“Three friends got together and decided to open a business:” It’s a common scenario but most such stories don’t have a happy ending. Vladimir Maslyakov’s version though is one of the exceptions. Several years ago, Maslyakov, along with his classmate and a university colleague, founded the brokerage company Exante, which aims to give its clients access to a broad range of financial instruments and markets. After starting from a home office, the company now has satellite offices in Russia, Singapore, Latvia and the Netherlands as well as a headquarters in Malta. Maslyakov and his partners now spend most of their time traveling. During one of his visits to St. Petersburg, he sat down with The St. Petersburg Times in the lobby of a five-star hotel in the city center and talked about the other young representatives of his team, digital marketing, old-fashioned western brokers, the efficiency of social media in promoting business, the virtual currency “bitcoin” and whether youth and friendships help in business or not.
Q: You started your career journey with a group of friends in Moscow, how did you decide to make your ideas a reality? A: We really were just a group of friends that began trading and writing software. We had a background in IT and our current CEO had trading experience. At one point he came to me and told me he was good at trading but bad at designing software and asked if I could help him. I said “yes” and called another friend because it is hard to do everything by oneself. Then we had our first developer and finally began gathering the team. At first there were just three of us. Two of us had studied together at Moscow State University and another guy was one of my school friends, which gave us a team of five.
Q: Your company is a financial and technology start-up. What novelty do you offer the market? A: We had been developing software for trading applications and working with several online brokers, and the first thing we noticed was that we were unsatisfied with the quality of the IT side of the market. Honestly, we did not expect a lot from Russian brokers, but we were surprised that most of the American and European brokers were so old-fashioned. We thought about different models of selling the software, and decided that the best way to make a profit would be to form a brokerage company. I was against it at first but then I realized it was a good idea and changed my mind. So, we were developing software and we also started trading at the same time. It was not the way most companies did business — they developed the trading software but they didn’t trade themselves. It happened that our strategy was quite different as we designed the software and also did the trading.