There we are: In the event space at Rainmaking Loft, where she, Gulnaz Khusainova, held her conference ”More Women in Tech”, months ago, when it was still summer. Now the Startupbootcamp alumni is talking about how EasySize (Khusainova’s sizing tool for online shops) is aiming at new markets – UK, Sweden, Germany, France and America – as well as an upcoming round of funding. Klaus Nyengaard and Hampus Jakobsson are already onboard as angels. There is quite a lot on her plate, and we’re just going to plunge into it.
Gulnaz, you’re a native of Moscow that chose to be an entrepreneur in Copenhagen. What defines the city as a place to base your startup?
“I’ve been here for two years, and I like the general openness. Locals are direct in their behavior, there is no bullshit. But I don’t understand why people are so afraid of failing with their own business. In terms of social judgment and loss of security it’s not like your life is over.”
Have you faced failure yourself?
“Sure. In 2008 I started my first company as a 19-year-old. It was a system that optimized restaurant businesses based on an analysis of customer booking data. My team was not right; I was alone with a group of freelancers, plus I felt a pressure from society to shut it down, even though I had raised angel investments in Moscow and finished a prototype. Back then the startup culture in Russia was limited and the entrepreneur easily got reduced to a stereotype: Someone sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a smoothie, doing an insignificant thing. The more respected game plan was to work for a corporate or the government. I chose entrepreneurship, because it allows me to try out different sides of myself. My parents still ask me, why I don’t get a stable job. But this year I met them for a weekend in Prague and gave them a crash course in founding a business.”
Still everything is new. I never had such a big team. I never had a board of directors.
What did you learn from that first startup?
“It’s not about how great your idea is. To be an entrepreneur is not about being the smartest person in the room, it’s about executing and working hard. Everybody can find those traits within.”
Give us a sense of your working habits?
”I believe that you should focus on one main thing each day to get it done. I would say that I learned how to work better, but still everything is new. I never had such a big team. I never had a board of directors. For me it is important to manage my stress level. I get 70 emails each day, and I answer them in fixed slots. One hour in the morning, one after work, and three 15-minute sessions during the day. I also reserve three hours a week for strategic work. And I can recommend a couple of little helpers: Sunrise calendar that allows people to pick free spaces in your schedule, and the app Headspace. It reminds me to meditate for 10 minutes after lunch. It tells you to breathe.”