“Don’t deal with investors until you have to… They’re all greedy” Oleg Tinkov on his journey from Russian beer baron to advertising mogul

Will Moore 2012-10-30 6

A Siberian miner’s son with a degree from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute, one could be guilty of assuming entrepreneurship and investment were a million miles from the life Oleg Tinkov once knew.

oleg tinkov

After moving to St. Petersburg in 1988, Tinkov had a string of jobs in everything from a furniture factory, to a bottle-collection company, learning the skills of business and marketing along the way.

After nearly a decade of climbing his way up the corporate ladder, Tinkov opened his first brewery restaurant, and was one of the pioneers of western-style marketing in Russia. Within five years, Tinkov’s empire had expanded to ten pub/restaurants and Tinkoff Brewery was responsible for distributing nearly 20 million litres of beer throughout Russia and Europe, as well as for a notoriously too hot for TV advertising campaign. Following a successful €167 million sale of the brewery and Tinkoff brand to InBev in 2005, Tinkov cemented himself as one of Russia’s biggest success stories.

In 2007 Tinkov founded Tinkoff Credit Systems to distribute credit cards through the mail — a model that had previously not existed in any significant form in Russia. After a period of rapid growth, an investment from Goldman Sachs and an expansion to internet banking, online retail deposits and more — the company now has nearly 2 million customers, making it the fourth-largest credit card issuer in Russia by market share. With a London IPO on the cards, TCS will likely continue to grow and may one day become a household name in Europe as well as Russia.

Tinkov is branching out once again — and this time he has his sights set on the $20bn Russian advertising industry. TCS Digital, the fledgling ad server will focus on real-time and mobile advertising, an approach that is still finding its feet in Russia, compared to the UK and Europe.

Here he shares his insights into why he made the move into investment and what the golden rules for successful investment are…

What made you become an investor?

I was always fascinated by how online business opportunities evolve in the world. It is clear that it is one of the highest growth areas when compared to other industries. I always wanted to have a piece in it. However, it took me a while to understand where exactly I wanted to be in this space.

Finally, I decided to be on the RUNET, the Russian internet market that grows faster then any others and to be involved in display ads, and that has just started to take off.

What’s your biggest success story?

To have a smart and sexy wife and three beautiful kids.

What do you look for in an investment?

Strategy, a history of hiring talent, meeting people from the industry.

Who or what inspires you?

henry fordFamily. I am proud of being Russian and Siberian. And I was always inspired by Henry Ford.

What advice would you give a budding investor?

Just go for it.

What is the most common mistake of entrepreneurs?

Overestimating the market and underestimating costs.

Do you have any advice for dealing with investors?

Don’t deal with them, unless you absolutely have to. They are all greedy.

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