1. Share an update with us! Where has life taken you since graduating from Fuqua?
Reflecting back to 2012, I could never have predicted the trajectory my life has taken since graduating from Fuqua. From geographical shifts to industry transitions, the only constant has been the enduring presence of my Fuqua community.
Back in 2012, I chose Fuqua to equip me with the skills and connections needed to switch careers from finance to entrepreneurship. However, like many of my peers, I initially opted for a corporate path, accepting a position at Microsoft. The entrepreneurial spirit was never far behind, and with the encouragement of my Fuqua classmates, I made the leap into entrepreneurship three years later, immersing myself in an array of tech startups across diverse sectors like healthcare and industrial automation.
My journey took an exciting turn in 2019 when I, as the COO, remotely spearheaded an IoT startup's expansion into the U.S. market. My success in this venture led me to become a leading expert in Russia on remote market testing, especially during the challenging COVID years. Throughout 2020 and 2021, I worked with over 100 startups from various industries on their international expansions, while simultaneously charting my own path forward.
The year 2021 brought clarity about my next step – blockchain and cryptocurrencies, an industry increasingly populated by Duke and Fuqua alumni. I returned to the States to support international blockchain companies with their market entry, and by 2022, I had established a crypto VC and a hedge fund, and I was actively involved with Fuqua and Duke blockchain clubs. Collaborating with Frank Bollela MBA '23 and Adam Mastrelli ’98, we organized the first Duke Web3 Conference, bringing together passionate students and alumni.
Our successful collaboration during the Duke Web3 Conference in 2023 inspired us to form a web3 venture studio under Ga^3In Ventures. Our focus is to help corporations make the transition into web3 and assist early-stage startups in achieving product-market fit.
Despite the varied roles and industries I've traversed, I strive to be defined not by titles or beliefs but by the scope of the problems I tackle and the positive impact I can make on people's lives.
2. You are a dedicated supporter of the Fuqua Annual Fund, and you even started contributing before you graduated. Why did you first donate, and have you found additional reasons over the years?
During my time at Fuqua, one of the deans imparted a wisdom that still resonates with me: “Your time at Fuqua could be transactional or transformational; it's up to you which one you choose.” From the very first day, I chose to make it transformational, to fully immerse myself in the experience and extract all the value I could.
This transformative journey provided me with the skills and confidence to excel in my role at SAP and even secure an offer from Microsoft before graduation. This immediate impact of the Fuqua experience on my career made the decision to contribute to the Fuqua Annual Fund a no-brainer.
Over the years, this transformative journey has only picked up pace. Every time I embark on a new venture, I find myself turning to Duke and Fuqua for insights and connections. Often, my first customer, advisor, or collaborator comes from our robust alumni network.
My commitment to the Fuqua Annual Fund is rooted in my desire to perpetuate this cycle of transformation. I want to ensure others get to experience the transformative potential of Fuqua, just as I did.
3. The Fuqua Annual Fund supports student scholarships, faculty research, and academic program development. Why do these areas of support matter to you as an alumnus? Why now in particular?
As we ride the wave of rapid healthcare and technological advancements, I anticipate that my career trajectory will continue to cross multiple industries, not just in series but also in parallel. For instance, as I was breaking into the blockchain industry, the insights and guidance from Professor Cam Harvey were invaluable. His feedback on a project in 2019 was a crucial factor in my revisiting and refining the business model for a crypto index fund.
Now, as I concurrently venture into the realm of robotics for the oil and gas and consumer packaged goods industries, I'm excited about the prospect of collaborating with Dr. Chen from the Pratt School of Engineering on this new endeavor.
To me, the ability to adapt to tech cycles through collaborative efforts with faculty researchers and bringing onboard the best talent from Fuqua and Duke is why supporting scholarships, research, and program development is so crucial. It's particularly important during these times of rapid technological change, as it equips us to stay ahead of the curve and continue creating impact in our respective fields.
4. In addition to your philanthropic support of the school, you have also invested your time and shared your expertise over the years as a member of various boards, as a regional volunteer, and, most recently, as a speaker for the 2023 Duke Web3 Conference. What do you enjoy most about being a member of Team Fuqua and the Duke alumni community at large?
Currently, I am deeply involved in two roles that I find incredibly fulfilling. I am the Co-Chair of the DukeGEN network together with Reid Lewis '84 and Michele Eidam MBA '13, and I serve as an advisor to the Fuqua Blockchain Club.
In 2022 alone, under the banner of DukeGEN, we hosted 30 events worldwide, engaging hundreds of Dukies in discussions and activities centered around entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, for the Fuqua Blockchain Club, we successfully brought to life the first-ever Duke Web3 Conference during the crypto winter of 2023, drawing a crowd of 500 participants and featuring 90 speakers from various corners of the industry.
What truly energizes me about being part of #TeamFuqua and the wider Duke alumni community is the opportunity to constantly encounter and collaborate with people who share a common vision. Whether it's about an event, a conference, a fundraiser, or a new venture, I am always inspired by the ability to rally together and create a meaningful impact. This is the spirit of #TeamFuqua that I cherish the most.
5. What would you say to those who have not yet supported the Fuqua Annual Fund?
Supporting the Fuqua Annual Fund is not a one-size-fits-all decision. There could be many reasons behind not yet contributing - perhaps the technical aspects, like payment methods or accepted currencies, are causing friction. I, for one, have been actively advocating for digital currency acceptance for donations to reduce transactional costs. On the other hand, you might want to support a specific cause, like funding a dedicated course or a stipend for a particular student demographic. With the advent of blockchain and smart contracts, tailoring your donations to specific causes, irrespective of the donation size, is becoming more feasible.
However, let's not lose sight of the bigger picture - the Fuqua experience. I encourage everyone to take a step back and reflect on the 'why' behind your decision to join Fuqua. What goals have you achieved since graduation that might not have been possible without Fuqua? Has your Fuqua journey met or exceeded your expectations? Do you feel a sense of gratitude towards Fuqua and the #teamFuqua community for helping you get where you are today?
If these reflections resonate with you, then expressing gratitude in the form of volunteering, donating to the Fuqua Annual Fund, or advocating for Fuqua might be the next natural step. It's about giving back to the institution that has given us so much and ensuring that this transformative experience continues for future generations.
6. What does #TeamFuqua mean to you?
#TeamFuqua, for me, means holding myself to the highest standards and fostering an environment that encourages others to do the same.