|Founder of LoyalMe
Fighting Depression and Starting Over
After earning an MBA from one of the world’s most prestigious business schools, and striving to build a global company in New York, Konstantin returned to Moscow deeply depressed.
In 2018, I suddenly found myself struggling to figure out what to do with my life and my business. I experienced thundering pressure and was faced with several debts to both employees and contractors.
By that time, I had successfully completed the MBA program at one of the leading business schools in the world, INSEAD and joined the NUMA incubator, which is part of the largest platform for European startups, Station F in Paris. From there, I spent 2 years in New York trying to globally expand my company. But I had little success, and, in the end, I went back to Russia, broken and devastated.
Back in Russia, we planned on launching a major project for our biggest client, L’Oreal, and their 24 brands, to use as a pilot market. We had a great chance to take over thirteen additional markets, because Salesforce (the largest CRM system in the world), which had a contract with L’Oreal, didn’t cover those countries.
Unfortunately, we ran out of money for development. As a result, we were late with the release of the new version. I took a $100K personal loan from my bank and invested it in the company. It’s called LoyalMe, and it provides companies with loyalty programs. It is registered in New York, so the Russian bank could not provide us with a loan. When we were finally ready to present to L’Oreal, the news was grim. They told us that Salesforce was coming to Russia, and that we were no longer needed.
When L’Oreal refused to work with our technology, I had a nervous breakdown. I had accumulated massive debt, and a pile of debts to employees and contractors.
I was meditating one day when my heart rate went up to 195. The doctor said that if it happened even one more time, my body would shut down. I was prescribed antidepressants and was advised to see a psychologist. I knew that I would only be able to respect myself again if I sorted out my mess, or I would die trying. During my treatment for depression, I sent my plans for combating it to my INSEAD group chat. You wouldn’t believe how many people wrote me back with questions. It helps to know that people from all walks of life deal with these types of issues.
For ten days during the New Year’s holidays of 2019, in order to get out of my rut, I wrote a list of things I needed to do. I realized that I had made bad management decisions. I started thinking of how to become a better leader and reposition the company. Since then, we have given up L’OReal as a client – they paid inconsistently, plus we wanted to stop consulting – and started looking towards the future. Because of financial strain, we were forced to let go of most of the team, but it helped us to soon become profitable. A few months later, I felt like I had started an entirely new company. The debts are still here, of course, but we are slowly but surely paying them back.
When we changed our positioning, the right customers began coming to us. We work with global brands such as Eli Lilly, Estée Lauder, LVMH, Revlon and other companies interested in Loyalty Program automation. We are entering the US market again and looking towards the French market. There is a positive dynamic now — for both myself and my company. The business is gradually growing and, fortunately, I have overcome my depression. Reflecting back, I feel grateful. You may grow little by little all your life, but you will jump to a totally new level if dramatic transformation is the only way to survive.