First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: 2020 has been a challenging year literally for everyone. Like most people, we had to make certain adjustments to our daily routine, especially when it comes to finding that balance between looking after kids and pursuing long term business goals.
We had to limit certain things like family and friends’ visits, travels, and so on. We stay in one place for both work and leisure, weekdays remind weekends, and holiday ideas sound very much irrelevant. Well, that’s how you would normally describe the life of an entrepreneur anyway! So we use this time to focus on our long term business goals and SmartBot execution strategy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SmartBot.
Dmitrii Oreshkin: I was born in a small town Zlatoust outside Chelyabinsk, Russia. Now you won’t be able to find it on a map as it was renamed. When I was a kid, I was very passionate about 3 things: judo, books, and computers.
I graduated from Chelyabinsk Higher Military Automobile Command-Engineering School. My work experience has given me many opportunities, and also enough of a challenge on the way. I used to work in the Ministry of Defense, Home Office, and eventually found myself in entrepreneurship.
It all started with a photo studio, which later became a company making web sites. A few years later, we started providing IT services and complex integration solutions to machinery producing giants, telecom companies, and others. We had a lot of endorsements as a leading company in customer service and innovation.
In 2016 I moved to France together with my family. Around that time, I decided to start a new business adventure using the luggage of technical expertise and experience I had gained until then. And I am really proud that, looking back, I can say I have never regretted this decision since.
How does your company innovate?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: We designed a best-in-class parking sensor capable of solving a number of challenges that cities around the world face. The innovation comes in the form of precise video capturing technology, which is able to react to the movements happening at the parking space in real-time. Doing that provides just enough information to know exactly what car was parked during what time period. The work on this idea started in early 2018, and in March 2020, we had a working prototype that we were able to demo to the Nice City hall officials.
We recognize the quality of the product being of paramount importance to be able to advance on the market; therefore, our R&D investments are very sizeable today.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: We wouldn’t say it massively affected our business. If anything, it slowed us down a bit in customer acquisition space, given the majority of our customers are in the Governance sector. Due to the pandemic being on top of the agenda for many councils and municipalities, we had to acknowledge certain delays in negotiations and contract closures. However, we are positioned very well with a strong pipeline of interested customers not only in Europe, and we are building solid grounds to expedite when the world will start opening again.
Also quite important to recognize how this year amplified the importance of environmental issues and the surroundings we live in. The solution that we are bringing to the parking & road management space market will play a pivotal role here going forward.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: It is always a challenging question for a CEO. Because the role itself comes with difficult choices) As an early-stage company, I know that product is certainly my top priority today. But as our team grows, so does the number of invested parties and stakeholders. I should constantly make time for other things strengthening my time management and prioritization techniques.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: I focus on what’s important – family and the work that our team is doing.
Over these past quarters of hard work, we have collected sufficient evidence, which proves that we are building a solution that customers not only need but also really want. And now, like never, we feel how satisfying that might be to work on products like that. The best stress remedy, to be honest.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: There are certainly many players on this market who offer automated parking management solutions. The majority of them have an ANPR-based (automatic number plate recognition) technologies. These are good and working solutions but have a limited number of use cases – such as underground parking, barrier-regulated areas. These would not be easily scalable for on and off-street parking and cannot provide the same cost-effectiveness.
Our solution is elegant in that sense, as it does not require any heavy infrastructure, works wirelessly, saves up to 99% internet traffic, operates on solar batteries, and is expected to be extremely cost-effective in the areas we’ve been able to explore so far.
Your final thoughts?
Dmitrii Oreshkin: There was this lecture I once listened to – as given by a France’s Climate Change Ambassador, academic, and diplomat Laurence Tubiana. I think I would never be able to forget what she said there: ‘we have already lost 60% of wild animals, 60% of insects, and 60% of forests were destroyed’. This is happening to us every single day because people on the planet contribute to pushing these numbers up.
As my family raises kids, we think more about the environment and what we can leave for kids and grandkids. I feel myself over the moon at times, thinking how much the places we live in can benefit from what we do. And this feeling gives us extra energy and motivation to move ahead in times of crisis or pandemic.
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