Ihor Prokopenko

Co-Founder of Fulcrum Rocks

Ihor Prokopenko is a co-founder & CEO at Fulcrum Rocks, a design & development studio from Kyiv, Ukraine. In 2018, Fulcrum was started with just 3 guys, today the company has over 100 people on board and over 35 projects worldwide created. Over the years, the company evolved from being just an outsourcing vendor to a reliable product development partner which strives to create products that help. Its customers include such big players as Buff, Mercedes Ukraine, British American Tobacco, Bloss and lots of others.

Ihor is the one who stands at the foundation of the company having built up and managed Fulcrum’s strategic growth and business scaling, motivating and inspiring the team, while also leading the company to towards its goal – to help create useful products that are going to change the world.

Where did the idea for Fulcrum Rocks come from?

I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. Before Fulcrum, I’ve also launched two other startups, although they did not turn into great success. When talking about Fulcrum – it all started with 3 people: me and two other co-founders. We studied programming back then, so we understood this industry to some degree. One day, we just came up with the idea of a software development company that would develop cool projects. Next, we had to name it, create the branding and the website. Then, we began building the company by small and careful steps.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts early, because it’s when I’m the most productive. I plan all my tasks and activities for the day, and then I start bringing them into life. I believe that to stay productive you don’t need to exhaust yourself only with work but to be able to balance different aspects of your life like hobbies, quality time with family, physical activity etc. So, I always try to fit time for hobbies, friends, family, sport, and health into my daily schedule.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s simple – you just need to start acting and actually doing something. I do not overthink this or that decision for too long, because it might be too late or irrelevant in some time. So, I always choose to move forward, even if I’m going by small or uncertain steps.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m excited about how proactive and influential technology becomes. Let’s take, for example, Ukraine – since the first days of the russian invasion, our tech community has united to help the country and Ukrainian citizens. In 24 hours, our tech people created an app to inform people about a threat of air raids. Also, Diia – a digital ID card of a citizen – played a huge role for the citizens who lost their staff but tried to flee the country or just move to other cities.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I like to go for walks a lot. It gives me time to think, to come up with new solutions, and to freshen my thoughts. Sometimes, I go for a walk during an online meeting, before a strategic session, or in between hard & tense working hours. This habit really gives me a chance to relax, refocus and restart my power.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Never give up. Don’t be afraid to fail, because every failure is a valuable experience. It gives you lessons which will be useful in the future. Again, just do your thing, step by step.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

To launch a successful business you need experience which I always measure. For example, to know how to run a company, you need to have to work in this direction for at least 500 hours. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I’m sure that success is greatly defined by relevant experience.\

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I would recommend not to give up if you really feel that being an entrepreneur is for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them, study, make hard decisions, but do not give up.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

In general, my approach is always to focus on growing the business, never to stand still. So, even at challenging times, I do not back off but invest even harder into our marketing, sales, and recruiting efforts.
If we talk about our first steps as a company – the most effective solution was to start growing our presence on the platforms which our customers trust & use. Each new project in our portfolio added more trust to clients and expertise to the team. There’s a famous saying in Ukraine: at first you work for reputation, then reputation works for you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

While launching two startups before Fulcrum – a sports nutrition shop and a service for students – I was stopped by the fear and uncertainty of doing something new, so to say going out of my comfort zone. For example, back then the real challenge for me was to go to people and actually ask for investments when it was needed. It stopped me then, but gave me valuable experience. How to overcome such challenges? Just to act and forget about fear.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create a platform where everyone can sell/buy their things or service, while all the money goes to various charitable foundations. At Fulcrum, we actually have created a similar platform but focused it on helping Ukraine win the war. I think it’s a great way to make a contribution into making the world a better place.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I did not recollect what I spent the last $100 on exactly, but the best would probably be any expenses for your business growth like some marketing activity. I do believe that the best way to spend your money as an entrepreneur is to invest them into driving the growth of your business.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

It’s super simple – a common Notes app on my smartphone or laptop helps me to stay productive. I just write down everything that’s on my mind there: my plans, random thoughts, business ideas. I have my daily plan there, so I know where to go, what should be done & not forgotten. Keeping all these thoughts in one place structured and outlined allows me to plan my day properly, define which tasks to do first, and categorize their importance.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

In recent years, I have read several books about the life of Benjamin Franklin written by different authors. His biography is worth reading and analyzing. Franklin is a very interesting personality, and I learn a lot from his lifestyle, principles and approach. Some of them I implemented and introduced into my life and habits.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s Benjamin Franklin’s: “Well done is better than well said.”

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t be afraid of going out of your comfort zone. Just act and reach your goal by small steps.
  • Challenges are not an excuse for your business to stop evolving – always bet on growing and invest into marketing, sales, recruitment.
  • Start with growing your expertise and reputation in the industry you’re specializing in. Then, it will pay you back.
  • To stay productive, keep work-life balance. Always find time for treating your health, your friends and family, for doing your hobbies.