London Business School is home to many talented entrepreneurial minds, who with the help of networks generated by the School community and the LBS Incubator Programme go on to begin or enhance their startup journeys. Let’s meet Roman Kirsanov, an LBS Sloan Fellow and CEO of Partner Insight…
Talk us through your journey to joining LBS?
I started my professional career as an entrepreneur by launching marketing and web-design consultancies, and developed an entrepreneurship union. I then moved into a CMO role, and for the next 10 years led marketing and launched new products in telecoms and international digital-first companies.
Prior to joining LBS I led strategic marketing and partnership projects for a business that operated digital platforms with a worldwide user base across 40 countries in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. At that stage my two career options were to join a venture capital fund or launch a startup. Joining LBS was the perfect way for me to return to my entrepreneurship roots, and learn from and work with the brightest minds in the world.
I chose the LBS Sloan programme because it represented the best of both worlds – an MBA-level full-time curriculum condensed into one year in a group of experienced leaders with incredible depths of insight.
What was the highlight of your time at LBS?
I really enjoyed the experiential part of my LBS education – learning a lot from the ups and downs of group projects in New Venture Development, LBS Hackathon, Strategy Lab and Strategic Consumer Insights – the latter of which I took at Columbia Business School.
Being part of the LBS community opened a lot of doors for me too. I had the chance to meet and work with many outstanding people in London, Silicon Valley and New York – many of whom I’ve remained great friends with. In fact, I enjoyed meeting new people so much that my classmates presented me with a “Best iNetworker” certificate because I participated in so many extracurricular events!
Another big highlight for me was our class trip to San Francisco Bay Area because it was a remarkable way to bond with classmates and meet top management in leading tech companies and VCs.
Connections that I made in both London and the United States during my time at LBS are now a constant source of help and inspiration for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about your startup Partner Insight, and what inspired you to set up the business?
All businesses I worked in before LBS, from telecommunication services to social networks were centred around helping people better connect with each other. My leadership roles in marketing also involved creating and optimising sales channels, including launching multiple partnerships. I had a chance to work with global brands to launch strategic and marketing partnerships that benefited millions of users.
One thing that frustrated me was the huge number of missed opportunities from outdated management of partnership channels. I soon realised that there were already several thousand partnership managers in tech companies in London alone, but they lacked a truly two-sided digital platform to engage both sides in collaboration and stay on top of their mutual KPIs, milestones and communication. The Partner Insight platform is designed for partnership professionals to help their tech scale-ups collaborate and engage with their product, marketing or sales partners.
What support did the LBS Incubator programme provide to help you get the company off the ground?
The LBS incubator was the perfect place to test business models, build prototypes and gain feedback from early users. It provided us with structure, expert support and a great community of fellow founders. Working alongside other founders who are going through very similar experiences helps significantly when you need advice or an external opinion, and having an office on campus also opens many opportunities to meet mentors, professors and willing volunteers from the School community.
The LBS Incubator name resonates with the School community and also adds validation to the business. Being part of the programme allowed me to find a tech co-founder and some great interns from the MBA programme, as well as the opportunity to network with many other tech businesses in London.
Away from running the business, what do you like to do in your leisure time?
I like reading in all forms, including audiobooks, which I usually listen to while walking. One of my other interests is design. The historic and multicultural fabric of London is a pure delight for a visual discovery – from architecture to art and other forms of creativity.
Tell us something surprising about yourself/a fun fact!
One of my favourite physical exercises is a freestanding handstand. Achieving equilibrium upside down for a few minutes a day helps me to focus and approach problems with a fresh perspective.