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Mark Shmulevich: Startup C-Suite, Executive Coaching & Angel Investing

· Podcast Episodes,Founder,Angel Investor,Russia,AI

Two common situations come to my mind. One is that the rejections mostly happen because potential investors do not feel that the product or the vision is good enough So that is probably a trigger that you should rethink what you're you are doing. But the other situation, which is quite common, is that you have good vision and product idea, but you do not pitch it well, because not everyone can pitch well. Not everyone finds enjoyment in all those talks. And if you're not enjoying, it's quite difficult to demonstrate that "Yes, I can do it" approach and really appears a way the listener that you can do it.  

- Mark Shmulevich  

Mark Shmulevich is a senior executive in technology business and early-stage investor. He is an avid supporter of education, talent development, science and technology as key drivers of societal progress.

Mark’s professional track record includes both public and private sector experience, while the industry domains he has worked in range from space and quantum technologies to artificial intelligence (AI).

Dr. Mark Shmulevich has been COO and SVP at TAIGER, an NLP AI software company, since 2018. Headquartered in Singapore, TAIGER pioneers AI products that use human-like logic to automatically read, understand and extract information.

Previously, Mark was Chief Strategy and Operations Officer at Acronis, a global software and services company working on efficient data storage, protection and security. Acronis achieved the $2B+ valuation and serves over 500,000 customers worldwide.

In 2012, at the age of 29, Dr. Shmulevich was appointed Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) of Russia, responsible for policy making in IT and IT industry support. He suggested and implemented changes to legislation allowing small and medium IT companies to enjoy a tax regime more beneficial for innovation, as well as simpler employment schemes for highly qualified foreign talent.

Dr. Shmulevich is an advisory board member of Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Innovation Centre (ICT branch). SMART supports entrepreneurship in Singapore, providing grant support and mentoring to the project teams.

He is also a board member of SGTech, the largest technology business federation in Singapore. In 2020, Dr. Shmulevich was appointed Chairman of its Digital Transformation Chapter.

He is married and has two daughters. Mark resides in Singapore with his family since 2016.

This episode is produced by Kyle Ong.

Jeremy Au (00:00): 

Hey, Mark. Good to see you on the show. 

Mark Shmulevich (00:02): Hey, Jeremy. Good to see you. 

Jeremy Au (00:04): 

I'm really excited to share about your global experience across Russia, Israel, Singapore. And I'm also passionate about hearing some about your experiences as an executive in tech, as well as an angel. So it'd be interesting to chat about those things. 

Mark Shmulevich (00:23):Absolutely. I'd love to talk about that. 

Jeremy Au (00:25):So, Mark, for those who don't know you yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally? 

Mark Shmulevich (00:31): 

I've been a leader in various businesses and nonprofit organizations, too, working on technologies in various fields, starting from space technologies, then quantum technologies, then software and data protection and artificial intelligence. So my experience in technology is quite general and diverse. And recently I started applying that as an investor too, in addition to operational business. 

Jeremy Au (01:04): 

Awesome. And you grew up, as a kid, and you also started your technology career in Russia. And for those it's obviously very much their perception of Russia is very much true to movies. So ABC from Hollywood. And then also we got to see some of... My favorite scene, I think, recently was like the Wandering Earth. I don't know if you saw that science fiction movie by Liu Cixin. And the opening shot actually was the Russian cosmonaut and the Chinese cosmonaut being very bro-ey on their own independent space station, drinking Russian vodka. So tell us more. 

Mark Shmulevich (01:43): 

I haven't seen that movie, but I can imagine. Indeed, I'm Russian. I grew up in Moscow and I did my PhD in one of the best universities in technology and science field. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, that was there that time called data mining. Later they started calling it more like big data. And now a lot of things are just called artificial intelligence, machine learning without a distinction. But I was doing algorithms of clustering various data sets that contain both textual and numeric information. And then I thought where to apply my skills. I could stay in academia. I could go into business. And I got an offer to join the largest space technology corporation in Russia, which I did. And I think that defined my future track out of academia to the industry. 

I joined as a researcher, but several years later I moved inside that company into the business development space. I created the department that was a new one, a small one, but the idea was let us look at what is happening in space technologies globally, try to merge what we can do in Russia with some technologies and the businesses outside of Russia and see how it is going. And I think it was a fascinating journey. So that was the first time I tried building new technologies, bridging different companies together. And that was very interesting. And I think my interests have not changed since then although the country has changed. 

Jeremy Au (03:20): 

I think Russia has always been a leader in technology. And I think there's something that we've seen a lot of great stuff come out of Russia. And what's interesting is that there you are and for some reason you decide to move to Singapore. And take on a tech executive role. So tell us more about that decision. 

Mark Shmulevich (03:42): 

My experience for the first 30 years of my life was primarily in Russia. There was flying a lot and I was working a lot with non-Russian tech companies. Almost all of there were in the U.S. and the vast majority of them were it happened  around New York, Boston. So I worked more with the east coast. And I didn't have experience in Asia, although I knew that Asia's very diverse. So you need actually to look at different countries, not Asia as a whole. And I knew a bit about Singapore. I had experience working with some organizations Singapore and traveling to Singapore. So then it happened kind of accidentally, I was thinking about what to do next in life around 2014 and I got an offer from the founder and the CEO of several IT software companies, one of them was Acronis and that was the company that that person returned to as a CEO, not very long before he offered me to join the team. 

So I accepted that offer. And that time the headquarters of the company was in Burlington, Massachusetts. This is the area that I knew very well. But we decided that it was right to run the business from Singapore, taking into account various things happening in Asia, the dynamics, Singapore being a neutral country. When you work in the data protection space, it's good to be able to sell anywhere. So long story short, I accepted the offer and I moved to Singapore and started working on operation, driving this business from Singapore, which was the international headquarters. And then I just stayed here. 

Jeremy Au (05:36):Do you remember what was it like when you touched down in Singapore? What was your feeling in your first day, first week? 

Mark Shmulevich (05:44): 

Oh, of course. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was almost all about the climate, this humid and warm climate. Now I get used to that and I actually love it. But when we come from Russia, it's so much different. I would say humidity is the main thing. It feels like you are in a spa all the time, first, then you get used to that. 

Jeremy Au (06:08): 

Yeah. I think that's what happened to me when I moved to the states in California. I was struck by how dry it was. So suddenly I was like, "Now that's why people use ChapStick and moisturizers," because it's so dry. So there you are in Singapore, you're building out this career here. And what's interesting is that not only are you there with this company for a couple years, but then you choose to double down and continue working in Singapore at TAIGER and make the move there while also working at SGTech along the way. So tell us more a little bit about what was it like to, obviously, make the move in, but then choose to double down and keep working in Singapore? 

Mark Shmulevich (06:51): 

For me and for my family, that was the first time we experienced the and working outside of Russia. And also my family was expanding the time we came with one small kid and the second kid was born here in Singapore. I don't think it was the right time to change countries again, because every time you change a country, you change so many things around. Basically, the biggest thing is the network. Even now when so many interactions are online, I think still your network is very much territorial. Not fully, but like 50% of it is territorial. And when I made a move to Singapore, I had a very little network here and then I start building it via different business projects, via board positions, via operational work interactions. And that requires time. So, to me, it was quite natural to stay in Singapore for a long time and we're here and we plan to be here. Just because every change of the country is a high cost in terms of they need to build many things again in new location. 

Jeremy Au (08:07): 

That's so true. And I feel that's really underappreciated when you're young. And I think as you become more of an executive where a lot of the business not just about doing the work, but is also about who you know and what kind of connections you can build. That's something that actually stacks up quite importantly, as a piece of criteria. So that's something I only came to realize a couple years ago as well. And, for me, I think what's interesting as well is that you've continued working on this piece where you've learned to be a tech executive. So you've always been a VP, a chief operating officer, a senior VP. So what's it like for those who don't know yet, a lot of people out there are like junior folks. And then you look at these senior VPs as demi gods walking the, back in the day, shared working space. What do you think are the things that different about as you climb and become a executive at, in this case, a big tech company while the key different that happening because of the work? 

Mark Shmulevich (09:18): 

That's a great question. I think the answer depends on what type of companies we're talking about. There are bigger companies and there are startups or scale ups. My journey was more from bigger companies to smaller companies. And I think that being executive of at a large company means that you need to have a great vision and view on the area that you're responsible for. You need to be really very strategic. You most often need also to be a bit political to be able to navigate the corporate environment, at the same time on the operational level, you can afford not understanding very deeply, 100% of things. You can afford that, because even if there is a snooker ball that is falling and you fail to catch it, most likely someone will catch it. So the probability of really losing a lot, because there is a small gap in your understanding of something is quite low. In smaller companies that doesn't happen. 

And I think the difference in the way, how you work between an executive and a manager of a lower level is not that big. In all cases, you need to understand very well. What is happening in each 100% percent of aspects of the business that are relevant to what you're doing. Because if there is a ball that is falling and you fail to catch it, most like it will just drop and that will be a negative impact. So that's, to me, the biggest difference. So summarizing, in large companies, indeed, it's a different type of activity to be an executive and a smaller company. I think it is more like a title, but everyone is doing more or less the same it's in different areas. 

Jeremy Au (11:19): 

I like what you said about the balls, dropping versus it being kept in the air. For a lot of people, of course, they're thinking themselves, how do I get promoted to the point where I can keep those balls up in the air or, make sure that they're not being dropped. What advice would you give to people who are trying to climb the ladder, the startup, or trying to join another startup and the executive role, what advice would you give them with a starter process. 

Mark Shmulevich (11:52): 

I would say, try to really understand how the business works as fast as you can spend a lot of time during the first month you are within your team, in a new company, just under really making sure that you understand everything and you do not try to trick yourself and think that you understand, although you doubt that and just move to learning another piece of the business. Because there are many cases when people do not really understand some of the aspect of the business. And then usually at some point of time, it becomes a problem. Now, after you understand the, the business, then you switch your mind to another goal and start thinking about how to bring maximum value. And this is what you do. But again, it can be efficient only if you really understand and feel the business as a person joining a new company, you probably do not have of that understanding in advance. You're not a founder, you're not the person who built it. But if you understand it really well and you're smart and you're experienced, you will be able to generate value. And this is how you grow. 

Jeremy Au (13:05): 

How does someone really understand a business? Because sometimes you feel like you understand it and it's hard to know how much you actually do on, right? So like how would you recommend someone get around to absorbing as much about a business as possible? 

Mark Shmulevich (13:23): 

I would prioritize two things. One thing is understanding how the revenue is generated. So taking different types of client projects, different types of projects, where the company is delivering value in different ways and just writing some schemes on paper, just for yourself, trying to make sure that you can draw and understand and calculate how much it costs, what the risks are, how you get paid, what is the strategic direction. So I will start from dividing whole business into different types of projects that you do in terms of which value to which customers you bring. And that's the first thing. And the other thing is talking to people. Just talk to people who are more experienced than you, who have been in the company for a long time. They have so many things to share and people most often help when you ask, just spend time with the people and during the first month, just to make sure that you write down what they're saying. If you understand later that you do not understand why they said that, just approach them again and ask. 

Jeremy Au (14:40): 

Those are great tips. I really love the part, of course, about getting to know people and making sure you're taking notes. And I also really think and agree with you that understanding how revenue is actually made in the company is a big one. Because one thing I noticed, a lot of consultants and a lot of people who are big companies is they forget how the company makes money. So they know how to cut costs. They know how to increase profitability, but they don't really understand how $1 is made in the company. And when you forget about that, then all the recommendations and all the decision making all gets weirdly optimized for whatever they're used to. So was it like joke is the person marketing background would be like, "Let's increase marketing, spend. The person with a sales background says, "Let's increase sales reps." The person, the technology background is like, "Let's increase engineers," and nobody's really saying, "Okay, what are we trying to achieve right at the end of the day? 

Mark Shmulevich (15:39): 

That led me to thinking about one more thing that I would probably add to the first two, which is talking to the other executives in the company, make sure you really understand what the priorities are for the long term, for the short term, even for the long term, everyone is driven by the same goal to grow the business, but the priorities can be a bit different in mid od long term, like you might just prioritize the growth in the company scale or evaluation, or you want to reach positively done relatively soon. You need to understand all that. And in the short term, there can be some goals that everyone should be United around and you should be at least aware of them. Because what I saw several times during my work life is that there were smart, experienced people, that quickly after joining the company, come up with interesting ideas and they create great proposals, but this proposals just do not get supported. And that leads to some frustration. 

So the reasons for that are that the company as a whole is not really focused on the direction that these people are pushing for right now. 

Jeremy Au (16:55): 

Yeah. No, that's really true. And I see that all the time as well. Well, I guess I'm kind of curious, how does an executive work with another executive? That's my question. Do you have any tips on that? Because it's interesting, because when you're a junior person, the only one person you need to manage is your boss. As you get promoted, sure, you need to manage upwards, which you've always done. And, of course, you know how to manage downward, so that's pretty straightforward. But there's this new layer called managing across the layer. So you're like working with the engineering team the sales team, the marketing leadership. Right. So do you have any tips about how, you're all at a table equivalent, how would you build that relationship to be stronger and more aligned? 

Mark Shmulevich (17:47): 

I probably will not say anything unique. So managing horizontally is again about building connections with the people, understanding what they want and what they're trying to achieve, and the basis for efficient corporation on top of just the relationship you have is that you help these people to achieve their goals and they will help you achieve yours. So build the relationship, understand what they're working on right now. Again, it requires understanding of what each part of the company is actually busy with. What is happening, what they're trying to achieve. And automatically you will understand the world view and set of motivations of your peer executives. And it will be easy for you to decide how to approach them, what to suggest, what to ask. They do the same with you. 

Jeremy Au (18:41): 

Yeah. That's actually a really good tip. And when you talk about understanding the incentives, what they're trying to achieve. And another top part you said was about building connections. How do you build connections? Is it go out for dinners and drinks, do those things help from your perspective? Or is it more about those one on ones where it's like a whiteboard and figuring stuff out 

Mark Shmulevich (19:07): 

That helps going, in-person connections, dinners that helps. But I wouldn't say that this is mandatory or this is the only thing you should do. Now after one and a half years of COVID, I think we all have experience working remotely and it actually works. In some cases, yes, you lose efficiency compared to in-person interaction, but nothing stops. People are working and projects are happening and companies are developing. So obviously dinners are not anything mandatory. The biggest tip for me probably would be understand how you can help the person. You might not ask the typical VC question, how can I help? But if you understand how you can help and you do something, something really, really small, maybe in advance, you do not need anything right now, but you try to suggest a person to talk to or advise something, or at least send an interesting relevant link with some explanation, why you think that this article might be useful? Anything that creates a basis for virtual collaboration of the future.  People do remember these things and people really want to pay back and people want also to be helpful. And, and then they accept your help. 

Jeremy Au (20:33): 

Yeah. I think that's a lot truth there. I think one thing that you made me think of is when you work as an executive at a technology firm, you... At the end of day, the basic assumption, which will be true almost all the time is that everybody wants the best for the company because we're all working here. And so the only question is how do we get there. And that perception may be different in terms of our professional judgment. So sometimes a lot of arguments are not necessarily about whether we should do this. Because I think we all agree we should do all of this. The only question is in what sequence or what priority is it is? And that's something I often use all the time to like, "Are we actually disagreeing about what we're saying? Are we just disagreeing about the priority or the sequence of it? Right. And that helps like, diffuse a lot of debates very quickly. 

Mark Shmulevich (21:22): 

Yeah. There is one more thing, Jeremy, since we went into this direction of how to be efficient as an executive, I think coaching is very important. Having someone who is either a professional executive coach, or just a person, maybe doing something like what you're doing now, or who had such experience, but working in another company and who agrees to regularly spend some time with you is a tremendous value. And that can help you look at what you are doing and the problems that you are solving from a completely different point of view. And then integrate that point of view with your point of view, which helps to make that decisions. It is not like you will wait another person to tell you what to do. No in a good coaching situation, they never tell you what to do, but you will be able to look at the problem with their eyes. You will be able to learn some questions that you might not be asking yourself. You might be avoiding asking those questions just psychologically, because that's a tough question. 

And when someone nearby looking at in your eyes is asking this question, that's use usually a cold shower that forces you to find an answer. And then the overall quality of decisions gets much better. I highly recommend working with an executive coach, at least from time to time. 

Jeremy Au (22:56): 

How do you find a good executive coach? Because there's a lot of people advertising themselves and there's no easy review ratings. So what's a good advice for people to be able to find a good coach that fits with them? 

Mark Shmulevich (23:13): 

I think my situation here is not typical, because among my quite close friends, there is a person who is a great executive coach. This is his passion. He's part of the team of Marshall Goldsmith, who's one of the most well known U.S.-based executive coaches. And through this person, I have a good understanding of the whole landscape and the network. But if I didn't have this person in my very close network, then probably what I would do would be asking people who I believe are doing the right things and I know they are working with coaches, asking them who they're working with and who they're happy with. I will most likely start with getting references and I would not just Google and call people with cold calls. I don't think it works in this type of arrangements. 

Jeremy Au (24:08): 

I think you made me think. I think one tip I heard in the past was "Look for an executive coach who has either done your role in the past and now they're chilling, because they're retired and coaching," or, "Look for someone who spends a lot of time coaching people in your vertical or your company type," because an executive coach for a startup executive or founder is very different from an executive coach for big tech executives, which is very different from an executive coach for people who are FMCG company leaders. 

Mark Shmulevich (24:40): 

Yeah, sure. I think we are already speaking about the coaches that have experience, so technically they can do the job. And then the most important question will be whether you as a person will be open with that person, vice versa. So can you work together well as people, because this is a relationship, just another type of the relationship. So to solve this, probably good ways to think about other people, executives in your network, who you think are maybe somewhat similar to you in terms of which people they're comfortable with, who they work with and then asking those guys whether they know anyone who is good and then talking to that person. It's very likely that you will also feel good with that person. 

Jeremy Au (25:28): 

Yeah. Sometimes it can feel awkward asking for an executive coach. At least it's less stigma, I think, compared to asking for a therapist, but it does feel a little bit like... because I think, historically, I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, you only get an executive coach if you're failing or doing poorly as an executive." So I guess what is your response to that? If someone is concerned that there's stigma about having an executive coach, what would be your reaction to that? 

Mark Shmulevich (25:58): 

I would try to explain that this is absolutely normal and this is even good, because it's probably much less logical to understand that you have a means of becoming more efficient and you are purposefully avoiding it. This is illogical and strange. The are countries, like the U.S.A., where having an executive coach is already perceived as a very normal thing. Say in Russia, it is still different and 10 years ago, I think the whole executive coaching movement was just starting. So people looked at that as a really weird thing, but now it is changing. It's a bit more difficult for me to speak about the coaching landscape in Singapore. I know there are rather a lot of executive coaches and I know people who regularly work with executive coaches. But here in Singapore, I've never had an open, one-on-one talk with another executive about coaching. So this is interesting, but I do not know where Singapore is in this journey. 

Jeremy Au (27:11): 

I think the more American-aligned executives are going to be like much more comfortable talking about executive coaching, because of that. And I think the local people who have gone up through a more local system and haven't had an opportunity as much, are still processing and learning how to use a coach and not feeling shame of using an executive coach, which is interesting. 

Mark Shmulevich (27:35): 

I'm thinking about that rather illogical and analytically, there is one more value of a coach, which you will probably be able to get whoever that person is. This is increasing your accountability. Many people know that if you really want to do something and you just tell yourself, "This is what I will do, there is a pretty high chance that you will not do that." But if there is another person who you promise to do that and you do give a date, then the probability that you really get that completed by that date goes up a lot. So who can you promise? You can promise it to your partner or your spouse, but, obviously, it doesn't work often, because it will be quite unusual. But if you have a coach, this is a perfect person to discuss such things and you just promise, you give commitments to that person. It worked very well to me. And I really noticed that I managed to achieve more in such situations compared to just making a promise to myself. 

Jeremy Au (28:40): 

Yeah, that's amazing. So, one way I do know that you've been helpful and also been a coach to others is that you yourself have been an angel investor at XA as well as a personal investor. Could you share a little bit more about what's it like to be an angel and early-stage investor in Southeast Asia? 

Mark Shmulevich (29:03): 

First, I don't have much experience in that yet just because I started only three years ago. And that means that I fully understand that maybe in five years I will think differently about some of the things compared to what I think now. I think that's exciting. For any person who has had experience in various areas of technology, being angel investor allows to have really a stake and view on the portfolio of different companies and technological directions compared to just being focused on one company. It doesn't take a lot of operational time, because I'm not a professional angel investor. By the way, this is also very interesting job. Recently, I read a book called Startup Wealth, you can buy it on Amazon, which is just a combination of interviews with a professional angel investors who spend their full time on that. That's a fascinating collection of wisdom. 

But in my case, it's more like an ability to participate, help, and also have a stake in different businesses that seem interesting to you in the areas that currently you do not work in operation or have never worked in, but you always wanted to do something. So that's an ability to do it. 

Jeremy Au (30:26): 

So for many folks, there are so many founders out there who are looking for angel investments. And I think a big part that they always asking themselves is "What is an Angel investor looking out for? What is the incentives behind the angel investor to make a decision between yes and no?" I'm just curious, would you be open to sharing how you think about the process when you meet founders and teams? 

Mark Shmulevich (30:51): 

Sure. As many of investors, I prioritize the team. Basically, if I were to leave just one thing out of the whole due diligence and then I would have to make a decision right after that, that one thing would be talking with the key founders just as people, and understanding what kind of people they are, how resilient they are, what is their motivation, how open they are to pivoting and changing the direction, if needed. This kind of things. I would prioritize that over understanding their previous experience, understanding that technology and product deeply and many other things. So this goes on top. When you invest in the early stage, everyone understands that so many things will change and you do not need to be an Excel worm and go through financial models. You need to have some basic understanding of the unit economy and what's happening, but most likely nothing will be like in that financial model. But the people do not change. 

And there are some things that well now is so difficult to change in ourselves. For instance, if you are a slow person, it's so difficult to become a fast person. And if you come from a very technical thing and you really prioritize technology, it's very difficult to change your mind and start thinking about marketing or business development first. All these things become rather clear after 30 minutes so that you spend with founders. So this is the key thing when you invest in a very early stage. 

Jeremy Au (32:36): 

Does it feel like it sucks sometimes, because I'm also an angel, and sometimes the team walks in and they're so optimistic and your brain is going like, "Hey, this team is not very strong," and it's a very awkward thing to say or think, because you know what they're passionate about and that they could potentially prove you wrong. It's just that it's not enough for me as an angel to make a decision to say, "Yes, I will make that investment in you." What do you think is the optimal outcome of that conversation, where the team is not probably going to get an investment or the angel's probably not going to make the call to do that investment. What's the optimal outcome for that meeting or relationship? 

Mark Shmulevich (33:21): 

Well, if you don't intend to make an investment, then just building the relationship potentially for the future is the optimal outcome. You never burn bridges. You try to establish and build a relationship in any case, because that might be very useful. But I think you mentioned a very important thing, what happens when you meet a team and you believe that they are not professional enough, so they are not going to make it. Yeah, for sure, that's a bigger red flag. Although within that understanding, there also can be different situations. I'm purposefully trying to make sure that I do not fall into the trap of giving a higher priority to more technical people with the life path, which is similar to mine. This often happens in the VC world. If you pitch a VC and you know that there is a partner that fund whose life looked a bit similar to yours and tried to reach out to that guy, because there is a bias. People like to invest in other people who are like them. 

But I'm trying to do a bit of an opposite thing, because, in many cases, I see the teams where the founders are great and the product and technology, and they are really, really doing a breakthrough thing and they have deep understanding of that. But instead of doing something small, iterating, doing cus dev, customer development along the away. And by the time when I have a technology fully ready, already having several clients and understanding the business part, they prioritize the development of the technology and the product. Although I could have been such person myself, I feel that it's not the way of doing business, that in my understanding, optimize the outcome. So if the meeting doesn't go well, but you feel that people might be not technically good enough, but they have their passion and they are fast and they are trying and iterating, it might be still good. 

Jeremy Au (35:42): 

Yeah. And what tips and advice do you have for teams that don't receive the angel investment? So, like lots of teams will meet lots of angels and not get investments from you or me of from lots of other people who have lot experience in the tech world. What advice would you give them? Because it can feel quite demoralizing to get a bunch of nos, especially at such an early stage of the company. I think if you're raising a series A, then you've got a team, you've got a company, you know your metrics. So you know what you're building as well. But I think for such an early stage, I think a lot of them, they get discouraged, because they don't get a yes decision. So what advice would you give them who are facing such rejection? How should they be processing the rejections or incorporating the information? 

Mark Shmulevich (36:35): 

Sure. Two common situations come to my mind. One is that the rejections mostly happen because potential investors do not feel that the product or the vision is good enough and the reason is that the product or the vision is not good enough. In this case, it's hard to give an advice. I think it will be possible on the case-by-case basis, but something needs to be done differently business-wise. So that is probably a trigger that you should rethink what you're you are doing. But the other situation, which is quite common, is that you have good vision and product idea, but you do not pitch it well, because not everyone can pitch well. Not everyone finds enjoyment in all those talks. And if you're not enjoying, it's quite difficult to demonstrate that "Yes, I can do it" approach and really appears a way the listener that you can do it. 

So in many cases, it's just a question of being able to present. And in this case, there is an is easier outcome. You need to think about expanding the team and finding a person who might be a co- founder, if that's an early stage, or it might be an employee, but someone who can work closely with you and will help you explain what you're doing and pitch. The reason is not just to get the angel investment. It's not possible for the company to grow, because in so many cases, you will need to sell what you're doing can explain. So if this skill is missing, you need to fill that skill for a business. 

Jeremy Au (38:22): 

So, you've obviously done quite a lot of success in your career between executives and as a angel now. I'm just curious, from your perspective is you've obviously ran into some tough times along the way. Have there been any times where times have been tough and you've had to overcome some adversity and, as a result, had to choose to be brave? 

Mark Shmulevich (38:46): 

Yes, of course. I think the majority of such situations for me were when I had to make a tough decision, usually choosing between two options and both options have a list of 100 advantages and then the 100 disadvantages. I think I need to still learn to be better in such situations, because sometimes I notice that I tend to overthink. It's really difficult and frustrating and stressful. When you need to make a decision, you really choose between the two options and most likely making a much faster decision, maybe after one or two days of such hesitation, might work much better in life. Because in such situations, it means that probably they both options might work well for you, so just make a decision and go. But it goes against my personality. I really prefer to be a bit more sure, at least understand the preference. So there were cases when it took weeks or months to make a decision, and these were very stressful moments in my life. 

Jeremy Au (40:00):How do you manage your stress? 

Mark Shmulevich (40:01):Sports, especially cycling. Actually, I started cycling in Singapore. I have a friend here who does triathlons and he cycles a lot. So he just got me interested in cycling and it helps me a lot. So when I just go around the island, it takes several hours. And then you return home, you have almost no stress. You can just think again about the problem and your mind is clear. That's one thing, I do not know any other one, which is comparable in terms of its efficiency. Probably the other one is just to try to sleep and think again the next day, but cycling works much better to me. 

Jeremy Au (40:49): 

Well, I totally get it. I think for me, it's also sleeping. Sometimes at night you're just thinking and thinking you're just like, "You know what, if I just sleep now, I'll feel better about making a decision tomorrow, which is an interesting dynamic about being human. So, kind of wrapping up things up here is, if you could go back 10 years in time and meet the younger version of yourself, Mark, back in 2011, what advice would you give yourself? 

Mark Shmulevich (41:26): 

Take more risks while you are young. Try to be less risk adverse, because in my life I had rather a lot of ideas that I did not implement, just because I thought that I'm too busy or they're too risky. And they were quite small, meaning that they wouldn't take too much time if I decided to implement them. But now I think that it's very important at least to write down all your ideas, all the thoughts that might seem very unorthodox at this point of time, and then try to follow up with some of them. Because if you don't do that and you prioritize the given career path and quite a narrow sector of what you can do, then later you look back, some dots connect and you very often think, "Oh, wow. If I only followed that idea or that idea, I could have had such a great result for now." 

So thinking about that now, 10 year later, just means that I try to be more risky. And if there is a risky idea that you can launch or invest or create an article about or patent, and that doesn't take much time, just do it. 

Jeremy Au (42:48): 

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Mark, for coming on the show. I think there were three big themes that I really appreciated you sharing. I think the first part, of course, was your transition from your cutting your teeth as a technology data in Russia and making a move to Singapore and how you felt about that move and why you decided to stay and double down, not just on your career, but also, like you said, the stacking geographic nature of the networks and getting deeper into the local tech ecosystem as an executive and angel investor. The second thing I really appreciated was your themes around how to be an effective executive, how to rise as one, how to be successful and on board as a new executive and a new team, and how to work effectively with other executives very quickly in a short period of time, including self-awareness around coaching and how to make tough decisions. 

And, lastly, I think the third thing I really appreciated was you sharing about what it means to be a angel investor and how you're thinking about making a decision for people coming in and what advice you would give to people who are coming in and how they should act on the feedback in the sense of either building their business or in improving how they pitch. So thank you so much for sharing and dropping a lot of knowledge on everyone. 

Mark Shmulevich (44:15): Thank you very much, Jeremy. It was my pleasure to be on your podcast. 

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