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“It is important to lead innovation from the very first minute.” Interview with the participants of the Converge project

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We are glad to report about successes of participants of our educational programs and their projects.

Filipp Zhuchkov, founder and director of the LLC Altair, a company constructing highly dangerous facilities, and Elena Tishchenko, financial adviser at DECO Geophysical, geophysical science-intensive service company, decided to continue their work on the project started during the educational project Converge.

Together with other Converge participants, Filipp, Elena and their project team in six months developed competencies in three disciplines: technology, design and business. Implementing the acquired knowledge and tools in practice, the team travelled the path from idea generation to the development of the platform called “Moy.Dom”.

The platform aims to solve the issues of organizing partnerships for TSNs (from Russian “ТСН”, associations of housing owners) in the St. Petersburg region and their interaction with the state and business. The project took the second place based on its investment attractiveness in the finals of the competition during the Converge Project according to the training participants.

Filipp and Elena shared their impressions of the Converge Project and their vision for the project development.

 

How did you join Converge and what were your expectations?

Elena: I wanted to learn about the constraining factors of innovation development. Indeed, during the project I received the answer in the Russian school we focus less on collaboration with the end user. The German school follows the idea from the very beginning, while the Russian school involves marketing into the project only when the product is almost ready and making changes is very difficult and expensive.

Thus, it seems that the Russian school needs to adopt international practices to lead the idea to the market from the very first stage of its inception. Then all the stages of the idea “crystallization” should be constantly accompanied by the interviews of potential clients to check the correctness of determined value that we want to provide with a product or a service. It seems to me that for the sake of this knowledge I would have been ready to travel to St. Petersburg from Moscow for another six months. The project took me out of the box, made me look at the problem of technology transfer from a different angle like a process that can and should be managed. In the German school there is already a methodology that has proved its effectiveness. One just needs to take this practice and adapt it to the Russian realities.

What was the most interesting for you in the Project?

Elena: I liked the fact that Sebastian asked us to do something with our own hands: on a very simple exercise of making a “dream wallet” out of paper and scotch tape, Sebastian demonstrated us how an engineer works. This is a very important exercise for me as an economist, since one begins to understand that an invention is a technological task that also has its own algorithms. It requires both creativity and understanding of the basics in a subject area. Now it will be easier for me to work with my engineering colleagues because I have a better understanding of how difficult it is for an engineer to manage time and fit the task of the invention just in time. This understanding will help me better “build the economics” around the process of invention. And it’s just amazing how this simple approach of the German school gives such profound results—the understanding the very essence of the innovation process.

How did you react to the fact that your group was mixed and interdisciplinary?

Filipp: Great. I am very grateful to the Converge Project team because a unique group was formed around the idea I brought to the project. I am especially thankful to Tatjana for believing in my idea, and Dmitry Knatko for gathering such a strong team around my idea. Mikhail Maksyutenko, an excellent engineer, the technical director of Optosens Ltd.; that, despite very high competition, develops and sells unique sensors on the global market. Mikhail helped our project with his “hard” logic by bringing us back to reality. Pavel Loktev is a brilliant marketing director for Astrosoft, which develops complex industrial software. Pavel helped us a lot with the brand and understanding of the channels of communication with potential industrial partners. With the arrival of Elena Tishchenko to the project – the business model clarity and the potential for its real commercialization appeared.

In my opinion, the Converge team holds the credit for wisely building the team with different competencies around my idea: a technologist, a marketer, an economist and an idea originator, and they do believe in your project as if it was their own. I think it’s impossible to top it.

When did the grain of “Moy.Dom” project appear?

Filipp: I own a company which is engaged in the production of especially dangerous objects – gas pipelines; this is my main business. I often wondered why clients from TSNs voted for such a long time for the decision they obviously need, for example, to get gas into the house. I came up with the idea of voting online as the main voting tool. It seemed that this could speed up my sales. Then there was the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017, digital economy, blockchain technology, and I decided that the platform solutions are on trend. I had an idea that this can all be implemented in the market where no one even thought of applying it.

Elena, how did you help Filipp to “translate” his idea into Russian?

Elena: I guess, having joined the project, I “translated” the idea of Filipp not into Russian, but into the language of business modeling, showing its commercial attractiveness. I think that Filipp, not being an economist, did not have the vocabulary to convey his idea in the language of business, and I managed to translate his thoughts into clear images through an economic model in a simple language of figures. In his idea I immediately saw a grain providing a possibility to look at a different angle at the TSNs economy.

What is your project dedicated to?

Elena: At the moment, TSNs are not exactly a transparent market. Therefore, there is a scientific interest—to create a market where there is none – and commercial potential. Plus, this is a social project that creates the consumer power and the element of trust as a new practice in TSNs; In fact, distrust creates additional economic costs: people are not ready to invest in collective property because they do not understand where and how their funds will be directed. The platform that we create “unties” these problems. Thanks to the platform solutions and transparency, people see how their funds are spent, thereby incentive for building trust is created, and the platform itself allows to accelerate the arrival at economic decisions by means of a simple way of creating an offer, crowdfunding for its implementation, and reducing the time for making a managerial decision. Our project creates consumer power because currently one gardener is not a “consumer force” but a TSN, united in a group of several thousand houses, may well negotiate a discount with supplier of infrastructure projects.

In fact, the project “Moy.Dom” can rebuild the entire ecosystem built in and around the TSNs market, making it transparent, convenient and affordable, including for public-private partnership. It creates a tool for understanding the rights and capabilities of TSNs members, opening up previously unknown opportunities to them, such as optimizing the cost of a large investment purchase, like a gas pipeline, due to the “power of the united buyer.”

Filipp: In our opinion, the project “Moy.Dom” is unique in Russia as it allows us to take a fresh look at the possibilities of combining disparate players to solve a common complex problem that requires, in the old format, very time-consuming approvals, and now it can be done very quick and easy. We believe that this is its main allure, which does not let us stop – we simply can not help developing this project further. It can have a very interesting social effect, since the principle of trust that is behind it can be applied to other spheres of the economy. For us the project “Moy.Dom” is also a challenge – to create a market where there is none.

How is the project developing now?

Filipp: First, there are “manual” sales. We are now visiting the gardeners, Elena comes from Moscow specially for this, and we visit TSN chairmen, talk, look into their tasks, their needs: how they are currently organized to solve complex collective problems. To date, we have phoned 179 partnerships, personally spoke with 22 chairmen of TSNs. All TSNs are different in composition of residents, number of houses, style of management. Now the key tasks that the “Moy.Dom” project must necessarily reflect in the MVP (the minimum viable product), the first version of the application, are already clear. However, we decided not to wait for the prototype of the application and started testing the hypotheses in free social networks. Now the experiment already includes 32 TSNs with a total number of houses over 10000. We hope that we will be able to help them to make collective decisions faster and more efficiently.

How was Converge beneficial for you?

Elena: From the program we took the methodology of “pivots” (changing business models or business direction),methodology of developing business models and investments, stakeholder map. It seems to us that there was no such canvas Tatjana and Sebastian gave us, which we would not fill. We think your canvases are a “must” for everyone.

We definitely see the strength of the program in the methodology offered by Tatjana. We really use the canvases offered for training purposes in the daily project tasks. Not all, of course, because at different stages you need different ones. But we are very grateful, as by filling these simple templates one very quickly comes to an understanding of the essence of the problem to solve at a certain stage. It’s very convenient—you just get the answer you need.

Who might be interested in the Converge Project?

Elena: The Converge Project can be interesting to all state-owned companies, large companies, involved in modernization, implementation of new innovative approaches, digital transformation and diversification. Tools and templates used during the Project are especially necessary in case of an organizational structure that requires changes.Converge offers best world practices for creating innovations in a large company, from idea to the point of sales. At the same time, it’s important to follow an approach of accompanying innovation from the very first minute by a special project manager, who, in addition to the technological component, tracks consumer trends in a given segment. This increases the likelihood of the development commercialization. Today Converge is an excellent solution for the corporate sector.

Elena, Filipp, what would you say to people who will come to the Project?

Elena: They need to come with a real project they believe in. If you take a training project, you do not immerse yourself in it 24/7, and then it seems that the tools do not work. The criterion for the success of the Converge project for us is that we believed in the product from the very beginning, and immediately saw it as a future business.

Filipp: The merit of the Converge team building the team in such a way, that it starts to believe in your project as if it was their own. We are very grateful to the Converge team! Thanks to you we met our future colleagues and now we can realize such a wonderful project together.

 

“Moy.Dom” service provides transparent and efficient management of operations and of residential and suburban real estate. Through a mobile application, participants of TSNs and other communities can make joint decisions and monitor their implementation through smart contracts, as well as interact with counterparties and authorities.

The educational project Converge aims at developing multidisciplinary competencies for creating new ideas based on innovative technologies and transforming these ideas into feasible products and services on the market. During the Converge educational project, the students go through six training modules in three thematic blocks: technology, design and business. Learn more about the project: http://iperf.eu/en/iperf-announces-converge/.