Alex Konanykhin – KGB most wanted makes it big in the tech world

Photo Credit: Albina Mingaleeva | www.albinaphotography.com
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The story of our featured guest reminds of an action movie plot, only better.

He was considered one of the most wealthiest & influential man in the post-Soviet Russia. You could call him an oligarch, or a genius.

He ruled a finance/construction empire worth millions, was involved in presidential campaign, and headed Russia’s largest exchange bank, all under the age of 25.

“I want to conquer the world like GOOGLE did”
Alex Konanykhin

Alex Konanykhin has numerous media appearances and was featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Profit Magazine, USA Today and other acclaimed publications. These days he lives in the United States and heads several corporations including KMGi Group, a global innovator in interactive production solutions. KMGi clients include Google, Facebook, Master Card, Ebay, CNN, Intel. Their cloud-bases platform, TransparentBusiness, is utilized in 98 countries across the globe.

Alex began his journey in the US 25 years ago, with 15 months spent in federal prison.

Leaving behind hundreds of millions of dollars, Alex moved to the US started from scratch. Today his companies are recognized as leaders in online innovations by such acclaimed publications as CNN, Forbes, Washington Post, and many more.

A victim of political intrigues, Alex went through six federal and immigration court hearings where he was representing himself as no lawyer was willing to take his case. He won the case and was granted political asylum and compensation in the amount of $160,000! This is just a small fraction of Alex’s story which resembles a TV Show where each new episode gets more exciting.

He ruled a finance/construction empire worth millions, was involved in presidential campaign,
and headed Russia’s largest exchange bank,
all under the age of 25

In one of your interviews you mentioned that making the Forbes’s List was never your ultimate goal. However, the bank you have established in Russian at the age of 25 accounted for almost half of the monetary transactions in the country. Is money a motivation for you?

Money is a good measure of success. Business turnover and profitability show how competent you are as a leader and how well you structure your workflow. At the same time, to me money is far from being the main criterion in life.

What qualities helped you become a millionaire at the age of 20?

I studied at an excellent University, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology which accounts for many noble alumni. The environment itself stimulated development. It’s hard to believe, but I never thought of going into business; I was planning to become a scientist. I got involved in business by chance and was able to optimize it to the full extent. I discovered that business does not differ much from chess, my favorite game. In both business and chess, you have to be meticulous about your moves and not be swayed by emotions.

You lived in Spain, Italy, Vienna, Argentina, the Caribbean, and the United States. To which of these different cultures can you relate the most?

Perhaps American culture is the closest to me. It is fairly open, especially comparing to European and Asian. In America you don’t feel like a foreigner. Any immigrant can build a large company and realize their full potential. I was giving an interview in New York once. The reporter noticed my accent and asked me if it hinders me in business. I remember telling him that in New York a man without an accent looks suspicious.

With your success, wealth, and charm you could easily marry a supermodel. Yet, in your two marriages you went for something other than just a cover girl. What do you appreciate in women?

I like people who can earn my respect. I would never marry a woman because of her looks alone. I like smart and successful women who’d be a good match in a conversation. Silvina, my wife, was only 27 when she became the vice president of communications for Visa International. Lena, my first wife of 17 years, was an exceptional woman. She had this incredible energy that would light up the room whenever she would walk in. If I could compare our relationship to a solar system, she was the sun and I was a planet, rotating around her.

You once said that for a happy life a million dollars is enough, everything above that is just a sheer sport. You are worth way over a million dollars, if it’s not money, them what motivates you?

Over the last 20 years of doing business in the US I’ve managed to grow a successful company, make a name for myself, and build exceptional clientele. However, all this success still can’t equate to, let’s say Google, which conquered the entire world market. I am the kind of person who needs to keep moving and growing. I tried slowing down once and enjoy a simple life. But sipping coffee while enjoying the view of the Swiss Alps just made me feel like a senior, so I went back to doing business.

TransparentBusiness is a cloud-based platform utilized in 98 countries across the globe. It gained attention of such major-league players as the US government, the United Nations, and the countries of the Arab world.

Alex, you founded KMGi Group in New York in 1997. By 2003 your company employed 200 people and had an office in the Empire State Building. By 2012, your software TransparentBusiness received the PC Magazine Rising Star Award as the best cloud computing solution for enterprises. How did the concept of TransparentBusiness evolve?

We had originally developed this program for our own needs, and we have been using this technology for seven years. Then Citi Bank noticed our innovation and invited us to take part in the new and advanced technologies competition held by the Citi Group. A year ago we won the Top Business Management Solutions award which tremendously increased the demand for our software.

What’s the main competitive advantage of your software?

TransparentBusiness allows employers to monitor activity and productivity of remote work force. The program provides real-time report on the status, cost, and progress of any ongoing projects. It captures employees’ computer activity and tracks the time spent on each specific task, allocating costs along the way.

You have recently presented your platform at the United Nations event in NYC, explaining how it addresses some of the biggest challenges women face in the workplace. What benefits does your software offer to professional women?

Our platform makes it possible for women to work remotely and have flexible job opportunities. A woman doesn’t longer have to choose between leaving her young kids with a babysitter or quit her job and be a stay-at–home mom. Since the software allows ongoing project monitoring, management, and collaborating, women can work from home and be just as productive as on-site employees. Our platform also provides workplace solutions in the Arab countries where cultural traditions prohibit women from working in the same room as men.

The topic of immigration and border control has been under active discussion. The debate is fierce. What is your position on this issue?

People can have different opinions on immigration policy; I respect that. What makes me sad is when immigrants oppose immigration and resent immigrants in general. I call it the ‘bus mentality,’ it’s like hopping on a full bus and then yelling at the next person trying to get in, “Where are you going? Don’t you see this bus is full?” I have an iPhone on my desk, this company is headed by a son of Syrian immigrants. I think that’s enough to say.

When was the last time you cried?

As an adult – when my dear wife Lena passed away. Cancer took her; the type of cancer that has no cure. She burned out quickly, passing away only two months after the fists symptoms appeared. This shattered my world. Before that I felt bulletproof, I believed that nothing could ever break me. But when Lena was gone on March 30, 2007 I fell into a deep depression that lasted three years. I kept running a business, going through the motions, but I would find no interest in life.

People who inspire you?

Steve Jobs, Apple
When he was kicked out of Apple there were books written about his strategy describing it as a failing business model. Shortly after, his products changed the world once and for all.

Larry Page & Sergey Brin, GOOGLE
GOOGLE’s advertising revenue alone totals at $80 billion per year. However, they didn’t settle for being just a search engine; they created a mass of other products meant to improve our lives in many ways.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce
One of the largest corporations in the world worth over 60 billion dollars. I often drive past a huge hospital in San Francisco which Marc built with his own money.

I respect people who go beyond making money and do something good for others.

Photo Credit: Albina Mingaleeva | www.albinaphotography.com

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Olga Garicichina

Russian Time Magazine Assistant Editor Editor@RussianAmericanMedia.com

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