When did you arrive in the United States and why did you come?
I’d been studying economics in Moscow and got here at the end of 2000. I belong to the “perestroika” generation and was fascinated to learn about the market economy.
Victoria Silchenko, 37
Title: Chief Executive
Company: Metropole Capital Group, Marina del Rey
At the time, did you intend to eventually return to your home country?
Have you been outside in the Russian winter? Seriously though, many generations of Russians came here while escaping communism imposed by the old Soviet Union. I, on the other hand, came from a newborn country called Russia that was looking at the United States as a region that managed to build the most advanced society and capitalism.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of back home?
I was lucky to secure an analytical position at the Milken Institute. One weekend I wrote a business plan for a friend and ultimately my own business took off. The world is looking at such ventures for the best practices and solutions, so foreign-born folks like myself are on a mission to close a knowledge gap and build bridges.
What’s the hardest thing about starting a business here?
Starting a business is hard for everyone whether you are a native here or not. Launching my consulting business was a very organic step, but I had to develop a sobering awareness that I was on my own and my family and childhood friends were thousands of miles away, so I’d better make it. Needless to say, I also have to constantly work on my English and my accent.
And the easiest?
I had nothing to lose, so I was all in.
What have been the biggest surprises?
Cultural differences. There is this expression – “The Russian Soul” – it is the habit of questioning the rightness (rather than calculating the monetary benefits) while being blatantly honest and straightforward with anyone regardless of their positon.
Would you tell someone from your home country to start a business here or there?
The United States remains the most powerful source of venture capital, experts, and mentors from all over the world. If you aim to build a world-class, high-tech company you better start your journey to the west as early as you can. But I would also keep in mind that moving to a different country, speaking a different language, and living far away from your family is a complex transition, which requires enormous energy, discipline, and a vast strength of character.
Do you go back often?
Christmas is that time of the year.
What did you know about the United States before coming here?
The United States to a great extent was terra incognita but perestroika played a crucial role in establishing closer ties between the two countries. It was a period of great optimism and I certainly had a very idealistic view about the American version of democracy and capitalism.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a foreign-born entrepreneur?
Every year here I produce the Global Alternative Funding Forum in Los Angeles. A “big shot” I secured to speak at last year’s event sent me a note that read, “Thank you for assisting with the event, your boss should be proud of you.” He was noticeably surprised on the day of the forum when I was introduced on stage as the founder of the whole event. Needless to say I winked at him. We are good friends now. It turned out his ancestors are from Russia.
– Omar Shamout
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