We’ve talked to the founders of forYou startup, Kirill Tupikou (CEO, CTO, Founder) and Emil Ahayeu (COO, CMO, Co-Founder) about their views on the necessary components of a successful project, most popular startup myths, sources of inspiration and best ways to educate yourself on the business/tech world. forYou is a personal skincare assistant app aimed to help take proper care of the skin with built-in Augmented Reality & Water Tracker.

What defines the Entrepreneurial Mindset?

Kirill: In my worldview this is about 2 key skills: ability to see the ideas & opportunities and ability to communicate them to partners, clients, investors. You should know how to illustrate the value and draw the picture of the bright future. The rest is secondary and can be handled by your team.

Emil: For me, entrepreneurial mindset is a set of beliefs and perspectives shaping a specific attitude towards the way of making money. Which, in its turn, consists of certain skills and qualities: ability to carry responsibility and estimate risks, analyze people and circumstances, make reasonable predictions, etc.

The world of FemTech/Healthcare/Wellness and its peculiarities

Kirill: Our target audience is mostly female. We have many women in our team, driving product making, while male part of the team is mostly responsible for tech support and analytics. Our work philosophy is based on 3 pillars: сustomer value, good design and advanced technology (AR, AI, etc.). We draw inspiration for the app’s design and a certain “artistry” from the beauty industry. Together with Emil we were wandering through cosmetic shops and talking to the staff to get insights: what designs are in demand and what are the decision-making drivers. Naturally, “working in the field” did not go without awkward situations! Sometimes our close attention to the process of girls doing shopping caused raised eyebrows 🙂

Emil: I don’t think work with these domains is any different from work with others. Every project is made for the customers and should meet their needs. Whatever the industry or TA are, making a quality product that is used and needed is the key. In this case, the results of your work will be in demand and clients will support you with positive feedback, their money and time. Talking about TA, I’ve conducted 50+ custdev interviews and hardly got any big insights. Rather, the precepts of Abraham Maslow have proved themselves one again: we all want to be loved and wanted, get care & attention and feel safe. That’s why forYou is trying to focus on the fundamental needs of our customers.

Startup Myths VS Reality

Kirill: Let’s take a classic one that I believed in myself back in the days – that Big Idea is the key. And once you come up with it, everything will go like a clockwork. The reality is surely much different – long and hard work without holidays, money, personal life and any guarantees for eventual success. I would suggest to take it as an invaluable experience that can only be gained through your own way.

One more idea that took me a long time to accept: whatever cool you think your product is, it costs nothing itself. You must learn how to sell and promote it on the current market. That is extremely important for aspiring startups – first, get a clear vision of how you are going to sell your idea and what are the real chances people will be ready to buy it.

Emil: There are lots of myths cultivated by business/lifestyle/investment coaches and motivational speakers who basically sell metaphorical magic pills (Tony Robbins, Robert Toru Kiyosaki, Ayaz Shabutdinov, “Transformator” Dima Portnyagin, etc.). That is what I’ve always tried to stay away from, focusing on my own experience. This story was and still is  “Terra incognita” for me: every step was followed by inevitable mistakes, stress, doubts and – most importantly – real experience.

I would compare it to “Hero’s Journey”, a narrative structure described by a famous literary critic Joseph Campbell. Imagine a kind of diagram calling for adventures. You have to find likeminds and complete a series of missions to find a cave of treasures guarded by a dragon. After you defeat the dragon, the catharsis comes. And the treasures are experience and sometimes (lately, it happens more often) ideas implementation. You can also find a similar concept in Raymond Dalio’s books.

Successful Project: the must ingredients for a recipe

Kirill: As simple as that: great team. Here comes one more skill of a good entrepreneur – the ability to gather “the right” people. You should also remember about the focus on the product. All the time. Stay focused, set priorities and learn to say “no” to the irrelevant ideas and tasks. 

Emil: There are too many variables, and luck is among major factors of success. Going into the details, I would highlight the following: project’s concept & vision, skills & experience of the founders, properly built team, positive attitude, corporate culture/business processes and lots of external factors and unpredictable scenarios. Business processes are the backbone of any project. That’s why we started to build them from day 1: from product design and development to tech support and marketing. We use Agile, Lean and Data-driven approaches. 

What can you recommend to Read/Watch to aspiring Founders?

Kirill: Must-Reads:

  • “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
  • “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank
  • “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick
  • Everything written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • Harvard Business Review

Emil: I’ll add to the Must-Read list:

  • “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim
  • “Customers for Life” by Carl Sewell and Paul B. Brown
  • “Principles” by Ray Dalio
  • “Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert Cialdini
  • “Marketing Insights from A to Z” by Philip Kotler
  • “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt

Based on the idea that philosophy and overall founders’ education and culture are the foundation of company’s development, I would also recommend: “How to Be a Stoic” by Massimo Pigliucci, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living Hardcove” by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman, “What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz.


About Inspiration, Energy and Balance

Kirill: My guidelines for staying happy and productive:

  • Healthy nutrition. It’s really important to fuel your body with decent food which affects the well-being and gives energy 
  • Sports, preferably active and adrenaline-charged (martial arts for example)
  • Long-term planning for 5-10 years (at least, shaping main directions)
  • Travelling
  • Exploring Art: opera, ballet, painting, music. We have a nice team building tradition to go to The National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theatre. This is a great way to look at the world around and everyday tasks at a different angle and charge your spiritual batteries. Highly recommended!

Emil: Philosophical attitude towards life helps me a lot.

1. Stoic Mindset. I’ve accepted its “Dichotomy of Control”, which means, long story short, there are things within our power and there are things that are not. When I learned how to draw a clear line between these 2 groups of events, things and actions, my life became easier. I also started to follow the principle of gradual responsibility and impact growth. The more I explore this area, the more factors I find within my power, and it drives me forward. To go this way, you should make decisions, make choices and not be scared of responsibility. This is what helps me to grow as a person, as a leader and as a professional.

2. Psychological practices. For example, “Empty Chair” (helps to work through interpersonal or internal conflict), meditative trance and “5 questions”. I’ll describe the last technique. Whenever something is going wrong and can unsettle me, I write down 5 questions and try to answer them:

  • What happened? (Helps to articulate the situation)
  • Why did it happen? (Helps to understand cause and effect relationships)
  • How do I feel about it? (Helps to articulate emotions that we might be ashamed of, afraid of or trying to avoid)
  • What would I do If I knew the consequences? (Helps to overcome the depressive state of mind)
  • What can I do about it now? (Helps to make a plan or change the attitude to the situation)