moving.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Vitaly Alexandrov: I believe that the best help the founders can get is within the community. It’s best to talk to people who are just like you and to understand how other entrepreneurs solve similar problems. Community support is the easiest way forward.
Speaking of books, I would recommend Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership by James Kerr. There are different types of team management. For us, the athletic style seems to be the best. Startups are a team, so it’s important to learn who a team operates.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Vitaly Alexandrov: I had always wanted to change the world, and for me, there’s nothing better than being an entrepreneur.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Vitaly Alexandrov: A composite portrait of Homo Sapiens, because we are all a part of each other.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Vitaly Alexandrov 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 Vitaly Alexandrov or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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