Tapping into Startup Culture and betting on the Future of Mobility with Vitaly Golomb – Episode 19
By Donna Loughlin
Vitaly Golomb has had a remarkable journey on his way to becoming one of the leading global voices on the future of mobility. It started, as it often has for transportation experts I’ve had on my show, with a love of cars from a very young age.
“I was always just fascinated with cars after we came to the U.S.,” says Vitaly, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union with his family in the late 1980s. “I was like so many teenage boys, just begging my parents. I really wanted to get a sports car. They told me if I wanted a sports car I’d have to go get a job and earn it myself. I was determined that by the time I was 16, I’d be able to buy my own car. So I went to work.”
And Vitaly hasn’t stopped since. An after-school job at Kinko’s would be the start of a long run in the printing industry. He and his father later started their own printing business. Still a teenager at the dawn of the internet age, Vitaly became fascinated with computers and soon was building websites on the side. Between the business with his father and his side hustle as a web designer, he was earning plenty of money and developing an entrepreneurial spirit that would serve him for the rest of his career.
“We did some pretty crafty things, and I learned a lot about how to sell, how to organize … and this was all still before college,” he told me.
Vitaly enrolled at Santa Clara University and spent his college years building a web design business that earned him several job offers from companies throughout Silicon Valley. After college, he held a series of design positions before finally launching his first proper business, a software e-commerce platform for the graphic arts industry called Keen Systems. In 2015, he sold the company after running it for five years and began advising startups overseas.
Approached by a number of accelerators who worked with companies in Central and Eastern Europe, Vitaly saw there was a need for more advisors in the region and naturally gravitated toward mentorship. The original plan was to raise a fund of his own to invest in startups. Instead, he started hosting conferences and workshops across Europe. He called the venture CCC Startups, and over two years, he worked with founders and startups in 26 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
After returning to the Valley in 2015, he leveraged his background guiding startups and eventually landed at HP, where he was a founding partner of the company’s investment arm, HP Tech Ventures. All of a sudden, he was on the other side of the tech industry. No longer was he the scrappy entrepreneur. Now he was a seasoned venture capitalist looking for opportunities to invest in exciting new technologies.
“I’m kind of the Benjamin Button of investment banking,” he says. “Usually you go to business school, you go to investment banking, then you burn out and become an entrepreneur or go corporate. I did it all backwards.”
But it’s served him well. Today, Vitaly is a partner with the global investment banking firm Drake Star Partners, where he heads the transportation division. His job now is to look for startups imagining the future of mobility. Meanwhile he’s become a frequent speaker and author on the subject.
“Between electric and autonomous [vehicles], it’s an exciting time to be alive if you’re investing in transportation and mobility startups,” he says. “And what’s exciting is that not only is this a $5 trillion industry, but it’s something that I’m personally passionate about. In a lot of ways, I’m still that kid who just wants to buy an awesome car.”
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