Meet Jessica Hill and Karina Samsonova, co-founders of DataMinds, a leading provider of analytics, data science, business intelligence, and applied AI services and products in Australia.
DataMinds started after Karina saw a financial model made by one of the Big4 firms that cost a fortune (basically more than her yearly salary) and she was building much more sophisticated models for her employer. The very next day after seeing this, she went into the office and told Jess (who was her boss back then) ‘what if we start building the same cool stuff we do at work, but for other people, there is obviously a need for it’. Jess smiled and didn’t say anything. Three days later, she texted Karina and asked if she was still up for starting a business, because she was in!
As Co-Founders, how did you decide to start the business together?
K: As I mentioned before, Jess was actually my boss. We were working together and tested our team spirit and work comparability over a couple of years before starting a business together.
J: We had been working together in analytics for a few years already, and we knew we were a powerful team. Our core skills are similar, and with Karina’s background in finance and accounting combined with my background in maths and stats, we each bring unique domain knowledge and ways of solving problems. We knew we could build something amazing together.
Any tips for making it work as Co-Founders
K: Co-founders are like parents of the company. Later you can bring in directors/advisors/partners who are more like grandparents/extended family members, they will give you parenting advice, can support financially, but they will never totally understand what you are going through. While your co-founder will be the one who is awake at night when your business-baby has teething problems. Choose a co-founder who you can trust and rely on, who will be fighting for you and with you.
J: A co-founder is perhaps the only person in the world who will understand the ups and downs that you go through when starting and running your business. There are times when we’re both on top of the world and everything is great, but in the tough times, it’s about being able to count on each other to push through.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
K: Don’t be afraid/too proud to ask for help. There are many people who can help you by giving a hand/free advice/introduction to somebody, but you need to ask them about it.
J: Stick to a routine. Keeping a routine kept me focused and driven, especially in the early days when everything was so uncertain. From day one, Karina and I worked the same work-hours and days that we always had, and stuck to an exercise routine of going for a run at lunchtime or at the end of the day.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
J: Learning new things quickly (you will have to do so many things that are outside of your area of expertise), being good with numbers (even for a business that is not about numbers, you need to have a handle on your cashflow), and having the ability to push through any fear to do what needs to be done.
K: 1. Oratory – nobody can sell your product/services better than you, so you have to learn how to communicate your idea properly. 2. Know your numbers – you don’t need to be an accountant, but you need to have a clear idea of your revenue and expenses. 3. Confidence – believe in yourself.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
J: I look up to business owners who are working their butts off, backing themselves, have put everything on the line for the business they believe in and managed to get it off the ground.
K: I am inspired by executives and entrepreneurs who take responsibility for their actions and stand by their words, who is willing to sleep/live in the office to help their team to deliver the product, who is open for advice and can acknowledge whether he/she is wrong.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
K: Don’t have a plan B. It forces you to put everything into plan A.
J: The best deals are done with a bottle of wine.
How have you personally measured your success?
K: Sometimes I sit at the meetings with some well-known international companies and want to pinch myself. I still can’t believe that those people believed in us. Also, I see how results of our work change businesses and help them grow, and that is the best feeling ever, to know that you contributed into someone’s success.
J: We’ve built a business where I enjoy going to the office every day. That’s a pretty great feeling
What are your growth areas for 2019/2020?
J: Implementing business intelligence solutions like Power BI and Tableau has been massive for us over the last year, and now we’re seeing growth in advanced analytics and applied AI to tackle problems around marketing optimization, behavioural analytics, and image recognition.
K: Image and video recognition. There are so many areas where you can apply it, that would literally change our lives.
Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?
J: My co-founder Karina and colleague Roberta inspire me every day. They are intelligent, driven, and hilarious.
Who is the wisest woman you know and what have you learnt from her?
J: I am fortunate to have many strong, intelligent, wise, funny women in my life, and we all learn from each other. All the women in my life provide these nuggets of gold along the way.
Here’s how you can connect with Jessica and Karina.