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The Connector: Oleg Yefymov

He's connecting entrepreneurs from around the world but finds comfort in his new Halifax lifestyle

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When Oleg Yefymov and his wife packed up in Tel Aviv, they left nothing at home in Israel, setting their sights on Canada. After touring Toronto and Edmonton in April 2014, Yefymov decided on Halifax. “The landscape here is very beautiful,” he says. “The people are very nice so we decided to give it a try.”

He brought his business savvy with him. Yefymov operates a successful digital agency in Israel, partnering with other firms to create websites and mobile apps. Moving to Halifax inspired him to launch another startup.

“That was the start of my entrepreneurial life,” he says. “After I felt this spirit and worked for others, even though the agency was mine, I thought it was time to have my own startup. So when we moved here, it was the perfect time to switch.”

He’s now working on a digital platform where landlords and tenants can rate and review each other. He’s also introduced Startup Grind to city.
The Google-backed global event series links together and educates entrepreneurs in more than 200 cities. So far, Yefymov has hosted two Startup Grind events in the city. His next event on May 20 at McInnes Cooper will feature Gillian McCrae of GetGifted.

What do you find different about being an entrepreneur in Halifax, as a newcomer to the city?

The culture is the first challenge, because things are done slowly. In the Middle East everything has to be dealt with fast. In Israel, it’s fine to work from bomb shelters, but here when it’s snowing they cancel all the meetings. So it’s completely different.

How are you adapting?

I think I have an advantage by being faster here. I usually compare my entrepreneurship with how people behave on the road. Even in Israel, I was smarter on the road. I knew the shortcuts. Here the tricks are even easier. It’s much easier. But my driving is not offensive. I always make sure to respect other drivers and not to evoke any negative emotions. My style is rather smart and respectful.

What are the positives of being an entrepreneur here?

The negative is the positive. I find it’s a challenge to adjust to the culture, but on the other side I am a bit different and I can be faster. I am starting to like it.

Are you connecting with other digital entrepreneurs in the city?

It’s digital, so I did it remotely. I connected with them on LinkedIn before I arrived here. So when I arrived here, within the first week,
I already had meetings with the top entrepreneurs here. That was interesting because after a month, I didn’t have too many people
to meet.

What advice would you have for people who are new to Halifax?

Here, everything is about connections and everybody knows that. So maybe those who aren’t here yet don’t know that. Here’s it’s about connections more than in Israel. Both are small places, but here, they tend to look more at your credibility; who was your father, how many years you lived here.

What’s the story behind Startup Grind?

It’s a community that helps each other. I can ask my Tel Aviv director, once I am a member, to connect me with someone from Silicon Valley. The director in Silicon Valley will reach out to the person and try to introduce us. If he knows him, and directors usually know each other, that will be a warm introduction. That is one of the ideas of memberships. It’s a community that educates and inspires entrepreneurs. Not every community does that.

You work with entrepreneurs all over the world. What do they have in common?

Chutzpah. You have to be different. You have to be faster than others. You don’t have to be afraid from status or from other behavourial restrictions that others may apply. If you are different, can behave differently and prove that you’re different. Chutzpah makes you different.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs coming to Halifax?

First of all, connect with people. And it’s not all about Halifax. People who come here have to understand they have to have connections elsewhere as well. You have to think globally. Once you’re in Halifax, prepare to be elsewhere frequently. You can live here, enjoy the people and the lifestyle here, but be prepared that many events are happening elsewhere.

What do you love about the city?

I like that all the decision makers are within reach. I can walk into someone’s office, whether it’s a minister or the mayor. For me, as one who builds credibility, it’s easier to succeed here because it spreads faster—probably one of the reasons we are talking. It’s not even a year and you’re the second person to interview me… People reach out. 

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