How To Build and Scale a Tech-Enabled Company With Natalie Kaminski

John Corcoran 11:00

They’re picking on me in Russia. They’re picking on me in Israel.

Natalie Kaminski 11:03

I get no break. No, yeah,

John Corcoran 11:05

yeah. And so it’s interesting, because you and I were flashing forward a little bit here. But you end up working in the corporate world for a number of years and doing web development. And you kind of get to the point where you realize that you know that you can do this for yourself. Before we get to that, though, I want to hear about the journey from Israel to United States. How did that end up happening out of your family and kind of going going that route?

Natalie Kaminski 11:35

Yeah, well, actually, my parents were got divorced. And my father moved to my father moved to the United States much, much earlier, even before my mother and I moved to Israel. And so he established his life here. And then we kind of you know, we weren’t in touch very much during those years. But when I turned 18, my father resurfaced. And he basically said, look, to my mom, he said, Look, you know, I know she’s supposed to go into the army now, because he Israel, Army services compulsory for both men and women. But instead of going into the army, why don’t why don’t you just send her over here to the United States? You know, I’m well off, I’m going to send her off to college. Her life is going to be beautiful. And my mom got really excited about that. And, you know, that’s how I ended up in Minnesota,

John Corcoran 12:28

Minnesota, from Israel, Israel, a bit of a climate change and additional structural change.

Natalie Kaminski 12:35

Yes, it was a huge shock. Because I arrived in October, I think it was 20th 1998. You know, without going into too many details, my father and I did not really work out that well together.

John Corcoran 12:51

Yeah, I mean, that’s hard to be away from a parent for that long, and then have to suddenly reignite that relationship.

Natalie Kaminski 12:58

It did not work out. I only stayed with him at his house for about three months. And what did you do to move out and find my own path, really, and my mother was a smart woman, while she is a smart woman, she was sending me off to the United States, she considered the possibility of my father and I are not getting along very well. And so she had a ticket, and it turned ticket for me with an expiration date of, you know, 12 months, so I had a year to either make it or go back. And so I said to myself, You know what? I have while at that point, I have nine months left, before my return ticket was expiring. So I said to myself, You know what, I’m gonna I’m gonna do my best and I’m gonna try and, you know, put some roots down here, if I can. And it was 1998. Which means everyone was hiring. The Y2K Boom, right? Everyone was supposed to. Yeah, I mean, life. Good time to be looking for a job.

John Corcoran 14:00

Yeah. Very good time.

Natalie Kaminski 14:02

 Exactly. So that’s how I ended up in it. Actually. I, you know, I remember walking into a company, and well, now I’m oversimplifying. I think the story goes like this. I started knocking on doors, trying to find a job. And it took me quite some time, but eventually, you know, a person hired me. Yeah. And I ended up I ended up in the IT industry, and

John Corcoran 14:28

I worked my way up. You didn’t have a college degree at this point. 

Natalie Kaminski 14:33

Oh, I have nothing. I was just a college. I was just a high school graduate. Yeah, I was 18. I have books to my name. And

John Corcoran 14:40

you know, what was what was the job then? What did you get a job doing?

Natalie Kaminski 14:44

So I got a job. My first job was writing a software database from two-digit years to a four-digit year.

John Corcoran 14:53

Sounds like sounds like a pre 2000 job. Yeah,

Natalie Kaminski 14:57

exactly. And all I had to do was to Have you tried the database and migrating data? I mean, today, it sounds like a very simple task. 

John Corcoran 15:06

That’s up to you to do it. Yeah.

Natalie Kaminski 15:07

I have no idea what I was doing, man, I, you know what, I had a few acquaintances in the industry. So, I mean, they were spending hours with me on the phone walking me through things. I bought a bunch of books and went to the library, because that was thing we used to do back then going to the library. And I spent, you know, I think it was past, I don’t know, maybe 4080 hours that I spent, like, 300 hours trying to accomplish? Yeah, but I got it done. I got it done. And from that moment on, I learned two things about myself. One, I did not want to be a programmer, not at all. Two, I wanted to stay in the it. I really got excited about the possibilities. I saw what software could do. And I was like, Oh, my God, I want to be part of this. Right. And it was it was the times were hot. I mean, 1000s everyone was doing something, right.

John Corcoran 16:01

So you wanted to be intact, but you didn’t want to be a programmer. So wonder where did that leave you? What did you want to do?

Natalie Kaminski 16:06

Love me into quality assurance first. So that’s three to four years doing starting off with software testing and writing scripts, automated and manual tests that I moved to into business analysis into in early 2000. I have a fancy, very fancy title of a webmaster. Great title. I was writing HTML and it was fun. I did some,

John Corcoran 16:34

If you’re reading HTML, you’re getting up to and surrounding being a programmer, maybe not heavy-duty programming.

Natalie Kaminski 16:42

Yeah, true. But it was exactly what it was it was a little bit different. Right? It was not just like starting lightweight programming. It was lightweight. See the results on the web? Immediately? It was it was

John Corcoran 16:53

Oh, yeah. Oh, how satisfying was that, by the way, in the late 90s, late 90s and early 2000s. So satisfying to like, make little tweak, and then see it show up on the website are so exciting.

Natalie Kaminski 17:03

Exactly, exactly. And then, you know, ultimately, I ended up being in project management, which I truly enjoyed. And you know, I kind of, I got a lot of clout at that moment. I was like, oh my god, I’m managing a team. I know this, I know that it really gave me a lot of sort of self-fulfillment, you know, feelings. And then I ultimately ended up working for a company in New York, where I moved from Boston. And by the way, my, my past kind of went to commute from Minneapolis to Boston, where I went to school and I, I went to Northeastern University, and I kind of works all my, you know, my way through getting my college degree. And then I ended up in New York in 2005, taking a job for a small onshore consultancy business. And that’s where I spent my last three years of a corporate career. And I learned the business of software development because my job at that moment was the Chief Operating Officer. So I learned what it meant to not just write the software, but how do you sell it? What does it mean to develop custom software for clients who don’t even know that they need something from you?

John Corcoran 18:12

Yeah, yeah. And so you kind of get to this point where you realize, well, I’m doing this for someone else, I can do this for myself, right? There’s

Natalie Kaminski 18:20

that cause the fact that it’s 2008. And the business I’m working for is kind of starting to go under, because a lot of our clients were in the financial sector. And if you remember, 2008, was a huge financial bust for many hedge funds and others. So I take what I, you know, I call a sabbatical, to figure out what is it that they want to do next? And then one thing leads to another and I started freelancing, you know, and I started freelancing as a project, sort of product manager, and then the client who hired me in that moment, they said, Well, you know, you came up with an awesome product idea. Do you also have people to help us develop it? And I said, Well, of course I do.

John Corcoran 19:10

Yeah, right. So I’m guessing you didn’t know. Okay, so what do you do? I mean, back then, there’s no Fiverr, there’s no Upwork. So what do you do? There’s Elance. Elance. Okay, so Alright, we’re early Elance days. Okay. Does pre-oDesk. Right. Pretty oDesk. I used Elance. Before it was oDesk. Yeah,

Natalie Kaminski 19:30

Exactly. So I go on Elance. And I find this guy whose name is Igor Alexandra, and he’s currently my co-founder and CTO. But in that very moment, he was just the guy at 20-something years old living in Russia, and I did not care where he lived at that time. Living in Russia and help

John Corcoran 19:48

because you spoke Russian.

Natalie Kaminski 19:51

If maybe the way, but like it didn’t. I don’t think it mattered to me at that moment. Right, but you connected, and he was clearly very hungry. You know, he was working 20 hours a day. Well, not totally, but very long hours, he was very dedicated. He was really trying to make me happy. Like that looks and feels like, Oh my God. And I remember at that time, I think I paid him maybe like 20 bucks an hour. And that, you know, he was super happy about that. Yeah. And so we started our kind of working relationship, and very quickly realized that we need more, we need more resources, he himself is not able to sustain the workload and hosts. So he says, You know what, I have a friend who, you know, with whom I went to college, and he’s also a developer, I could get him involved. And I said, do that, you know, why not? And my friend, his name, his friend’s name is Alexei. And he’s our third co-founder and head of R&D. And so kind of like fun thing, let’s do another. And we continue to work like that for maybe six, or seven months. And then we realized, well, we need more people. And so they involve another lady that they knew name, her name is Julia. And she’s actually still employed by the Jeff rackets today, you know, 40 years later, wow. And then, you know, the rest is history, it’s kind of like one project led to another. And then more people were kind of hired around that core group in the city of they’re in Russia. And at some point, we realized that we had 15 employees. And we said, Hold on a second, what are we doing here? Do we have a company? And we said, well, I guess we do. And so you know, we went on, like GoDaddy, to find the name for ourselves.

John Corcoran 21:49

And JetRockets was available. That’s a pretty good name.

Natalie Kaminski 21:51

It was yes, it was. And that’s, that’s, that’s what happened.

John Corcoran 21:57

And, Neil, now, many project-based companies find that there’s some point in their history where the projects don’t quite line up. Maybe it’s a downturn of the economy, maybe a client skills back, did you have any moments like that were like, Oh, crap, what are we going to do with this? We got this large overhead, we’ve got a gap and projects that ever you experienced that?

Natalie Kaminski 22:24

Absolutely. I mean, we’ve been through some ups and downs. And that’s, you know, a natural part of any business. But I think, early on, we decided that we’re not just going to take on any project. I mean, of course, for the first couple of years, we did we take on.

John Corcoran 22:39

the project, first couple years, anything that walks in the door, anything that

Natalie Kaminski 22:43

pays, right, so we did anything. But ultimately, we were able to carve out a niche for ourselves, which was, you know, which helped us develop long-term relationships with our clients. And we migrated to like a retainer-based model with many of our clients, which helped, you know, create that sustainability. And then like, kind of like long term relationship, right. So we almost became instead of just like developing a product, and moving on to the next one, we started focusing on becoming a long-term software development partner for our clients. So we have several, like, majority of our clients, actually, I’d say about 80% of our clients are retainer-based long term, where the technology that we built for them is really running their business, let’s say like the backbone of their operations. And they do not have an internal development team because they determined that they like us.

John Corcoran 23:39

Hmm. So there’s all more dependent on you.

Natalie Kaminski 23:45

dependent, yes, but at the same time, it’s a partnership, I always say that it’s very easy to get a new vendor, but it’s almost impossible to replace a partner. So I, we’ve worked very, very hard on establishing this partnership relationship with our clients, you know, paying a lot of attention to the human aspect of things. We go above and beyond anytime, like all the time, you know, we we do.

John Corcoran 24:10

Give me some specific examples of that. Because, you know, a lot of companies, a lot of founders will say that you know, that we care more we try harder or something like that. But what are some specific examples of what you do to humanize it or to build a deeper relationship with them?

Natalie Kaminski 24:24

Absolutely. So with many of our clients, our relationship is so close that even their users actually email us in case of questions or problems. We take on the responsibility for even like the customer support, if need be, because we know the system so well, right that we’ve developed. We know we don’t say, oh, you know what, we’re just going to build what you need. We take active part in thinking about the system building the product roadmap, actually understanding the client’s business and really embedding our selves into their daily operation. Hmm.

John Corcoran 25:03

Very cool. I want to take a little side because I meant to ask you about this earlier, but I’ve interviewed many immigrants in the United States. And, you know, the, it’s an old story of immigrants coming to the United States, you know, you think of Alexander Hamilton and the great story and the great, you know, play and musical. Coming to modern day, I’m actually in the middle of the brand new Walter Isaacson biography of Elon Musk talking about how he was impacted, you know, as immigrated to this country? How much has that story driven? You many people, many years, sometimes they have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder like, I’m, I’m going to prove that I can make it here. Any reflections on that?

Natalie Kaminski 25:50

Oh, absolutely. I do, I truly believe and, you know, for all of you non immigrant, my kids included, I truly believe that the immigrants that come to the to this country made this country. I do believe that, and I think we have no choice but to make it happen. Right. I mean, I, one of the things, you know, we can say many things about the United States of America, and how maybe, you know, we have a lot of things to improve. But this land of opportunities, and the fact that anyone regardless of the circumstances of your childhood, or you know, where you coming from where you were born, you really don’t have any boundaries to what you can accomplish here. And I really respect like, I, I cherish it so much. And I think that if you kind of think take things for granted, and you start looking for faults in this country, this is where you fail. And if you look in the overall immigrant community, I think you’ll see that a lot more immigrants are more patriotic than actually people who are born here.

John Corcoran 26:54

So true. Right? So true. That’s definitely the case.

Natalie Kaminski 26:56

We have we have seen the other side of things.

John Corcoran 27:00

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I want to ask you about one of the tensions when you have a company like yours, where you are partnering with a client to develop something is you know that you can do it yourself as well. And so that can sometimes be a tension between pursuing a project that’s paid for by a client, and pursuing a project of your own. And I’m sure you have no shortage of ideas of different things that you can build. And you’ve you pursued a few of those go baby is one of them. So I want to ask about that. But first, before we get into that story, how do you decide what to take on as a, quote, quote, unquote, internal project, you know, and devote resources to it, versus continuing to take the paid-for gig that a client is paying you for?

Natalie Kaminski 27:50

Well, first, I have to say that they really enjoy the journey of building JetRockets as a company. So to me, seeing how we went from literally two people working together as a contract, you know, myself and Ebor, through Elance. And on to where we are today, a company that cares for its employees, and, you know, with a lot of repeat business and great reputation on the market. So to me, JetRockets on its own is a product, right, that I want to see succeed. So to me, taking on projects, you know, paid projects, as part of that journey is to be able to grow the company further. And, you know, hopefully getting it to the next level, and who knows what’s, you know, what’s in store for us in the future. Now, I truly believe that ideas are, you know, I hear great ideas every day, right? Because they speak to a lot of potential clients, and, but I think in order for an idea to be successful, you really have to be passionate about it. You can’t just hear, Oh, that’s a great idea. Let me build it and launch it and sell it as my own. It doesn’t work like that. It only works when it comes from the soul. And so that’s, that’s, that’s where that that’s, that’s where I find it. Right? So if a certain idea is actually dear to me, and it’s coming from my soul, and it’s actually I feel passionate about it, then I would want to do it.

John Corcoran 29:10

And you find that if you still have to make a decision, right, like, you know, are we gonna spend 5% of our top line revenue on internal projects, or 50% of our internal revenue? And there are some companies like that, that, you know, they get into maybe software development or app development, they do it for a couple years. And then they pour all their resources into some new idea. So how do you decide how much effort energy resources you put into a side project versus your main project?

Natalie Kaminski 29:41

Well, all of our side projects and we’ve had a couple are actually run as a separate as a client. Okay, so that’s, that’s what we do. We allocate the project manager to it, we allocate the team and we treat it as a client. And then we kind of you know, we do the financial analysis, and we see how much it’s cost Seeing the company. There’s a lot of financial questions involved. That’s first, but also we ran it as a client. So I don’t want it to become a side project. I want it to be just another project that’s completed by Jeff rocket. Yeah, yeah, that’s great when you can decision a little bit easier.

John Corcoran 30:14

Yeah. So go baby is one of those side projects. It’s kind of like the Airbnb for rental baby gear. So someone like myself, who doesn’t travel as much as I used to, because I got four kids at home. But if I was traveling and needed had a need for baby gear, then that was the idea was that you could rent it right?

Natalie Kaminski 30:35

Absolutely. That idea was a peer to peer marketplace for baby gear rentals, exactly. Like you said, if you travel somewhere, want to carry your stroller with you, you could just get from a person at your destination. Yeah. And we launched it in 2015. When my, my younger child, my younger daughter was about a year old and I myself ran into this problem. I was like, Oh, my God, I can’t do this anymore. You know, what can sound like? Oh, how about Bill, baby? So you know, Ken’s the passion, the desire to solve my own problem? Yeah. And you know, having access to development resources, it makes my life easier. I said, oh, let’s, you know, let’s see what we can do with this. And we launched it in 2015 2016. And we actually had some good traction, you know, for the first couple of years, learned a lot of lessons went through made tons of mistakes, because we’ve never launched the product. Developing a product is very different from actually owning it and launching it. Yeah. So we ended up shutting it down around 2020 when COVID hit and…

John Corcoran 31:39

…people aren’t traveling as much and traveling.

Natalie Kaminski 31:43

But, you know, I still, when I look back, I still view it as a very good experience, very excellent learning opportunity, that I can now apply to a lot of new projects that we’re working on with our clients. And, and I happen to share the experience and you know, the things I’ve learned.

John Corcoran 31:59

Yeah, yeah. Take us back. Now, we’re recording this in September 2023. The war in Ukraine has been going on for I think about a year and a half. Now, at this point. You at this point at the beginning of that war, you built up because of your business partner, a team of about 50 that were in Russia. Take me back to what that was like for you when you realize that this war is going to happen. What’s going through your head?

Natalie Kaminski 32:31

Ah, it was absolutely horrendous. I mean, we started to keep an eye on the news actually late, late December the prior year. Because, you know, we heard that something is blowing up, right. But nobody could ever imagine how terrible the situation actually would be. And so we started to keep an eye around December and January, you know, we I remember, clearly remember having the conversations with my team with my leadership team and talking about, Well, do you think he may be going actually to attack Ukraine. Everyone was just like, No, no way. It’s not possible. Nobody could imagine this. So when the war hit, we were kind of both shocked but not necessarily surprised. You know what I mean? So unexpected. So we weren’t that surprised. But we were shocked at the fact that the dip happened and the magnitude of that attack. And that it wasn’t just some localized conflict but it was an outright invasion. Yeah. And so we immediately I personally immediately realized that this is for the long term like there was no way. There was simply no way that Ukrainians were going to give up and they kind of, you know, I was the first to call it. I said, There’s no way.

John Corcoran 33:52

And you are probably in the minority right there. I think a lot of people thought that this thing would be over very quickly. But absolutely, the mighty Russia would roll over Ukraine. That did not happen at all.

Natalie Kaminski 34:03

Thank God, it did not happen. Yes, absolutely. And I personally did not believe that would happen that it seemed that saw them in Ukraine is country number two, it’s large. There’s no way.

John Corcoran 34:15

It’s a proud country.

Natalie Kaminski 34:19

 That was you know, I know the history of it quite well, and by Russia has been trying to I mean, Ukraine has been trying to break away from Russia for quite some time. And I did not believe for a second that Ukrainians would just give up. Yeah.

John Corcoran 34:35

So what do you do for your team? Early in Russia?

Natalie Kaminski 34:39

I immediately realized two things that first of all, if I continue to have employees in Russia, it means that I continue to pay them salaries, which then you know, they pay tax in Russia and their tax contributions go towards supporting the work and so I immediately said I cannot be involved in this there is no way that JetRockets or myself person liberal support this poor financial or and otherwise. 

John Corcoran 35:04

And so your two co-founders are in Russia. What did they say to that? Board? completely on board? Yes. completely on board. And I, you know, I’m happy to say that out of at that time we had 55 employees, I’d say 50 of them. Tell the same way. Yeah. You know, but it’s one thing to feel the same way. It’s another to uproot your family. So to what did your co-founders first what are your co-founders do? And then what did the rest of your team decide to do?

Natalie Kaminski 35:33

So my co-founders boarded up an airplane to Turkey, within three days posted?

John Corcoran 35:39

Wow. Well, I remember how hard it was for people to get out of the country, it was almost

Natalie Kaminski 35:44

impossible. It was it was terrible. I myself participated in trying to buy tickets. One of our clients who was in travel agency helped us find tickets for some of our employees. But yes, it was, it was quite an ordeal. At that time, I myself became a travel agent, you know, because I was searching out, you know, searching out tickets. I was searching for lodging for people who were arriving. But we’re trying to figure out what does it mean for us, you know, wherever we’re going to go. And that, and we, you know, we ended up first going to Turkey, because we felt like, well, Turkey is a NATO country. If we’re going to replicate all of our employees, we might as well go to a country that has data protection, because one thing we did not know is how terrible Russian army is, right? Like I knew there was going to be fighting, but they didn’t realize how terrible the army is. And so I said, Well, it’s Ukraine today, maybe tomorrow is Georgia, as you know, Russia fought two wars in Georgia. So. So we wanted the protection of NATO country. And so we ended up going to Turkey very quickly realized that it was very difficult to set up shop in Turkey. And so we then decided to move on and continue on to on to Georgia. And so whilst in Turkey, and they’ve spent about two weeks in Turkey, the two of them with their family members, by the way. And, and announcements came through that Visa and MasterCard, were cutting off all Russian cards. So people with, you know, cards issued in Russia or to Russian citizens would no longer be operational. And of course, that news came out on like, a Saturday afternoon Eastern Time, which may the very late night, turkey time. And you know, I was the one to hear the news. And I think, I think literally in the factory was supposed to take place the next morning, right? So there was no time.

John Corcoran 37:47

So no, no means of paying for things. 

Natalie Kaminski 37:51

Like, well, I mean, I’m sure they had some cash on loan, but most of them are in the bank. I mean, who cares? Round, you know, large amounts. Right. Right. Right. And so I immediately got on the phone. And I, you know, I clearly remember that date because I was taking my younger daughter to a birthday party at a time. So you know, well, if my husband and I are driving in the car, he’s driving, we have our kids in the back in the car. And all the meantime, I’m just trying to get through the call. And you know, what, when when they sleep, they sleep very soundly. So it takes me maybe 20 minutes to get through. And I keep calling, I keep calling Igor. And then I keep calling Alexei. And then like back and forth, I keep calling one of them and

John Corcoran 38:38

you’re calling to tell them that the wake up,

Natalie Kaminski 38:41

call them you got to go to the bank, because tomorrow morning, your cards aren’t going to work. And eventually I managed to get through to E Gore’s wife and she isn’t happy. He’s you know, she wasn’t having any of this. But I explained the situation to her She wakes Igor up and then and then now I’m telling you the story kind of from the words of Igor and Alexei. They immediately get up, they ran outside of their hotel.

John Corcoran 39:06

Are they together? Your business partners?

Natalie Kaminski 39:08

They’re in separate rooms, I presume they are.

John Corcoran 39:11

They’re roughly okay.

Natalie Kaminski 39:13

They’re staying in a temporary hotel were to figure out their next steps. So together, they’re getting out and they’re getting a cab and they start driving from one bank to another to another because you know, ATM machines have limits on how much money you can actually take out. And as they do that, they say they said to me, you know, we saw herds of other young Russians running from one bank to the next the next bank to get the money out. And you got to make the joke he said we even started the recruiting process standing at atm lines because, all you know, young educated IT people IT folks exiting In running away from Russia,

John Corcoran 40:02

hmm, man, yeah, those are the people who, who, you know, the, I guess older people have longer life more established, you know, they’re less likely to leave, right? Leave Russia?

Natalie Kaminski 40:12

Um, you know, interestingly enough, it’s if you look at the statistics about the kind of support for Putin’s regime, it’s, you know, the people sort of like in the 40s and 50s, they still clearly remember the Soviet times. Yeah, by no means do they want the repetition. So, and then also sort of the younger and educated generation, I guess, of people who have a chance to work with the Western companies as well and kind of see the Western world and experience it firsthand. So I mean, think about, I mean, most people between the age of maybe like 30, maybe a bit younger, maybe 25. And like, 55. That’s the majority of people who actually they, they they’re trying to leave and right. I mean, there was an estimate of that over a million, maybe like 2 million people, have left Russia since the beginning of the of the aggression.

John Corcoran 41:10

And roughly, probably the ages of your parents when your family left, right.

Natalie Kaminski 41:16

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, this could be a totally separate podcast. But you know, Russia is notorious for kind of getting rid of opposition through pushing people out.

John Corcoran 41:28

Well, and also its best in its brightest. Brightest are thinking about

Natalie Kaminski 41:33

the dumbing of the genetic, right? I mean, you’re to to to, you know, it’s easier to get rid of people that don’t think so.

John Corcoran 41:43

Right. So, so YouTube isn’t foreigners, so they eventually make it to Georgia. And then you’ve got about 50. Team members who are in Russia, who you need to get out. So take us through that.

Natalie Kaminski 41:56

Well, that was quite an ordeal, because first of all, you know, just securing plane tickets was an adventure. Right? Welcome our clients, she’s in the travel industry, she was helping us, she was on a call with us trying to call her, you know, connections, trying to find, you know, sits on planes and the prices for extraordinary expensive. Add to that the fact that you know, about quarter to half of my teammates at the time did not begin to have passports, remember coming out of pandemic, it’s like nobody travelled. And then a lot of these people are relatively young. So like, they didn’t really have a job that allowed them to travel prior to that mix up. It didn’t have a passport hands, trying to find, you know, all sorts of unique ways creative solutions to get their passports done sooner. 

John Corcoran 42:51

You know, there’s some money exchanges that we imagine, right? 

Natalie Kaminski 42:53

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Russia is a country where, you know, many things can be sold with, like extra $500. So I guess that that worked quite well. You know, so I’m sitting here in my Brooklyn apartment and kind of running this operation, you know, I’m the command center, the control panel,

John Corcoran 43:12

how do you keep the company running and getting the client work done? There must have been dropped balls? I mean, how do you, you know, and then do you? Are you honest with the clients? Do you say, look, most of our team is in Russia? We’re trying to get them out right. Now, we might be a little slow to respond, like, how do you handle that?

Natalie Kaminski 43:31

So I mean, all of the above, right? So obviously, it’s, yes, we have to get our team out. But we also have to make sure business continues. And it’s not our clients fault that Putin decided to wage this war, right. So, but, you know, transparency is one of our core values. And our clients always know, like, from day one, our clients have always known that, you know, our team is based in Russia, and we’ve got team members in Ukraine and Belarus, you know, that was prior to the war. As soon as the war broke out, we immediately contacted all of our clients and announced that, you know, over the course of the next few weeks, and maybe a couple of months, we’ll be moving people out of Russia. And I have to, like, our clients are amazing. And I think, you know, because we were able to develop this long term relationship with them. Everyone was enormous ly supportive. Like from the side I mentioned, who literally herself seven phone phones with me trying to get plane tickets to clients who postponed deadlines to other clients who were okay with occasional delays or just said, you know, what, if you need to move a meeting, move the meeting, it’s all good. Like, everyone’s so incredibly supportive. I mean, I’m very grateful and we appreciate it very, very much. So the team you know, I mean, it’s not like we got everyone on the plane at the same time, right. So like the team members who covered for one another, right who did more work while they’re, you know, colleague was in route to Giorgia, for instance. So everyone supported each other. And it was such an incredible experience, frankly, like, you know, I’m thinking back, it was extraordinarily stressful time. I mean, I think I ran on adrenaline, you know, the whole six months. Like thinking back at the end of the day, we came out a much, much stronger organization, we’ve learned so much about one another, right, we’ve proven to each other that we got each other’s backs.

John Corcoran 45:28

I think you said 50 of 55. Team members and their families ended up leaving, it means that families like you know, families ended up of your team members ended up leaving Russia. And did the majority of them end up in Georgia?

Natalie Kaminski 45:44

So at first, yes, yes. And I’d say still majority are in Georgia. But over time, some people have decided to continue, you know, onto different countries, you know, few people, they’ve had European visas. So they continued on to let’s say, Portugal, or Spain or Serbia. A couple of team members decided to go, you know, Far East, they’ve always wanted to so we have a number in India, and we have a team member in Thailand, you know, and one of them actually made their way to the United States. So, you know, our goal as a company was to get them out to, you know, it’s, I wanted to say safety, but I don’t necessarily want to use that word, it’s it would not be correct, you know, Russians, get them out of Russia, let me put it this way. Right. So we got them out of Russia, we got them to Georgia, we help them settle. And, you know, we covered the expenses associated with the move and the first month of temporary housing until they found you know, the term apartments, etc. But then we basically said, Look, you know, we’ve established we’ve established a Georgian entity that then employ these people and provided them with means of staying in the country.

John Corcoran 47:08

Okay. So they could stay longer. Exactly. Okay.

Natalie Kaminski 47:12

Bank accounts, rent apartments, actually, you know, kind of semi normal life. Yeah. So we’ve done all we could, but then if people decided to move on, it’s, of course, you know, it’s their decision, and we support that, but, you know, not financially.

John Corcoran 47:27

Do you worry about their safety? No.

Natalie Kaminski 47:32

No, I do not worry about their safety. Now, I think, you know, at this point, they are, you know, in the place that, you know, I want to believe will never go back to you. I mean, if you know, history of Georgia, they fought two wars with Russia, their politics are very complicated. You know, but I have faith in the Georgian in the Georgia. Yeah, Georgian people are very much pro Ukraine and a Russian regime. And I hope that they will not allow the country to go back to being a vassal country of Russia.

John Corcoran 48:06

I mean, this dramatically transformed your company, I’m sure change you personally. As you look back at this experience, is there anything that now if you knew you knew now that you would do differently?

Natalie Kaminski 48:24

Honestly, probably no, because, you know, I had to deal with what I had to deal I had to make very quick decisions. I had to just, you know, we didn’t consider any expenses associated with them, like, would this ordeal right? I mean, it probably would have been cheaper for me to just part ways with all of my Russian employees and hire a whole bunch of new people. And I know for a fact that some companies did exactly that. I’m not going to name any names, but we know they know who they are. But I felt like I couldn’t do this to these people. They’ve helped me build up rockets. They’ve helped me create the reputation of our company. They helped us get to where we are. And so I had an obligation I have moral obligation, but also professional obligation to these people. And so looking back, maybe, you know, bypassing Charkie altogether, but, you know, it was a fun, a fun round.

John Corcoran 49:21

Yeah. And now you have a new arm of the business, I guess, Jr. ventures, which is a venture Studio, helping founders launch their product. You have a new cohort. It’s focusing on female founders. Tell us about it.

Natalie Kaminski 49:35

Yes, so we’re actually announcing it this week. We our goal is really to be able to support as many non tech founders as possible, right, being a founder is very difficult. Being a non tech founder, multiplies it by like five times. But being a female non tech founder makes it extraordinary, more difficult. And so my goal is to create a opportunities for these people. Right? And oftentimes, people don’t, don’t proceed pursue their ideas because they feel like well, I don’t know enough. I don’t have the budget, I don’t have the money. I’m not like, what do I do? Do I fundraise first and build later? Do I? Do I, you know, finance it out of my savings account and risk my livelihood? Like, what do I do? So we wanted to create additional opportunities and ways for these people to be more creative. So we decided to put together this, you know, Jr, venture arm of our company that identifies, you know, select few companies that we truly believe have a very strong value proposition and have thought about their go to market strategy. Because this is very important. thing. Number one, before you build before you design, you got to have a strong go to market strategy that includes your value proposition includes your sales page includes everything, right? So identify a few companies like those and help them launch the product, actually help them build those minimum viable products, launch it, and work with them either through, you know, through their growth, or through their fundraising, it really depends very, yeah, we don’t have a prescribed recipe quite yet. We’re just dabbling with this idea. Right. I envisioned that with some will do, you know, equity bills, and some will do deferred payment options where we help them launch the product. And we defer the payments over the course of the next 12 to 24 months, as potentially start earning revenues or secure funding.

John Corcoran 51:34

Do you see this as kind of like a Y Combinator or like a TechStars type of thing? Or is it seems like it’s a little bit more hands on? Because you’re helping them? Yes,

Natalie Kaminski 51:44

it’s very hands on this is this is more like, like a venture studio?

John Corcoran 51:49

And what sort of things what sort of products or what sorts of companies are they seeking to build?

Natalie Kaminski 51:54

So actually, yesterday, we had our first call with someone pitching a personal financial planning tool. Right with, of course, their own twist their own ideas. But we also spoke with the lady who wants to launch a baby related platform, sort of like a marketplace, right, like ideas

John Corcoran 52:17

appropriate given your background? Yes.

Natalie Kaminski 52:19

But but but I’m excited to see, you know, excited to see more, right. And I’m excited to see what’s out there. And that’s why, once we announced gr ventures, we’re going to probably allow people a period of time of maybe 60 to 90 days to submit applications. We’re going to review them all. And we’re going to identify those few that we want to work with.

John Corcoran 52:40

Cool, that’s really cool. I love that you’re doing that. And so where can people go to learn more about that? And then I have one or two final questions after that.

Natalie Kaminski 52:48

Yes. So they can go to ventures, jet ventures that

John Corcoran 52:53

Okay, cool. And then now you belong to a group called Hampton, which I had been hearing about for a while, co founded by Sam par of the hustle. And it’s a new community for founders who are scaling up and growing, talk a little bit about that community.

Natalie Kaminski 53:12

I am overwhelmed. That’s all I can say. I’ve been a member for about three months now. And my expectations have been surpassed tremendously, like level of people I get to meet and patches conversations you get to have the type of things that people do. It’s, it’s just incredible. You know, they’re very, because because they really focus on tech enabled businesses in the Hamptons. Everyone is constantly on Slack, right? Like the slack is very much in the life platform where people come they share the experiences, they ask questions, and everyone is so open and honest with one another, you know, you discuss things that otherwise I don’t know, you know, how much do you charge and people share that information? How do you deal with such and such issue and people go and they share and they kind of give you advice? And they think this is what this this? This is what has worked for me this what hasn’t, you know, it’s been incredible, incredible. I’ve also attended several events in New York City that Hampton had organized and those were wonderful. And everyone’s so friendly. Everyone is so excited, but they’re also rooting for you. And one thing that they appreciate the most is everyone is encouraged to brag. Like, telling me why you’re awesome.

John Corcoran 54:33

Yeah, yeah. Sometimes people struggle with that. People struggle with that.

Natalie Kaminski 54:37

Especially certain right people like depending on your pain, your background, your thought to be modest. But entrepreneurship is not about modesty. Right? Like, you have to stand up and you have to admit to your wins and they have this amazing initiative every once in a while. You know, it’s like, Okay, tell me what, tell me one amazing thing that happened to you This week just goes and Brax. You know, I may really know or so what hours?

John Corcoran 55:05

Yeah, so join is a website for that I met Sam, oh man, maybe about 10 years ago now, eight years ago now or something like that, when he was very aligned with the hustle. And you know, at that point, I think he’d build an email list still was insane, like in six months with like, 100,000 people or something. And so he’s definitely on to something. It’s been really interesting watching his his journey, his trajectory and everything. So I’m sure it’ll be, it’ll be great. Now, these have been great. Last question. So I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude to those who’ve helped you along the way. You’ve mentioned a lot of people, business partners and things like that your client who’s a travel agent who helped to get people out. But, you know, a lot of times people will default to mentioning their family or to mentioning their friends or their team, but I want to go even broader than that, you know, peers, contemporaries, business partners, investors, mentors, who would you want to shout out and just thank for helping you in your journey?

Natalie Kaminski 56:03

Well, I actually want to shout out to a person named Steve Timmerman, I, you know, I think, I believe he still lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Steve was the founder and CEO of a company called SWAT solutions. And he took a chance on me and he hired me with zero experience. And I’m really, really grateful to Steve and everything that came later was really thanks to him.

John Corcoran 56:24

That’s great. Natalie, this has been great. Thank you for sharing your story. Where can people go to learn more about you and JetRockets?

Natalie Kaminski 56:32

So you can go to my website,, or find me on LinkedIn, Natalie Kaminski. That’s where I am.

John Corcoran 56:39

Excellent. Natalie, thanks so much.

Natalie Kaminski 56:41

Thank you so much.

Outro 56:45

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.