In Profile: Eugene Granovsky

eugene pic“So, what’s the end goal?” I asked.

“There is no end goal,” he said. “I feel like I’m already there. I’m already very, very happy.”

I asked Eugene Granovsky to go a bit further.

“Nothing?” I repeated.

“Look,” he said. “My entire goal was to take a couple swings of the bat at this thing.”

This thing is entrepreneurship. Working for himself. Taking an idea and making it into something. Building, constructing, executing.

“Now, I know I can swing indefinitely.”

Well, who’s swinging? And at what?

______

Born in Moscow, Granovsky came to the United States when he was seven, almost immediately settling in Chicago. He’s been here ever since. He has an Eastern European face—a curly-haired Mayakovsky look in a button-down and sweater.

I’ve only met Granovsky once—on a chilly Chicago Sunday at Lovely Bakeshop. He wore a sweater and boots, comfortable in the coffee shop he said he works out of everyday. “It’s nice to work at a place people know me,” he said. (Ironic, somewhat, considering this is what most people’s office is like).

He spends almost 7 days a week at Lovely (the coffee shop). He takes all of his meetings there. He knows the staff. He looked at my breakfast sandwich and nodded approvingly.

We started our interview running through his work history. It began by studying Engineering at the University of Illinois. Then a job in the Energy sector. He talks about this a lot—Energy— a place he’s found himself working over these years. A place he’s carved out his own space in.

After that job it was on to Consulting. 5 years in that. Then came the questions—what to do next? Where to go? What did he want?

He had dreamt of traveling and wrangled out a 3-month sabbatical in Barcelona. There, he studied entrepreneurship furiously, diving into the wide pool of blogs, articles, and books on the topic. He came back to the States and his consulting job ready to leave. He saved money, moonlighted on startup ideas, pinpointed a departure date, and found a business partner at a nearly identical point in his life.

It wasn’t Granovsky’s first foray into entrepreneurship. He had a business when he first got to college—making about $3,000 per month at its peak, which isn’t exactly loose change for a student.

Let’s just say, the business wasn’t your typical freshman get-rich-quick scheme. It wasn’t gameday t-shirts and it wasn’t drugs. It was a “translational” business run through a popular video game that involved buying replicated currencies from China, selling them in-game and cashing out on items of actual value. Eventually, Granovsky faced some complication and couldn’t run his business through PayPal as its terms of services didn’t guarantee digital items. It folded. Business over—lessons learned.

As he transitioned out of consulting, he worked with a friend on new business ideas. They tried a few out. Nothing stuck.

But then, Granovsky noticed that an app they both used regularly wasn’t being updated, so he cold emailed the programmer. He sold it to Granovsky. It was a habit-building app called AskMeEvery and became the first project to really dive into.

“We worked on it for like 8 or 9 months,” he said. “But it taught us so much.” The app was featured on blogs, in Techcrunch, and the two gained some real users.

“He was going to be the programmer and I was the business guy,” he said. “But he left this job six months before I did and started building. By the time I quit I wasn’t even needed. We did it ass backward.”

AskMeEvery involved some pivoting once it took off a bit more. Granovsky had to learn fast that adaptation was key to keeping users.

The two decided to let things go after their 9-month run and parted ways, though they’ve stayed good friends. Granovsky went off and decided to explore his own ideas.

He originally discounted his consulting years—surely starting businesses would be be a totally different ballgame than consulting for them—but found that crucial experiences carried over. “I have no issue going into a business and selling,” he said, pointing to something he undoubtedly sees other entrepreneurs struggling with.

Soon he had built a successful freelancing career, fielding too many projects and request to fulfill.

Granovsky talks fast and rarely pauses. There were very few “likes” or “umms” in his speech pattern, and he carried an enthusiasm to him when he spoke of his own life’s story. Energy may be his preferred sector and it must too be a noun that sticks close to his persona. One gets the idea that he might never stop—and remember, there’s no end goal in the distance. Perhaps there’s just an inertia to move forward—an energy.

 His is an interesting story of evolution—less sharp turns and more slow pivots, which he’s mirrored in his approach to business and startups. He’s made calculated, precise changes. He’s specific about where he spends his own energy—he won’t interrupt a working session by reading an email or an article. He thinks deeply on what he wants—not four houses, not a fancy watch, not a unicorn business.

 

It’s unclear exactly what it is that he does want, only that he’s found something he was looking for—the chance to keep swinging that bat whenever he decides to pick it up.

And where has this all gotten him?

Granovsky is the CEO of Currenthub, a CRM-type tool for retail-electric brokers. On top of that he has more than a handful of projects he’s currently working on. His clients are businesses (“I’ve gotten as far as from B2C (business-to-consumer) as I can” he said), and they range in scope and size. He programs, he sells, he consults. All from a table and a laptop—usually at Lovely.

The plate is full, so to speak.

__________

These days, Granovksy uses a 4-point criteria scale for evaluating whether to jump into another project.

The four-points—and he’ll actually go through the process of grading these on a piece of paper—Is the project…

  1. Energy related?
  2. Well-paid or does it have the potential to be?
  3. Front-end related?
  4. Interesting?

He shoots for projects that hit at least 3 of these points; though when he started he would take some hitting only 2. As things progress, of course, he’ll aim for perfect scores—but we’re not there yet.

Later, he pointed out that “time” was not an element on the scale. This means he’s as likely to take on a one-day project as a one-year one; provided, of course, that it hits the criteria notes.

This spoke to what he considered—or what he’s been told is—his greatest strength: patience. He’s able to sit with things, and sit with them for as long as is needed to uncover the truth. This he considers a fundamental skill.

It’s also a hard lesson he had to learn, perhaps the hard way. One thing that “calmed [him] down” was the realization that his journey as an entrepreneur would surely be a long one. Articles and interviews that discussed a timeline of 3-4 years made him feel better, instead of deflating. It would be a marathon, not a sprint—and one that will require a lot of patience.

The mindset has to be based on this “long process,” he said. “Don’t kill yourself doing it.”

These are hard truths. Easy to say, harder to live. But it’s the change Granovsky wants to see in the broader world—to “really, really sit with things,” he said. That’s what we need—the kind of self-awareness that comes from hard questions, and hard questions only.

__________

Granovsky doesn’t set false expectations about entrepreneurship. The startup world is hard and busy. It’s a long road and there’s a lot of work to be done. There may be no personal end goal, but there’s also no easy rest stops along the way. The work continues.

He spoke candidly of his transition to the life he lives now. “When you quit after 8 years in the workforce, there were mornings I was just sitting on OKCupid for an hour and a half. On a Tuesday. Because I can.”

Those days are left to the past. More long days at Lovely lurk ahead. More people will come; more will pitch their projects and Granovsky will pit them on the 4-point evaluation scale. There’s always more waiting to be done.

Energy, after all, doesn’t just create itself. And each swing of the bat requires a little bit more.

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