Dubai: As a teenager growing up at home in Lviv, Ukraine, Ivan Kroshnyi always wished to one day be self-sufficient by only working for himself. But unlike most others his age then, he started striving towards being his own boss right away, building his first business selling computers at age 16.
“Growing up in an ordinary family, I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey pretty early. As a teenager, I watched my parents and knew then that I wanted to create a different life for myself. I wished to succeed and make my family proud. I wanted to be free and independent,” he said.
“So I first sold computer and office equipment, which was in great demand then. I then got interested in trading and started with international currencies in 2005. A little later, I began actively trading US stocks. After a few years of trading and running a business, I earned my start-up capital.”
The serial entrepreneur went on to co-create 30 more companies across 19 countries in just under nine years. After moving to Dubai in 2021, the 33-year-old multimillionaire last started a ‘last mile’ e-delivery start-up ‘Eco Way’ in 2023, aiming to replace petrol-run delivery bikes with electric ones.
30 companies across 19 countries
Kroshnyi remotely manages the start-ups launched jointly with business partners in different countries. His businesses include an online investment brokerage, a payment system, a key aparthotel in Prague, UAE-based coffee shop franchise, and a consulting company.
“The more successful of my first investments in the UAE was the Roasters Specialty Coffee House chain, which I opened in partnership with others. At the moment, there are five coffee shops in the network, and we plan to open more new establishments in 2024,” Kroshnyi added.
“When relocating to the UAE, I already had a successful business in Ukraine — the trading company Gerchik and Co, an investment company in the Czech Republic, with other projects. As Eco Way was launched last year, it is too early to share the financial indicators.”
The latest start-up operates 45 electric bikes in Dubai and has partnered with companies including Talabat, Pizza Hut, Amazon, Deliveroo, KFC, Hardees, and Emirates Post. But as the delivery firm currently goes through a trial period, it doesn’t charge for services that tests their e-bikes, he said.
Growing up in an ordinary family, I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey pretty early. As a teenager, I watched my parents and knew then that I wanted to create a different life for myself
Personal investments worth $20 million
“At the moment, my personal investments total $20 million (Dh73.5 million), with earnings per year from all businesses at nearly $2 million (Dh7.4 million) per year,” added Kroshnyi, while wishing to not disclose a detailed breakdown of costs at his latest venture.
“As we have not attracted external investors, we are financing the project at our own expense. Eco Way is currently at the stage of a pilot project — we are developing logistics and infrastructure. With 45 eco-bikes riding at this stage, we plan to bring out 30,000 electric bikes over the next 3 years.”
When asked what got Kroshnyi started in the electric delivery space, he explained how he found out there was further potential for growth in this field after researching on it personally. “I conducted a niche analysis, it turns out the field of eco transport for delivery services was undeveloped.
“Research also shows how petrol-run bikes contribute to pollution. With volume of this market constantly rising, the number of bikes polluting the atmosphere is also increasing. But by transferring delivery couriers to eco-bikes, carbon dioxide emissions are cut down.
“A clear understanding of how this can be done allowed me to create a UAE-specific business model. And the difficulty was that I had to reassemble the business model based on the fact that I was alone in this business, and not with a partner, and accordingly I had to plan everything all over again.”
1. Market analytics: “I must clearly understand what kind of product I will be releasing to the market, what kind of market this is, who my competitors are, how and how I will differ from them.”
2. Pre-planning: “Before launching, I draw up a business roadmap, prescribe plan A and plan B, C — that is, I prescribe different hypothetical situations and how I will act promptly in these conditions. This approach helps me to respond quickly and clearly to various challenges.”
3. Partnership deal: “I pay a lot of attention to choosing a partner. We must look in the same direction regarding business and have common points of contact, principles and vision. And this part, of course, includes a partnership agreement.”
Lessons learnt when setting up, managing businesses
Mistake #1: Not setting up a contract for business partnerships
When it comes to starting and managing businesses in general, Kroshnyi said that doing it in partnership with co-investors or business partners ideally “minimises all difficulties”. However, for him personally, it turned out to be a “bad experience” when building his first business.
“I was advised to check people more than to trust them implicitly. But I stuck to my position and believed that all people are good. I wish I had taken the advice that more experienced entrepreneurs gave me then…. But I'm glad that I learned this lesson at such a young age, when I was starting out.”
Subsequently, Kroshnyi realised that setting up a contract with your business partner is one of the most important documents and one of the very first steps that a businessman should take. “I am grateful for the first experience that this happened at the beginning of my career as a businessman.
“Now all my partnerships are backed up by contracts. This does not mean that I do not trust, on the contrary, if I do business, then we have full trust. But the contract helps us to protect our interests, to provide for all possible scenarios. Trust is good, but nevertheless, it is also necessary to control.”
At the moment, my personal investments total $20 million (Dh73.5 million), with earnings per year from all businesses at nearly $2 million (Dh7.4 million) per year
Mistake #2: Investing in an unlaunched project hurt by poor tech
When asked of any other lessons learnt from business mistakes, Kroshnyi recalled an example of investing in a project in which success depended on the quality of technology. “However, difficulties began to appear at the start ― the software was not what it should have been for our business processes.
“We ended up not launching the project. We eventually had to spend more time and resources, but the good news is in the end we got the technological product we wanted, and we were able to overcome difficulties along the way.
“Now this project is working perfectly. This would not have happened if we had agreed to less – to use the technologies that were at the start, or if you just gave up when you saw the first obstacle on your way to success.”