Dmitry is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor with 15+ years of experience in technology and investments. He launched 7 startups, 3 of them were acquired, and got listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe. Dmitry has been on both sides of the venture industry and founded Uniborn in 2022, the only venture platform that grants emerging investors access to the high-grade deals of seasoned investors and offers microfunds to syndicates (not SPVs).
Where did the idea for Uniborn come from?
When my kid was born, I realized that I should double down on allocating my long-term savings in the venture assets class. I had an extremely long horizon, no need for liquidity, and a good appetite for the risk, so it was a perfect match. Since top-tier VC funds didn’t seem super-excited about my regular but tiny tickets, I needed to find a solution for building a portfolio of high-grade deals.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The wake up time depends on when our kid decides that it is the right time. It can be anywhere from 6am to 9am. Tallinn is located at latitude 59, meaning that, during summers, the sun goes down at about 2am and comes up just a couple of hours later. (That’s the toughest season to be a parent!)
I normally take the first 3-5 hours to quickly work through the tasks that need my attention before a morning shower. I try to schedule most calls between 12pm and 6pm because this is when the most urgent stuff has already been sorted out, but it’s not yet time for my brainstorming and creative session. I normally focus on the product in the evening hours and on the weekends because that’s when you’re less likely to be interrupted (except by the kid, which happens all the time, so I’m used to it). No matter what else I have going on, I take breaks that range from three minutes to half an hour to take care of my kid, which actually helps me more easily switch between tasks. I try not to end my working day past 10pm. A 1.5-hours session of a good series also really helps me switch my brain off before sleep.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By doing. I believe that we humans tend to overthink things. My validation process normally goes in parallel with getting first blocks built. Having built 6 startups, when I am ready for a new journey and a new idea comes to my mind, the process runs on semi-automatic mode: You just watch yourself building and enjoy the process.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Broadly speaking, tech evolution. The understanding that tomorrow will be better than today is what really excites me. What excites me even more is the tech revolution because I love seeing that more and more minds are challenging the fundamental legacy “how-it-has-always-been” stuff and cracking it wide open, which means a huge leap (not just a step) toward a better future. One of those ideas in particular is propulsion technology. I dream about hearing that someone managed to finally hack the (still) basic physics laws to let us travel faster while creating a low-to-no pollution propulsion system.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Doing things right now instead of sorting or postponing them. It may seem that by doing so, you may compromise on quality and create complete chaos, but in my case, it just pushes me to work a bit harder and get more done. When I was seven years old, I played in an orchestra on xylophone, metallophone, flute, accordion, spoons, triangle and tambourine — all during a single musical composition! Maybe that is where this habit comes from.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take a bit more care of your health. I recently had to have surgery at the age of 35, which kind of surprised me. You may think that this is a result of my habits, and I believe that would be true to a certain extent.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That some fundamental laws are not so fundamental. We live in an era when we’ve managed to sort out most of the things around us (except for some really heavy stuff like brain activity during sleep and the like). This creates a bias that our achievements are not challengeable. However, I believe they are.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take risks. The surest path to getting nowhere is to do nothing, so I always think it’s better to keep moving forward. Even if you fail, you’ve learned something about how to succeed the next time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Building community before the launch. It’s a proven hack to get your startup off the ground quickly. You may not have anything yet, even a website, but you should create a community of people whose problems your product aims to solve. The worst thing you can encounter as a founder is working on something for a long time, then opening the door and seeing no one in front of you. This can be a killer.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Trying to raise early funding from VCs. It’s a huge temptation for founders to get VC funds on board as soon as possible. I personally haven’t succeeded in that a single time I’ve tried it. In all cases, I ultimately turned to angel investors who were just awesome down the line.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Doing something to study and help with kids’ sleep schedules. Our case might be a bit skewed, but I remember my wife and I trying to lull our baby to sleep for 10 hours in a row with no success, and in the midst of the pandemic when no one can help out. This is on top of me building my super-exciting startup and my wife trying not to kill herself taking care of a baby who won’t sleep! There should be a hack beyond the known (and not very useful) advice. The value prop headline would be: Save tons of hours and your marriage!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
$10 (ten, not a hundred) on a streaming service that lets me watch Formula 1 races for almost the whole year. I struggled with getting access through the official app and with cable tv, but suddenly was referred to a service that does the same thing with no hassle and 10 times cheaper.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Notes (the native MacOS app). I use it for jotting down notes, plans for the day, updates drafts, strategising — for pretty much everything. I love simplicity, and this app helps me focus on the core, not cluttering the space with unnecessary things like typography, text markup and other aesthetic stuff that can be done at a later stage.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Angel” by Jason Calananis for sure. It’s an insightful playbook for everyone who wants to get into angel investing.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
- Don’t be afraid to take risks
- Raise early funding from angel investors only
- Create a community of people whose problems you’re going to solve
- Don’t forget about yourself
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.