Kirill Kaliniuk, co-founder of Clubeeo.com: Entrepreneurial journey
After completing his Master’s degree in management and foreign trade, Kirill spent 19 months as a project manager for QED Consulting.
He left this position to co-found WillSell, where he created outsourcing call centers for clients in the U.S. and Indian markets.
He and his two co-founders are working on a new Web3 CRM startup, Clubeeo.
How the Past Shaped the Future
Kirill’s love for computers and passion for innovation was instilled in him from a very young age.
His father was a computer technician on a Crimean research ship, so technology has been integral to his life since birth.
Kirill Kaliniuk fondly recalls his father teaching the family how to use personal computers in the early 90s. He vividly remembers his obsession with the games he could play.
In later years, his life took a somewhat different track. Still, he eventually circled back to his love for technology when he founded his first company in 2010.
From Cell Towers to Web3 – Twelve Years of Entrepreneurship
Kirill’s 12-year entrepreneurial journey has been full of successes, setbacks and essential lessons. However, he has remained agile, willing to work hard, and excited about the future.
In 2010, he began with a business that handled logistics and customs for cellphone towers. From there, he moved on to other small projects that met with mixed success. By 2015, Kirill had completed his first call center for Microsoft as a part of QED Consulting.
This propelled him into a series of primarily short-term collaborations with startups from the Internet Initiatives Development Fund (IIDF), a well-known Russian VC fund. A few of his notable projects include working with Admitad and the edtech company YaKlass.
As with all entrepreneurial ventures, not everything panned out well for Kirill and his teams. While most of his projects were profitable, there were times when even the profitable ventures were unsustainable. This is part of what makes entrepreneurship such a stressful yet exciting career path.
For example, when he and a partner opened their outsourcing call center, they shut it down after two years despite turning a profit. The project was simply too energy-intensive and dependent on unpredictable factors, so Kirill knew it would become a problem later on.
Most recently, he and three partners, Andrey Ilingin, Maxim Mostovoi and Roman Ekzempliarov, opened a C-corp in Delaware to found the startup Rifgo. Even though the company received $200 million in investments and a $1.5 million valuation just off the pitch deck, the referral service startup was another example of a good idea that didn’t pan out quite as hoped.
Kirill and his partners faced serious hurdles despite investors’ excitement, including a need to hone their English language skills and an unpredictable customer base.
“Customers say you’re awesome but then don’t answer the phone. There’s one rise per 10 falls,” Kirill explained.
In addition, the Ukraine-Russia conflict disrupted the next investment round, and many of the team members and customers were forced to relocate with their families for safety. A perfect storm of setbacks led Kirill, Andrey and Roman to pull away from Rifgo and begin their newest venture, Clubeeo.
In Kirill’s words, “We had to make a decision to move on. Our options were to suffer [with a failing business] or to play [by striking out with a new plan of action]. Of course, we chose to play!”
More About the Clubeeo Mission
Clubeeo.com is a customer relationship management platform (CRM) for Web3 communities. Andrey, Roman and Kirill have become completely enamored with the Web3 technology market. They believe it is ripe with exciting possibilities.
Kirill points out how the Web3 market is so different from other markets because its entire premise is valuing open and transparent communication and embracing a community. Clubeeo aims to provide an essential set of tools Web3 communities can use to generate value within themselves.
According to Kirill, the Clubeeo mission has always been “to build modern types of organizations based on the principles of transparency, globality and interoperability.”
3 Valuable Lessons Learned From Entrepreneurship
1. Orient your startup around the client.
Initially, Kirill’s startups focused on one-week sprints that culminated in new data from which the business plan could be refined.
However, this was wrong. Instead, Kirill says he found success once he realized that client feedback is the only orientation point that makes a difference.
Find a way to get fast, personal feedback from clients, and use that to better your company.
2. Build the right team.
A project can’t succeed if it’s not fun. Even when things are tight or stressful, if interesting, fun, strong people surround you, you’re much less likely to burn out. If you can’t have fun, your startup will end up in the Valley of Death.
Hire strong, joyful, unique individuals who resonate with your company’s goals.
3. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.
Some people can live happily as an employee, and that’s wonderful. However, energy and enthusiasm can be a liability for some employees.
Kirill notes that it was always difficult for him to work for someone else because he felt unable to reach his full potential despite his loyalty and passion.
Entrepreneurship offers the right kind of person a way to channel their energy and enthusiasm into something bigger than making money for someone else.
Kirill’s 5 Keys to Founding a Robust Startup
- 1. Choose your partners carefully.
- 2. Remember that the goal of client communication is gaining helpful insight. Ask specific questions with quantifiable answers.
- 3. Be sure you have a strong passport.
- 4. Address challenges early and directly before they become irreversible.
- 5. Take the plunge, even if you feel afraid!
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