18 апреля 2018

Интервью с CEO. Павел Правдин, Welltory

Hello to everyone! Today I’m happy to announce another entry to a quite experimental editorial column for me — Q&A, which contains our brief web-interview with app developers, IT-specialists and just interesting people. The idea of this very interview was stuck in my head for quite a while but for some reason I’ve been postponing it. So the time is now.

Русскоязычная версия здесь

This time we will be talking to Pavel Pravdin, a developer and enterpreneur responsible for such startups as Mailburn, Adamantify, Welltory and Coffeelab.vc. Our first social-media-encounter-thingy with Pavel happened on Twitter: a famous Russian web-developer shared his favourite Spotify tracks of the year, in my comment I wished Spotify was official in Russia (hey there, Mr. Ek) and asked if there was a viable way to pay for Premium subscription as Russian payment system won’t work on Spotify. And Pavel was quick to offer a virtual card solution, so it began.

In this brief interview we’ll discuss the way big data can fix one’s way of life and make it healthier, time management, moving to another country and some other things.

— Hello, Pavel! First of all, big up for agreeing to this interview, I know your schedule is strict and the difference in our time zones. Let’s start with your work activities. What was your road to becoming a startup creator?

— Hey.

In the beginning of my way I moved along the career ladder from an engineer to a head of R&D in a foreign company. Then an opportunity arose to become an intrapreneur — a person launching a new product as well as a new company on a request from a major enterprise. In my case it was a request from an energy provider to launch a housing services payment and billing system in Siberia. There I got the experience of a fast launch of a complex financial system in a retrograde market under my belt and decided it was high time I started my own business.

My first business was a website allowing to order food from different restaurants in some cities in Siberia. It was launched couple of years before a big startup of the kind — Delivery Club — was launched in European part of Russia. For the record, we managed to sell our project with a little exit so the first startup experience turned out to be a success,

— Rookies tend to have some kind of role models, thought leaders if you will. Were there any people of the kind in the beginning of your career?

— My thought leaders were no media persons. They were quite specific work mentors. Their professional levels showed me the what extent one can be awesome in one’s field of expertise.

My professional career started in 2001 during my first year of studying for the degree. I got a position of a test engineer in a South Korean company Darim, where Roman Chukhno was my first supervisor. On his behalf I got my key engineering skills and was introduced to the core aspects of software development. He also taught me to be specific about the tiniest details and be a professional no matter what it takes.

I acquired my management skills thanks to Andrey Pletenev. head of a Canadian company called Siberlogic. There I learned the way of working with enterprise clients such as US Army or Lockheed Martin and personnel management in western style, where everything is results-based.

— Are you the sole ideas generator for new projects or is it a team effort?

— I hold the view that «an idea is worth nothing». There’s lots of ideas coming to me all the time but the question is not «what should I do?» but «which idea should I choose?» and the most important one «how to complete it properly?». I don’t get when someone is seriously discussing a «brilliant idea» and its meaning.

Only implementation can be brilliant in this case and that’s on the team to achieve. The most important thing is the way you implement, not the way you invent.

— Do your treat your projects differently? Are there any favourites? Which ones do you consider the most important at the moment?

— For the last couple of years my only project has been Welltory. Everything else got scrapped and tucked away. If you strive after something big there should be no other pet project or side business whatsoever.

Some time ago I repeatedly chose the multiproject strategy but I won’t recomend doing few things at once to anyone. If you are that one last person in the project’s chain of responsibility then that’s the project to concentrate on. If the responsibility is not fully yours there’s some room for multitasking, but the chances of success will probably be lower, defocusing is always toxic.

— I had an idea to review Welltory prior to our interview but to be honest I found the service to be too complicated for a regular quick review. How would you describe it to a regular user?

— For this purpose we’ve made a video. Even two of them.

In all seriousness though, Welltory is just that innovation that appear as a technology and then use cases accumulate over it, even ones that the developer never thought of.

The most important thing we offer is to try and measure your system on stress, energy and readiness to endure pressure. This works very well in the beginning and further on people get to know that they can track their body using the measurements. They can easily understand what it’s trying to say, get contextual recommendations based on the overall condition as well as find and get rid of the problem that prevents from being in optimal shape. This approach to caring discovering about your organism through data is called «quantified self» and is vastly popular among nerds. In Welltory we produce tools that will bring the concept of «quantified self» to mainstream.

 

 

— As far as I can tell, Welltory is for those who really care about one’s health conditions and would like to adjust one’s life to fit the proper way. Will the service be useful for those working irregular hours?

— You got that right. The service will be of particular value to the employees engaged in intellectual labour and people whose concentration and brain work cost a lot. If you work irregular or overtime shifts then Welltory be certainly useful. We don’t give any general advice like «go to bed before midnight», we tell you how your organism is feeling and what will help it recover faster regardless of the time of the day.

We also help athletes who need to control their recovery process after physical exertion and people facing various mental conditions, e.g. burnout or angst. In USA Welltory sometimes can be listed in a prescription.

— It’s somewhat difficult to correlate measurements with flash and camera of a smartphone with stress and energy data as well as functional state of organism. What kind of magic is that?

— It is a well established science — heart rate variability (HRV). This is the most promising digital biomarker of the nearest future. For example, PubMed contains 23 000 articles on HRV and since the 1970s the number of research projects has skyrocketed. The science is thouroughly analyzed and used in sports, medicine and spase. To interpret the data a specially trained physiologist is required but we automated this functionality.

Heart rate is being measured with photopletysmography method used in all smartwatches, wristbands, pulse oxymeters and many more. Its operation principle is simpe — skin fragment is being shined through and the «video is recorded». By changing the color we are able to register the heart rate and get RR-intervals needed for HRV analysis.

In our blog you can read about how we managed to develop an algorithm capable of retrieving the RR-intervals using the regular iPhone camera with the precision of professional chest-type heart rate detector. We are really proud of this, we are the only ones in the world to achieve this precision.

— Wow, nice! Well then, «quantified self» is getting more and more familiar.

To repeat myself, Welltory turned out to be complicated than I thought. I recommend trying the app to everyone with a goal to take up a healthy approach to life. The approach is serious and professional, the content is useful. Be ready to read and learn a lot, the app is not that quick to learn in detail. Whether you already are a person of a healthy lifestyle or try to make the necessary switch — the app will be of help and you will discover a lot about yourself and your system.

App Store:
Price — free, IAP
Reqiurements — iOS 9+, age restrictions 12+
Google Play:
Price — free, IAP
Requirements — Android 4.3+, age restrictions 3+

 

Now to more personal quiestions. In your Twitter you often share some insights from your travels. How often do you visit different countries?

— After the launch of Welltory and the birth of my daughter my trips abroad became less often — in 2017 there were only 5 of them. On the other hand, trips can be different: previous one started at the beginning of December 2017 and is still in progress. I’ve been all across Asia, worked in USA for 3 months and now I’m in Thailand.

— Can you call yourself a cosmopolitan? Or are you still attached to a certain country?

— The role of the state in one’s life is becoming less important and I’m sure that geographic borders are transforming into a formality. I feel great in Russia, my home is there. I don’t see moving to another country due to business affairs as something impossible, e.g. it’s certainly helpful for a businessman to spend few years in the Silicon Valley.

— Many people picture startup founders to themselves as extremely busy people with minimum free time and tight schedule. Is it so? Do you have time for your hobbies?

— Here in Welltory we promote the idea to manage not the time but your own energy, i.e. power and motivation to work. That’s why I try to fill my schedule with various activities throughout the day. They include my family, regular sport training, hanging out with friends. I have 4-5 hours a week of really free time and I spend them self-educating, watching movies or just decompressing to help myself recover.

Working 8 hours in front of a screen is not common for me at all. I believe that when there’s no energy left for making decisions and your thinking is not as sharp, you should switch from work to sport, recreation or household chores.

— Let’s turn to more general but interesting topics, shall we. Where do you stand on crypto currency: is it a bubble or a revolution in economics?

— None of the above 🙂 The size of the bubble is being represented by people’s faith and if the speed of development does not correspond with the expectations, then the faith fades away. The revolution will be slow and this took the novice crypto investors by surprise.

I do not sell crypto currency, I prefer tech companies’ stock market. It’s better to invest in something you have vast expertise in and where you can evaluate the market conditions and react in a timely manner.

— Do you mine crypto money? 🙂

— Last time I fooled around with bitcoin in 2013, I considered it to have no future so I deleted the software and wallet keys.

— Are you a gadget geek? What devices do you use more often?

— For my job in Welltory I test all more or less viable fitness and health gadgets, the list will be too long.

My personal list goes like this:

  • Surface Book 2
  • Nexus 6P
  • Samsung Gear Sport watch, an awesome device
  • Yesku BT-headphones
  • Netatmo weather station
  • Withings pulsimeter
  • iPhone 5c to test stuff

— Do you share growing antipathy to notches in smartphones displays?

— No, I do not. I see no problem with that and besides I will readily buy Huawei P20 as soon as it hits the shelves.

— What advice would you give to novice entrepreneurially-inclined developers?

— When creating a new product be sure to put money end effort in learning product analytics and hypothesis testing, e.g. https://simulator.gopractice.ru/ . The sooner you make mistakes and learn, the higher is the survival chance of your startup.

 

I’d like to thank Pavel once more for his participation in this web-interview. It’s always a great experience to have a chat with people you would never get to talk to in your regular activity. And even if you had they would probably have no time for these chats. On the other hand, some shared interests can spark up really great conversations.

Hopefully you enjoyed the interview, thanks for your time, cheers!

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