Meet Anastasia Kuskova: Founder of Sirius, the company that accelerates the mining and metals industry transition to sustainability!

Hi Anastasia, FEM-START is happy to have you with us today! Tell us, what inspired you to start your own business, and how did you come up with Sirius? 

From a very young age, I had a passion for having something of my own. I was always entrepreneurial in that sense. I had several businesses with my friends and with my sister in university time.  During my time as head of sustainability, I co-founded a  corporate startup. In the beginning, it was a small project but soon we gained support from the industry and got funded by multiple companies. 

Spending 11 years in the mining and metals industry, I also saw all of the bottlenecks sustainability teams face. And observing the success of the corporate startup, I realized we are perfectly placed to solve those bottlenecks: we know the industry, we know the pain, and we have the drive and passion to change the status quo. The mining and metals industry is the key industry for the energy transition, and it was massively overlooked by sustainability solutions. Until now.

What are some essential steps and actions you took to get your business off the ground? 

I started with Antler in Amsterdam. I joined a program for two weeks full-time and I realized “it’s time”. At Angels, you see how people start to create something out of nothing — that’s the best part of entrepreneurship, isn’t it? From a practical perspective, the Antler team shared a founder’s questionnaire. We used it with my co-founders to identify our values, approaches, what we want to build ect.. which was an essential step to build a strong and sustainable team. 

My co-founders and I eventually left our jobs and conceptualized for a few weeks, but we did not get anywhere. Finally, we had a walking meeting in mid-October 2022  and discussed what we needed to do to take it off the ground. We realized we needed a pilot with a first client. So we created a top-10 list of connections in the industry with whom we can start building Sirius. In a month, we had a pilot and it kicked everything off. So my advice always: start with clients, even if you don’t have anything yet. 

Was there a specific time or instance where you had to pivot your business model? Or maybe quickly implement changes in how you work as a CEO and with your team?

There were several moments where we had to make a small pivot. We didn’t change the general problem space we are solving, but we narrowed it down and made it more specific (making several wrong turns on the way). I think it’s inevitable in the discovery stages of the startup. We started as a platform for metal and mining companies, and then switched to mobility players, working on their metal supply chain. We made a few circles and ended up realizing, that the biggest value we create is indeed for metal companies, and we need to sell to them directly. Of course, through this time we revamped the platform and understood the USP and our key value proposition much better by trying to address the the problem from different angles and seeing what clicks with the customer.

Pivoting within the same problem space is necessary to identify what works and what doesn’t. It might feel like you are walking in circles, but as long as you understand customer pains better, it’ll eventually help to find a product market fit. 

You have a socially responsible business that also promotes and enhances sustainability in many areas. How important do you think this factor is for the future of entrepreneurship? 

I’m convinced that it is an integral part of any business today. I think most entrepreneurs now want to create a positive impact with what they are building. As we realize more and more how industries, nature and society are intertwined, more and more entrepreneurs put sustainability at the core of their businesses. And as I believe entrepreneurship is very personal, everyone will connect to the impact differently, focusing on the areas that resonate with them the most. For me it is transforming the mining and metals industry – the key industry for the green economy. 

What are some of the biggest mistakes you made along the way, and what did you learn from them?

Mistakes are a good thing. I made a lot of them along the way, so I rather treat them as learnings. If you want to know what I’d do differently, I’d say: I would have taken a break between leaving a job and starting a startup. I jumped in it right away, without any break, and it was a huge mistake! No normal vacations for me for a long time now, as a startup CEO. For me, it’s very hard to switch off being a founder, especially at the early stages of the company. 

What is your biggest achievement since founding the company, and how did you get there? 

We were selected by the top acceleration program – Techstars, in the first months of existence of our startup. In just a few weeks we won huge clients from the industry, and I believe we are building the best product on the market. All of this also brought us wider recognition: we just won an award for the best early-stage startup at the coolest procurement tech event DPW, with a jury from the industry, and also won a pitch at the World AI Summit.

It’s early days for us, but reflecting on the journey so far, I think surrounding yourself with great mentors, advisors and investors is critical, as well as doing one step at a time and focusing on the bigger mission in the tough times.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not seem to believe they can do it? 

My advice to every entrepreneur is to have a strong support network. This is very important. You should be surrounded by people who understand you and the difficulties of the founder path; people you trust and rely on when you have negative thoughts, or doubts or simply down moments. Mentors and advisers are also an important part of the support system. Strive on building this because it will be tough – it’s a fact. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised how much difference the strong support network makes.

What’s next for Sirius? What can we expect?

We are working on expanding the platform. Building stronger ties, and collaborating with more metal associations, metal exchanges and other tech startups in the industry. We are also building partnerships with banks to enable financing through the platform, enabling sustainability teams in the mining and metals industry to implement improvements even faster.

If you’d like to know more information about Anastasia’s company Sirius, click here!

 

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