A list of my entrepreneurial failures. But I’m the greatest.
Before the age of 30, I was flying high. I mean very high. In 1994 I left Russia to spend a year in Oklahoma. I have a lot of stories from that journey and the subsequent ones but the point is that I excelled academically. At my high school in Oklahoma, I was the youngest in my junior year. Finished with a GPA 4.0. Then 4 years at an elite boarding school in England. Straight As always. Always. Got into Cambridge where I did my undergrad. Then investment banking with Morgan Stanely. The start at Morgan Stanley was a little rocky but then I excelled there too. Was making hundreds of thousands by my mid-twenties. Then a Harvard MBA.
I remember the summer before my second year at Harvard. I was thinking about my career options after business school. I was going to go back to Morgan Stanley (and I did eventually, though I didn’t last long) but I was overwhelmed by the realization of how I was capable of pursuing grandiose things. I didn’t even know what exactly that “grandiose” could be. Famous corporations? Entrepreneurship? Nothing seemed grandiose enough. I just felt that the world was on its knees and I was king.
Then life happened. I went from flying high to crashing hard and landing in a pile of shit. Repeatedly.
First, I joined my dad’s business in Moscow. It was meat production and retail. A very colorful story and one day I’ll write about it separately. To cut it short, I got into a confrontation with my dad’s younger brother (my uncle) and his partners, the minority shareholders in the company. So instead of working on the actual business, I spent most of my time figuring out how to buy out the “bad guys”. I tried to find a partner or lender who’d help me with my obsession. One of these attempts ended in a disaster. The supplier of livestock to the factory who I trusted and persuaded to help me ended up raiding and bankrupting the business. It was a failure of epic scale. The business was bailed out by my uncle, the very person I tried to get rid of. Total damage — over $5 million dollars.
During my years at my dad’s business, I had an idea to open a burger restaurant in Moscow. Raised money from my friends and ex Morgan Stanley colleagues and we got as far as constructing the actual restaurant. But I failed to provide the part of the funding that I committed to providing. I was right in the middle of that storm at my dad’s business so I just couldn’t. The investors in the restaurant got angry and stopped…