Konstantin Klyagin

Founder of Redwerk

Konstantin is a founder of Redwerk software development and QAwerk software quality assurance agencies. Since 2005 they have been helping tech and non-tech businesses with product development and digital transformation.

Konst is also an investor into a drone-building company called Iziviz and an industrial refrigeration business Subzero.

At the time of the interview, they’re actively involved in helping their homeland Ukraine resist Russia’s aggression, maintaining high level of customer service and growing business in Ukraine at the same time.

Unlike many companies that open offices outside of the country, Konst keeps hiring exclusively in Ukraine and buying from Ukrainian vendors.

Where did the idea for Redwerk come from?

It came from my passion for software. As a kid, I first saw a computer at the age of 6, and at 8 already wrote my first program. Over the years, I worked at multiple companies as a software developer, tech lead, and architect, noting what practices would borrow for my own organization. That is how the software development agency Redwerk was born in 2005, and the software quality agency QAwerk in 2015.

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

I am making sure there is structure in everything I do. I maintain multiple lists of things that need to be done with priorities. Decomposition and delegation are important. You can work fast or you can work a lot. It’s always up to you.

Once a day I have a call with one of my teams. They are scheduled by weekdays: Monday is marketing, Tuesday sales, Wednesday office, Thursday project managers, Friday HR and recruiting. This is how I’m always up to date with what’s going on.

Healthy work-life balance is a must. I’m trying not to work more than 8 hours a day and strongly encourage my teammates not to to prevent burnout. Which doesn’t mean we don’t think about solutions outside of work hours. Great ideas come to idle minds, so a movie, a walk in the park, some sports can actually help you come up with something fresh.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By steadily pushing them forward on a daily basis, in smaller pieces, one piece a day.
I also openly share my productivity tips with teammates responsible for turning these ideas into reality. For example, if you know that a certain task will take you a while, I recommend first doing smaller assignments that you can complete quickly within a day or so. In such a way, there’s no huge backlog of tasks lying on your shoulders as a heavy burden and stressing you out.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Worldwide support for my home country against the atrocities committed by Russia is both a touching and exciting trend. The amount of Ukrainian flags on government institutions and private residences and businesses throughout Europe, the warmth of individuals, volunteers and government clerks taking care of refugees, among which are my friends and very close family members, the help provided to them.

Speaking of tech trends, I’m thrilled about Web3 and metaverse, and also decentralization that returns control over the private data and assets to the individuals. Putting users back in the driver’s seat and empowering them with voting rights in case of DAOs have been long overdue.

We have never been chasing tech trends as an agency. Instead, we watch them grow big enough for our customers to come and start a project in that field. Hence we’ve recently been working with web3 and crypto.

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

Being a “0 guy”.
I always strive to take my unread (and unanswered) messages down to 0. What needs to be answered is flagged and addressed ASAP.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trust people more, delegate more. We’ve been on the market for over 17 years, and we’ve always provided a managed service. That is when you turn to Redwerk or QAwerk, you get a team with a PM/BA overseeing the success of your project, going back-and-force with the business, checking up on engineers and testers to ensure they progress well and feel happy with their work. But things have not always been this exact way.

I used to manage all of our customer accounts and projects on my own. It got to the point I was answering emails while on vacation, climbing a mountain somewhere in Austria. As you can imagine, experiencing the beauty of the moment while simultaneously holding a cell phone in your hand and reading notifications is hardly possible. As we grew, I had no choice but to hire project managers and learn how to delegate without micromanaging each project. If I had done it sooner, I would have saved myself many sleepless nights and nerve cells.

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

Knowledge of lots of random things matters and helps in everything you do. Like history, words in foreign languages, geography, you name it. Although it may seem useless in professional or business activity, it gives your world that additional dimension that makes it more colorful and interesting.\

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

Meeting new people, networking. Not with a scope of doing business, but as a genuine interest to them and curiosity. Many opportunities arise from that alone.
I’m a big fan of tech conferences because that’s where you can do both – business and pleasure. Throughout my career and entrepreneurial journey, I’ve attended over 50 events, each of which was meaningful in its own way. While some conferences brought me direct partnerships, others surprised me with remarkable people who became my friends.

Having a network of like-minded and inspiring people is not only very uplifting but also quite helpful for the business, especially during wartime. I’m immensely grateful to my long-standing friends who reached out and gave us development and testing projects, trusting that we’ll deliver no matter what. Such relations are truly precious and rarely possible if you communicate with people pursuing a sheer business intent.

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

Enjoying the journey instead of focusing on goals. If you do what you love for long enough, you’ll get what you want.

Rapid growth has never been on our roadmap. We prefer to take the time to build trust and nurture excellent relations with each client. As an agency, we’re primarily focused on contributing to our client’s success through quality code, thought-out architecture, and streamlined QA. Our commitment is always rewarded, whether through clients expanding our area of responsibility or giving us referrals.

Another working strategy is treating projects equally, regardless of their initial scope. You never know what’s going to blow up.

Sometimes staying dedicated to testing a simple Android app will lead you to a big name like Squarespace. That’s exactly what happened with Unfold: with our help, they grew into a billion-user platform for brand-level content creation while grabbing a couple of awards from Google, Fast Company, and Apple along the way. Eventually, Squarespace acquired Unfold, and we’re now part of something way bigger, engaged both in testing and development.

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

Putting almost all eggs into one basket. I had a very hard time in 2018 when a European bank we had an account with bursted. At once, our financial resources got cut off, and it took me quite an effort to fix the situation. To my pride though no payment to an employee or vendor was overdue.
It actually teaches a very good lesson, be it a bank or a customer that is the only one you rely on. Speaking of customers, I dodged the bullet back in 2008 when I only had one big client. Back then, I quit my last full-time job and embarked on a world trip meeting a lot of people, which brought me 5 new customers a year later.

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

Inverse SpaceX. Instead of exploring outer space, drill as much into the Earth as possible to discover what’s underneath. The deepest borehole ever drilled was only 12 kms deep and there was already much gold and other precious metals. I am sure many discoveries await us on the way to the Earth’s core, that’s about 2900 kms deep into the planet.
I know, it’s a costly one, but why not dream big.

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

No matter the amount, the best investment I can now make is into the Ukraine’s Armed Forces and volunteers caring for the military and civilians. Every month we donate at least 1 million UAH ($30k roughly). Combined together it’s $120k in the 4 months of war and we’re not going to stop there.

What’s at stake is our people, our freedom, and our future. Ukraine now is at the forefront of the entire democratic world in the fight against autocracy and tyranny. If we fail, other countries will be in immediate danger. Every $100 given into the right hands makes a difference.

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

You cannot rely on software in your productivity. It’s your head that has to be organized in the first place. For that a simple note-taking app on your phone, like Apple’s Notes, may be enough. I just dump everything I think about there and elaborate as soon as more thoughts on the subject pop up.

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

1984 by George Orwell. It’s a powerful reminder of how important freedom is and why it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

What is your favorite quote?

We’re always surrounded by friends we haven’t met yet.

Key Learnings:

  • You can work fast or you can work a lot: decomposition and delegation are key
  • No more than 8 hours a day: great ideas come to idle minds
  • Never put all eggs into one basket – applies to funds, clients, or anything else
  • Productivity software is no silver bullet. First clear the mess in your head
  • Read Orwell to understand what Ukraine is fighting against and why