Entrepreneurship

A Founder’s Journey Requires Thinking Ahead and Working Hard by Default With Dzhangar Sanzhiev

A Founder’s Journey Requires Thinking Ahead and Working Hard by Default With Dzhangar Sanzhiev

MP spoke with Dzhangar Sanzhiev, founder of MatchFamiles, an app designed to help families make new friends with other families, about his entrepreneurial journey. Sanzhiev has lived and worked in Thailand, Russia, Germany, and the USA and knows how challenging it could be to form a new social circle, especially as a family. From these life experiences, he launched MatchFamilies to help families make new social connections, find like-minded people, socialize, and make friends. Before founding MatchFamilies, Sanzhiev had focused on cultivating better leaders as an international human resources consultant. 

MatchFamiles founder Dzhangar Sanzhiev / Photo courtesy of Dzhangar Sanzhiev

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

I knew nothing about building mobile apps. 

Now I have a company that developed the MatchFamiles app, which thousands of people are using and getting value from. 

I learned that I could learn new things quicker than I thought. 

The Psychological Warfare

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?

There have been some mental ups and downs in my case. But nothing critical, I think.  As an entrepreneur, I’ve sometimes thought, “Who can support me?” and of course, it’s my family, friends, and colleagues. 

And they have been doing a great job motivating and supporting me. Without their support, I would have felt much worse. 

Close relationships with friends and family are what’s most important, more than money and more than fame. 

Knowing that what I’m doing with my startup helped me get through some of the challenging times along the way. 

Newer entrepreneurs often equate their success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?

I’ve been successful throughout my entire career in the corporate world. If I fail with my startup, it will be a learning experience, but I don’t think I’ll change my perception of myself and say, “I’m a failure,” because I know I’m not. 

I think it is important to remember who you are and your track record before making any judgments, especially negative ones. 

What are your biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?

1. Failing Financially

I manage it through thoughtfulness and hard work. I don’t think there is a better way. 

2. Losing to a Competitor

I manage this the same way as financial worries - through thoughtful and hard work. 

MatchFamiles founder Dzhangar Sanzhiev / Photo courtesy of Dzhangar Sanzhiev

The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?

1. Our First Logo

I created our first logo on my own and based on my rationale. 

I should have involved more people and gathered more opinions while looking at things from a different angle. 

2. Contacting VC Funds

I spent too much time on the outreach to VC funds when it was too early to reach out to them at that stage of my startup’s development. 

So, I lost a lot of time, but on the other hand, I learned more details about their criteria and what would make them invest (not what’s written on their websites). 

3. Monetization Testing

I should have started testing some of the monetization hypotheses earlier than I did. It could have helped us prepare to scale quicker. 

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning? 

1. Considering Global Expansion

In Germany, I encountered several entrepreneurs who think relatively small and are not proactively thinking about the global expansion of their services. 

They think they must spend several years on their local market before launching elsewhere. 

I think that is old-fashioned thinking.

With modern technology, you can do whatever you want and have teams wherever you want on a global scale. 

As a minimum, you will learn a lot while doing it. It's especially sad if a product or service is unique.

There is a significant risk of attracting unnecessary competition or simply copy cats from other parts of the world while a founder is procrastinating, 

2. Checking Their Ego

I came across a few very ambitious founders with a rather big ego who don’t pay much attention to their team members and their emotional well-being. 

3. Clear Communication

Some young entrepreneurs often struggle with clear and concise communication. I think the sooner people start training these skills, the more outcomes they will achieve moving forward. 

MatchFamiles screenshot / Photo courtesy of Dzhangar Sanzhiev

The Successes

What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them? 

1. Building Mobile Applications

I had limited knowledge about the tech aspects of building mobile applications. It took me a considerable amount of time to learn the specifics, but it’s possible – as long as one is inquisitive enough. 

2. Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy was a big challenge when I founded my startup. But once you start, things get more transparent and manageable. Looking back, it wasn’t as difficult as I initially thought.

3. Hiring the Right People

Finding the right team members seemed an obstacle, especially during the lockdowns when I could not meet new team members in person. Thanks to various social platforms, they found me on their own!

What three ways have you boosted your productivity without causing burnout?

  1. Staying focused.
  2. Dream big.
  3. Spend time in nature.

The Advice

How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?

Plan your day in a way where there is always time for your family, hobbies, sports you enjoy, etc., as this is a possible thing to do.  

What three critical pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?

1. Expand Your Network As Much as You Can

There are so many wonderful and knowledgeable people out there!

2. Expanding Your Network Requires Proactivity

Invest your time and it’ll bring the results. 

3. Don’t Micromanage

Don’t do everything alone or control how others perform their tasks. Trust people, delegate, and empower others. 

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