Meet the Russian teenager building a “Twitter for investors”


Kirill ChekanovPrecocious Russian 17-year-old Kirill Chekanov is building a startup, Hippflow, to help business angels track new companies. Will it fly?

Seventeen-year-old Kirill Chekanov has created a start-up which he calls “Twitter for investors”.

The project, Hippflow, which is still beta testing and seeking both new investors and a customer base, is competing in a narrow niche. Chekanov claims Hippflow steps up investor communications; critics say it allows investors to publically transmit what they prefer to exchange privately.

Moscow grammar school pupil Kirill Chekanov starts his day by answering his email, then he goes to school. After school, he has meetings and interviews, or works with his team — the people who created Hippflow. At the age of 17, Kirill has already created his own business and is now looking to promote it.

“The main thing is that Wi-Fi is available in the school building, so I can keep working and answering my email,” says Kirill jokingly.


Hippflow: Twitter for investors

Hippflow is designed to make life easier for investors: each startup creates its own page and posts updates on company events, meetings with partners, investment requirements and recruitment. Kirill calls his service a Twitter for investors.

But unlike Twitter, you don’t always have to keep an eye on Hippflow; it automatically systematises information on its page, offering an easy-to-read chronicle. The website originally cost about $10,000, but Kirill does not say who gave him the money.

Kirill started working on Hippflow more than six months ago, and the service was launched for users in November 2012. Not everyone was able to register, however.

“The project is still in beta testing,” he says. “Therefore, we didn’t allow many startups to register at first. We will have a new version soon with adjustments based on comments from current users. We are currently focusing on partnership programs with incubators and co-workings.”

Kirill plans to work with investors both inside and outside of Russia — the website operates entirely in English and its founder claims that it has partners in the US, Canada, Poland, China and Singapore.


A narrow niche: will it take off?

The idea itself is not new: the website AngelList enables investors to monitor startups. That site helps track investment activity and spot new companies that are seeking capital. “The niche is indeed quite narrow,” says Yekaterina Gaika, deputy director of the IT Cluster at the Skolkovo Foundation.

“Competition is quite tough, because there are already many sites such as StartupAfisha (Russia), Startup Sauna, TechCrunch, The Next Web… These services compete with Twitter, Facebook and other media.”

The Hippflow founder, in turn, says that his project takes communication with investors to a whole new level, since it is not just a newswire.

What investors have to say

Andrei Kulikov Andrei Kulikov of Fastlane Ventures (pictured right) is skeptical about this feature of the website: “Hippflow is trying to upgrade investor relations, which is quite conservative and personalised by nature. Normally, companies send investors their internal documents, reports, budgets and strategies, as well as KPIs.” Kulikov thinks that the new site simply duplicates internal documents and thus is not indispensible.

“The people that will invest their money in someone else’s idea require details,” says private investor and businessman Aleksei Pozdnyakov. “Business plans, approximate return rate, tax load, authorisations — in other words, the complete picture of activities and the market. Overall, the website is good and pretty helpful, but it needs major upgrades, for it has too little information. However, as an investor, I would be interested in working with a project such as Hippflow.”

Future plans: raising seed funds, adding content

The website is not making profit yet, as its founder is only discussing monetisation opportunities with investors. So far, the website has agreed that efforts will focus on the search for new partners and users. Kirill is also working on raising new investments.

“We are looking to raise $200,000,” says Kirill. “The next stage will be the growth stage, so we’ll need more. I can’t give the exact figure right now. Investors easily agree to contribute, because they understand that there is a need for such an instrument. I’m currently in talks with two funds — one from Russia and another from Europe.”

Kulikov could not specify Hippflow’s investment prospects. According to him, it is too early to make estimates, because the project has neither a customer base nor a business model. Kirill is not discouraged, though: he has plans to expand his business by the end of the year and find more than a hundred partners for his website. He will have no time for university, though, and may have to opt for distance education because of a very busy schedule.

This post originally appeared on Russia Beyond The Headlines as part of its Top 50 Russian Startups special project.

Image credit:
Kirill Chekanov: personal archive
pennies: flickr user Andreas Rueda
Andrei Kulikov: via Twitter


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