Startup
Posted: 1 week ago

From Banks to Financial Technologies - Interview with Giorgi Mirzikashvili

Optio.Ai is a Georgian startup that creates artificial intelligence-based products for banks. One of its founders is Giorgi Mirzikashvili, who after 10 years of working in banks decided to use the accumulated experience to create his own technology company.

MVP had an interview with Giorgi about this experience, career path and education.

In the third year of university, when I realized that I really needed material resources, I made a web design studio with some of my friends. In the beginning, neither of us knew anything at all, it was just that my friends were people with a passion for programming, and somehow it worked out for us.

We started out with one webpage while working on this project at a friend's house, and things gradually got better. But as is often the case, we split up. Shota Giorgobiani, a classmate and friend, advised me to continue this work with the two of us at exactly that moment. By creating an office, hiring staff, and starting to receive a regular income, we managed to make this company appear to be a regular business.

We created quite a lot of websites, including many famous ones. Slowly we realized that websites also needed hosting, and instead of redirecting to other companies, we started offering this service to our customers. We were doing all this back when the term startup did not even exist in Georgia.

As you've mentioned, you closed your web design studio in 2009, what was the next step in your career?

During my studies at CSB, my classmate recommended my candidature at TBC, I sent my CV and I was hired. When I started working there, I realized that I couldn't manage a web design studio anymore. Besides, Shota and I both had the need to learn something new.

I worked diligently for 8 years at TBC. I worked here in many different positions. In between, I oversaw the creation and sale of retail products in many different areas. For example, such products were TBC Card, Prime Card, etc.

For 8 years, I had to work on almost all innovative projects. During this period, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience.

Did the path to Optio.Ai start directly after TBC?

Towards the end, the period that probably all people go through has come to me. The corporation is very interesting, but you have to look beyond it at some point... because you have to get out of your comfort zone. I also realized that I had completely exhausted myself in this company, and as soon as I made the decision to leave, I quickly received an offer from the Bank of Georgia. I worked here for 2 years on very interesting topics and gained a lot of experience.

Right while working at the Bank of Georgia, GITA announced the Startup Georgia competition. Shota and I decided to apply and were among the 20 startups that were funded with a 100,000 GEL grant.

However, our idea was very crude. We went into this activity very adventurously, and we hardly knew how to make this idea a reality. When we won this amount, we both realized that it was not enough to achieve our goals. That's why Shota quit his job and started working full-time at Optio.ai, and I left the Bank of Georgia after attracting foreign investment.

What were the difficulties involved in creating Optio.ai?

In the beginning, there were many difficulties - from the product to the organization of the work. In 2016, the startup ecosystem in Georgia did not exist in the sense that it exists now, and accordingly, we did not know what to do. Almost everything was new to us.

During this period, it helped us a lot to get into the 3-month acceleration program and go to the Czech Republic, which was followed by getting into the top accelerator in Moskva, Techstars, and moving to Berlin. At that time, we were very disappointed with the Georgian reality and completely decided on that place, which gave us a lot of knowledge and experience. This program helped us overcome those initial difficulties, refine the product, and really understand what we were doing.

Then there was a lot of work and effort put into it, which really paid off in the end. And even today, we are constantly putting our best effort into this work, and it is difficult, but we see big results.

The article is translated from MVP.ge