Sam Ovens: Hey everyone, Sam Ovens here, and today I have Igor Kovrigin on with us, and he's got an awesome story. He started Consulting Accelerator earlier this year, and he had worked in investment banking for was it about 10 years?
Igor Kovrigin: 13 years.
Sam Ovens: 13 years in investment banking. And he wanted to get into business for himself. And so he decided to join Consulting Accelerator, and was able to start a business helping startups raise capital using his knowledge of the investment banking world, and M&A and all of that. And he's been able to get some clients, and grow his business up to the point now where it's making around $20,000 per month. So on today's interview, we're going to dive into the story and see exactly how that happened. So thanks for jumping on.
Igor Kovrigin: Thank you. Yeah, hi.
Sam Ovens: So let's go back to like was it around July when you joined?
Igor Kovrigin: Yes, I joined startup, oh sorry Consulting Accelerator mid July, yeah, and it was one of the best decisions I think in my life.
Sam Ovens: And what was going on at that time? Like explain the situation.
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, so I was in investment banking for 13 years doing various advisory projects on M&A capital raising for big companies in different parts of the world. Later on in 2017, I actually quit investment banking and decided to focus more on venture industry. And eventually I was advising a startup who was maybe one and a half years old to raise capital that was quite successful. Million dollar transaction that I did basically in a couple of months. And I had some personal attachment to that project, I started helping those guys, and doing some business development stuff, and they saw my value to add to the story. But eventually, in mid this year, I thought why not scaling? Like why not doing this for other things?
Igor Kovrigin: For investors who have different projects that they're invested in, for example the investors, the project that I was advising. They kind of had also different investment in startups. And they also were looking for some help on fund raising. So I decided to try, why not? But still, I was in some I would call it shaky position, because I was not there, I was not here, but this consulting course really kind of defined the direction.
Sam Ovens: So what would you say your problem was at that point?
Igor Kovrigin: I would call it self identification. So whether I am with a single company that I am advising for nine months already, where they should kind of stick to that. Or how I look at other attractive opportunities that I hear on the side, and who am I? Basically. What am I doing actually, what's my focus? That was-
Sam Ovens: So you kind of torn in a few different directions, and you didn't have certainty and conviction on this is the thing.
Igor Kovrigin: Absolutely. Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, that sucks to be in that position. I've been in that position multiple times.
Igor Kovrigin: And when we try to do different things, having motivation in one project, then the second project, then the third project, but still trying to figure out what spot's best for you, right? And this course, it actually helped me put all the dots all right. Like explaining to my mind what's actually going on, right? So that was extremely helpful, yeah.
Sam Ovens: And how did you find it?
Igor Kovrigin: Well first of all, week two was extremely useful to me, right? So-
Sam Ovens: I mean like how did you discover the course in the first place?
Igor Kovrigin: Okay, how did I find the course, yeah? I actually saw a couple of Facebook ads with this nice bike in your cabinet. But I didn't actually click it at that time, I just read what was written on the Facebook page. But later on, I also heard about it from my friend, and I decided to explore it, and I jumped on the webinar, and kind of it completely persuaded me that I have to try that. Yeah, and I really enjoyed the whole course, the beginning of the course, the webinar. I saw this like alchemy of self work book that you displayed there, a couple of pages. And I realize that I need exactly this thing to solve my problem.
Sam Ovens: Why did you think you needed that thing?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, because as I mentioned that I had this self identification problem in terms of what I'm doing, and why I'm doing this. Why I'm not doing that. And that sort of is having role models in front of you, understanding their mindsets, and kind of sticking to that. It was very appealing to me, I would say.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And then you joined, and then what happened next?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, I started watching the course week by week, yeah? And doing the exercises. And the approach that basically I found, it was kind of so profound in terms of niche identification. I started understanding my clients better, I actually started writing down several niche's that I could deal with. And they were so diverse, that I kind of was really surprised that I could do quite a number of topics, and cover quite a number of industries, because I have a real passion to that.
Igor Kovrigin: Though, I was doing finance pretty much all of my life. But all of my list of niche's I have, kind of a niche of dentist. Right? Because my brother is dentist, and I also thought that I can help this group of people to solve certain problems. But after all, when I sorted everything out, would my value add to particular problem of his niche? I still identified that I'm best, and I can generate more value in fund raising process.
Sam Ovens: Got it. So how did you come to that conclusion? That you were able to add the most value in the fundraising process?
Igor Kovrigin: There was an interesting question in the questionnaire about the pain points, right? Of each niche. And I think that's a crucial thing when you decide what you need to do in terms of value, adding value, right? For me, I saw that I can pretty much do every five measures that I put into my list. But when I saw that the pain points for a particular niche. I found that the pain point for startup founders is the biggest one. Because they really, well how I looked at it, they really lack the jobs, or don't have a job. They just raised some funding to develop their sometimes crazy idea. And they're really passionate about it, and once they don't have this ability to talk to investors, or to find investors anywhere, they're really ready to give everything they have for a device, and for help to do that. To get in front of investors.
Igor Kovrigin: It's not like about dentist who are looking to get more clients, they already have some. They can have more, less, but for startup founders, it's more like a question of survival, right? Because they already made their decision, they let their jobs, they took some funding from their friends and family. And they need to generate some returns on that. So I found that this problem is really painful.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And why do you think you were drawn to startups in the first place?
Igor Kovrigin: Why I joined the startup that I was working on a year ago?
Sam Ovens: Like I can kind of see what you've done. You worked in finance, right?
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Which was probably not to do with startups. It was probably with larger companies.
Igor Kovrigin: Exactly.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, so you worked on that for like 13 years. And so you're obviously good at finance, and M&A, and all of that stuff. But then there's this other interest you've got, which is startups.
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Or entrepreneurs, right? What do you think causes this interest?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, that's an interesting question. I think it goes to the topic of maybe my own desire to be closer to entrepreneurs. Because when you work with a big organization, everything is more or less the top there. Just a measure of I don't know, it's just a matter of how quickly you'll do that, or this or that transaction, and at which price point. But when it comes to entrepreneurship, and especially the very early stage, it's very different, right? So you have pretty much to build everything from scratch, to build the whole investment story, to build the product story.
Igor Kovrigin: To build founders story, to attract the right interest. And this thing really attracted me on a personal level as kind of in this sense, I was building my own business, right? So I'm building my own practice. And yeah, and especially after I made this project in 2017, and raised a million dollars for the early stage startup, I realized that I can do that, and add value to people.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And in the program, I talk a lot about you want to find a niche you're interested in, which you did, which is like startups. Or startup companies. And then find a painful problem that they have. And so when you looked at that, you found that they have a painful problem of raising capital in the early stages. Why is raising capital a problem for early stage startups?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, because for these type of companies, capital markets, sources of capital, they are limited I would say. When you start a business, you have very limited sources of connections, or people whom you can talk to, and ask about some funds. And even if you have these people around you, you need carefully and clearly understand what they're going to do with this money. And you clearly need to understand the way of thinking of investors. What are they expecting from the investments when they give money to someone? How they want to play it, what they want to hear from the person who is attracting capital. And normally, people who are just from the corporate job, I don't know some program developers, or some hardware developers who had some great idea, and understanding that they can change the world with their hardware technology.
Igor Kovrigin: They're just going to take 30 to $50,000 from their friends, spending this money on some travels to some I don't know, conferences. Or some meetings here and there. And then they need to raise another piece of money to find the team to grow their business. And they just cannot put it in the right way to persuade investors that their money will grow, and they'll generate the return, and they'll survive until the next round. And that's kind of where this gap happens.
Sam Ovens: So what do they typically do that is wrong? So they need to raise some money, do they present it to investors? But just fail to actually get the investors to invest?
Igor Kovrigin: I think it's even earlier stage problem, right? So they cannot even get in front of people, because their approach is different. They used mostly, they used to their following behavior that they put together some material, maybe one or two pager. And send it to people, and just keep silent, and wait for response. Waiting for people to coming to fund the great idea. And this approach is really kind of going there to nowhere. What people have to do is really compile the material, extract the fundamental of their business, and from the mantle of market needs. Why are they building this product?
Igor Kovrigin: And then constantly putting this information in front of wide audience. Not just targeted investors, but into as many places as possible. Like participate in different conferences, speaking in media, speaking at LinkedIn, at Facebook. Kind of associating themselves fully with this product. And then the market, we all understand what they're doing, why are you doing that? And funds will come. So that's a big difference for what they think is right, and what they should do right.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And so then when they come to you, or you come to them, like what do you help them with?
Igor Kovrigin: Well first of all, we start with the discussion. Like what are they doing, and why are they doing this? And sometimes the answers that they hear are really crazy things. They're so far from what investor would expect to hear, that if I was investor, I would just turn down the offer immediately.
Sam Ovens: Why, what's an example of something that they say that does that?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, mostly I would try still to be common, just not to mention any particular cases. But the common thing, people are just passionate about what they know. Being it marketing, being it hardware, being it technology. So they just put all the stress into this topic. Right? And they completely forget that investors, they invested into many things, and they lost money here and there. They understand how to look at various pieces of information, and they want to see a complex piece of proposal that will explain carefully that the business will generate further returns, and we will grow. Not just why this technology is great, but how this will be applicable to the world. And this piece of information is constantly missing.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, I've noticed this too, it's like also what companies do with their marketing. Like and entrepreneurs do, we teach this in Accelerator, how to make it real simple, you've just got to define the niche, what's their problem? The solution should solve that problem. Why is the solution different? How much does it cost? And how-
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, absolutely.
Sam Ovens: [crosstalk] ... You're going to sell it. And if you lay it out like that, anyone can get it real quick.
Igor Kovrigin: Right. Right. Right.
Sam Ovens: Is it a similar sort of thing with an investment pitch?
Igor Kovrigin: Oh yeah, absolutely. Well in terms of the structure, in terms of the way of thinking, this is very similar, yeah. Yeah. But sometimes as I said, people are really passionate about the things that they know to, or that you really want to give the world, that they forget to present all this pieces of information. Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And so you come in, and you help them really crystallize all of this information into like a concise, well structured pitch.
Igor Kovrigin: Right. Right. And sometimes it takes more than three, four weeks to do this work. Because when I'm start asking these questions, people really tell to go home, and think carefully about the answers. So they seem to know that they're ready to be in front of investors. But after the discussion, they understand that we need to do more profound work, and appropriate the work in house before going out. Yeah. And that's one thing. And the second thing that I also wanted to mention is that for some reason, startup founders that are going from with technical background, they don't have much desire to talk to everyone. To talk to people as wide as possible, right?
Igor Kovrigin: So they think that they can touch five, 10 names. And if they're unsuccessful, it means they're unsuccessful, and they have to go to the existing source of money, like friends and family again, explain that. Get more money, and those friends and family, they have to fund them. And again, this is a cycle, right? But again, when it comes to investors, it's more a matter of your clear proposal, and the matter of how wide you went with your proposal. Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And so how do you, like what's your business model for your consulting business? Like do you have a fee? Or do you charge a percentage? How does that work?
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, well I mean it's still playing this different business models here. But the most common that I find is there is a retainer part. Like a fixed fee. That start [inaudible] to me. [inaudible] ... That fee is normally associated with the part that's related to investment story, investment positioning. Internal transformation, understanding how the evaluation works. What's the right pricing for this or that stage of the business? And where it should go in the next two out of 18 months, because it's also very important when you talk to investors. So there is everything about for that.
Igor Kovrigin: Also, I prefer building longer term relationships with the clients. In this respect, we also discuss certain stock option with a company. Meaning that I get a certain stake in the business after successful execution of the contract. And that basically guarantees to the startup that me being involved in the wide investor community, being thinking about this company where I'm investor partner. And constantly bringing new relevant ideas to this company. And that model actually works, right?
Igor Kovrigin: So with my first client, we had similar structure. And later on, I helped them with business development part in six months time. And later one, we had another fundraising process in the next six months time. So that was kind of proved that this logic makes sense. Both to me, and to the customer. And the third part, is success compensation that's linked to the amount of funds raised. We've got three bars of those.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And then how much money are you typically raising for these companies?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, I normally start with the companies that are really early stage businesses. So for them, I would say investment ticket size is starting from $300,000 to a million dollar. But later on, while these businesses grow, the next transaction could be as big as two to $3 million or more.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And you're in Dublin, Ireland, so do you do this locally within the Irish market? Or internationally?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, I currently am mostly focused on the European part. And basically, the location, it does not prevent me from doing that. Because it's so easy to fly into continental Europe, or to Moscow to Russia, where I have lots of connections. And from investor perspective, I help these companies to look at the universe of [angel] investors, both in the European world, and of investing universe of VC funds in the US. So basically it's kind of wide geography.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And where do most of the investors come from around the European area?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, speaking about the groups of investors, for such types of transactions, those are mostly angel investors, or family offices. So that's geographically I would say, that's ... people from the CIS region that I personally know, and people from continental Europe, like Germany, France, that I also personally know.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Cool. And then how do you go about getting clients?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, so far it's purely organic. Because I'm in the model of done-for-you services. I also find that it's quite challenging to scale it, and press the button, and do wide road marketing on Facebook, et cetera. Because I might get a really huge flow of customers that I will not be able to deal on my own. And in this sense, I'm starting to scale a little bit, hiring people to help myself, et cetera. I think I can tell more about that. But it's mostly some personal references. That's one thing from the founders whom I helped already. And it's also personal references from investors who invested into the company with my help. The companies which were raising money, I tried to send investors.
Igor Kovrigin: And then they found that they might also need help for other, their other investors. Investments. And thirdly, I participate in various, take part in various conferences. Looking at startup battles, startup pitches over there. And after that, I talk to founders about their needs. And try to help them, and engage with them after these events.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Cool. And then you said you were hiring people, where's the major bottle neck with your business?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, doing the execution, it really takes lots of time, right? So I now have four customers, and taking a fifth one, or even sixth one is a challenge. So potentially, I can take one more. But it will really take pretty much all of my spare time for execution. So I really have to think about some support from people, and doing various analytical job. Doing presentation materials, financial modeling, this type of activity. But finding these people, and competing with big firms investment banks, it's also a challenge, right?
Igor Kovrigin: So now I decided to start looking at students, and working with some students to understand how they pick up certain things. And maybe grow with me in these projects. And then keeping them in the team. But that's kind of my first attempt of hiring people personally. So I was hiring definitely people when it was part of the investment banking teams. But that's different, that's completely different I would say.
Sam Ovens: Yeah. And sometimes those people who they don't fit in well into a company that's this small, you know what I mean?
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah. Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Because they're so used to expecting all of those surrounding pieces. And then they come into this, and there's none of that. So sometimes the people who do the best out there are the younger less knowledgeable ones that are hungry. Because they quickly get up to that level, they're cheaper, and also they're more comfortable with the chaotic environment.
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, absolutely. And they're really interested to learn skills, not from the books, but from the real life examples. When they can interact with clients that are real life clients. And even if they go to investment banking firms, they will not be doing this for the next two, three years, I would say. They will be just crunching numbers. But here, working with me, they basically get all this livee exposure to real projects. Understanding how the best practices of investment banking work. Because I teach them these things, and yeah. So I think that's beneficial case both for them and for me.
Sam Ovens: Nice. And you said earlier when I asked you how did you find it, and you thought I meant the how did you find going through the program. Let's ask you that question now, how did you find going through Consulting Accelerator?
Igor Kovrigin: You mean in terms of outcome? Or was it long or short? Or difficult or easy?
Sam Ovens: Well you said that week two, that we went before-
Igor Kovrigin: Okay.
Sam Ovens: Before I said, "No, I meant how did you actually discover it?" So let's continue that piece. Like how did you find going through the whole program?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, I think the whole program is really perfectly structured, in terms of the flow of information, and the deepness of information that's offered for study. For me personally, week two was really great. But all the other weeks, like week three in terms of sales, week four, five, and marketing, and organization, the business. They all brought stuff, lots of important pieces for me to structure the approach to my own business that I could not even learn over 13 years in investment banking. So the sales scripts, understanding that there is a clear path in the thinking process of the customers.
Igor Kovrigin: It's really fantastic, fantastic observation and knowledge for me. Because nowadays, speaking with clients, sales process is just so easy. And I think now it'd be easier for me, even though we are talking about I would say big amounts of compensations. [inaudible] ... The founders have to share with me for my services. So this is all sensitive pieces of compensation sensitive for them. They are easily explainable from valid preposition standpoint, right? So it's not like fighting for this and that dollar, but it's more understanding the whole value that they bring to the company and founders.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, it's like sales has been kind of like a mysterious topic. We have a lot of misinformation. Like oh, you've got to be aggressive, you've got to talk real fast. Just yell at people, and like don't let them speak. Just weird things like that. And it confused a lot of people, and it's like there's a real actual logical sequential process to take people through-
Igor Kovrigin: Absolutely. Yeah.
Sam Ovens: That makes actual rational sense.
Igor Kovrigin: Right. Right. And adding to that more, like an example that I can bring from investment banking world. It's like when they come to a client, you're basically always pitch high, just giving them high price expectations. Because no one knows what will happen in nine months time when the real turns actually will happen. So you just give high price estimates for him that his business will be valued very high, it will be sold very high. He'll get lots of money. But at the end in nine months, no one matters what will happen. And that's basically how the sales process works in that industry, right?
Igor Kovrigin: However, when you speak to customers from valid preposition, with the smaller startups, it's more about giving them opportunity to understand whether their product and the technology that their building is what the market needs. Is it what investors are ready to finance? Or not? Right? For them not to waste more time, more money, and their life for this thing that they're trying to build.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And how was week two for you?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, that's really I think transformative thing. From all the standpoints of my personal and business life I would say. Putting together this alchemy of self, I think I spent three days for the document, answering all the questions that were in there. And understanding the driver's inside myself, this high's and low's that you described in the concepts, right? And then following every day checking, what are those highs and lows?
Igor Kovrigin: That basically helped me, allowed me to improve, and to understand where I'm going, right? So it's a little bit, kind of sounds maybe a little bit vague. Because each person defines it for themselves. But for me, I really understood that I should focus on my goals, right? And my goals are priority. And kind of these things, this circle references between your thoughts, and actions. That's kind of the fundamental thing that changed everything for me I would say.
Sam Ovens: And how was it different before?
Igor Kovrigin: I would say it was a little bit of a chaotic approach to things. Though again, I would say that investment banking, and investment banking people, learn to do various things simultaneously. Kind of lots of time pressure, lots of different projects. You do many things trying to do many things in order. But trying to be on time with everything. So it's a little bit of chaos, right? But nowadays, with the repeating the alchemy of self, and reading these affirmations, I can understand what my true goals, and follow them accurately.
Sam Ovens: And what are your true goals?
Igor Kovrigin: Well, I'm actually in the point where I have to revisit my initial plan, that I've built back there in July. So I really now consider myself as a person who is helping startup founders to identify their past of growth, and help these people to understand their vision, their strategies, and kind of adding value to this community of people. And again, this became even more clear to me over this period of time. So yeah, that's how I worked it.
Sam Ovens: Got it. And then what does the future look like for you? Like where do you want to be in one year, two years, five years from now?
Igor Kovrigin: I really want to find a way to scale my business, right? So the thing that I'm doing now, I understand that it's not easiest thing to scale doing in the done-for-you model. And the last client that I got maybe a couple of weeks ago, the request from him was to educate himself to learn how to grow the business, to raise money, and the business they opened functioned. So I look at this opportunity, well initially I thought like why should do this? It's not what I was doing in the past.
Igor Kovrigin: I'm doing more fund raising thing myself, talking to investors. But later, I gave a thought to that, and thought why not? I should really try to educate this person, and give him the opportunity to do it himself. Because it's very important for his future growth, and growth of his business. So I'm in this process, I'm putting together certain materials of how to do this process. How to run fundraising. Where to find investors, how to approach them, what's the right way to communicate? And I'm really looking to transform that in the future into some course, and scale it this way.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Nice. So the goal is to master the done-for-you first, scale that up, and then create the program, and then give that to startups so they can do it themselves.
Igor Kovrigin: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sam Ovens: I think that's a good plan. And then what would your number one piece of advice be for other members who are going through Consulting Accelerator?
Igor Kovrigin: I would say always put yourself in front of the world, right? Don't hide your value, don't hide the value of your products that you can deliver. And that's the way you attract lots of interest from your clients. You attract lots of interest from investors, and that's how your products will flourish. So it's not about how detailed, in how much details you create in product, and bits and pieces here and there. It's more about how much value you create for customers, and to make your customers aware that your product is there.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Igor Kovrigin: So just keep saying that your product is there. Keep saying that you are there. Get exposed to the opportunity.
Sam Ovens: That's good advice. And then how can people learn more about you? We're going to put this on YouTube and stuff, so if there's startups listening, or there's people who know startups that are trying to raise money, how do they learn more about you?
Igor Kovrigin: Sorry, what even, how they can learn about me?
Sam Ovens: Yeah, like do you have a website?
Igor Kovrigin: You know, I'm not there with the website. I have a LinkedIn profile out there. My name is Igor Kovrigin. And yeah, I'm happy to answer all your questions, and chat with you on your issues that you might have with the fundraising process, or even business development process. Because these two topics, they're very well linked together. And yeah, let's see how it goes, and I'm happy to answer all the questions about that.
Sam Ovens: Cool, which is proof that you don't need a fancy website, or any website, to get a client.
Igor Kovrigin: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Though, I really want to create one.
Sam Ovens: Yeah? But honestly, if I was looking at hiring someone to help me raise money, I would just look at has this person helped someone raise money? More than I would look at how fancy is their website? One thing is more important than the other.
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, and that's why I'm not doing any active marketing at the moment, because this word of mouth just works really well at this stage. Yeah, at this stage of the scale of the business. So if I want to scale more, and have a bigger team under me executing the deals, then I could think about marketing. But that's not the thing I want to do, because I understand that at this stage of business, the quality of the services will go down if I do that. So it's not what I want to do now.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Awesome, well thanks a lot for jumping on with me, and sharing your story. I'm sure it's going to inspire a lot of people, and it's also going to help some people who are in the program who are struggling with some of that earlier stuff as well.
Igor Kovrigin: Sure, thanks very much, thanks very much for your time.
Sam Ovens: Awesome, see you later.
Igor Kovrigin: Yeah, see you. Bye-bye.