I was born in a small city of Nizhny Tagil, Russia. The city is located sixteen miles east of the boundary between Europe and Asia, so I am Asian by birth. My maternal grandparents lived in Nizhny Tagil, so my mother planned to give birth there. I stayed with my maternal grandparents for 2-3 years while my parents completed their college degrees in Perm.
Located near the Ural Mountains, Perm is a large city with a population of about one million people. After finishing college, my mother worked as a staff accountant for an industrial organization. My father started as a junior staff judge after law school, then eventually retired as the chief judge of an administrative district/county court.
When I was a small child, in Soviet times, my parents and I lived in a family dormitory. We had a private room and shared a common kitchen and bathroom. During food shortages, my parents sent me to line up at the crowded grocery store at 7:30am. I brought our ration stamps to get our family allocation of meat products, dairy, and bread. We did not have a car or any extra money, so my parents rode the bus or walked to work.
Winter temperatures in Perm could plunge to -40.0 °F. The city maintained central water heaters that delivered lukewarm water to buildings like ours. After we moved into our own private apartment, we still relied on electric space heaters to survive the brutal winters. I recall summers without hot water at all because the municipality would conduct seasonal heating system maintenance in the summer.
My paternal grandparents lived and worked in a coal mining village Voivozh in Komi Republic in Russia. That area is close to the Arctic Circle and known for infamous gulag camps. They moved to Perm after they retired to be closer to my parents and me.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, my mother achieved success as a bank financial officer. I admired how she combined her accounting training with her entrepreneurial spirit. I remember her leadership talents and how countless people looked up to her. My mother’s hard work paid off and we started living more comfortably.
At age 16, I moved to the United States and enrolled as a senior at The Hill School, a preparatory boarding school located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Although I lacked English proficiency, I compensated for that through hard work and did very well academically, particularly in mathematics.
I earned my American high school diploma from The Hill School in one year after graduating first in my class. Next, I enrolled at Babson College. Babson’s entrepreneurship program offered an integrated curriculum, including accounting, finance, operations, marketing, and business law. As a part of the integrated curriculum, I was a part of the team that launched a startup business in the first 3 weeks of matriculating.
I interned at PaineWebber in Midtown Manhattan in the summer of 2000. I worked for senior bankers and managing directors, some of whom worked from 8am until midnight.
In June of 2001, I graduated from Babson College summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. My job offer from Cowen, an investment bank, got postponed following the 2001 dot-com bubble collapse. So, I flew home and went horseback-riding in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains. Then, I rented an apartment in Moscow and launched a foreign exchange trading business.
I returned to New York City the following summer to work as an Investment Banking Analyst at Cowen. Over the course of that three-year apprenticeship in the healthcare private equity group, I learned excel modeling, powerpoint and other valuable skills. I also got comfortable with the fundraising and M&A processes and procedures.
In 2005, I joined a small family office as an Investment Associate. Two years later, I took a new job at Summer Street Partners, a boutique health care investment bank with an office in Princeton, NJ. Around this time, I studied hard to achieve GMAT score in the 99thpercentile.
In March of 2008, I relocated to Moscow to work at CIG, an investment bank that extended loans to small businesses. I used my business training to advise the underperforming companies in our portfolio. That September, Columbia University accepted me as an early decision applicant for the MBA program. The Great Recession hit Moscow hard, so I felt ready to go back to school in America.
I started classes at Columbia in August of 2009. I enjoyed the program. The following summer, I interned for a Columbia-graduate-run investment firm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This hedge fund invested in natural resource industries like coal mining, oil and gas. I felt at ease visiting mining projects and speaking Russian with the older Mongolians and English with younger folks. I graduated from Columbia at the top of my MBA class in spring of 2011.
After Columbia, I started working as an Investment Manager for a family office in the Carnegie Hall Tower in New York. My job was to identify projects for investments, conduct due diligence, structure the funding and support the projects through business development. Simultaneously, I created my own consulting company called FTERA Advisors and began dating my wife.
While at the family office and FTERA, I traveled extensively throughout the United States' eastern and mid-west states. I worked on multiple control investments, co-investment, fundraising, leveraged buy-out, and M&A projects. It was a fast-paced execution-centric period of my life.
In 2017, I left the family office to pursue other projects. For example, a start-up biotech company hired me as their interim CFO. I helped them secure listing on Nasdaq and structure their first financing as a public company.
Since then, I served as a CFO for multiple early-stage life-sciences and medical device companies, including DIH International in Zurich, Switzerland, and CytoImmune Therapeutics in Los Angeles.