Ivan Kavalerov Thoughs and reflections

Formula 1, marathon mentality and startups

Last weekend was highlighted by a great race in Bahrain, where Lewis Hamilton got a remarkable victory. The most exciting part of the race was the last 10 or so races, when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were fighting for the lead. Over the practises and qualifiers it was clear that Max’s car was faster, and he started the race from the 1st position. However, during the race, Lewis’s team did a risky move — they went for a change of tires more than 20 laps before the end of the race. This essentially meant they lost some time in the short term, but then having a chance to get ahead of Max when he will decide to change the tires as well. And this is exactly what happened — a dozen laps later Max goes for a pit stop, Lewis goes ahead of him and gets a 10-second lead. Now, the rest of the race was the most entertaining  — Max was chasing Lewis, having both faster car and fresher tires (which also allowed him to move faster). Lewis had to do one thing — drive all the remaining laps perfectly, without giving his opponent any chance to take him over. 15 corners, more than 10 laps, over and over — and every move has to be perfect. The pressure was rising as Max was getting closer, he even managed to get ahead once but through a rule violation, so had to let Lewis go back ahead. And in the end, Lewis Hamilton did what he does best — he won the race, even though on paper he had to lose it. 

A couple of days ago I was speaking with a friend of mine about marathons, and he told me about one of the rules he learned when was preparing to run a marathon for the first time. The rule was simple — keep your pace, whatever happens. Opponents overtake you? Stay calm, keep your pace. People from the sidewalk are cheering you up? Stay calm, keep your pace. Keeping your pace, not rushing too early in the race, and staying calm are a recipe for success. You don’t have to be first every part of the track — you just need to be the first to cross the line to win. And vice versa, if you overtake everyone early on, but then can’t keep up because you get tired too soon — you lose. 

I find both examples to be a perfect analogy for any other work that one may be doing, and especially for building a startup. You need to stay calm, focus, and do the right things each day, after day, after day. This consistency of doing right things every day, for a long period of time, is what allows you to build a successful product. It is not about crazy long nights, working over weekends and “hero theatre” when you do something in the last moment to win a deal or ship a feature. Stress, “heroism” and working overtime make you tired, when in reality every stage of scaling a startup is harder than the previous one. And as you scale, and the pressure starts mounting — you need to continue doing the same. Focus, stay calm, do the right thing, every day, every sprint, and keep your pace. 

Themed backlogs with future work

In the day to day work of any product development team there are often situations in which the team decides not to implement some cool idea, or improve existing feature right away. As team rigorously prioritises work it often needs to put things “on hold“. There are several approaches on what to do in such situations.

One approach is to just close the tickets you are not implementing right away. This approach follows the philosophy that backlog should contain just the tasks the team is definitely going to work on, which would not be the case here. This approach requires no backlog admin, but the downside is that it requires an external system to store such “work for later“.

Alternative approach is to just drop the items that the team decided to put on hold in the backlog, without additional structure. In the future, during backlog grooming sessions team may decide to finally implement these postponed items. In this case there is almost no upfront backlog admin, but the situation changes over time. Backlog can quickly grow, become cluttered and really hard to navigate and to manage. This can be partly mitigated by regular “backlog pruning“ sessions, but lack of structure still makes the work much harder.

Third approach, and it is the one I prefer the most, is to group such postponed items in the backlog in themed “epics“. These epics are not exactly following scrum convention as they do not represent piece of work that should be done together, but rather they provide a way to group tickets in the backlog in whatever way is useful in a given product. For example, such epics may include “Improvements to dashboard“, “Billing improvements“, etc. As team plans future work, it can look through such sorted backlog in much faster and more productive manner, focusing their attention only on items that they want to review during one session. Ability to filter such epics out also allows to keep the backlog clean and structured.

Join my team at Ably!

We are hiring!🚀 Looking for multiple people for my team and across the company to build the infrastructure for the future of realtime experiences.

I am looking for two people to join my team:

1) Product Manager, to work with me on building out and scaling Ably

2) Lead Technical Writer, to take ownership of our documentation

We are also looking for experts in Ruby, Java (incl. Android) and React Native to work with us on Ably SDKs - please reach out to me if you are interested!

If you know someone who may be a good fit - please share!


Ищу людей к себе в команду и в другие команды в Ably. Мы разрабатываем крутой инфраструктурный продукт для realtime pub/sub messaging.

В свою команду я ищу продакт менеджера и технического писателя(который будет готов так же взять на себя ответственность за всю документацию).

Так же мы в команду ищем разработчиков на удаленную работу на Ruby, Java (Android), React Native, и Ruby on Rails.

Если интересно - пишите мне на ivan at kavalerov dot net

Moving On

There are times in which it becomes clear that the best path forward is actually not the most straightforward one. I am extremely sad to announce this, but I am leaving Kheiron.

Last few years were definitely the most exiting years of my life. Working with an amazing, extremely talented and humble team at Kheiron on a world changing mission is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am happy for this becoming part of my life. However, now it is time for me to move forward to the next opportunities.

I strongly believe that Kheiron is perfectly set up to deliver on its vision, and this vision means a world of fundamentally better healthcare across the globe. I am sad to leave, but at the same time I am looking forward to seeing the future success of Kheiron and I will always remain a supporter and believer in Kheiron’s mission.

Kheiron team – thank you so much for these wonderful years and good luck!

Btw, Kheiron is hiring, so if any of my followers want to join the best AI Healthcare team in the world - you know what to do 🙂

Joining Kheiron

The last year of my life was a rollercoaster journey. Pretty much a year ago I left my job, friends and family in Ukraine and went to London, to join the Entrepreneur First programme to build a technology start up company.

EF was an absolutely amazing experience. I’ve met a huge number of incredibly talented people with a desire to build something, to make an impact, to improve the world and to solve the problems that exist today. That’s where I also met Ravi, and we started Neo AI. We were on a mission to make machine learning easier and cheaper to use for many new problems and in diverse new environments. We’ve built a prototype, pitched on the Demo Day and were building our technology after that.

Unfortunately, due to many different factors we couldn’t find a way to build a sustainable business around our technology in today’s market. With heavy hearts we made a decision to move on and stopped the development of the Neo AI technology.

But every ending is also a beginning. I am incredibly excited to announce that I am joining a fantastic team at Kheiron Medical. They are fighting one of the biggest plagues of our time — cancer. My own family, as well as families of many of my friends know what kind of pain, suffering and loss can be caused by this disease. Working on a problem like this is definitely one of the most fulfilling things one can do in his life. I couldn’t resist an opportunity to be a part of what Kheiron is doing.

There is a long and hard road ahead, and huge amount of work and research to be done, but I can’t wait to see what we will be able to achieve.