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What’s Up With Startups: Whales’ CEO Speaking

Vlad Kytainyk is the CEO of Whales, a serial entrepreneur, and a restless idea generator with an open mind and plenty of experience growing startups, partnering with people, bringing the digital landscape to another level, and being an innovator.

Being a founding partner of Kitrum, a software development company, Unbench, a platform that connects people with their dream jobs, a VC fund, and a few AI-driven tech products, Vlad relies on the agile approach. The best service delivery, a well-rounded return on investments, and a balance between quick results and long-term strategic activities are his main priorities. Throughout his career, Vlad has worked with almost every niche, from food production to financial technology software.

We asked Vlad 5 questions to understand his views on startups, digital marketing trends, and AI. Let’s go!

What are the main challenges startups face in 2023?

There are many. You optimize data management with one hand while another keeps a pulse on the technologies that emerge on the market daily and forces us to integrate them into every possible process. The third and fourth hands are crossed in meditation – gotta do that to avoid burning out. The fifth hand seeks resources; the sixth one handles marketing. So, if a startup was a mythical creature, it would have many limbs. At Whales, we turn these creatures into complete “humans.” Odd allegory, isn’t it?

It’s a fun one, for sure. But hands and mythology aside, which main 5 challenges do startup founders face now?

  1. Planning. We once developed an entire digital board with points that aren’t considered 90% of the time as startups launch. It’s a permanent issue. You know, it’s like some writers plan how to finish their novel beforehand, while others, like Stephen King, are led by the story. In today’s market environment, King would amount to a failed startup. A clear plan at the launch is your beautiful, loyal, and cuddly guide dog, while a startup is a blind walk.
  2. Smart resource allocation. Where to find venture investors, who to contact to secure finances, and how to save on advertising without compromising its quality? In this case, you either reach out to a digital agency and business facilitators or lose some chips. The first option is better; the second one is more fun.
  3. Burnout. There are more processes, communication, and attention stealers than ever before. As a result, enthusiasm goes “see ya” long before the desired project scaling starts. Here, the “business is a marathon, not a sprint” cliche comes to the rescue. Yes, it’s routine as hell, but all the best things are routine: love of others, integrity, and Netflix.
  4. Miscommunication in partner agreements. First, agreements must be fixed and easy to scale over time. Then, the “the three of us can do different things, so let’s unite and conquer the world” concept has one huge bug: aside from focusing on results, there must be a mutual psychological match. It’s about empathy. Not adaptability, empathy – something that won’t be replicated by any AI tool for a long time.
  5. If we’re talking about nowadays, I see even the most successful people breaking down due to the general destructive background. This can equally damage you personally and your business. You can reach a certain status and then go Kanye West because of some impulse. By hook or by crook, you gotta keep balance and remember that everything is fine on the bigger scale.

“Strategic resilience” is the smart way to call it. In your view, how can newcomers achieve it, especially in this turbulent present?

To me, here’s the most important thing to understand: those who can weather this challenging mental phase will come out of it as superhumans and superbusinesses. Changes temper your spirit, and even today, there are some very successful cases that demonstrate growth. Seeing the companies we work with scale despite all the external disasters makes me particularly happy.

Suppose we can highlight three whales (get it?) that resilience rests upon. In that case, I’d choose canonical Seneca stoicism, healthy, adequate indifference, and systematic, tough, and robotic labor without the extra self-reflection and dramatization. “I was always working steady, but I never call it art” – that guy knew what he was singing about.

Today’s reality, from domestic to planetary, can change in an instant. The changes that used to take years or months now happen within days because today’s world is a black swan reserve. But changes are always about something new, and something new is always about growth. “Startup” – the word’s etymology is about that exactly.

What are the main trends in digital marketing and the startup scene in 2023?

The word “trend” is often about something artificially made fashionable. If that’s the way to look at it, startups shouldn’t follow trends – they have to create demand by studying the market and the needs that emerge in the atmosphere.

If you want to know what I consider most promising today, I do have some thoughts about that. But Whales aren’t about creating new plant crops; rather, we look for them, investigate them, and place them in the most favorable conditions. We’re the botanists of digital marketing, and “plants” aren’t trendy; they just grow. I think this metaphor works better.

No interview or podcast goes without mentioning AI. What are your thoughts on its perspectives?

The perspectives are here already. AI is part and parcel of everything. We utilize it daily, experiment with custom AI tools, create something new, and combine solutions. If we look at the main question, “Will AI replace humanity as a species?” then I’m sure we’re not competitors. Humans and AI are like two companies with mutual stakeholders, but instead of competing, they cooperate. That’s what I see often in my practice.

Humans and AI are partners that equally mature, improve skills, and change. For me, this is one of the most significant collaborations in history. After Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog – nothing beats that.

What’s your biggest advice to startup founders?

Be honest, and don’t use plastic.

This definitely won’t hurt. But generally, for me, especially in terms of Whales’ activity, the startup scene and digital marketing are entire universes. Something like the Marvel Multiverse with a bunch of heroes: PPC Captain, SEO Super Woman, Outbound Raccoon, and a multitude of variations. There’s no magic advice, but there are custom audits, solution & strategy development, and their realization. This takes longer but remains more productive than just some advice.

Summing Up

With AI being the biggest trend in all areas – digital marketing included, we’re set to see more and more companies incorporating it into their strategies. But as we all know, no AI solution can reach its full potential without human intervention. That’s why having people at the wheel matters most, and not just any people – the driven ones, those who are passionate about their ideas and committed to their communities.

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