-How much did they offer to buy Point?
– You seem to be a little…
Ambitious goals are not required to achieve them. They are so ambitious that if you meet 70%, you’re already handsome.
All Simpals employees need condoms. Just in case.
– What’s that scar?
-I decided to take a swim in the concrete.
-Okay, I don’t believe the chip in my hand. I still don’t believe it, so we’re doing an experiment.
-I don’t like to carry things in my pockets, so I sewed a key under my skin.
Seven years I’m not around, that’s it. You’re in the background, you’re in the third background. First biking, then running, then swimming, then my wife. The state is in a completely different business now. They’re not interested in it.
-What, here you are as a businessman, what, fighting corruption won’t help?
– That’s not enough. Okay, all the thieves have to go to jail. Then what? Will you make roads appear? Will this give us electronic journals?
-Do you even count how much money you have?
You can see the legs of a man who has been walking for how many years?
-Well, hello. It’s early morning, 7:30 in the morning. And we’re coming up to the house of the man I’m interviewing today. In my opinion, he’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met here in Chisinau. Our country is too small for him. I would call him the Moldovan Ilon Musk. You’ll find out soon enough. There he is, Dmitri Voloshin!
-Who doesn’t know Dmitri Voloshin? But the first thing that surprised me… Hi, good morning.
– Do you live in an apartment building with all your options?
-Not in a house? What about the grass? Barefoot walks and whatnot?
– That’s what I have a dacha on the shore of the Durlesti forest. And we live in apartments, because when I suggested to my beloved, “Let’s buy a house, we can afford to buy a house,” she said: “No, who’s going to take care of the house? Will you? You’ll be lying on the couch, warming your heels, and I’ll be taking care of this huge thing. So give me the apartment.” I said, “Give me the apartment.” But now she’s ready.
-I understand, you’ve already explained to a lot of people why barefoot.
-Let me explain it to you. To do that, you have to take off your shoes and come with me. We’ll walk with you barefoot, and I’ll tell you why barefoot. Maybe you’ll understand me better.
– I must say that Dima’s condition to give this interview was only one. He immediately said: “I will, but on one condition: you will walk barefoot with me all day.” I kept my mouth shut.
-Come on, let’s go.
– Okay. Forgive me for maybe not the best pedicure, sorry.
-Your pedicure is fine.
-Yeah, I did my best for you.
-I started running less when I realized I had to stop. But my body needed movement. I started walking. A lot of walking. I use transportation very rarely. Mostly it is walking.
– How long does it take you to get around on foot?
-That’s really… -Two hours, I think, a day you walk.
-A hour and a half, yeah. To and from work. Why do I love Chisinau, why do I love Moldova? When it’s late May, early June, the sun is shining, everything is green, you bought a glass of cherries, you listen to cool music and walk barefoot on the warm asphalt. People are smiling all around you. It’s fucked up.
Maybe two years ago I would have told you how people reacted. Now I just don’t notice it anymore. It used to be for me, when I first started walking, I’d just look at people and say, “What are they gonna think, are they looking, are they not looking?” Slowly you get used to it. It’s like when you get in a car on the road and look: how? It’s different, they let you through at crossroads.
-Girls do notice!
-You drive for six months or a year, then you stop paying attention to how people react to you. It’s the same with being barefoot. I have no idea how they react to me.
-But tell me, did you do all this from the beginning for some kind of overcoming?
-No, no, no.
– For what?
-Then I had the concept of Enjoy. I’ll tell you a little bit more about it later. I’m trying to formalize it now, to describe the rules, in order to lay it out so that it can become some kind of manifesto that can be shown to other people. But its basic meaning is to learn how to take pleasure in simple and accessible things. The smallest things that we usually don’t notice. And walking barefoot is one of those joys. In fact, notice how many surfaces are going on around you.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah. I never thought tile over here, that shabby, shitty tile could be so nice. And it turns out, after the rough asphalt, it’s very…
-And there’s a lot more. There’s also sand, there’s also grass. And you go out barefoot every time, as if you have a new adventure.
– When have you had the most contradictions, in your business history?
-There’s been contradictions with my studio. I have the Achizitii tender platform, we made sure that public procurement was tendered, completely transparent. Now they are also closing it. They take the European system and buy it for a million dollars, so no one sees anything. And with the marathon.
-It’s hard with the marathon, too?
-The first year they wouldn’t let me. They just told me, “No fucking way, we’re not shutting down the city because of a couple hundred jerks running. What the fuck, are you crazy? The trolleybuses won’t run?” Trolleybus Park, you know what they said? “Give us 700,000 lei for the weekend, please, and run all you want. Because we have losses.” I said seriously, 700 thousand lei.
-Did you tell them about the Boston Marathon? Or the London one?
– I told them everything. I showed them the videos. Here’s New York, here’s Boston. Tell me any city in Europe, I’ll show you a clip from there.
-From a marathon.
-Lisbon, here’s Lisbon, look. “Let’s talk about it in a year.” I said, “Fuck, bitch!” But after a year, it’s okay. Slow and stealthy.
Then the grannies came with bags of brynza, what the fuck, you’re stopping me from going to the market. The town is still buzzing during the marathon.
-Yeah, I remember the first year, the first marathon, by the way. It was just such a hit. Of course, back then there was no such thing as cancellation culture, but there was, of course, a wave of hatred on Facebook.
-Somebody came, some officials came to shut down the city. No, they’re fucking ours. Run somewhere in the ass of the world, in Gidigich run. Run in Muncheshskaya. Thousands of foreign tourists come to see Moldova, we’ll take them to Munchesti, we’ll show them the fish.
-It was hard to explain all this to them. But little by little, I see less and less. Maybe they curse as much, but they already accept it as inevitable: okay.
-Okay, we’ll bear with you once a year.
-Listen, let’s compare, let’s show our guys, let’s compare our legs. Just so you understand, we’re from the arboretum, Coke’s suffering . How much is that, three kilometers, maybe? Or four?
– Three or four kilometers. Four kilometers we walked on Stefan cel Mare, we came here to Crème de la Creme. At once you can see the legs of a man who has been walking for how many years?
– It’s my first day so far, first morning.
How do you make Moldova an environment where most people, if they work, can become rich and happy? If they work on their own.
-Certainly this is a rhetorical question more. I don’t want to throw stones at our state again and say that here, if conditions were created for us, blah, blah, blah. I do not believe that in Moldova in the next 5-10 years it is realistic that the average wage will grow to 3 thousand dollars. That is, no matter what we do. How big is the clod of our mentality stretching from the 1990s, that it grinds up all the good undertakings, which have not even been in our state yet. They will begin in three to five years, and then the serious ones will begin. And then, little by little, the situation will begin to change.
-What exactly in our mentality prevents us from developing?
-There are many peculiarities. Many people like to be poor. Without realizing it. Not bringing it to the surface. They’re comfortable with that position. They are not willing to take responsibility, not willing to take risks, not willing to work hard. They are satisfied with being poor and telling others that it is the state’s fault that they are poor. This is the Soviet mentality, which is handed down from parents to children. That it’s okay, it’s better to be poor, miserable, pathetic and complaining about the state.
-And it’s always someone else’s fault, not yours?
-Certainly. It’s your life. It’s not your fault. It’s hard enough and hard enough for people to get that shit out of their heads. I know a lot of people like that. But it all happens unconsciously in them.
-But you understand that in our society, in addition to this, in my opinion, there is a very strange, incomprehensible attitude toward entrepreneurship. We have no admiration for the institution of entrepreneurship. It’s understandable why, because.
-Because entrepreneurs are thieves. Thieves and thugs who bend the hell out of the people. How is it not clear to you? It’s clear to me. And people aren’t the only ones who think so. I hear the same thing from there all the time. And from there, and from there.
-I’m sorry, but our current government is based on the idea that we’ll put away all the bandits and thieves and that we’ll defeat corruption and live well. Why, by the way, do you think we are not doing well?
– Because we still have to put pressure on business. They can’t do anything good either. Why do I have problems…
-Do you think that the new government treats all businessmen as thieves?
-It treats modern business, our Moldovan business, as a structure that wants to crawl into state institutions and bite, rip, drag, fill their pockets.
Again, everything is cool in words. We’re for public-private partnerships, that we give business the green light. In fact, I have several projects…
-You had a very cool project, an electronic diary for schools.
– And I remember doing an interview with you last summer, and you were raving about the idea that if there was a change in power, we could digitalize the school system. You talked about that. What happened?
-Well, here’s a case study. Three years ago, almost four years ago, my son turned out to be a failed student. It turned out because I happened to walk into school and I happened to be shown a magazine. I said, “Holy shit.” I thought we should make the journals transparent, like in normal countries.
– The son is Misha, for those who don’t get it.
-Well, he was, yeah, yeah.
You just put grades in the app, the teacher. And you, the parent, see. It’s not that complicated. It’s just all through… No paper. Everything through digital, through the cloud. There were already such systems in Ukraine, in Russia, in Romania, all European countries have them.
So we sat down, put together a large team, and started working for a year or two, started going into schools, started listening to teachers, principals, what they need, how they want it, parents, students, and we did a lot of interviews. Created a system, started integrating schools. 10 schools, 20, 50. The whole of Gagauzia took schools. And then we got the attention of the state.
– What year is that?
-It was two years ago. And they say, “What are you doing here?” – “We made electronic diaries free for all schools. We invested over $300,000 there, but we made it all free. And then, two years ago, the state, after looking at all this, started sawing its own system in parallel, taking right pieces of our interface and inserting into its system that here we are making our own.
-So they can cut money from the budget and so on. Our company will do it. Why a private initiative, when you can find your own company, which will scrape the budget? What are you talking about?
-Probably. But that’s not what I’m worried about. What worries me is that if they did that, that 3-5 electronic diaries, and everyone competing for schools – please, go ahead.
What started happening next? They started calling schools and saying, “Use the state diary, and remove the private one so we don’t see it.” And the schools started to leave the system. And we didn’t understand what was going on until we were told that officially they weren’t saying, but these calls were happening.
After that I went to the Minister of Education, “What happened? Why such nonsense? Why are you getting in the way of digitalizing schools?” – “Because…”
-Who was the Minister of Education then?
-Topale, the current one. Because personal data, you have no right to process it.
We say, “Okay, we’re willing to comply with any regulations, any specifications that you put on us, restrictions, we’ll do whatever you want. Up to the point where the whole system will run on your servers, you control absolutely everything, we don’t even have access to those students.” And I was told, “No, we’re going to develop our own system, and we’re not going to let yours into the schools. So shut it down.” I just fucked up. You know what I mean? They told me in no uncertain terms…
-Wait, they promised digitalization.
-So I said, “Where’s all this?” They said, “We’ll make our own.” There are very few arguments. Today we talked to Iurii Turcanu, the deputy for digitalization. I saw a light in the window. We talked now, and I’m a little relieved, because not everyone has this kind of… I mean, it’s not broadcast that you want to get rich at the expense of the state, you want to fuck with someone, you want to steal personal data. There are open officials who are willing to cooperate. But there are those who get in the way. And that’s fucked up. I don’t know what to do about them.
-Do you think they’ll go from words to deeds?
-It doesn’t look like it.
-Because words about what will be public-private…
– So show me an example. Achizitii.md made, tender, public procurement, a transparent system, where the state puts out what you need paper 10 tons. And all the others throw in offers. And then the state can choose with whom to cooperate. It’s all transparent: who submits, what they submit. What’s going on with this system right now? We’ve invested over $100,000 in it. Now they say, “We buy a similar system in Europe. It will be closed, not as transparent, but we’ll buy it there, and we’ll close yours.”
-Can you give me a reason? Let’s not go into the history; he who knows, knows. I was among those who fought against the Plahotniuk regime during the last years, because I understood that it was some global evil for our country and for our society.
No one expected from that power that they could come with good intentions. Something was done, of course, but no one expected anything good. A year ago we had a change. A lot of good things were promised, including things like this. Why isn’t it working out? A) don’t want to? B) not ways? Or were they just deceived from the beginning when they came out with slogans.
-I’m not sure they were deceived. I think it was populism, too, of course. But they believed that it would be different. But in fact this is the stuff that sits very deep in people’s minds, that business can’t just do nothing for the state, that it wants to cheat, to snatch, to take away. Absolutely, I can’t do service for free, because it would just close. There are no people who will work. But I am willing to provide a free service for schools with some additional services that don’t affect the basic ones, for those parents who have the money. For example, notices.
-For example, tutoring.
-Tutoring. Grade notifications. You’re sitting there – oh, your son got a D. Right in real time. You don’t get a weekly report on grades, but right in real time. I’m willing to pay $2 or $3 a month for that. Ugh, nothing about it. And thousands of parents are thousands of dollars that I can keep a designer, a programmer, a product manager on that money. And develop that system. Who’s that bothering anyone? No, the state will take a lot of dough, hire a company where half the money is laundered, create a system. And then they abandon it. And it dies. You understand?
– Why? Because it’s supposed to be different at last.
-I have a feeling that our government doesn’t care about that right now. It’s fighting corruption, thieves, ghosts. And the real problems are…
-We know of one thief.
-And the real problems of the state… I think that only business can save Moldova. Because the state is now engaged in absolutely other things. They’re not interested.
-Why? You’re a businessman. Wouldn’t fighting corruption help?
-It’s not enough. Okay, we put all the thieves in jail. Then what? Will you make roads appear? Will we have electronic diaries because of this? Will we have unified style, beautiful websites, and beautiful signs? Will we get digitalization in kindergartens? What will this change for us?
-I taped an interview a week ago launching this project. Thank you for agreeing to do the interview. I want to talk to people who are personally interesting to me, whose thoughts I think can be useful to our society.
A week ago I recorded an interview with Khodorkovsky. He said an amazing thing, but he argued it very clearly: “You know, for the state, for the system of state administration, an honest idiot may be more dangerous than a professional corrupt person, because a corrupt person can still be placed in a framework in which he won’t be able to steal, and then his brain can be used for good, but with an honest idiot, perhaps, things are already irreparable.
-It’s better not to deal with idiots at all.
-What do you think our misfortune is? That we are simply incapable? Or is it that if you’re in power, you’re always corrupt?
-You know, I think that people do not go to power in order to steal. Most people go to power with the intention of changing something. Seriously, paradoxically enough. Sincerely, honestly come and change.
But more often than not, one spoonful of honey will not save the barrel of tar. And it too, stirred up, becomes black and stinky. That’s the problem. It seems to me that for there to be serious change, you have to burn everything out with napalm and put completely different people there. And if you integrate them one by one, they will all dissolve into this swamp and become the same. The situation is eating them up. And it’s just a matter of time. I’m just convinced that everything will be okay with Moldova. But I, for one, perceive the new government as… Deni, ugh! Its main function is just the napalm I was talking about. To burn out the old grass so that new grass can grow. And so the new one that comes after this power will probably already be different.
– New. It is impossible for Moldova to remain feudal in the modern world. Well, it can’t be. In 10 years, everything will be different here anyway. And I still believe that, okay, it’s hard for us now, we’re struggling, we’re fighting, but sooner or later, this will bear fruit. And Moldova will be different. I hope that my children will stay here. So far they have no plans to leave. And maybe my children and their children will already live in a European country.
-Good. When do you think the attitude toward entrepreneurship in Moldova will change? And where should this attitude start from? Should it start from below or from above, from the authorities?
-Absolutely, it must start from below. It seems to me entrepreneurship should prove, first of all, that it is budget forming, that without business there is no state.
It should prove that it enters the world markets and successfully represents Moldova there. It has to prove that it’s not about stealing, not about banditry, but about helping the state to grow. And little by little the ice will break and the state will start trusting business. I believe in that, so I’m going to keep fighting, to keep going.
-Do you help a lot?
-It is probably not me who helps, but the projects help people more than me personally. When people ask for help, of course, I help personally. But more…
-Are not your projects an extension of yourself?
– Yes, there is. If you say me personally. Take refugees. Many went to customs, took people, wrapped them up, gave them tea, cookies. Then they came back. And that’s how they traveled for weeks. I didn’t do that. But I did a 999 platform for the non-movement. We collected information, we did infocenters. We taught Ukrainian kids in the studio. I had several families living in my house. I try to scale help through projects.
– That’s what I wanted to say. You have the opportunity to scale.
– Yes, if there’s an opportunity, I take advantage of it.
-What surprised me, you and I met at 7:30, it’s almost 9:00. No, it’s 9:18, we’ve been together for two hours. And I didn’t hear your phone ring.
-Somehow I thought your phone was supposed to ring a couple of times a minute.
-Do you remember the metrics we talked about? -Yeah.
-That’s another one of the metrics. -Silent phone. It’s not supposed to ring. If it’s calling you, it means there’s something wrong with you. It shouldn’t bother you.
– Does everything work without you?
-Yeah, yeah. Again, time. That’s what we’re fighting for, the business, to get time. Bottom line, by and large, we want free time when we can do nothing. And if you’re busy, you’re a slave to your job.
-And how many people do you create the opportunity for your phone not to ring? How many people do you really have working on important projects right now?
-First of all, you have to be clear that it’s expensive to keep your phone from ringing. Because it’s not ringing right now, but I’m losing money at the same time, because if I were in all the processes, my companies efficiency would be higher. I would make more money because as an integral part of the business processes, I’m good. And I can booster. And I’m not part of it, so the business efficiency drops. I make less money, but I’m free.
-Can I say that in your business, you’re about the idea, and the implementation of the idea – it’s completely different people?
-That’s right, we do. We all have our own hats. We agreed that we each have our own hat. One is good at communications, one is good at coming up with ideas. The third one is good at building processes. Systematization.
-Then your business would be more likely to survive without you or without them? If all of a sudden you had to detach.
-The current business is without me. “The Niners don’t need me. They already have a methodology, how to develop and grow. Everything is okay there. But new businesses just would not appear. If you look at Simpals globally for 30-40 years, it probably would have collapsed without me. But it would have collapsed without the system, too. I don’t know which is more important here, the chicken or the egg.
-How do you choose your teammates, anyway? Do you know right away if someone’s yours or not yours? How long does it take you to figure out if he’s yours or not?
-Usually not much. Half an hour of conversation is enough, it’s enough usually. It’s just that people, especially those who are top managers, they know how to wear masks very professionally. Up to the fact that they look at the information about you, collect.
-They’ll figure out what you like.
-They’ll figure out what you like. And so the representation, you say, “Fuck, that’s just my chemistry.”
-You’ve had that kind of bummer?
-Yeah, I’ve had that kind of bummer. It’s very unpleasant. You feel like you’ve been fucked over.
-You spent three months in the gas pedal. What do you remember? Axel…
-Yeah, thanks. What is it?
-Well, there’s a technology to build a startup. And the basic idea is to sell first and then create. Not the other way around.
– So you have to sell without having?
-Not having, yes. And that was an insight for me. I realized that what we do here in Chisinau has nothing to do with business. That is, we actually had a couple of locomotives. There, the “nines” are the main locomotive, Point, that generate some kind of profit. And we’re trying to do something with it. We’re not even trying, we’re just throwing money around. Just to see if something shoots up. That is, in a haphazard way. And when I realized that there was a system, I came with it, I gathered all of our top people: “Guys, now we start doing business the way the whole world does.”
-So after 20 years you suddenly decided to do business?
-After 17, yeah. Starting to do business the way the rest of the world does business now. And it’s called the product approach. There’s a lot of books and courses written about it. And it took us two years to switch from the Moldovan approach, as we do, to the American approach, to the global approach, as modern food companies do now. We are a food company. And now we work differently. I told you, remember I told you, we’ve shed our skins, and the new has grown. It’s just those people who couldn’t change, who couldn’t make the transition.
-Did you change most of the management in your business?
-I didn’t change them; they changed more or less on their own. So they didn’t adopt this approach because before there was an approach that couldn’t be measured in any way, without metrics, without goals and achievements.
That is somehow it was all by instinct. So we work and work, and when what happens – well, as it happens. And when there was a framework, why do you have to do it, why are you handsome, explain, not because I love you and we are steaming in the bath, and show the numbers that you are handsome.
-Yeah, so you decided to introduce KPIs for your employees?
-No, KPI is also an ancient technique, it is not used. OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is when you set your own quarterly goals. The department sets its own goals for the quarter. This quarter, we… I don’t give them a top down, they have ambitions. We want to get there.
-They do decomposition, that is, backwards: what we have to do to achieve this ambitious result in three months. We have to take small steps every week. And it’s all measurable. And every week we get together. And all the departments go out for a general chat. And we’ve done this week and we’ve made 17% progress toward our giant goal.
And the thing about OKR is that it doesn’t require 100% achievement of an ambitious goal. It’s so ambitious that if you’ve accomplished 70%, already you’re handsome, because if you want to jump as high as possible, you have to aim one meter higher than you can jump.
-So the part of your old team that left didn’t agree with this approach?
-She kind of agreed. She can’t disagree. They say, “Yeah, cool, go for it.” But then it started bugging out because there wasn’t that framework before. And before, people just worked. And now you had to show percentages, you had to show movement, there had to be a goal, measurable, understandable.
-Did you feel the difference in business, in profit, that you suddenly had more money?
-Yes. When I finished… For example, on the “nines”, when I woke up from my sporting achievements and looked at the numbers, the profit of the “nines” was already there. A little more and there would have been minuses. Our growth was decreasing every year and was already literally a few percent a year. Now it’s back up again, because we’ve started to deal with it. So there’s a department that’s dealing with… It’s usually a few people who are just dealing with filing ads. That’s the only thing. I have success metrics. For example, how many people registered will click on the “submit ad” button. That’s the one person who does just that button. One person. Here he wants to make it as clickable as possible.
That is, began to measure everything. And this, of course, gives … We have a business analyst from Russia, who takes straight big data from the “nines” and figures out where there is room for growth. It used to be… Dima comes in and says, “Look, let’s make the dots red all over the map.” – “Come on!” What for? What will it lead to? Nobody knows.
-By the way, are there still ads for love for money on 999?
-It’s called a massage now.
-Yes. -We can’t keep track of them. They say massage. Well, massage.
-Do you think 999 is some kind of quick screening of how and what the Moldovan economy lives on? By going to 999, you can understand…
-Absolutely. Absolutely. We even have a business account. You look at what people are looking for most often now, and the top requests. You see what people are interested in right now.
-What are people mostly looking for?
-There were refugees- everyone was looking for houses. And we were taking out hard ads that were 1.5 times the market average. We just took them out, because obviously people wanted to enrich themselves at the expense of others.
-And apart from the refugees, because it’s understandable, it happened since the beginning of the war. About business, if we’re talking about the Moldovan economy, what else?
-I can’t say now, you can go in and see. For example, electric scooters became common.
-Not now, a year ago. It’s a trend. So you can track trends, what people want. And people who pay for a 999 business account see immediately what the market needs and can adjust to it, give it what it needs.
Come on, to understand. We have a standard notion of what is a Moldovan businessman, much less a Moldovan millionaire. And by Moldovan standards, you’re a millionaire.
-I guess you’re not even just a lefty. Are you a dollar millionaire?
-I guess so.
-Did you even count how much money you have?
-I have roughly estimated how much the company is worth and how many assets it has.
-What do you currently value your company at?
The entire Simpals with its projects, including potential profits.
-About 15-20 million.
-Have there been any offers to buy Simpals? -Yes.
-Yeah. -That’s the main one. Who wants Sporter?
-Yeah. -Okay, the Niners. What was the most generous offer?
-I’m not gonna say.
-Because I was approached, asked…
-I’m not asking who. I’m asking how much was offered.
-We didn’t get to the discussion.
-You don’t want to sell on principle? -No, not yet.
-No, not yet. I’m not ready yet.
– Why not?
-But if there were an offer, it would be worth 10-15 million.
-And why aren’t you ready yet?
-Probably because I’m not in a position where I need the money. I know that if I need a lot of money, I’ll find a lot of money. And what the sale of the Niners will do for me, I don’t quite understand. Okay, they’ll give me 10 million for them. And what am I going to do with it? I could take out a $10 million loan right now.
-And any bank would probably give it to you?
-Of course. If I had… Right now I need money urgently for some super-project where the money would turn around quickly – maybe I would consider that prospect. Not yet.
– Have you offered to buy Point or Stiri.md ? Because that’s what it is, isn’t it.
-Stiri no, Point yes.
-Point is the most read news platform in Moldova?
-And among Russian and Romanian speakers? -Yes.
-How much did they offer to buy Point? -Yes.
-What did you decide today…
-We’ll go over the issues the audience is interested in first, because if we talk only about the philosophy of life, believe me, people won’t understand. Voloshin is sitting here, who has a turnover of 100 million, and he has never even been asked how much he was offered.
-I was asked directly if I was selling Point or not. And there were indirect inquiries. That is, just…
-I guess there were inquiries for the election.
-Just came to chat, how is Point, is everything okay with it, what are the plans for Point. I understand what the man is getting at. But I said that I’m okay, I have plans for development. I said right away that we are forming a team and have plans. And I made it clear that it was not for sale. And there were direct questions – how much is it? I said: “I’m not selling.
There are two reasons. The first reason: as long as I live here, I’m interested in having my own media, in order to influence processes. In a positive way. The second nuance is the customer. I am approached by a buyer who… I don’t want to do it all in the dark, to go through some schemes, intermediary companies. If it’s clear who I sold the Point to, I don’t think I’ll have a plus in my karma. Because it’s going to start like, “Why the fuck did you give such a person that kind of leverage?”
-We came to Niagara. And I don’t know what for. I thought you were going to have a workout, and you tell me, no. What are we doing here?
-You’re not gonna believe this. You just happened to be in the period when we’re testing a new swimmer’s device, Sonar 2.0. We had our first test last week. It’s more advanced now. And you’re one of the first to see a new, revolutionary device that talks to the swimmer, tells him all his data…
-You mean it’s an underwater walkie-talkie? Coach says…
-No. -The underwater radio is the first version. The second version is not about the radio, it’s about… It’s a tracker for the swimmer. So you put it on, and it tells your heart rate, your speed, your distance, your technique. And you swim and you know everything about yourself.
-So it’s not the coach talking to you, it’s the algorithm?
-It does, yeah.
-It’s on its own. Come on, let’s go show you.
-We got lucky. You know who that is? That’s the former director of sports. He’s one of those people.
-And I know him.
-Sergey Legeida, yeah.
-He’s a friend of my cousin. I know Seryozha.
-Today we’re testing a revolutionary swimming device called Sonar version two.
-There’s no such thing yet. We Moldovans are trying to invent one.
-The first batch of Sonar is an underwater walkie-talkie.
-The underwater radio. But the coach talks, yes. It’s a different device where you don’t need a coach. And you can train on your own.
-And when will it be ready for release? For sales? When will it be available for purchase?
– I think next year.
-They’re IT people?
– They’re engineers, electronic engineers, programmers. It’s the condom ruler Alexander.
-What do you need condoms for?
-Well, you never know.
-No, the engineers at Simpals, they’re so…
-All Simpals employees need condoms. Just in case.
– Just so they can see. That’s motivation.
-You see, the first versions look ugly.
-Well, how does it go in? -Where does it go in?
-It goes under the cap, right here. It’s a bone speaker, which is… You’ve got a bone right here.
-That’s where it taps you, and you hear the voice in your head. There’s a pulse sensor here. He’s not here now, he’ll be here. It’ll read that pulse and it’ll tell your pulse. And there’s also a bunch of electronics here — gyroscopes, accelerometers, compass — that determine all your equipment.
-But it’s gonna be a plastic thing? Will it be about the same size?
– We don’t know yet. It’s not the first one. We’re testing this shape right now. Comfortable, uncomfortable, comes off, doesn’t come off. If it’s okay, give or take it will be like this.
– Can it come down to one simple earpiece?
– Yeah, but it’s uncomfortable.
-We don’t do it because we think it’s cool, we do it because we know. We’ve done several hundred interviews with swimmers all over the world. And we understand what they need.
Now our goal for today is to put this thing in and have me swim different styles, different speeds, different exercises in the water. And it will record everything that happens to me in its memory. And then we’ll combine the video of me swimming with the curves that the device produced, so that we know what the curves look like when the swimmer somersaults, so that the next time the system sees the curves, ah, he’s the one who somersaulted.
– How much would this device cost?
-It’s very hard to say right now, but around 200 euros, 150. 300 maybe.
-Something like the Lobster?
-Yes. -We get all our devices in the same price range. This is our designer Roman.
-It’s a pleasure. Natalia.
-Who I make get in the pool and try what he does in 3D. Because he’s such a theorist, he’s like, “Let me make this shape.”
-Roman, tell me honestly, is this your first time swimming or has he already put you in the water?
– No, I’ve dived before.
-So he’s not doing it for the camera? -No.
-It’s planned. The designer has to know how comfortable it is. Not to hear the stories, but to check it out. What the fuck did I do?
-Well, that’s cool. Let’s see.
-Give me the cap, gentlemen.
-But can you still tell me, engineers, what do you need condoms for?
-It’s simple. Because, see, the prototype. And the seams here, it’s not clear how they’re made. And the guys, to make sure everything works, they insure and hide everything in a condom.
-What’s that scar? I noticed it this morning, by the way.
-We were pouring the ceiling in Durlesti the other day. Concrete. You know, they put the formwork and pour concrete.
-I decided to take a bath in concrete. Take a concrete shower. Climbed up on the roof with Misha. I said let’s have it on me. And that’s it! Boulder on me. I’ll show you the video. That was fun. But concrete showers are for real men.
-Well, you tell me in a nutshell how far away you are from the moment your second-generation device hits the market? Worldwide. I take it you’re not targeting Moldova, are you?
-No, of course. The first one took three years for the first devices to appear, which we started selling. The second one will be faster, because we already have a clear market. But it is clear how to produce, how to develop. We have already gone down that road. But that is not until next year. And that’s if we make sure now that it’s ok, that we were able to make what the swimmers want. And once we’re convinced of that, we’ll start production. Well, the middle of next year at best.
-Well, let’s be like for the dummies who don’t know what, in general, you… that’s what kind of devices you’ve been producing. You started with the Lobster, then these Lobster Scointe. Then Sonar 1, now Sonar 2. In a few words: what’s it all about.
-What is it all about? Generally, I see business as a self-realization of a person through business. I see myself as an engineer. I studied engineering, and I always liked it. Since childhood I had a memory, I was fiddling around. I studied at Polytechnic University. And that’s how I fulfill myself through these devices, to make life easier for as many people as possible. I feel good about it.
-These are all devices for professional swimmers?
-Yes, then for freedivers, the Lobster series, it’s for… Non-professional, for amateurs. But who want to…
-How serious is this business?
Roughly speaking, is it a toy for someone who has a lot of money, who can throw away half a million, a million or two million no lei, understandably, on something like that, or is it really a business?
-From a swimmer’s perspective or from an entrepreneur’s perspective?
-Entrepreneur. I’m asking you now as an entrepreneur.
-It’s a business, of course. Even the Lobster is a business, even though there’s a market of only 200,000 to 300,000 people around the world.
-But when you have one thing that costs 200 euros or what, 150…
– Freediving, in general, is such a beautiful sport. People who dive, with flippers, like fish, wetsuits are smooth. For them it is very important to have everything perfected, to be brilliant. And that’s why people are not poor. Although 200 euros for a freediver is nothing, it’s not cheap.
-How much did you earn on the Lobster? Can you tell me? Is that public data?
-Look, Lobster is a small business, because a few thousand euros a month of profit is ok for one family. But it’s growing all the time. Every year we increase its volume one and a half times.
-Do you have to invest in its development?
-Not anymore. There’s already enough money to reinvest. Sonar is a completely different market. It’s ten times bigger. Probably hundreds of times the market in the world for swimmers. And it already looks like a big business that could be sold for 10-20 million when it grows up, to some big players. So I don’t take it as a toy, and it’s already serious….
-And what’s your option? So you’re basically building these businesses as businesses that you could potentially sell?
-Yes, absolutely right.
-You mean you have a thing that you’re not willing to sell for anything?
-Yes, and there is -yes, no problem I’ll part with it and make something new, even cooler.
– Can I talk to my son?
-Yes, of course.
-So he can tell the truth about his daddy.
-Not without me.
-That’s a prerequisite, because he won’t tell the truth about daddy in front of you. Misha! Can I talk to you? Your dad made me take my shoes off today. That’s how long I’ve been here, 11 hours…
– Then I’ll take my shoes off, too.
– It’s 11 o’clock in the afternoon. And I’ve been walking around barefoot since 7:30 in the morning. Honestly, it’s a cool challange.
-It’s not just a challange. It’s a pleasure, imagine walking on rocks, prickly, sharp, and then after those rocks you get on the grass. And it feels so good. Really.
-How do your classmates react to that?
-I don’t go to school barefoot. But the fact that I walked barefoot all over Moldova, they have a certain attitude: I mean, how is that? Barefoot in the villages, on rough roads, where there are rocks, lack of water, forest, hot, all that?
– How did you explain to them what for? Surely they must have asked you: why?
-How did you explain it to them?
-For pleasure. I don’t know. I really like to travel.
-Do you already know what you want to do in life?
– In life? Yeah. I want to be a start-up like my dad.
-At the same time, I have and will have a hobby, which is traveling around the world.
-Do you want to go away in the future?
-No. If only to study.
-Are you going to come back?
-Do you want to study to be an IT specialist, an engineer, what?
-An engineer, then an IT specialist. I’m leaving the ninth. Already made up my mind.
-You’re leaving, and where are you going?
-Engineering or I.T.?
-Yeah, engineering. Then IT.
– You say you want to be like Dad. And what exactly…
-I want to be. I don’t know, he’s very driven, he’s… I don’t know, there’s some spark in him that motivates a lot. I want to be an example to all people. Like him.
-Have you met other people like that? Like Dad. With that kind of spark.
– What about what he does, he’s got a lot of projects in a lot of different areas, what do you like the most?
– Well, I just wanted to tell you about that, and there’s one project that I like a lot. Specifically one that’s business-related, or just as a hobby?
-In general, the things he does in his life-I like the way he blogs, the way he ran Boston, the way we walked barefoot with him, the way he created Sonar, all kinds of stories he writes, the way he makes books.
But it’s from the business from which he profits that I like the most…I guess 999.
– That’s a good old classic.
-You say you’d like to do startups, like your dad did. If you had an idea for a startup first, would you go to your dad to ask for money or would you fundamentally go look elsewhere?
– I would fundamentally go look elsewhere.
– Because that’s exactly what Dad did at the beginning of his business, his career. I want to… I don’t want to depend on Dad.
-You mean you realize if you go into the world of innovation, business, and you need money for that, you’re not going to count on your dad? That’s the easiest way, though.
-Maybe at some points I’ll need his help, but at the beginning I’ll try on my own.
– Listen, we just talked to your son Misha. He’s a nice guy. So I want to talk to you about parenting.
– Go ahead.
-What are your main principles in this?
-The principles are to give him the opportunity to form a personality, not to create his own copy. And not imposing his life principles. Just letting him observe himself. And to accept them or not accept them… Not to say what’s black and what’s white. I don’t want a clone.
– Do you allow yourself to be wrong?
– Of course I do. It’s one of our rules. I broadcast it all the time at work, too, that the fastest way to success is to make mistakes. It’s the same at home.
-He said an interesting thing. I decided to stand on nails. I stood for three minutes. I’m a man. Exactly the same as you. You and I talked for hours today, you talk a lot about what a real man should do.
First of all, do you feel that this idea of a real man has changed in the last 15-20 years of your life?
– It’s changing all the time. It will be changing. In 10 years, I will have a different perception of what a man is. But right now, a man is not supposed to take responsibility, to suffer all his life. He’s supposed to be the protector, the great martyr. A man is a little bit different. A man to me is a man who, first of all, is not afraid. Not afraid of change, not afraid to change himself. Not afraid to step outside of his comfort zone. Not afraid to change his life.
-Do you think only a man can be like that? A woman can’t be like that? Not afraid to step out of her comfort zone?
-I still believe that a woman–how do I perceive the role of a woman? A woman is one who pushes you to those boundaries from behind. That is, you go, she goes behind you and pushes you. But you cross the boundary first, and she goes behind you. Her strength is that she trusts you. In my paradigm, it’s not right for a woman to go beyond that boundary and drag you behind her. It’s still up to you to cross, and she walks beside you.
-And what do you think about feminism, gender equality? About all this in recent years.
-I already told you about partnership, there’s no point in looking for one in partnership. It won’t do anything. I think it’s the same in marriage. There’s no point in two people having the same superpowers side by side. One should have one superpower, the other should have another. And then 1 + 1 gives 11, not 2.
Nature designed us to be different. And we each have different values and different meanings in marriage. And that’s the beauty of it. No one has it worse, one has it better. They’re different. I believe in that. And it works for me and my sweetheart.
-Well, in general, in your mind, can women be cool start-ups, leaders, people who move the system?
-Of course. Absolutely. There are some things that are proven by science that they can’t compete with a man. It’s physiologically built that way. For example, in lifting weights. Chess, oddly enough. Women are weaker at chess. I didn’t make that up. It’s not subjective. It just happens to be.
-If you dig deep enough, you can come to the conclusion that objectively women began to play chess much later than men. This institution of chess games, like any field, any sport, any field of science, in general, everything in the world up to the twentieth century was occupied by men. We lived in a man’s world. It is now that this transformation is beginning to take place.
-Poetesses are no worse than men in any way. Maybe even better. They write poetry. Paintings are different. That is, it is unknown what the superpower is.
And as for feminism…
-Yes, what do you, in general, think about the movement for equality, for feminism. In fact, I’d like to talk a little bit about the new ethics as well. Let’s start with feminism.
-Man and woman are equal. Okay, that’s understandable. But once again, each of us… You have one thing. We’re different.
But that doesn’t mean that you have less rights than I do. And I’m not saying that men have more power than women. It’s different. It’s different. If you clarify the question, I’ll try to decipher it in more detail. Feminism in what?
-I just want to understand you. Would you be able to be with a woman, a crazy startup woman who’s gone 20 hours at the office, creating some… Like you. Something inventory, lives in San Francisco, and has exactly four hours a week for you.
-You couldn’t? -No.
-No, definitely not. I don’t want a woman like that. But there are men who would be okay with a woman like that. And I’m not saying a woman like that is a bad thing. She is not good for me. I think that in order for the family to shoot, I mean, it is important that the man does not shoot, the family shoots. That is, everyone has to work toward the same goal. And if the man is the front man of the family, that is, the whole family works for one front man, then he has a chance to shoot. It can be a woman. In our family it’s me.
-And in your company in leadership positions, how many men and how many women?
-That’s a separate story. I have only girls. And girls come on really strong.
-I feel like the men are retreating into the shadows. It’s really fucked up. In the last 10 years, I’ve had all the men go into the shadows and all the girls come out. Department heads, 80% of them are girls.
– How do you explain that? Is this only in Moldova or do you observe this everywhere?
-In Moldova this is an isolated case, but in general it happens all over the world. That is, women now occupy higher positions. What’s the reason? I think it has to do with the fact that girls are hungry for it. They have been given the opportunity, and they are more interested. Men are kind of used to it: ok, we’re here already. And for girls this is something new and they take it away from men.
Men, unfortunately, because I’m a man, are less responsible, more of a wreck and less systematic. Girls are okay with that. Guys are more about buster, making up shit, but building systems and businesses – guys fail very badly here.
-I think men are a little bit more about fixating on something. And they can absolutely devote all their energy to that. But the moment you have to go to a more stable stage, a permanent, systematic existence, it’s harder for men.
How much you give, by the way. It’s quite clear that by Moldovan standards you’re a rich man, even a very rich man.
-By Moldovan standards, maybe.
-We’ll talk about that later. You can afford many things. Many parents of your affluence level already from childhood give their children cool cars with drivers, cool phones, the coolest things, brands, etc. That is a lot of opportunities to assert yourself by having material things.
-Yes. You don’t have that, and it shows that you don’t have that. How much do you give your son and daughter?
-They have the bare minimum. They have a regular school that they go to. Not some paid lyceum, but a free public school. They have smartphones, like normal kids. And they got them when they were 10 years old, before that they went with grandmother phones. You know grandmother phones? The push-button ones.
-Yes. And now, not giving a kid a smartphone, you’re immediately condemning them to being at the bottom of the class hierarchy. Because a person who doesn’t own trends, nobody respects him. I had an understanding that today’s teenager needs a smartphone like air.
Smartphones are pretty average. They expect them once a year. Mishka is minus 3 generations there, my daughter is minus 2 generations from what I have.
-You don’t even have the last generation, by the way.
-I have an 11.
– Yeah, you have an 11th iPhone.
You have one stage in your life, going back to your dopamine addiction, replacing another stage. You had a phase of passion towards motorcycles.
– A disease, as Vika calls it.
-Yes. -I spent an hour with your wife before this interview, by the way. So if anything…
– Were you filming or something?
-No. -Why are you so scared? That she might say something incriminating about you?
– No, she just doesn’t usually like it.
-I’d say she was pretty objective about you.
-Yeah, I don’t have any secrets from her. You can voice anything in the frame.
– She talked about these stages, too. First, the passion stage, the cartoon obsession. That’s it, making cartoons. And by the way, that stage won a lot of awards. You even showed it to us today.
Then you had your sports obsession phase. You went all out to overcome yourself, you ran all the marathons, you took all the heights, you ran probably the most difficult marathon… Is Oymyakon the most difficult marathon in the world?
-It’s not an event at all. I mean, no one goes there.
-But it’s considered the most difficult distance?
-Yes, I mean no one has ever done it.
-Well, crazy by world standards…
-Yes. -I stopped after that and said that if I go any further, it could be on the verge. I realized that that’s all, I’ve proved everything to myself, I’ve proved everything to everybody. And I don’t need to prove anything else.
-And by the way, did you prove yourself or others?
-100% to myself. I’ve had this story since high school, that I was…
-I talked to Vika and I assumed. I asked her that question, but it’s probably a better question to ask you. I mean, your dad was in the military. Military men are usually tough. They raise their kids without ooopsie, without too much praise, etc. Could it have been some kind of compensation that you wanted to prove to your dad that you were so good that you, Dad, could finally praise me?
-No. I was fine, smooth with my dad. There were no questions like that. Daddy loved me didn’t try to make a man out of me ever. I was just a weak bespectacled boy.
-The pimply one?
– Who got hit in the head at school all the time, yeah. And I must have formed some complexes about that, which were sitting deep somewhere and started crawling out before my mid-life crisis. I just happened to have a coincidence that I could close that gestalt, that I wasn’t weak. And then it just started to happen. Short-circuited and fwiw… That’s how I see it.
-So you admit that it was a mid-life crisis and that’s how you handled it?
-100%. I think I handled it very well. It was very hard, but it wasn’t hard psychologically. I mean, it was hard physically. I transferred the suffering from the mental to the physical body and got rid of it.
-Some people go into alcohol, drugs, another family or another relationship at that point. So a lot of people go out into different things. You chose that. But do you realize that your family suffered anyway? Because you weren’t actually there.
-He suffered terribly. Yeah, I had several divorces with my wife. To the point where tomorrow we’re meeting at the registry office with the papers, that’s it.
– And each time it was her initiative?
-Yes. -Each time I calmed her down, hugged her, asked for forgiveness. Then I screwed up again. Sports were more important to me than my wife. How’s that? That’s not really a good thing either. I mean, there’s a lot of stories like that out there. I’m not the only one with a wedge like that. It’s a fairly popular, common pattern, when a middle-aged man gets blown away by sports. And right along the pattern, it’s just like mine. There’s a case to be told about it. And that’s it.
-It’s a new passion.
-It’s a mistress. What’s the difference? Another woman or another crush. I haven’t been around for seven years. You’re in second place, third place. First biking, then running, then swimming, then wife. You know what I mean? And who would like that. Of course. And thoughts come into her head that I was wrong. I’m living with the wrong person. I need to decide something now, while I’m young. And that’s fucked up. Well, she and I were smart enough to think that it’s only temporary. Maybe it will pass. And it did. And now… Thanks to her for not taking me to the registry office.
-You mean without that bottom there wouldn’t be this peak that you’re going through right now?
-Yeah, it’s really great right now.
– You’re back in the family, including the kids. You’ve started to get much more involved in raising the kids now.
– I am now. I didn’t forget about them back then. I was a normal dad. My wife was more of a casualty. I paid attention to the kids. But now, of course, I don’t care anymore, because everyone suffered then. The staff, the kids and the wife.
– And why did you return to the ordinary earthly life?
-Gestalt closed. I realized that I could do anything. And I was no longer interested.
– But then something new has to come along. What’s new now?
-The first thing I stopped, I sat down. I was like, what’s next? Come on. There was silence in response. So, a year has passed. Quiet. Think for yourself, man. Me: “How did you get into sports? How did you do it? I want to get hooked like that, too.” I said, “Look, you can’t pattern it. Lucky me. The cards matched, the stars matched.” Because people ask me, “I’m not hooked on sports. How do you find it?” And after sports, I got the same thing. I thought it was now op, and it’s not op. And that’s why it’s been what, three years, going on. To say that I’m passionate about one thing right now, I can’t say. Startups, inventions, the product approach-it all hooks me, drives me, but it’s not the same as sports or cartoons, it was. This direction of invention is quite relaxed.
-That means that now you leave yourself time for life as well?
-Yes, I’m getting high from the fact that I structure my life in such a way that I get maximum pleasure from a minimum of actions, a minimum of events. That is, to get high from simple things. It’s hard enough to do. I started my barefoot period right after running. But it’s pretty fucking fascinating.
– Yes, I felt it today.
-This is just one of the inventions.
– I, by the way… What else?
-Such as Magic Thursday. I have 52 birthdays a year.
– By the way, we’re in your place of power. When we talked to you about this interview, you said: “We’ll come to my place of strength, the bathhouse where I hang out every Thursday with the men, the boys.” Your Thursday. Tell me about this tradition.
-It was born right in that interval, six months to a year after I finished my athletic career. I realized that I didn’t have enough of a weekly resource for seven days. That is, I’m dead at the end of the week. Too many people, too many events, too many decisions. That’s the hustle and bustle. And we went to the bathhouse periodically with friends on Saturdays, on Sundays, once every two weeks, once a month. It was chaotic. And I have an opinion that if you want something to be a part of your life, it has to be put into a system. If you like oysters, then you have to put the whole system of going out to eat oysters on Friday lunchtime. And you’ll have a lot of oysters in your life. If you try to eat oysters periodically, there won’t be enough of them in your life. Without a system, there will be no order.
Then I decided that I would pick one day. Not at the end of the week, because at the end of the week everyone has family, friends. But in the middle, where we would get together with friends. And friends would come in the evening. So I’ll be distracted from all the space that I’m in during the week. So it’s no family, no co-workers, and no friends. I belong only to myself. And it’s only at six o’clock in the evening that friends come over. And I hang out here until six.
-So on Thursday morning you leave the house, you come here?
-Yes. -I say goodbye to my wife because she doesn’t call or write me. I only see her the next day, because I come in at 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock in the morning, I go to bed, and I see her after 24 hours.
– But if, God forbid, something happens there, she might…
-Well, if the house is on fire, she can call me and say, “Dima, the house is on fire.” And that’s it, and hang up. But more often the house is not on fire, so no one calls.
-What are you doing here while your friends aren’t coming? I understand you have friends over every Thursday night?
-Friends. All the acquaintances I meet during the week.
-But only men?
-Well, we’re just running around naked.
-One of our mutual acquaintances that you and I met today was talking. He was here, he says: “In principle, maybe you have a chance to get in. You got the balls. Never had tits. Talk to Voloshin.”
-Talk to him, yeah. Wrap the top half in a towel.
-Absolutely. Why men? Just men. You don’t have to be naked. I’m just wondering why exactly…
-No, you can’t, that’s the point. It’s about inner freedom again, what we’re trying to do here… We’re not hiding anything. We blend in with nature, we walk like our mother.
-Do you walk around here naked?
-There’s the naked ones. Here’s a dude who bought a house, a neighbor. And I went up to him: “Listen, we’re having a Thursday issue here. We walk around here naked, we take a steam bath, we jump in the water naked. And you, I seen you got kids.” He says, “I know about your one. And I got the only window that faces your lot, I got plywood boarded up. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. We’re hiding the kids from it.” You can’t see anything from this distance, though.
It wouldn’t be comfortable for the girls here. And we won’t feel comfortable.
– How much has Thursday become a holy day for you? I’m just curious. You’re a businessman. They say to you, “The president is ready to meet with you, the prime minister, Ilon Musk. There’s time on Thursday from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.”
-Whatever. I’m not going.
-You’re not going?
– There were cases that I… Reschedule, I can’t go on Thursday. That’s it. Thursday is taboo. If I’m in Chisinau, I’m here 100%, no matter what happens. Unless the house is on fire. Otherwise, all meetings are postponed.
I didn’t go to the president once on Thursday. I had an appointment for Thursday. I can’t go on Thursday. Reschedule. Or I can’t come at all.
-And how did you respond to that?
-How. I said, “I can’t go on Thursday.” They didn’t ask me why. It’s because I’ll be running around naked with the boys. Maybe there would have been a different reaction. But who cares, I can’t go on Thursday and that’s it.
-So you only come to the office three times a week?
-Yes, three times a week. I’ll tell you which days and why.
– Okay, about the chip in your hand. I don’t believe it. I still don’t believe it. So let’s do an experiment. Attention! Pressing on the second floor of Simpals. It’s not going. Come on, let’s try it. It won’t go.
-I told you, I don’t like to carry things in my pocket, so I sewed the key under my skin. It’s right here. Look what I’m doing. See, there’s nothing, no devices. I bring it up here. I turn it green, and the button goes off.
-Goddamn it. It’s real. It’s real! You can feel the bump. Are you serious?
-I’ll show you the video.
– That’s the…
-No, the stitch was me making a blood promise to my partner.
-What’s the blood promise to your partner? -I’ll tell you.
-I’ll tell you.
-Did you? Or…
– No. How? It’s blood.
-How often do you get them together for a town hall meeting?
-Do you know everyone who works here?
-Good morning. Of course I do.
-Do you know everyone who works here? -No.
-No, of course not. I don’t know half of them.
-Which department does what, roughly? -Of course.
-You know everything.
-So what do we have here? We’ve got awards for cartoons that we’ve collected all over the world. Over 70 first prizes. These are the characters from our cartoons.
-Did all your cartoons win awards?
-No, not all of them. But out of six, five. The first one is the weakest, it didn’t win anything. There are Moldovan ones here. There are awards from all over the world.
-What award are you most proud of? Which one do you think is…
-The most …. It’s for product design. There’s one, there’s a Red Dot, it’s for industrial design which is the best award. This is the first Red Dot award in Moldova for “Lobster”.
– So no one in Moldova has won this award before you?
-Is it considered one of the most prestigious awards for industrial design?
-It’s in second place. And there’s a number one. I just don’t have it represented here. Red Dot. I’ll show you. They got one for “Lobster,” too. First and second. No one’s gotten one yet. No, they won’t.
I’ll tell you about the other award. This one. It’s the most memorable one of all. There are some very important festivals and awards. There are the cool ones. There’s some that go to the Oscars. But the funniest one is this one. Any dryness during the interview?
-It’s no big deal. Is that the one about the loser death?
-That’s the story. We have a task for teams to send out entries to all the festivals. And once they write to me, “Dima, we won, we took first place at Best Shot Winner festival. Come on”. I said, “Give what?” – “We need money for the statuette.” I said, “What do you mean?” – “Well, it was free. But we won and now we have to buy a statuette. Do we buy it, don’t we buy it? We don’t have to buy it.” I said, “Well, like, we won, come on. How much is it worth.” – “Expensive.” – “How much?” – “Five hundred dollars.” I said, “Fuck, what a statue.” Shows it to me. I said, “Fuck, let’s buy it, all right. We won.”
-Almost an Oscar.
-Sends it to me. And I’m like, “Fuck, that’s fucked up, that’s weird.” I go to the website, and there’s 1,000 winners. Give me a fiver!
-It’s a genius startup!
-It’s genius. They’re just selling hardware, you know?
-You’re doing bullshit.
-On vanity, you know. And I’m like, “Fuck, yeah, they’re beautiful.”
There’s a sports story here. Here’s that medal, by the way, six majors.
– What’s it called, the pinion?
-The pinion, yeah.
-That’s six medals for competing in six major world marathons.
-Which one is that? London, Berlin, Boston?
-And they’re all written over there.
-New York, Tokyo. Which one was the hardest?
-New York was the hardest because that’s where I was falling down. And I needed results. And I suffered a lot. And it was cold, it was windy. So the conditions were not for a record. But I didn’t have enough brains: I don’t give a shit, I want the record anyway. I got very badly killed. I was freezing cold and my legs were all messed up. And I ran Boston in 5 hours, I was relaxing, I was embracing…
-Kissing girls, it was great.
-Wife didn’t kick you out of the house, did she?
-And the medals, you see, they’re all the same. This one’s hanging, this one’s hanging.
-Your wife didn’t kick you out of the house after the kissing?
-No, she should have kicked me out a long time ago, but little things like kissing girls are…
-If you ask me, now the business of the world is more done by people who think so profit, all neatly calculate, percentile. Where there are minuses, there we reduce, here we minimize? Or a little bit crazy freaks like you.
-There is no question that startups and innovation revolutions are driven by people who believe in their dreams. They believe in something and push it. You can’t make a product without belief, because these schemes work well when you’ve got the project down to that state and when you’re convinced that people need it. And when you show your team: see? And it’s already selling. Now make it 100 times bigger. Then all these schemes come into play. And before that, it was your responsibility to prove to yourself and to your team that you didn’t create some bullshit, but the right product.
And now that’s what we’re doing with Sonar. As soon as we hit the market and we saw that this thing was going into everyone’s hands and everyone was saying, “Superlight.” Then they get hooked. And I step aside.
-When you understand that your product (this was the case with Lobster, Sonar, I understand that you also count on Sonar-2 to have such a result, the moment you come out, you scale the project globally, sales go anywhere, from America to Tokyo, at this point do you not break away from the Moldovan reality? Don’t you have the feeling that why am I in this swamp when I can fly high?
-We do fly high.
Initially, the products are not made for the Moldovan market. In order not to break away from Moldova, to feel good here, to feel like a frog in our swamp, there are Moldovan projects. Not everyone in our team believes that it is necessary to invest in Moldova. From a business point of view, it’s really irrational.
-You can’t scale later.
-Yes. -Okay, you did. It’s good if you made a profit. But with the same effort in the same Romania at least did-you immediately boom! Profit.
-Because there is a market.
-Yes, there is a market. That’s why we are going there now. But we will continue to do projects in Moldova, too, because we are physically present here. And it feels good to do something here, because it’s a reputation. And a reputation is trust. Trust is partners, clients, etc.
-Roman is who everything hangs on to when you get swept up in marathons and tomes of similar adventures?
-I rebuild, like an EMERGENCY.
-Is this an internal EMERGENCY?
-You can tell him, “Dim, fuck off, you’re ruining the business with all these…”
-We say that from time to time. That’s the basis of our mate-fighting.
-Are you partners?
-Are you a Simpals shareholder too? -Yeah.
-If it weren’t for that crazy thing he did, everybody knows how we like to say, “A little bit sick in the head,” wouldn’t the business be more successful as a business, by the numbers? I’m talking about the numbers now. That’s all the craziness he’s got…
– He wouldn’t have been. The elemental disruptor role is an important one. Because if everything is too stable, at a certain point the company becomes so aristocratic. And it doesn’t develop any further. That’s the storm to the empty should always be there. Just at the right moment.
-Are you, as the main shareholder, willing to disclose a little bit of data? What is the company’s annual turnover?
-Is that a secret? We have it online.
– Then tell me.
-100 million a year.
-100 million a year.
-This is while we are in Moldova. When we go abroad, the figures will be different and in different currencies.
– And what market do you want to capture next?
-At least Europe, Romania. And we will expand. We will make new stuff.
-Yes. And other products like Sonar-we already have departments in the States, Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa.
-You see, this is Simpals Factory.
-This is one of your most recent projects. How much do you want here… Do you invest a million in new business ideas, that is, do you help people create businesses from scratch?
-Yes. Vadim will tell you more about that.
-Vadim, hi! -I’m Natalia.
– Nice to meet you.
-This is my partner who does our… -He’s on the cutting edge of the attack.
-How many business ideas have you taken already?
-Oh… In fact, we’ve done a lot of idea-generating meetings. We’ve got over a hundred of them out there. We don’t even know how to do them and test them. But in the last six months, we’ve checked out about six ideas. And a few more processes.
– How are you different from a typical business gas pedal? There are a lot of stories where young guys can come in and say, “Here’s my cool idea. They find an angel investor. And God willing, it works. How are you different?
-There are several options in the world. There are gas pedals, there are incubators, and then there are startup studios. These are venture-builders. The main difference is that everywhere in gas pedals and incubators, people go there, and there’s recruiting, training programs, mentorship, and investment. In a startup-factor or venture-builder, generation happens internally. That is, there is a team on the inside that is constantly generating and attracting people on the outside. That is, we are inside constantly creating new products, new businesses.
-That is, a person may come to you with his own idea, or a person may come to you who has no idea, he says, “Guys, I really want to participate in something cool, and you, if he seems something interesting to you, can you take him into an existing idea, generate together?”
-That’s right. Can I say that?
– And what percentage do you charge for the project?
– It varies. Usually we offer the standard: 20 to 80, when all the investment, all the risks – on the company. If a person comes with his own idea and team, we agree individually.
-How long did you work on it?
-We worked on it for a year. We had a lot of prototypes. I’ll show you later on the website what stages we went through. And the scariest thing was that we were doing something for nobody knows who.
-I remember the Lobster presentation in Chisinau at some conference, you were there. Me too. There was a conference in Leogrand, in Radisson. And you talked about it at the beginning of the journey.
-Yes, there are plasticine samples.
-And I didn’t really understand, even though you talked about it so enthusiastically. And knowing you and your experience, it was clear that something would come out of it. But I didn’t really understand what it meant. And after a while it turned out that people were paying almost 200 euros each from different parts of the world for this… Someone will look now and think: for this crap.
-Why this crap? Look at it, it’s beautiful.
-No, I’m just saying, the way people from the outside look.
-That’s how she dresses. You adjust your weight as much as you need to. What’s the big deal? Besides the fact that it’s beautiful, it’s adjustable, which means you can choose any weight you want. So it’s the know-how of freedivers. They have collars, but they’re fixed weight. You eat a little bit more and that’s it, you’re drowning.
-Which product has a better chance, Lobster or Sonar?
– Both products have a chance. If we look at Lobster at this stage of our company, it’s a more niche product. That is, the number of freedivers is not comparable to the number of swimmers in the world. It’s a growing product and it’s a growing sport. And at this stage we only cover the niche of freediving.
In terms of development, we want to cover not only freediving with our company and our products. Maybe expand in terms of yoga and diving. Maybe other sports. That’s where we’re growing, in those areas, in those products. If we take just freediving, it can be other products. It’s not just cargo systems in the development of freediving. It can be fins – also unique, develop something together with Dima that doesn’t exist and didn’t exist.
-Roughly speaking, everything for swimming?
-Yes, water sports.
– Do you really go to work every day and… I understand that you don’t think about it every day, but when you do meetings, your flyovers once a week or once a month, once a quarter, do you really look at the numbers, the scale of the world? Becoming a one-horse company?
– Sure. Just today I was writing a text for Simpals “Lobster. On the 12th, our company will be 7 years old. I’ve reviewed all the accomplishments. We have dealers in 32 countries. We sell on absolutely every continent. We have exclusive contracts this year with China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan. So we covered the Asian market completely, despite the problems and issues with a different mentality, a different way of doing business. They work very differently there.
Our goal now is to conquer Australia. We have small dealers, but that’s not what we want. Conquer the States, conquer South America.
Europe-we already have long-term contractual commitments.
-Do you already have a turnover of a million euros a year?
-When do you want to reach those figures?
– I think a year from now.
-A year from now?
– You guys were with us a few hours ago in the pool, testing Sonar-2. We’re that engineering team, the development engineers, the designers who are doing this product, right?
-Well, we’re just part of the team. We still have a couple of guys who are on the team.
-You all graduated from Moldovan Polytechnic?
– And you all stayed in Moldova to work as engineers? So you’re a designer, right?
-Yes, I’m a designer.
-Any student who graduated from the Moldovan Polytechnic often dreams to go abroad at once, because you can get a job there, you can get good money, etc. And you stayed in Moldova. What does it mean to you?
– What do you have here? Who are these?
-Toys. Little monkeys that have been with us for maybe five years.
-What are their names?
-I think they get surprised every time they see people and say, “Oh, people!”
-What are their names?
-The right one and the left one.
-Right and left. Go figure out which is right and which is left.
-Do you know where that came from? That’s the speaker… What theater was there? “Gaudeamus”? No.
– Gaudeamus, yes, the one… Everyone fought for it.
-There it is. The remnants. We went there– there was a garbage dump. It was ruined. We found it, rebuilt it, and it works.
-This is where the 999s hang out.
-This is where the 999 are?
-This is the marketplace. You have to whisper because you can get punched in the face. These are the developers, the programmers.
-Is your project, one of the last ones that you launched, Simpals Factory, about this or is it about people who have already formed, who have a startup idea but not enough resources or no resources at all? Or is this including a place for such seekers?
-No, when a person comes in who has the same bottom that you’re talking about, it’s not about business at all. There are five levels. It’s level zero or level one. The person just needs it. He thinks the whole world is against him. And he survives simply. That is the very first level. And I’m interested in the third or fourth level, when you realize that you can change this world. You have the power to do that. That’s when it’s interesting. And at the first level, it’s not. When you confront the world. You have to go through… You can’t jump over a step. You have to…
-After that level, when you can change the world? What’s next?
-You say, “It’s not the world that’s bad.” At the first level you say, “The world is bad.” At the second level you say, “I’m bad.” I mean, the world is okay, but I’m a fucked-up freak, I’m this, I’m that. And on the third level you say, “And the world is okay, and I am okay. And on the fourth, you say, “I can change the world.” And on the fifth, you change it.
-What level are you at now?
-Three-four. I’m moving from level three to level four.
-What would level five be for you in your life?
-I guess if I went into politics.
– Thank you, hallelujah!
-But I’m not going into politics.
-No, why do I say thank you. I sat here with your Vika, we talked for an hour. And I was just asking her. Here in your life, it’s all about a kind of passion, that is, it takes you several years to pursue this or that passion. You’re completely giving of yourself. At least most of your resources you give to your new passion. So I asked her. She herself recalled how at one time, when you started actively writing posts, a lot of people would write to you: here, such a person would be mayor, president. She never commented, but she read it all out.
I asked her: “Why don’t you think at some point it might become that kind of passion for him? Whatever he takes on, he’s good at it.” Maybe not everything is the way he originally planned for himself, but at least you have the balls and the spirit to try to do your best. Well if it doesn’t work out, then you move on. Why can’t politics be such a passion for you?
-You said you talked to Vika about it. И?
-Wait a minute. That’s another question, what Vika said. I’m interested in yours… We just talked about it. She has an answer to that question, by the way. I promise I’ll tell you what she said. You can check it out later. But only after you answer that I haven’t formed your opinion.
-Good. Because I’m weak. For me to go into politics is the pinnacle of human will, of character, of dedication. After that, only God. You know, when a man throws himself on the altar…
-Come on, now you want to bring politicians closer to just that level of God.
-Well, the way I see it: to go serve the people. And that’s how I see politics. Not the way we have it now, but that’s the way I perceive it. If I go into politics, I have to get to that level of understanding that I’m willing to put myself on the altar. And I’m not ready.
-And for you to go into politics, personally about you, would it be about personal ego or would it still be about a sincere desire to make people’s lives, scaling it across an entire country, better?
-I answered that question before. Ego is okay. But the altar, the sacrifice. So you go to give yourself for the country, for the people. To become a servant of the people. It’s not about ego. It’s a level that I haven’t reached yet. Maybe in this life I won’t reach it. Maybe it will be in the next life. But for me, it’s a top. And I look at politicians and realize: how good for me, I’m an entrepreneur. If a five-story building falls, God forbid, phew, phew, phew, I have to get up at 3:00 in the morning, if I’m president or prime minister, drop everything and go to that five-story building. Or the orphanage. Or there’s an accident. Or a bunch of refugees came from Ukraine.
-Listen, well, for your marathons, Iron Man, etc., you left your company, your family, and went thousands of miles away.
– It’s about ego. I did it for me. I needed it. And here you’re doing it for others.
And I admired that. I don’t belong to myself. Now I belong to myself. I want to go to work. If I didn’t want to, I didn’t go. And I don’t owe anybody anything. You know what I mean? That’s not really about freedom. I mean freedom. And a politician is not free. You’re a servant. You’re a slave. A slave to this country, to these people, to this nation, to whom you owe a debt. Not they owe you, you owe them. And I’m not ready. I can’t go into politics.
-You’re not ready at all or you’re not ready yet?
-I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to get to that level for sure. I’m not going into politics. I can’t go there to steal, to bend, to dictate. I don’t need that. I’ll only go there to give back. And I don’t know.
-Why don’t you allow it? What are you now, 47 years old? In two months, you’ll be 48. You’re still absolutely young by today’s standards. Why don’t you think you’re in your 60s?
-I don’t know.
-You’ve changed so much over the last few years.
-I don’t know, yeah. But not in the next five years for sure.
-Listen, let’s talk about something else. You as an online person, you’re one of the first people, for those who don’t know… You’re very well known in all online Internet circles. But there’s a category of people who think, who is this obscure guy walking around barefoot? You are one of the founders of the Moldovan Internet. Those who remember the site… There were two places where people got acquainted – “ICQ” and Forum.md. That’s…
-It’s still alive.
-It’s still alive? -Yes.
-Yes, we keep it like this.
-It’s like an old Alfa TV. What for?
-There’s no one there anymore.
-Why would you… -Why would you…
-Well, there’s a bunch of messages, a bunch of messages. Lots of threads. I feel bad just deleting it.
-I mean, people still have the archives, everything.
-All the messages. You can go in and read what people were talking about 20 years ago, on what topic. This is interesting. Why kill it? We support it. We have a special server for the forum.
-I mean, you understand, you feel how the Moldovan Internet has developed. And not just the Moldovan one, but in general. You have an understanding of it. The question for you, as someone from this industry, is about cognitive distortions of reality. The way social networks influence the way we think about reality. You know the so-called bubbles? I’ve had this happen due to personal circumstances, not unbeknownst to me. I’ve spent the last 10 months outside of the bubble that I’ve been living in. And my biggest shock, shock and discovery at the same time, was that the bubble I was living in was not the only reality that existed. Reality is much broader, it’s much more interesting, because it’s much more diverse. And I realize that this reality of mine has been shaped…
I go to Facebook in the morning, I read people. And it turns out that the algorithm only shows me the people that I like the most. And the people I don’t like, they just don’t show up. And I’m starting to feel like everyone thinks like me. And this bubble… You feel like everybody’s for this or everybody’s for that. Or all about this or all about that. And it’s not.
How much does it affect our lives now? How dangerous is it?
-I’ve run into this, that we’re all about the dough. And the heroes of one dough think they’re the heroes of all dough, but in fact the other dough doesn’t even know you exist. There are heroes of their own. And those dabblers live next door to each other. Neighboring streets. It’s not some Zimbabwe, it’s all in one Moldova. The two biggest dibs are Russians and Moldovans. Romanian-speaking, Russian-speaking. This is our reality. And we have to live with it now, because it’s not going to get any better. Because if in the past we didn’t interact with the world through a smartphone screen, but through our acquaintances, friends, and I could get information not shoved by an algorithm, now they’re really separating.
-Yes, but just on that algorithm-slipped information, on what comes to you every day, you make decisions, including decisions that are important for your global life. You start thinking that this is black, this is white. This is black because everyone in your dough says this is black. When in fact there are a bunch of other people who don’t think that at all. They think it’s even gray, they think it’s even pink. But you just don’t intersect with these people in any way.
-It’s very important for me to be surrounded by people whose opinions I don’t share. And they all have different points of view. And we argue a lot. And I understand that if we were all sitting around saying that Putin is a faggot, all together, that’s just about bubbling, about distortion. And when one says he’s a faggot, but not really, and I appreciate people in my circle who disagree with me. It’s the same in partnership and in marriage, what we talked about with you today. That is to look for people who are different from yourself. It makes you feel like you’re not completely disconnected from reality.
-By the way, from this point of view, speaking of dough, you know very well that there is this notion that if a Russian-speaker, surname – Voloshin, point.md is the most readable in Russian, then unequivocally…
-We’re on Moskova.
-We’re in Moscow, yes. Only it’s such a strong, fat Moscova.
-I’ve been struggling with this for a very long time, and it’s very hard to overcome this cognitive distortion.
-I just see you get that a lot in the comments.
-Yes. When I closed the comments on Point and said that I was against the war and that Putin was a war criminal and that we supported Ukraine, a lot of people freaked out. They wrote me, “Voloshin, right? You’re pro-Putin.” Where did you get that from? Where from? People were slowly layering up. And it came to the point that I’m actually Putin’s agent, right here.
-How do you fight this? Is it even possible to fight this?
-You can and should fight it. I am fighting this. This is a problem for me, because I’m pro-Moldovan, but people think I’m pro-Russian. And this hurts me. Especially lately. I see what happens there. It’s just fucked up. And you have to talk about it a lot. You have to prove it with deeds. You got to fight it all the time. You can’t do that… Danny, you’re molting, sweetheart.
-Look, this is primitive thinking and categorical: if a Russian-speaker is definitely pro-Russian, if he walks barefooted, then he is definitely crazy, if Point.md makes news not only about Maya Sandu, but also about Doldon, then there is definitely a contract there. And very often, people from whom we would expect something completely different are talking about it. To be open, to understand that the world is multi-faceted, to be more tolerant. I am talking now about our politicians. And not about anyone in particular, but about everyone.
How do you influence those from whom you expect, to come with a good word, not to continue to bring this shit to the masses, having much more influence on the masses than everyone else? And they’re carrying that shit, aren’t they?
-That’s the easiest thing to do. It’s the easiest thing to label. To fly right or left is the easiest thing a person can do. It’s much harder… Even you now. Try to imagine that Putin is doing something good. Can you convince yourself that there’s ambivalence about the war in Ukraine, that he’s not such a jerk, maybe it was Ukraine that provoked it? Try to catch yourself thinking that well this is absurd, it can’t be, Putin is unequivocally a complete asshole. But there are people who believe the opposite. And try to take their point of view and shift yourself a little in the direction of the middle at least.
-Let’s imagine that new world, perfect, what’s there.
-A nice world in which Dmitri Voloshin decides: no, that’s it, my next project is “Changing Moldova. What do you think, a person, you or someone else, who comes into politics not on the slogans of let’s hang these, let’s put these in jail, and let’s get well, but a person who explains, “Guys, the world is much more complicated, it’s so gray-brown-raspberry, and there are no easy solutions. And the solution, the only solution, is to work, work, work. Just the state should do the first, second, third, fourth and do not interfere” – do you think there is a chance for such a project in a country like ours, with our mentality, where someone must come, save and solve everything for you, such a project has a chance to win?
-We are still ruled by populism. We will feed the hungry, we will save the sick and everything will be okay. This scheme works. It’s been tested. The question is whether you can come to power with the message that I will come and we will just work. I don’t know what will come of it, but we will just fuck it up. Whether there is any chance of coming to power with such a message is a big question. Maybe in order to do what you’re talking about, you have to say we’ll save all the sick and feed the hungry. And then, once in power, to say that for this we will work and work and work. That is, while the country is not ready for that.
-The confidence of your team, of those I talked to today, that they have all the chances to create in 3-4 years a Moldovan first unicorn, that is a public company that will be worth more than a billion – how realistic is it if you and your team stay in Moldova?
Now it’s really about business. Is it more about business or is it more about your mission as an inspirational person who constantly drives his whole team, they look at Voloshin: oh, he’s so cool, we’ll follow him, no matter that it’s to the abyss – we follow him. Is it about business, or is it more about this?
– I told you before, if you want to jump as far as possible, you have to aim one meter further than you can. So when guys say we want to become a billion-dollar company, okay, target. Well okay, we’re not going to be a billion-dollar company in four months, we’re going to be a 300 million-dollar company. And if you dream of becoming a $300 million company, you’re going to become a $50 million company. We have it in our DNA right now that you have to build ambitious unattainable goals and fuck off toward them. This will have maximum effect.
-Good. For a person who is okay with his job, he likes it, he is comfortable where he is, but he has a certain amount, 100 euros a month, that he is willing to invest, would you invest in what? Would you invest in cryptocurrency? Do you invest in cryptocurrency yourself at all?
-I don’t know anymore. If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have said: “Of course, crypto!” And now you know where crypto lies.
-Wait, maybe now is the right time to buy.
– Well, I put it down like that, too. And now it’s downstairs. I just don’t move now, I’m waiting for it to take off for sure.
-Can you tell me what you invested and how much you invested?
-I won’t. Because I always say, “Are you stupid or what? Why did you invest so much?” Let it lie. She’ll be fine. She’ll grow up. I don’t believe in a world without crypto. There won’t be a world without crypto. There will be crypto.
-Which crypto have you invested in yourself?
-Not bitcoin? -No.
-No. Why I believe in ether is because the ecosystem is built around it. I mean, bitcoin is just the first digital currency. It’s pretty oaky. And there is an ecosystem being built around ether. And it’s becoming a means of payment in a lot of places, so I believe in its development.
-You know, by the way, speaking about how the state cooperates with private business, etc., that if you open an account on Binance in Moldova, for example on one of the cryptocurrencies, you can link your Moldovan card to Binance, but if the bank finds out about this, they will block you immediately. Did you know about this? I recently decided to open an account with Binance. I told you about my little challange. I decided to save on one bad habit of mine. And I’m going to invest all this little money every week in cryptocurrency. So, I will invest 15, 20, 100 euros every week. That is, this is the amount, which I won’t feel sorry to lose in case of something. Well, what if at the end of the year it will shoot 100-200%. And as it turned out, I went to the bank and in my usual manner said: “What card should I open, I want to open a Binance account and bind it”. They looked at me with those eyes, came running and showed me the regulations. They said, “This is prohibited. It’s illegal.” And I just didn’t understand why it was illegal if it was money I hadn’t stolen from anyone. There’s money, I want to put it on the card. Or there’s money on the card, you want to transfer it to Binance. Why is it impossible in Moldova?
-I’m not a financier. I can’t answer that question for you.
-It’s clear to you, as a person from the business, why.
-It’s not regulated money, it’s uncontrolled, it’s dark, it’s… You can’t touch it. For the state, it’s a black hole through which money flows out of the state. Why should they love it?
-If it’s money from your card opened in a Moldovan bank, you transfer it somewhere, they can see where it goes, so take taxes on that 100 euros from the card and that’s it.
-The state has a stupor. There is such a thing, which it is not clear how to manage, how to see what income you have. And the first thing is to prohibit it. Then we’ll figure it out. First we forbid it; then we don’t allow it. And then we’ll figure out what it is. The state has not yet figured out what this is. In fact, the world has not figured out what this is. Only some countries are legalizing crypto right now; they understand crypto and regulate it. We’re in a state of stupor right now.
-Would you be in favor of legalizing crypto in Moldova?
-Certainly. Yes, I’m sure it will be legalized all over the world. It’s the natural way. And nothing can be done about it. Just like social rating. It’s just a matter of time.
-If you had the opportunity to rewind your life and live it again, at a faster speed, I don’t know, would you change anything?
-No, I don’t see the point in changing anything at all, because you never know where it would lead. Maybe I would change something, and at the final point it could grow, like a butterfly effect, into some bullshit. So I wouldn’t touch anything. The way it goes, let it go. And it’s a good thing I don’t have the ability to do that, because I’d definitely mess it up.
-Have you screwed up a lot in your life? -Of course.
-Of course. I’m a normal person. I’m a normal person. I’ve had my head screwed up. Yeah, I’ve done a lot of stupid things. I don’t regret them either. I have a lot of rakes of my own, I carry them with me, and sometimes I put them in front of me and step on them. It’s all right.
-Have you been betrayed by business partners?
-No. -I had my first partner at Simpals. He didn’t betray me. We broke up. He didn’t believe in the company and left.
-He has no regrets about that?
-I didn’t ask him. Well, I did ask him. But when I asked him, he didn’t regret it. That was a long time ago, about 15 years ago.
-Where is he now? What does he do?
-He lives in Chisinau. By the way, I tried to get him out last year. Found his contacts, wanted to meet him. But he politely declined.
-He has his own business or he… -No.
-No. -I demanded too much from him. I have a very partner-like attitude. I demand as much of myself. And not everybody can, like me. And that’s probably not good. But I wanted too much.
-You have only one partner at Simpals, despite the big team, Roman, whom we saw today. You gave him a 10% stake in the business. Do you basically build any business as solely yours, or are you mentally ready in the future to sell and stay…
– With a 30% stake.
-Easy. We’re partners with Roma at Simpals. But we have a bunch of companies like Lobster, Sonar, a few others. Romanian company. And I have more partners there. Here’s the girls you talked to, they’re also my partners.
-They’re all partners?
-You give them all a percentage? -Yes, of course.
– Yes, of course.
– What’s your usual ratio: how much you keep for yourself, how much for the people who…
-It’s different. Every case is different. You can’t fit it into a pattern.
-Do you ever think about the fact that you’re a totally addicted person? There are all kinds of addictions. There’s drug addiction, alcoholism. Everybody’s addicted to something. And you have this… I told you that today: you’re a dopamine junkie. You need it. You need the constant pleasure of feeling satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. And you usually get that through coping.
– That’s the shortest way to get there simply. It’s not pleasant, but it’s the shortest way. In fact, all human beings are dopamine addicts. Everything we do in life we do just to get an injection of oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, pleasure hormones into our bloodstream. We are biorobots. We don’t do it for anything else. We don’t give money to an old lady for nothing. We don’t raise our children because we love them. We do everything for the people we love because all these activities give us personal pleasure. Perhaps I can see it too clearly, but you do the same thing. If you think about your actions and ask: why, why, why, 7 times. You end up coming: to get high.
-Of course, because I like it. Maybe others don’t like it, but I like it.
-Absolutely. So there’s nothing surprising about it. I’m just like everybody else.
-Listen, I just want to tell you, to summarize today. We spent half the day with you. And we came here to wait for you. About this walking thing. It’s a very cool, very experimental thing. It’s about a kind of inner freedom that suddenly appears for some unknown reason. Even though you’re just walking around Chisinau. Is it about freedom?
-I recently, just this year, was able to articulate my basic value in life, what I aspire to. Up until now, it’s been covered in a fog, a haze. This year I realized that I strive for freedom in all things. In evaluating all of my life segments, I realized that I want freedom everywhere. And I enjoy it. And I realized why I walk barefoot. That’s exactly what you’re talking about. That realization came to you quickly. And it took me several years of walking barefoot to understand why I do it. Now I realize it’s important to me. And I’m going to pass this on to my children, that you achieve a sense of inner freedom, and you’ll be happy.