This is a fascinating story of a Ukrainian entrepreneur bootstrapping her CRM Software company to global scale. We’re thrilled to bring you Creatio (formerly BPMOnline) CEO Katherine Kostereva’s inspiring and super intelligent entrepreneurial journey.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s get going. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? Let’s go to the very beginning of your personal journey.
Katherine Kostereva: I was born in Ukraine. Since childhood, I’ve been traveling a lot and visited many countries worldwide. I graduated in 1999 with a Bachelors in Computer Science. Shortly after that, I got my MBA. Even from high school, I was obsessed with technology. I was thinking of the ways to transform business through technology. Technology has always attracted me.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your Bachelors and MBA.
Katherine Kostereva: I did it in international schools that have offices throughout Europe. I got my MBA through the International School of Management located in Kiev.
Sramana Mitra: After you finished your MBA, what was the next thing that you did?
Katherine Kostereva: I spent about two years working for IBM. I was working in Marketing and PR. That was an amazing experience. I traveled all over the world to the different offices of IBM. I started to work right after I graduated from high school. I was doing door-to-door selling of advertising for newspapers.
I did it when I was 16 to 20 years old. I met 10 new people everyday while trying to sell advertising. After I graduated from the university, I got much better experience in IBM. Frankly the first day of my career, I knew that I would go down the entrepreneurial path. That’s what I did in 2003.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you work at IBM?
Katherine Kostereva: About three years.
Sramana Mitra: What years were those?
Katherine Kostereva: From 2000 to 2003.
Sramana Mitra: Where were you located?
Katherine Kostereva: In Kiev, the Ukraine head office of IBM. I was part of the European marketing team of IBM.
Sramana Mitra: After that, what happens? What’s the next thing that happens when you leave IBM?
Katherine Kostereva: I had a friend who’s a developer. During one of our meetings, we just discussed the different opportunities in the market. I saw this huge demand for CRM. It was just simple stuff. You know how it was in the 90’s or early 2000’s. The ultimate goal of the enterprise was, at least, to store the history of customer interactions in one place because the core pain of businesses was losing all the information about the customer.
We saw this huge demand everywhere around. I had IT companies from Russia, Poland, and Germany who had this struggle. We decided to build a CRM system. I was absolutely fascinated by BPM technologies. I saw the value that BPM technologies could bring to the businesses. Then this idea emerged to combine BPM and build CRM on top of BPM. That’s our core differentiator. BPMOnline is now known as the BPM tool with CRM on top of it.