On the lighter side of things, we ask an industry expert what makes them tick.
Kirill Nikolaev, Board Member at VIMANA Global and Founder of BITCOIN VIP, gives us an insight into his life in and outside of work.
- What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
In 2002, I decided to start my own business opening a data-mining company in Russia- today data-mining permeates just about every organisation and I would argue that it is the business model for several social media platforms. But as you can imagine, back in 2002, in the days before Facebook and Twitter, it was quite a revolutionary idea.
It was an enriching experience and I learned lessons that I will forever cherish. We built up a client base of over 250 major companies and were doing very well but for personal reasons, I decided to sell the company. Starting in 2008, I began the process. It took me about four years to come to mutually agreeable terms with a buyer and I sold the company in 2012.
That for me has been my most memorable achievement- not just starting a company, but building it up, being successful AND being able to walk away on my terms.
- What first made you think of a career in technology?
I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug but the decision to focus on technology probably has a lot to do with my first computer, back in 1993.
Not long after the internet went commercial in about 1995 to 1996, people were trying to understand how to leverage the internet for online marketing, how to set up a website, etc. Using my computer and just a dial-up modem, I started working with other technology enthusiasts not only in Russia, but across the globe, on doing just this I realised that not only was it really enjoyable but there was also money to be made!
- What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I’ve managed people for about 25 years now and over the years my management style has evolved. Some of it due to my own growth as a manager and a lot of it due to the fact that we are in the age of borderless organisations, where the people you manage aren’t always located in the same physical office or even on the same continent!
I am a results focused individual and that is reflected in my management style – at the start of the year or start of a project, I like to sit down with all stakeholders and make sure we are all on the same page regarding what success looks like (KPIs), and how we get there (action plan). Once we have that in place, and all are in agreement, I leave it up to the individual stakeholders to get the job done.
- What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
I think the new buzzwords are AI and Blockchain. As a technology entrepreneur, my personal focus is on the usage of blockchain architecture in different areas. I am the founder of Bitcoin VIP, a crypto assets global distribution service for institutions and trading professionals, and I serve on the advisory board of several other blockchain based ventures including: VIMANA Global – Blockchain Urban Airspace, STASIS – Stable coin for Governments, DeNet – decentralised data storage and hosting and BasisNeuro – marketplace for neuro-tech.
- How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
No matter how busy I am or how much traveling I do, I always put my health and wellbeing first. As a matter of lifestyle, I try to limit the amount of coffee I consume, drink more water, do yoga in the morning, walk as much as I can, get a lot of fresh air and most importantly, get a good night’s sleep.
I also try and spend as much time as I can with my family.
- If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
I really can’t think of any decision that I would change. I am not saying that every business decision I have made has been the right one, but rather than kick myself for the bad decisions, I’ve made it a point to understand what I did wrong, learn from it and then apply that to the next time I am faced with a similar situation.
- What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
AI and Blockchain will be areas of major investment in the next three to five years.
Government and enterprises in the Middle East are really on the forefront when it comes to harnessing the potential of the latest technologies. Between the continued push towards smart cities, initiatives like the Dubai Future Accelerators and investment in autonomous vehicles, I believe blockchain will be a mainstream technology in enterprises across the region, particularly in the government and transportation sector.
- What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in the Middle East?
Just from my experience in the region with VIMANA, the biggest challenge is unpredictability in terms of execution timelines. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the market is still maturing and not as open as in the west, in terms of setting up a business, bringing people on board, etc.
- What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
As a business owner as well as in an advisory capacity, my role is twofold – not only do I help organisations and people implement new technology but taking a step back, I help them identify the right technology investments that will give them a good return.
Given the number of opportunities for investment, particularly in the tech space, I have seen an upsurge in organisations and people turning to folks like myself for advice.
- What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
I’d advise any aspiring C-level executive to make sure they are really passionate about what it is they are doing rather than treating it like just another job. That is the key to success, I believe.
Also, don’t forget about yourself- we spend too much time focusing on work and not enough focusing on personal development and the people we care about. You need to set aside time for yourself and your family, to relax and recharge your batteries. Plan a holiday, not just once a year, but once ever quarter – even if it is as simple as a staycation.