Elisar Nurmagambetov: «A beginner businessman thinks what to say, and an experienced businessman thinks what to ask»

Elisar Nurmagambetov is the founder and CEO of the Black Ice Al startup, which was previously known by Consilienz. It is a software system that detects financial crimes such as money laundering, fraud and human trafficking. The Kazakhstani entered the American Forbes Next 1000 list. As an entrepreneur, Elisar revealed the secrets of achieving success and shared his personal experience.

Tell us about yourself, about your family. What is your occupation?

I’m originally from Almaty, I’m 28 years old. Currently I live and work in the USA. I have an education as a lawyer, economist and manager. My family is my mother and sister. I love them madly and am very grateful to them for everything. In the future, I want to create my own family, which will become my main priority.

How did you get into the business world? How did it all start?

Even in my first year at university, I realized that education alone will not go far. And immediately started working almost free of charge and learning applied skills from successful businessmen. Working directly with the first leaders, I learned from their experience and could try to do the same as they did, without being exposed to great risks. This gave me a tremendous advantage.

My boss once said that it takes 20 years to understand how an industry works. You can also find 20 friends who have already come this way and learn from them. They invested a lot in me, invested millions, so that I developed the necessary connections, participated in private events and learned to receive important information sooner than others. Very often my work resembled that of a journalist, that is, I had to make appointments with key people in our field, while not trying to sell them something, but listening, recording and building trusting relationships. A beginner businessman thinks what to say, and an experienced businessman thinks what to ask. Later, a whole team of professionals analyzed each of my meetings, worked on mistakes. We processed the information received together. This helped us to build a strategy, create products, and improve service. In addition, experienced, successful businessmen worked with me and taught me to think correctly, manage risks and resources. I had complete autonomy in my work, where I could make very risky decisions, but I was not responsible for the risk.

Honestly, no Harvard would have given me such an education and environment. After that, I already started my own business. Here, of course, it became more difficult. After all, now all the risks were confined to me. Previous work was like a simulation of the current one. Yes, there were a lot of mistakes and a lot of stress. Because I let the process take over. However, after big victories and defeats, I lost my fear of taking losses, and this opened up a new world of possibilities for me.

Is there a difference in doing business between our and foreign companies? If so, which ones?

The difference is enormous. Absolutely. Now there are many Kazakhstani companies that are trying to do business in the United States, "export" technologies. And most of them fail. American market is very mature and incredibly complex. At the same time, it’s radically different from the domestic one - we don’t have many clients, several companies are fighting for them, and accordingly, one or two of them become leaders. Later, having already captured the market, they begin to grow horizontally. In the United States, everything is different: the market is just absolutely enormous, and there are also many competitors. You need to be the best in one direction. Being average in many areas won’t work. Also, due to the small market in Kazakhstan, it is quite easy to reach the right people after a couple of handshakes. In the USA it isn’t so simple, people from all over the world come here. Therefore, the market is more skeptical and just doesn’t let them in.

What advice do you have for startups? What mistakes can’t be made and what life hacks will help them?

Don't be in business and keep your nerves. Kidding. Probably the first thing I would recommend is to get rid of the fear of failure. Life is long, you have unlimited tries. The main thing in business is not your product, idea, money, investors, it is you and your ability to repeat success. If you lose it, it's okay, you will do it again. Overcome your fear and new opportunities will open up for you. Secondly, in business it isn’t your mind, creativity, talent, connections, and even character strength and ambition that are important. Business is action, proactivity. If you do it, it will work out. Action takes energy. The third is to focus on the result, not the process. It takes discipline. You can think of the best product, team, strategy in your head. But if this isn’t brought to a concrete result, then everything is meaningless. Get to the milestones, even if it isn’t perfect, but this is the result. You have time to collect feedback and improve.

Do you always visit the resource? What helps you restore energy?

Energy is the most important thing in my work. Without energy there is no action, without action there is no result. Also, managing risk and making decisions in the face of constant uncertainty requires huge energy costs. Therefore, I am very grateful to the team and partners for the fact that they can independently carry out all internal tasks themselves. I don't have to drown in processes, it saves a lot of energy and allows me to spend time in the “fields”, meet with clients, look for opportunities and objectively look at risks.

Energy is highly dependent on thoughts. Knowing why I’m doing this and liking the goal energizes me. For example, I really like our industry, although it is considered very serious and conservative. I take it playfully, ideas and opportunities ignite me. At the same time, I try very hard to do only those things that I like, and find people who also like to do what I don’t like. And the last thing - I constantly go to the pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, eat deliciously, have a good time. Recently I went on vacation. The ocean, beach, sun, parties, beautiful view, pleasant company - all this helps a lot, you look at the world in a new way.

What do you like about our country?           

In our country, I like absolutely everything. The most important thing, of course, is people - their kindness, sincerity, striving for the goal, despite all the difficulties. I also miss our food terribly, family gatherings, home atmosphere. I love our culture very much and often watch Kazakh comedies.

What do you think served as a muse for a nomad? What inspired the nomads?

I think we and our ancestors are a very cheerful and energetic people. In my opinion, the nomads were inspired by new spaces. Clear skies, fresh air, our culture. Even now I think about it and get inspired. What could be better than being among your people, culture, looking at the most beautiful nature. I immediately feel romance, burst of energy and a desire to move forward! Perhaps this is the spirit of the nomad! And it’s in everybody’s heart.

We are grateful to Elisar Nurmagambetov for a detailed story about the business world. Museofnomad editors are always ready to introduce you to the successful personalities of our country. Kazakhstan is the land of unique people.


Interviewer: Moldir Adamzhan

Translator-editor: Chingiz Smakov

Photo: from the personal archive of the character

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