Gagauzia forum. Irina Vlah

Where can one get under the slogan “Dementia and Courage”, how Voloshin ruined 20 business projects and why do mastodons die?

– I would like to introduce the speaker. There’s probably not much need to introduce Dima. He is the founder of Simpals – Dima Voloshin. He has a very provocative topic, I don’t know what he is going to say, but “Dementia and Courage” is a very complex topic. Dima, this is really interesting.

– Yeah, thank you. Guys, my sign should say “Dmitri Voloshin is a fan of Gagauzia”. I’m actually a fan of yours, I really like what’s going on here, what’s the movement. And I would like to talk today about how I see the development of the region, our country, and business in general. If you don’t know who I am, what I do – I am the founder of company Simpals, that owns most of leading sites in Moldova now, like,, stiri and 10 others. We are doing animation, we are making cool Moldovan cartoons that got more than 70 first places all over the world. We run the Chisinau Marathon, and we make world class products, such as Lobster, Sonr, which are also sold worldwide, these are sports gadgets. What you are directly familiar with is probably our latest development, Soft studii for schools, electronic diaries, which, thanks to Irina, are very well implemented in Gagauzia, thank you for using them and helping us do it. And now I want to tell you what happened in the 90’s, at the end of the 90’s, probably many of you started your business during this period. I stayed in Chisinau at that time, even though my parents went to Russia to live, and I stayed here to build my business, to build my career. And then my main slogan, with which I walked through life, was “Weakness and Courage”. I believed that in order to start a business, you just have to believe in it and do it, without thinking about what will happen, whether it will work or not. The main thing is to want to do it and to do it. I was like putting a bullet in a revolver and shooting myself in the temple, but nevertheless in the ’90s that principle worked. And probably many of you started out the same way, head over heels. And it worked, and the business still exists and grows. But I want to tell you that in 20 years out of 40 projects that I have now, 20 I have ruined, that is, by following this principle. And there were more and more of these projects until recently, when I realized that something had to change. Because these are new times, and the old principles don’t work. It’s the age of online, and there’s a lot of competition in the world right now. And what I want to talk about today is that it pains me very much to see the companies that were founded in the 90s die, the mastodons die. As you know, there’s a principle called “boiled frog”. If you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out, but if you boil it slowly, it won’t notice that the temperature is rising and will be boiled alive. So that’s what’s happening to big companies right now, in particular Muckler, who without noticing that new times are coming, new operating principles, new market rules are emerging, they’re just dying. And so today I want to talk about exactly that, what you actually have to do, so that you don’t boil over like that frog. I think that the principle that worked well in the ’90s, “Weakness and Courage” needs to be replaced now with “Awareness and Learning”. What is Awareness? Literally a year ago we in our company realized that we are working in the old way, and we need to change, we started to learn. And it started with the fact that we realized that there are 3 big levels that understand what you are doing in this market in general. First is market awareness, i.e. does the market need your product? It’s unit economics, it’s the thing that lets you figure out, is it even possible for the unit of product that you’ve come up with to sell yourself into profit? If so, then you can scale that up.If not, then no. The second very important principle is understanding the client. That is, if my previous criteria, and many of you: “If I need it, then everyone needs it” – this stuff does not work now. In order to understand the client there is a technology called customer development, or custdev for short, which allows you to understand the client, understand what he thinks, how he thinks, what’s in his head, what his pain is, and whether we can help him. Most often the person doesn’t know it themselves, but by using certain interview techniques, you can understand what they need. And we opened a whole department for this, and we understand that we can’t create new products in the modern world without it. And the most important thing, the lowest-level awareness, is the awareness of oneself, that is, the understanding of oneself. That is, it seems to us that we do business in order to make money, but I was just yesterday… I had a “fish day” yesterday, and we discussed it with one of my buddies. He says to me, “Dim, I want to open a carpentry shop and make stools and tables.” I told him, “Wow, cool. And with my own experience, I say to him: 

-Are you sure that people need stools?

-Yes, of course, Dim, a big market, everyone needs stools.

-Did you study it?

-Of course I have. I’ll set up machines in my garage and I’ll make them.

-Okay, why make so many, why do you need machines? Make one, build a stool and try to sell it. 

Because I already understand that now the main principle is not to think up what to make, but first to sell, and then to make. I’ll talk about that later. He says, “What for? I’m going to get the machines now, and I’m going to make this stool.” I said, “You don’t need machines to make one stool. You can make it on your knees, take a saw and assemble it.” And then he says, “Dim, I want machines in my garage.” And I said to him, “There you have answered the question of why you want to do it. You don’t want the business, you want the machines in the garage, you want that picture cool.”

And very often we start a business without understanding why we’re doing it. It’s very important to figure that out. 

Now a word about training. Right now it’s disastrously important for all companies, regardless of size, big or small, corporation or startup, to learn product thinking. Product thinking is the kind of thing that answers the question, “Why, actually, should we sell first and then buy.” It seems absurd to us, but it’s actually very important. I mean, the last products that we do, we do on this principle. We first sell a product that doesn’t exist, and if it sells, we start producing it. If it doesn’t, we quit right away. Because it’s also very important to be able to abandon a product. That is, for many people it is a matter of honor, especially knowing you Southern people, “well, I fit in, I said I would do this business, I will do that until I go bankrupt, until my children starve, until my competitors set my house on fire!” In fact, to have the strength to stop and say “this project didn’t go, I have to do another one” is also an experience, and one must learn to do it as well. As for Gagauzia, I think there is a great opportunity here with training, to create a HAP. And not even more of an IT HAP, but a business HAP, which, in cooperation with the Russian Hickbrain, a modern business school, can make a place where people will come from all over Moldova and learn to do modern business, which can work not only in Gagauzia, but anywhere in the world.Thank God, the markets are open, and now you don’t have to concentrate entirely on making a market here and now within a kilometer radius. You can do it within a radius of a hundred thousand kilometers, well, 100,000 is a bit much, 40,000. Here, and the third point, in terms of education, is mentoring. I want to thank you for the opportunity to be on your forum last time. I was at a forum last year, and frankly speaking, I was really impressed by the interaction with local startups. It really hit me that my 1 tip could cut a person a year short. So when I got there, I started my own little project called Shortcut. It’s a shortcut, or shortcut, where I meet with entrepreneurs in Moldova every Tuesday, and I spend 2-3 hours to talk to everyone, to help them with advice. It’s actually more giving perhaps not even to them, but to me, in order for me to understand what country I live in, who these people are, what their pains are. And I notice that a lot of people have the same problem. For example, I had a guy come to my house two weeks ago with a question. He sat down, opened the list. And I see the list out of the corner of my eye, there’s 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…. and so on to infinity the whole sheet. And he says: 

-So, point 1 you understand that in Europe, hives are expensive?” 

-Well, I guess so.

-And here in Gagauzia they don’t cost much, production. 


-How do you think it makes sense to sell beehives in Europe?

-Well, I’m not an expert, but it seems so.

-Okay, how would you rate the success of this business on a ten-point system?

-Well, let’s give it a 7.

-OK, 7. Question #2: What about the construction of ecological houses in Gagauzia, how do you see the future of this market?

-Wait, are these all 100 questions about businesses?


-What’s the purpose of your visit?

-To tell me what to do.

-I will not help you what to do, you have to decide for yourself. I’m not going to help you decide for yourself. By and large it’s not that important, you have to take each item and make an assessment from A to Z.

When we talked to him, and he understood what he had to do, he said his name was “Petya – a hundred ideas”, that’s what they call him. And he can’t make up his mind to take on more than one. So mentoring is a very important thing. And I think that business should obligatory mentor and mentor someone who is higher. That is, you have to invite speakers, you have to invite people who know the business better, you have to go to seminars. You have to learn yourself and pass your knowledge on to someone else. That way you can develop very quickly. Now I would like to talk about what’s going on in Gagauzia. Why Gagauzia? Why is there a prospect for developing this kind of business here? Well, first of all, I think that the will of the authorities is a very important thing. I consider that Irina Fedorovna and her team are doing a lot to create a business center here in this region, which would set an example for the entire Moldova in terms of high-tech business, agricultural, sports, and food industry. Any business can already develop in the new trends of the world. Secondly, if you know, for example in Russia, the startup center is not in Moscow. The Russian startup center is in Kazan. Why? Because they were the first to hoist the flag and say that startups will now be here. Gagauzia has exactly the same chance to become such a technological center, if you’re the first to stand up and take these slippers. The slippers will be yours. Further, you understand that doing business in Gagauzia, and for example if I compete with a startup from San Francisco, I will have a much better deal.That is, I will sell the same product cheaper, and accordingly I will win in the market, because I have lower rental costs, I have a lower wage fund, my production costs will probably be lower. Therefore, the unique opportunity of this region is that you can create competitive products in the global market, and have low costs. And most importantly, guys, I think it’s very important to work in your homeland, to work where your loved ones are, where your friends are. Because I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ve been in more than 50 countries, and every time I went into a city, I thought, would I like to live in that city. And in the end I realized that no, because I want to live where the people I feel comfortable being with live. I don’t want to be an outsider anywhere. So I didn’t go anywhere and I live here. And in the end, Gagauzia is not a place, Gagauzia is people. 

That’s why summing up, I would like to say that in the modern interpretation, courage is to keep doing business the way you’ve been doing it until now, and you understand what it can lead to, it’s a road to nowhere. But to go to another country to set up projects there, to leave loved ones and relatives behind and try to do something there that you couldn’t do here, that’s really weak-minded. I’m done, thank you. 


-Irina Fedorovna, we should probably go back to the issue that was presented at the 2019 Invest Forum. The creation of a business center in Gagauzia. There is a concept, probably we should go over it, discuss it and move on. Thank you.

-Dim provoked you? You’re welcome.

-Dear Irina Fedorovna, dear colleagues, I’d like to speak on behalf of the startup about Dima’s speech. It’s good to talk about initial sales before production when you have a name. But when you’re a startup, you’ll never sell anything to anybody unless you make a name for yourself. As a startup going to compete in San Francisco, why. Because I can’t trivialize finance, we don’t have a culture of investing. We don’t have a culture at the banks of being lent to you. With all these safeguards, if you’re a startup, you’re not going to get any loans. That’s it, thank you.

-Can I answer that?

-Yes, of course.

-I also had no relatives or rich investors when I started my business, and nobody could give me a loan, because I rented a studio apartment in the outskirts of Chisinau. And the main principles of investing in startups in the early stages, you know – FFF, family, friends and fools. So your task, as a startup, is to squeeze as much as possible out of what you have. It’s to bend your friends over, to prove that if you’re friends, give me money, your family, and anyone else who believes in you. So if you can’t do that early on, then you can’t do that later on. Then you’re just not ready to do the business. That’s fine. 

-Tough. Who else is a colleague?

-I totally disagree with that!

-I’m not surprised.

-On these forums that I visit all the time, I ask those decision makers, “Give us credit somewhere.” We understand that the resources we have for FFF, they are always limited. And in Gagauzia, and in Moldova, in principle, FFF will not always work, why, because, well, we are poor, what can we do.We’re like that for now. We are not in America, we are not in Germany, where we will have FFF. We are in the conditions that we are in.Good or bad, I think everyone will decide in their own way. But always and in all venues I ask, “Gentlemen, give us an opportunity.” Every business wants cheap credit. Especially if we want to grow, and we say that startups are our everything, or that startups will help us grow. Without the borrowed funds that a startup will have access to, we can’t grow. We can make a product, but even at the sales stage we won’t be able to sell it. Why? Because we won’t have the borrowed funds for the same marketing. You yourself correctly said that this is a new sales method. You need a marketing department to promote your product. What startup can pull a marketing department?  Yes, sure, we can talk about what it can be from 100 interviews. YES, if he doesn’t know how to do it. That is, we now want the small producer to be both a marketer and a producer, also a salesman. But that’s not realistic, my opinion.

-First of all, I want to say that we have a common problem with many businesses and many people. It’s in our mentality that many people think we owe. We need the government, we need banks, we need to create a comfortable investment environment, we all need to help. I don’t think that’s true. I think startups, especially startups, should take care of themselves. That is, don’t wait for help from no one and become stronger this way. As for the marketing department, the marketing department exists-it’s yourself. You are one person for now. For now, you have to take the study of how to do it, and do it alone. And stop hoping someone will come along and help, give you a hand, get you out. No one is going to help or give a hand. You have to do everything yourself. If you can’t do it, it’s not yours. I told you before. 

-I have a question for Dmitri, if I may. If you can be frank from your practice in business. What do you think, a modern school, a fundamental business school, which exists in the Republic of Moldova, does it prepare good people for business today? Here’s your opinion.

-I haven’t heard about such a school.

-Well, I’ll put it in simpler words, as the businessman said. It is difficult to say, let’s put it simply. Do the economic faculties of the classical universities that we have in Moldova train good cadres for business today? It’s probably easier to sound that way. Then if I can make a small remark, after your answer I’ll tell you why I’m asking this question. Thank you

-Well, you probably suspect that I’m going to answer that of course not. That it is certainly necessary to open a new school at a completely different level, and to take specialists from abroad who will come and tell you how business is now done all over the world. But the way our television company is going now, which was launched in the ’90s, it will stop sooner or later if the investors you’re talking about come here. They just might really gobble it up. And one should get ready for the business to resist and not to fixate on Gagauzia itself, not to fixate on Moldova. It is necessary to move to the world, it is necessary to attract money from the world. The world is open and waiting. But there’s nothing to do there with our knowledge. That is, even we, it’s very difficult for us to enter the American market, because the rules are completely different there. We are the kings here, and we go out there and we are nobody there. That’s why training has to take place at an absolutely different level. And now Gagauzia has a chance to take it to a serious level, to a different level, not ours.

-I would like to say two words on this subject. The first is for young entrepreneurs – the laws of the market, market rules change every day. And it’s so difficult that with a lot of experience they can’t keep track of them.So I agree with Dmitry, turn on your courage and dementia, and go ahead, you’ll get it.

-I want to support Sergei with his project, and with the persistence with which he goes. Dimitri says to use FFF or ten F’s to use. It’s easy to be holy while on the mountain, but try to stay holy while in the bazaar. I mean, we don’t have other people. We have Sergei, Petya, Vasya, Grisha, but they are persistent. Please, we have to help each other, we have to support each other, and find opportunities for each of us. Persistence is the main thing a businessman should have, persistence and ability to work. Thank you.

-Yes, I want to support Vyacheslav, he was right to say persistence is very important. That’s what I’m talking about. If an entrepreneur decided to do business and he needs initial capital, he has to find it. He has to, not he has to be given it. He should come to me, for example, knowing that I make shortcuts. Why not come to me, tell me the business project, show me what the benefits are. I’ll give money, no question, I’m like an investor. No, if I like it, I promise, if I see a benefit there. Yes, but if I don’t see a profit there, I won’t give money. That’s fine. Here on the shortcut I had my first potential project that I want to invest money in. A girl came in… And I won’t tell you what the project was, she asked me not to tell you yet. But I want to invest in it, yes, why not. So welcome, look for money, chew it out, persuade, persuade, this is normal.

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