I'm proud to say I've lived the American dream. I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but my family immigrated to the United States when I was eight years old. My parents wanted a better life for our family. They wanted to give me opportunities they never had.
Because of their sacrifices, I was able to start my first company, the startup accelerator, Ciplex -- now Coplex -- when I was 17. After attending college, I moved my company to Los Angeles. By 2011, Coplex had grown to $4 million in annual revenue. And last month we announced we'd be merging with Tempe, Arizona-based investment firm AZ Crown Investments.
Over the years, I've founded multiple businesses and was able to build that better life. Now, I'm a father myself. How do I give my children a better life? How do I contribute to the next generation of entrepreneurs?
I know I'm not the only parent who finds themselves in this position. Here's how you can instill the necessary entrepreneurial skills into your children:
1. Celebrate creativity.
Think about the most famous entrepreneurs: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. All innovators who ended up leaving college and starting their own companies. While these are extreme stories, it shows that in the past, college wasn't always the place for the innovative.
Luckily, institutions are coming around to thinking outside of the box. In fact, December 2017 research from KudosWall found that creativity is the number one trait college admissions officers now look for in applicants.
"It used to be that young people's success was measured by institutions' expectations," said Jag Vootkur, the founder and CEO of the online resume builder KudosWall. "They wanted people who could jump through hoops. But that creates sheep, not leaders."
Find ways to foster creativity in your children. That's not to say they need to be artistic, but rather that they need to be encouraged to question conventions. Let your future entrepreneurs know that it's acceptable for them to try new methods and processes. This will allow them to develop skills that support their innovation.
2. Redefine failure.
Fear of failure is one of the most common killers of entrepreneurship. Many see failure as a mistake and not as something of value. The truth is that failing teaches young people a great deal about who they really are. It shows them how to overcome stress and to remain confident in themselves.
After working with countless startups, one thing has become incredibly clear: iteration is key. And that's also true for growing up. When your children fall down, walk them through each learning opportunity.
Ask them questions to help them reframe the situation. For instance, if your child fails a spelling test, help them examine their study method. Did they use cue cards? Did they practice out loud? Then have them voice their feelings about the situation. This will help you and your child develop a new plan for the next test.
3. Make money real.
Games, like Monopoly are designed to teach children about money. However, buying hotels on a game board isn't a realistic representation. This is why children need to gain a true understanding of managing money early on.
Go further than giving them an allowance. Also give them a budget. Set up outings where your children go to a store with a certain amount of money and a list of items. Then let them figure out the best way to prioritize their funds.
This will help them to learn to view money as a finite resource, which for entrepreneurs, is an invaluable skill.
4. Build their credentials outside of school.
Great entrepreneurs are able to apply their strengths to multiple situations. They can build companies in different industries and reach different markets because they have a strong foundation of skills.
Don't trust school alone to develop your children's skill sets. Encourage them to participate in a wide variety of activities, so they can see different ways to use their natural strengths.
For instance, if your child has a natural athletic ability, there are activities beyond sports that can help them realize their full potential. They can volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and see other ways to use their physical strength, endurance or agility. This will keep them from feeling pigeonholed into one identity.