Ivan Shishalov, the director of the LLC “Remote Control Systems”, answers the questions of VentureVolga.com
Probably, there is no better known and «developed» Nizhny Novgorod startup than the «Forest Watch»: news are constantly emerging in the media — the President Medvedev has praised the authors of the project; the technology was introduced in the particular regions or even in the neighboring countries, and then that the «Forest Watch» has become one of «Skolkovo» residents. Their information transparency is unprecedented and to verify this, just type in a search engine two words — «Forest watch».
- Ivan Sergeyevich, the information policy of your company (first of all I mean your information transparency) is very different from the strategy that the majority of Russian startupers demonstrate: “Don’t say anything to anybody”; “All venture investors are technological spies”; “It is early to talk about the project in the media while it’s still in the development”; “I do not want to share, everything will do by myself” etc. How do you estimate such close approach to business?
- We have never been afraid to disclose our ideas. In fact, among all the people whom you can say something is more of those who would use this information and bring you and your project the benefits. Yes, probably, there are those who would take advantage of your plans, but the plans of a beginning start-up company change very quickly — much faster than anyone would use this information. Also, if you have high-tech business, sometimes you don’t really know what you are doing. (Laughs.) To be more exact, you know it, but you can not properly explain it, so it will take a lot of time to figure out.
More than that, there is a thing in Russia as competition fear. We were told that there are special companies who can help, for example, the government organizations to submit
announcement of the competition, so that no one else wouldn’t find them.
- Can we consider your information transparency as one of the reasons for your commercial success?
I believe so. I will say it again, it is important to remember that in the world is much more people who can bring you the benefits that seems at first glance, and you have never known where you will meet. And even if anyone can hurt you, the benefits from other people will be by an order of magnitude greater. We have to live positively! We are in this sense simpler, we believe that we are doing a good thing, we are open to a dialogue with a customer, and are not afraid, if the customer would know about our competitors (we, actually, tell about them ). We have honestly developed our system and we believe that we are doing it well. If someone wants to say that it should be done differently, we are ready to talk about it.
- Speaking of systems: tell us about the “Forest Watch” project — who came up with the idea, how have you started it, how have you got in the Nizhny Novgorod Innovation Business Incubator?
This is a very interesting story. I was engaged in a DorogaTV project, and this project had already been a resident of Nizhny Novgorod Innovation Business Incubator, and we were invited to a meeting with the top managers of the Forestry Department of the Nizhny Novgorod Region. That was in 2008. There we were told that there is a problem, as forest fires, and they have to be discovered in time.
Frankly speaking, we have seen nothing special about this. We’ve decided to hang the camera on the tower and watch it. We did it with the first customer, Urensky Forestry of the Nizhny Novgorod region. And it turned out that to work with it, you need a software, and there were nobody who would able to expalin the requirements for this software.
Then we’ve decided to do business of it, which will be based on two concepts: the scientific and technological innovative solutions based on intelligent management of video cameras and data processing, and the business model
which allows in real-time to upgrade and develop the system. And this was our idea and somewhere at the end of 2009 we had launched our startup.
- It’s not a secret that a turning point of the project was a meeting with Dmitry Medvedev …
We had participated in Zvorykinsky project, the information about our startup was on their website . And when time for their annual event, “Seliger” came up, we were asked to participate in it. And after that we were offered to participate in a meeting with the President and think about interesting question we could ask him.
And we’ve decided that it makes no sense to ask someone to bought something, or to make a big order. It would be better to tell about the project, and what problems arise during the project implementation. And what could be done, not in order to help us live well and to get a lot of money, but that more people and organizations would think about this issue, and then we, as a good product developers, will find our place. That’s what we did and got a certain result — we had a real opportunity to apply directly to the heads of the communication companies (telecom operators).
By the way, it was a youth «Seliger» session, and only one of our experts Ivan Esin (he works with us almost since the beginning of the project, since the student days) was at the correct age, and he was awarded the honor to talk with Dmitry Medvedev.
- Did this resonance led to the fact that Belorussia (forest land) show up its interest to your project?
Concerning Belarussia, it is too early to say anything while we are still at the stage of negotiations, but one thing we can say with confident: due to our developments the system in Belarussia would certainly be better than if we didn’t exist. And what system would it be is another question.
- How did you get to the «Skolkovo?»
Talking about «Skolkovo», it is an interesting situation, because you can not get there using “good connections”. There is a definite procedure that is associated with the preparation and filing of the application, after that it is analyzed by experts who are chosen randomly from the list. You apply and wait for the results. We have applied and have received quite high ratings, and we have passed, then the formal procedure with documents, and in some time you are a resident. But once you have entered, it depends on you, how you can use those resources that are available to you.
- At what stage is your project right now, what are your plans for its implementation in the near future?
Our project is always in a stage of developing and upgrading, the more we work, the more difference between what is needed to be develop, and what we have done. (Laughs.) Now we have some ideas for five or six patents, but for now there are difficulties with their writing (perhaps a special «Skolkovo» structure will help us with this.)
Our systems have been already used in many regions of Russia, and we are glad that the competition is beginning to appear. Now we actively start to enter to the markets of other countries, and looking for someone who could assist in this. We have a
desire to the end of this year to launch the test projects not only in neighboring countries.
- What benefits does an innovator get, when openly declare about his project, participating in competitions for grants, seeking for contacts with investors?
We are a small innovative company, we don’t have “good connections”. Our company does not possess any buildings and cars. Our company has only team that creating the technology and trying to sell it.
But there’s something more: it is an attitude to your project of other people, experts, potential customers, and just people. And we understand that without this attitude,it will be very difficult for us, because we are starting from scratch. It is very important to understand. Because this attitude will be formed regardless whether you like it or not. The only right way is your direct involvement in this process and willingness to talk about what you are doing.
You know, that the only thing do not make up anything is to tell the truth, because it does not need to be make up. But if you hide something, there will be a variety of solutions out there concerning what is going on with your project.
- What would you, as a successful innovator, advise to beginning startupers?
I must say that I do not think that we are such the experts. And I do not really understand when people sincerely think they are. Certain stages in the company and product formation we have passed, but much is yet to come. It is not the fact that what we do, we’re doing right — you need to be self-critical and always strive for higher standards. But if we start from a simple criterion that «we exist now, so that in the past, we did everything right,” then we can suggest something.
Thus, the first tip: treat life easier. If you want to do something, do, if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. My full conviction: to make a person to do something is impossible. You can force to do a physical work, but you can’t force to think.
The second tip: the main thing that you must learn is to to persuade yourself that what you are doing, you are doing right! If you are sure, you will be able persuade others, and as well like nobody in this world does not know what is right and what is not, what you are doing will be the right thing.
The third tip: don’t wait, it is a great time to launch startups in Russia. You will certainly have problems with the demand for them, but from project launching prior to the formation of the real demand, time should pass. But to start now you have already had everything. If you have an idea and at least a supporter, it’s time to start. Attract money and start working, for example, in Nizhny Novgorod, is not a problem.
The fourth tip: the main thing is to be honest and open with everyone — with the team, with an investor, customer, with the media — even if in the short term it will cause disadvantages. Honesty is the best policy.