Andrej Rusakov Invests in a Greater Cause - The Influence Journal

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Andrej Rusakov Invests in a Greater Cause

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Andrej Rusakov, a serial entrepreneur and equal opportunity advocate paves the way for the next generation of leaders and investors.

From growing up in a small town in Lithuania to becoming a co-founding partner and seed investor in Data Capital Management, an algorithmic hedge fund built on novel big data technologies, real-time data feeds and artificial intelligence computer science, Rusakov proves that passion and motivation are the keys to success. Rusakov credits his accomplishments to his schooling and believes in equal opportunity, particularly in regard to education. With an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MSC in Mathematics (Statistics and Theory of Probabilities) from the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics of Moscow State University, Rusakov comprehends the essential value of education and hopes to both inspire and aid students through his charitable scholastic initiatives.

We sat down with Andrej Rusakov himself to learn how he got started as a serial entrepreneur and to uncover what he is doing to give back.

What was it like growing up in a small town of 20,000 people in Lithuania? What type of value was put on education?

A small town with almost 100% of adult population having a PhD in nuclear engineering, physics or mathematics (as they had to build and operate the world’s most powerful nuclear power plant) was a fun environment to grow up in – very supporting if you were taking prices in national math and physics competitions. Jokes a side, it was a small community of self-selected highly educated people. It was great.

How did you feel leaving your small town for boarding school in Moscow?

I was 15 when I was invited to take entry exams into the best math and physics high school in the former USSR - Kolmogorov's Boarding School. Despite its shaky look, I loved the school and its spirit from the first moment I stepped onto its territory. Those guys taught some serious science there. Every year the students were taking 1st prices in international math, physics, and computer science competitions. And I wanted to be part of them!

After boarding school, you studied for 5 years at Moscow State University and earned your Master’s degree. What was this process like?

Well, I can tell you Harvard Business School was much, much easier. Five years of hardcore math and over 60 exams in subject ranging from Differential Geometry to Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Physics.

While studying at the university, you started making money in real estate investments. Tell us about this. How did you balance school and work?

I always looked at math as a way to structure my brain and develop logical thinking. I never thought math could make me money (clearly, I was completely unaware of the existence of algorithmic hedge funds in the U.S. back then). Yet, I always strived for financial success. My parents were entrepreneurs and I knew from childhood that I will be in business myself. I have noticed that real estate market in Moscow in the early 2000’s was extremely inefficient, so I figured that if I were to develop a rigorous and somewhat algorithmic approach to assessing real estate investment opportunities, I will make money. And that’s exactly what we did with a small team. We built a check list, rigorously monitored the market, and ended up making a ton of money! And, of course, I fell in love with real estate, and it became a constant part of my investment portfolio ever since I were a teenager.

What was your first job after graduating from Moscow State University? What valuable skills were you able to take away from this opportunity?

I was doing well financially investing in Moscow real estate, but I was not learning much anymore. I wanted to see how business was done internationally and on a larger scale. My sister, a Cambridge University student at a time, advised to try investment banking, which I never heard of by the way. I followed her advice, moved to London, taught myself GAAP and IFRS accounting, economics, and finance and got a job at Morgan Stanley’s mergers & acquisitions department in London (taking a drastic pay cut in the meantime).

It was somewhat of a miracle for a math geek from Russia, who has never even heard of investment banking to land an M&A job with a top Wall Street bank. Even more miraculously was me being headhunted out of M&A to join the technology investment team of Apax Partners, the largest private equity firm in Europe at a time. I guess I was very, very lucky.

After a couple of years working in private equity, you decided to move to Cambridge and earn your MBA from Harvard Business School. What inspired this transition?

I did not want to go to business school to be honest. I thought it was a waste of time. Apax Partners insisted on everyone earning their MBAs and, so, I reluctantly applied to HBS. Luckily, there were enough smart people around me who advised against me not going after I was accepted. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It was a truly transformative experience. It drastically broadened my horizons and understanding of the world. It was also very fun.

You raised 400 million dollars coming out of Harvard Business School. How did this money help companies in Russia grow into local champions and expand internationally?

The whole idea behind the pledge fund we raised was to finance local Russian companies to help them grow and expand internationally. Russia is a country immensely rich in natural resources and with extremely smart people. Often, technologies that we use on a daily basis (such as lasers in our remote control, shale oil&gas exploration tech) were invented in Russia. But local scientists and companies responsible for those inventions never benefited from commercializing them. The idea was to help change that.

As the co-founding partner and seed investor in Data Capital Management, does your data analysis drive your investment decisions or do you use other traditional indicators?

We teach computers to make decisions autonomously of humans in a systematic manner by considering a lot of data. Some of it is traditional such as macro-economic and fundamental data, some of it is novel. We also apply machine learning to find patterns in those data sets. So, it is fully systematic decision making.

What projects are you currently working on?

Did you know that 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone are due to medical errors? Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Moreover, up to 50% of medical cases are misdiagnosed or overtreated!

I am launching a new healthcare tech company to solve that. It is an AI-powered medical diagnosis & remedy counsel platform accessible to anyone. Regardless of how wealthy you are or of where you live, we give you unbiased, accurate and immediate diagnosis in the convenience of you home and for a fraction of a typical cost. We also suggest a treatment plan supported by similar patient cases that had great outcomes from our vast databases.

Our system can do this because we use neural networks trained on zillions of cases by the world’s best surgeons from top medical institutions. We save you from medical mistakes and overtreatment. You choose where and how to get treated.

In a nutshell, we teach AI the combined wisdom of the world’s leading doctors. Disease by disease. Organ by organ.

You are extremely passionate about equal opportunity to education and founded Rusakov Fellowship Fund in 2017 to sponsor Harvard students. What inspires you to give back to your alma mater?

Yes, I believe that equal opportunity access to education is extremely important for future progress. I was lucky to have been able to finance my MBA at Harvard Business School myself, and I recognize that a lot of very talented and hardworking kids are less fortunate and are unjustly robbed of such a chance in life. Therefore, I want to do my part in leveling a playing field here.

HBS was a pivotal point in my life and a truly transformational experience for me. Therefore, giving back to Alma Mater is only natural and my Fellowship Fund there is just the beginning.

In addition to giving back to Harvard students, you are a supporter of The Opportunity Network, a foundation reimagining networks as sources of power to catalyze opportunity and access for students from historically underrepresented communities. Tell us more about your work with this foundation.

Yes, I am supporting charities focused on equal opportunity and education access more generally. I was introduced to the Opportunity Network by Jason Wright, a former Apax colleague and a good friend, who is on the Board of OppNet. They are doing amazing work with kids from underprivileged backgrounds mentoring and teaching them throughout high school, college, and all the way up to their first jobs.

Equal access to education and opportunity in general is very dear to my heart. I personally owe a lot to both my education and to the people that were step-function growth cornerstones in my life at its every turn. I see growing my Educational Foundation and constantly expanding its impact as one of my strategic goals.