When you run a business over a long period of time, technology changes create massive challenges. David has navigated TemplateMonster in several of these.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
David Braun: I’m from Georgia – the former USSR country. I’ve lived there until I turned 11. In 1992, Russia initiated the war in Georgia. We were a very wealthy family. We had to drop everything we had – house, apartments, cars, and so on. We just moved in one day with just the clothes we were wearing. I still have my shorts in which I had to run away. That’s all we had to start.
My father was a teacher. He was teaching math. My mother was a cosmetic specialist. We were moving from one place to another, wherever friends offered free places to live. It all ended up in a small city in Ukraine where I graduated from school and finished university.
In 2000, when I was still in my third year student at the university, I started to fall in love with marketing. I started to read old books that I could find. By that time, Internet was not full of information. It was quite hard to find good information. Then I was invited to work as a junior expert in marketing for a consulting company that was doing business restructuring projects in Ukraine. I started to work there and I was fortunate because the project was built with a mission to train Ukrainian consultants. I passed probably hundreds of different trainings from product development and creating distribution network to financial analysis. Basically, it was an MBA program but unstructured.
In 2001, I met a guy from New York who had lived in Ukraine for a bit. We had a few drinks together and he invited me to join his startup. I didn’t know anything about online. He told me, “We have a web design studio. The idea is to run a web design agency that would do a lot of custom development for different kinds of businesses.” Because Ukraine had a lot of programming and designer talent, he came to Ukraine to find partners. He said, “I will do the sales and you will do the production.” I said, “It sounds like a good idea but I don’t have any expertise in that.” However, I’d already read in the book that Internet is popular, so I had to try.
I took a vacation for two weeks from my day time job and gave myself a goal. If I feel that I can go a good job in this position, then I would quit my job. Within two weeks, we took one client who paid us $7,000, which was a lot of money at that time, to build a clone of General Electric website. We initially felt like we were millionaires. The first serious customer gave us $7,000. We finalized the project in the first seven months.
Sramana Mitra: When was this?
David Braun: 2001.