10 On The Weekend is a weekly (-ish) feature in IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each time, we ask the same ten questions of a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.
Our guest this week is Slava Apel, CEO of Startup Visa Services.
How do you spend your weekends?
I would break it into two seasons: Fishing weather and not. On Saturdays, I work out in the morning, and then during the summer, I drive out to the lake and go fishing from noon to 8 PM. Sundays, more fishing, working on my laptop, more fishing, and YouTube learning.
I have gone fishing in 22 countries so far, and I will get to 25 very soon.
During non-fishing weather, I drive around to 4-5 family members’ homes and drop off gifts or just visit. I am lucky to live within a one-hour drive of most of my relatives. Often, I also pop into my office on a non-fishing weekend to catch up on interruption-free projects that require a lot of attention.
What are your top three business goals this year?
- Increase team size in different geographies to provide more local support. We want to focus even more on our channel partners, which are immigration firms, to provide white glove treatment services. This month, we are adding three more people locally.
- Create more content for our brands to continue global leadership in our field.
- Do more podcasts, videos, and expert advice to advance the field and showcase deep involvement and knowledge. This will increase our already substantial market share
What’s your biggest business concern right now?
Bad actors in our industry. Bad apples spoil the barrel. People overpromise, under-deliver, take deposits, bankrupt properties, and close down companies. This reflects poorly on the entire industry. A big part of my day-to-day is helping clients understand misinformation they read online.
Which book is on your nightstand right now?
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim. I have read it four times – so far.
But I usually read three or four books at a time. Some of my favorite books include:
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu,
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin
- The e-Myth by Michael Gerber
As a child, my punishment from my parents was to limit me from too much time spent reading and to send me outside to play, as reading was something that I valued a lot.
How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
For the past 20 years, I have been helping local businesses accelerate through consulting, training, and investing. I was guest teaching at university, at multiple incubators, and was a corporate trainer. I was helping businesses with their Plan B, their investments, and their future planning.
In 2013, a new immigration path in Canada for entrepreneurs was announced (the Start-up Visa), which required deep business understanding. For the first five years, it was in the pilot stage, where I wasn’t paying my full attention to it, but then it became a permanent way for entrepreneurs to gain access and qualify for permanent residency (PR) in Canada.
At this point, I got involved fully in helping businesses qualify for the rigorous due diligence and vetting, from my experience and work in business incubators, angel groups, and venture capital firms. At this point, I have helped hundreds of applicants with their applications.
What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
It’s tough to select just one. Of course, happy clients that land in Canada with full permanent residency and become Canadian citizens in due time. Signing up the Top 3 immigration firms to be their exclusive B2B facilitator. Speaking on stages of the world as the top expert in the Canadian business path. Getting exclusive status with government-designated organizations.
I will pick the one where the Government of Canada awarded me the “Walk of Fame Award – for making a world of difference in the lives of New Canadians”.
Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
There were rumors that the Canadian Startup Visa was going to be canceled last year. Instead, the government of Canada has increased the budget for immigration, raised the quota by 500%, and added a faster way for people to land in Canada.
From a global perspective, I was surprised by the very fast rise and fall of the Vanuatu Citizenship Investment program. Again, we see it’s thanks to bad actors in the industry. I am also surprised by the UK’s decision to revoke visa-free access from Dominica.
If you could go ten years back in time, what business decision would you change?
I would study more. I feel that I could be a better business operator with better financial, management, and marketing skills. I am working on it now and up-skilling but I could have been much better. Since I also teach the topics of technology, marketing, and business at university, I would also be a much better teacher.
Also, I would buy more domain names that are industry-specific. I already own some of the key domains in Canada, but I had to overpay to secure that type of credibility. And then, of course, with a time machine going backward, I would be even more involved in crypto.
What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
It is tough to single out one. I have made a lot of friends in the industry. I admire the “change makers” and influencers: Eric Major of Latitude, Jerry Morgan of Mercan, Henry Fan of Globevisa, Christian Kälin and Juerg Steffen of Henley & Partners, Clint Khan of Y-Axis, Andrew Henderson of Nomad Capitalist, and people at the Investment Migration Council.
So to stay away from admiring one current person, I will go biblical and pick out the one that said “Let my people Go!”.
If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
At that point, my kids would be almost done at university, so I would be working in more of a mentorship role for businesses I have invested in. I have invested in eight or ten businesses (not stocks) this year alone, so I am interested in seeing what they do.
This business today of Startup Visa Services will morph more into Canadian business consulting, where we will help hundreds of those who have landed in Canada, under the business stream, to start accelerating and growing.
I see myself helping hundreds of those businesses leverage my knowledge and connections to become successful.
Also, it would be really cool if I make it to the list of those people that your next interviewee will mention in the most admired category.