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“‘You either work for someone else’s mission or go after your own.’

I here quote Ruben Vardanyan, a phrase he casually passed to me while walking one of Skolkovo’s many corridors. It guided my path for the rest of my life.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for 10 years. His statement was moral permission to become a bit more like Ruben.

I came to the Skolkovo business school as an ambitious young lady in my early 20s and graduated as a young entrepreneur with ambitions of a completely different kind. From ‘successful success’ I desired to create more for the world than for my personal aspirations and dreams.

Once I interviewed Ruben for a book dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Troika Dialog:

‘Why did you do all this? Well, all of it. From the interview about the dream to the distribution of dividends between partners and incredible festivals with Polunin, when no one else was doing such things.’

‘We had to.’

His answers were extremely short. It was enough for a book, but not enough for a media interview. But he never liked ostentation and empty bluster.

Ruben Karlenovich has an amazing trait: he grants you a sense of self-importance. You don’t feel small next to him, although he is many times greater: in terms of thoughts, scale, actions. With him, you feel inspired. And you start acting. Surprisingly, his scale does not devastate but inspires.

He is a godfather to maybe 600 children in Nagorno-Karabakh families. And to probably hundreds of businesses in entrepreneurs’ environment. My business is one of them.

A teacher, mentor, elder, founding father, an impeccable example of service. Someday his name will be like Mother Teresa in business: a synonym for a way of thinking and acting, leadership of the spirit.

We were all lucky to observe his journey. You want to be with him as often as possible in order to absorb his essence and become a little bit like Ruben yourself, although nobody can become just like him, of course.

Like thousands of other entrepreneurs he inspired to choose their own mission, I pray that his example is possible. Available. Free.

I want to see more stories about him in the future.

There should be more books, more interviews and projects.

Freedom to Ruben Vardanyan. Freedom to give freedom to others.

Freedom to inspire other leaders by example.”

Ekaterina Inozemtseva, co-founder and CEO of the Free Publicity School online school