Eugene Kaspersky founded Kaspersky Lab in Moscow in 1997 with no financial backing. It’s now one of the top four anti-virus vendors globally.
The New York Times
When Eugene Kaspersky founded technology company Kaspersky Lab in Moscow in 1997, he had no financial backing and found it hard to pay salaries every month.
Now IDC ranks the IT security business as one of the top four anti-virus vendors globally, and it has 2,700 specialists with offices in 30 countries, serving 300 million users and 250,000 corporate clients worldwide.
BRW caught up with Kaspersky in Sydney to hear his tips for fellow entrepreneurs.
1. Love what you do
“The business has to be part of your life. It is not just a money-generating machine. It must be part of your heart. You must love it. If you don’t like your business, don’t try.”
2. Work hard
“You have to be ready to work a lot and ready to take responsibilities for what you are doing. There is no life balance in business – forget about your life. You must live in your business. That’s it. Forget about the balance!”
3. Recruit companions for the journey
“You have to be able to find the right people and manage them in such a way that they become entrepreneurs themselves. When I started the business I wished only to survive and to have enough cash to pay the next salary. There were no big plans, just surviving. We started the business in Russia in 1997 and it was a very bad time in Russia and there was no such thing as investment into IT companies. We had two options: die or win.
“We were lucky – we survived, but that was really hard times and we were working like crazy with short income, delays with salaries, and no new cars, but I managed to collect the crazy guys who were passionate about the business. They were shareholders – some of them are not active in the business now, they did their job, but some of them are still very active. I’m still the main man in the company.”
4. Separate friendship and business
“If you see that a very good friend and an important person in your business has changed and is not following the same way as in the past, don’t waste your term. Divorce. Make an agreement and separate. In some cases I waited a year, two years, three years for people to recover, but in most cases if they change, they don’t get back. It doesn’t mean they go from good to bad but they used all the fuel and can’t do any more. Give a good bonus and pension but let them go.”
5. Challenge yourself
“I had a cryptography education but I wasn’t clever enough to become a true cryptographer so I became a software engineer and I was a military service officer in the Soviet army. There are many examples of entrepreneurs without technical skills – they learn and they go get them. Advice for students in education – take the most difficult courses and that prepares you for any job. If you have the opportunity to do computer science or mathematics, do mathematics. It’s much more complicated. A mathematical education is the very best way to organise your mind.”
6. Give it a go
“Try it for a couple of years or three years and if you realise it’s not your way, forget about it. If you’re successful, keep going.”
7. Don’t be scared
“You are facing opportunities, challenges and problems at the same time and the problems can look overwhelming, it’s not possible to fix. Don’t be afraid – try and try again and again. That’s the rule. A scared businessman is not a businessman, like a scared army general is not a general, or a scared journalist is not a journalist.”
8. Open your mind to go global
“I keep learning because we have a global company with operations everywhere around the world, and the nations are different and business culture is different in different countries and still I’m learning, and that’s why I love travel. There is a Roman world – North America, Europe, Australia. Asia is very different. Latin America is different. I want to have a successful business everywhere. In most regions we are successful but in some regions we are challengers, like in Japan, which is the most difficult market.”
9. Funding is good but not essential
“[Not having investment] helped my company but it killed many other start-ups. It helped my company to find a way to develop a successful, profitable business and not to rely on easy money, and now it’s part of our corporate culture. [Investment] is a good thing because it’s like extra feeding for the start-ups. If you don’t feed them, there’ll be fewer of them.”
10. Be prepared to make sacrifices
“My children are 24, 21 and two [and there is another on the way]. I am a very bad father. Unfortunately I don’t spend enough time with my kids. It’s my problem because I travel a lot for the business. Unfortunately, in the case of international business you have two options, you’re a father or you have a business.”