Today I had the pleasure to interview Robert Kirstiuk, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Coastline Market, a company that is using technology transform the fresh seafood industry.
Coastline Market is leveraging technology to source fresh seafood directly from harvesters, reducing the time it spends in inventory and decreasing the high mark-ups created by middle men. As a Thiel Fellow and Forbes 30 under 30 honouree, Robert is paving the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Canada. From his first venture, selling hand made wax candles as a teenager, to disrupting an established industry, Robert has learned some amazing lessons.
Q. 1. What was your mindset and thought process when you decided to go full time on Coastline and drop out of Western?
For me, there was not a heart stop moment when I decided to take the jump and never look back. Initially, we started Coastline while we were in school and gradually began to gain traction that became hard to ignore. The opportunity to take on outside investment presented itself if we agreed to take time off school and give Coastline our full attention. That was an opportunity that was too good to pass up so we decided to take a term off and see what we could accomplish in four months. During those four months, we worked extremely hard and ended up getting into TechStars Seattle, another great opportunity that we did not want to pass up by going back to university. We ended up taking semester off school, in which Coastline grew exponentially; over that time I was also awarded the Thiel Fellowship. When I accepted that fellowship, I signed a contract that I would pursue the business full time and not go back to school for at least two years; that is when I knew that I had fully committed.
"We started Coastline while we were in school and gradually began to gain traction that became hard to ignore"
Q. 2. What have learned over the last 3 years that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I think a lot of the things that I have learned over the last three years have come through making mistakes. I am a big believer in perseverance, when the times are tough that is when you must stay the course. In fact, becoming comfortable with hardship and using it as fuel to push through obstacles has been invaluable. As an entrepreneur, there are so many times when you will feel beat down and down on your luck. The successful entrepreneurs and businesses are the ones that refuse to surrender in the face of adversity. Overall, there is really so much that I have learned over these last 3 years, but I think just knowing that mistakes are the best learning opportunities has served me well.
Q. 3. How can students prepare themselves for the startup world and entrepreneurship?
I would make it a priority to learn as much as you can and develop the multitude of skills needed to build a business. In startups, you will have to work in many different areas, ranging from the back end technology to the sales and marketing. There is no real short cut to developing these skill sets. If you want to build a software company, learn how to program. Understanding the different aspects and roles that are required in a company will really help, especially in the early days. When you are working in a startup, being able to wear many different hats will improve your chances of success. Also, by having the ability to tackle a multitude of problems on your own, you can focus on building and advancing your business instead of spending valuable time looking for others to solve them for you.
"There is no real short cut to developing these skill sets"
Q. 4. What do you think differentiates successful entrepreneurs and businesses from the rest?
I really think it is as simple as putting in the effort, the hours and doing so in a way that is both efficient and intelligent. At the end of the day, whoever is able to execute the best is going to win. If you want to build a company and take over an existing market, you need to be ready to put everything into it. That’s what we are trying to do day in and day out here at Coastline Market. Also, I think being consist and sustaining the hard work and effort over the long haul is a big determinant in coming out on top.
Q. 5. What are you most excited for in the next 2 years for Coastline Market?
I am really excited to see us hit some big milestones in the perishable food logistics space that haven’t really been done before. I am also excited to see the Coastline team develop into something that is really world class and grow!
If Robert's thoughts resonated with you, share this on LinkedIn with #BLUEPRINT and follow along with this series!