Nikita Lukianets started his first technology business aged just 19.
After graduating with an MBA from Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano in 2009, he trialed an e-tourism startup, landed a job at Microsoft, and started a PhD in neuroscience. In early 2015, he took the leap again to start his latest business.
Based in Nice in the South of France, PocketConfidant AI is developing a virtual coaching assistant powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The high-tech startup combines neuroscience and AI to help people navigate through challenges in their careers or personal lives and reach their potential.
Since its launch, PocketConfidant AI has secured an innovation grant from the French government and partnered with Oracle and Microsoft. Nikita's aim is to empower people within organizations on a global scale.
When Nikita was considering business schools, MIP’s international class – over 20 different nationalities are represented in the current MBA cohort – and strong focus on innovation and entrepreneurship made the school stand out. When he relocated to Italy for his MBA, it was his first time living outside his native Ukraine.
How did the idea to start PocketConfidant AI come about?
Millions of individuals confront stress, obstacles, and challenges daily. Coaching can help unlock a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. We just thought that having technology at the heart of the solution can bring this benefit to organizations and individuals at scale, and at an affordable price.
Where are you at right now with your business?
In the last two years, we’ve not only built our first product but moved from a B2C offering to a holistic B2B ecosystem. At this point, we’re rolling out the first version of the product and preparing our infrastructure for growth.
Today, the PocketConfidant AI team has six members; three men and three women, representing seven nationalities, and aged 27 to 62. We have over 20 clients including multinational companies, major US universities, and international business schools.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start up their own business?
People who start their own business are usually problem solvers; curious, courageous, and fast. They are not satisfied with the status quo. The only advice I can make is to maintain these beautiful qualities over time. And develop one other precious skill: patience!
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at MIP?
I started LimeJam, my first business in the digital scene, when I was 19. At that time, I was an undergraduate student at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. After several years of running the company, my vision had grown and I wanted to excel and to build a strong international team. I knew that I was technically competent, but I wanted to learn how to lead.
The core of LimeJam – an IT services business - was design and user experience, so Italy was an obvious choice. MIP stood out because I wanted to maintain a focus on research and development and innovation. In these fields, a solid understanding of the ties between technical expertise and management is a must.
How have you profited from your MBA experience?
Going to Milan was my first experience of working and living abroad. I learned a lot about diversity, acceptance, other cultures and their impact on creativity.
MIP helped me land a consulting internship at Continuum Design, where I experienced the culture of product innovation. I not only got the theoretical background during my classes at MIP, but also practical experience in a design company where I really wanted to work.
Overall, I built an international network of friends and colleagues. I co-founded a startup in the e-tourism and entertainment sector with a group of them almost right after graduation.