Rustam Gilfanov: “Startups need mentors”

IT startups often attract mentors at the initial stage of work in order to “become stronger”. Let’s figure out how modern mentoring works and where to find the perfect mentor together with IT businessman and investor Rustam Gilfanov.


Mentor is a true professional

The mentor has knowledge, extensive experience, practical skills and, of course, time. He looks at the situation from the outside and helps move forward, including by personal example. “It is important that the mentor build long-term relationships for his student’s progress, and be aimed at the all-round development of the latter. He effectively uses business couching and facilitation tools, he’s kind of a one-man army,” Gilfanov says.

The mentor’s duties usually include assistance in developing an effective growth strategy and project business plan, consulting, training in conducting business negotiations and presentations, and support in finding investors. According to Rustam Gilfanov, novice businessmen may not always objectively assess their abilities or look at existing problems from a different angle. The mentor, however, can notice blind spots and determine growth areas. His recommendations might not be entirely accurate – the mentor creates the conditions for his student’s (mentee’s) development.

How to find a mentor

First of all, you have to understand why you need a mentor. Determine your goals to make your search more accurate.

“Try to find a mentor among speakers or participants of industry conferences, industry events, and educational projects. People attending such events are usually open to new acquaintances. But it’s important that the person genuinely inspire you and be your personal motivator,” Gilfanov suggests.

In addition to visiting offline events, you should pay attention to personal blogs or expert columns that inspire you. You can contact the author, ask a question or arrange a consultation – these are the first steps to find a mentor.

Furthermore, you should pay attention to investment mentoring support programs, where experts share their experience in developing startups.

How to make mentoring effective

Mentoring can be effective provided that both parties are actively working and implementing their agreements. The mentor should create a friendly environment and allow the student to ask questions on complex topics, honestly answer the student’s questions, and maintain the general direction of work and the boundaries of mentoring. The student should be ready to openly discuss his progress and achievement of planned goals. Rustam Gilfanov refers to his experience and believes that successful mentoring requires the development of four main skills: trust, active listening, understanding of your goals, and encouragement. “In general, the key skill of mentoring is active listening, free expression of your thoughts and fears. This is the foundation of a trusting relationship between the mentor and mentee. You need a mentor who will make you feel extremely strong,” Gilfanov suggests.

Mentoring means informal communication. To become a reliable student, Rustam Gilfanov suggests that you keep promises, respect the mentor’s boundaries, accept and correct your mistakes, and don’t disclose confidential information. Effective mentoring allows both the mentor and the student to develop the self-reflection skill. This is an experience that will surely enrich both parties.

Brief curriculum vitae

Rustam Gilfanov is a co-founder of an IT company, IT businessman, and international investor.

Rustam Gilfanov was born on January 6, 1983 in the village of Basim, Perm Region. His father was a military man, and his mother was a teacher.

In 2006, Rustam Gilfanov and his partners founded an international IT outsourcing company in Kiev. Today this company is one of the largest software developers releasing gaming industry, marketing, and finance products.

A few years ago, Gilfanov stopped working for the company to start making international investments in IT projects. It is also important for Rustam Gilfanov to develop charity projects in Ukraine.

Rustam Gilfanov is married, has a daughter.