AP NEWS

Greenwich teenager building his American dream through entrepreneurship

April 8, 2018 GMT

Around the same time as he graduated high school last year, Greenwich native Marc Baghadijan sold his first business.

A local angel investor bought the company, which resulted in a “very clean exit” for Baghadijan, he said. The teenager bought a sporty BMW Coupe for his mom with the earnings. She refused to accept it, so he drives it around the Boston suburbs, where he’s a freshman at Babson College. It’s impractical for snowy Massachusetts, he says, but it serves as a symbol of his success, fueling him to ascend to new heights.

“My ambition has always suffocated me,” he said. “When I see a big Greenwich house, I see the American dream. I’ve tasted that, and I want to do that for my family.”

Making his mark

The 18-year-old entrepreneur has quickly built two more companies: Octium, an online cryptocurrency lending platform, and Skippit, a speed dating app. For a few months it looked like Octium might be his next enterprise, but he’s paused while waiting on the “cryptocurrency bubble to pop” before moving forward. For the interim, he’s forging ahead on Skippit, which he pitches as a more efficient way to date.

His white papers on each lay out detailed business plans and experienced advisory teams that include present or past business chiefs of AOL, Myspace, Nantucket Nectars and Vineyard Vines.

Despite his entrepreneurial acumen, Baghadijan is the first to admit he isn’t a 4.0 student. But he’s not ashamed of his less than perfect GPA and ACT score. His definition of success is different than many other teenagers, even his accomplished Greenwich peers.

“I think he wants to make his mark on the world differently than typical boys who come through Brunswick,” said Robert Taylor, who taught Baghadijan entrepreneurship and personal finance in high school. “He has a different background. I think he views success not by a job he gets but as a business he builds and the legacy he creates for other people, his family.”

Born in Lebanon, Baghadijan moved to New Jersey with his family when he was a few years old. His family transplanted to Greenwich after his mother got a job at Brunswick. Until recently, Baghadijan also traveled on the international fencing circuit with the junior men’s Lebanese team.

Though it was just earlier this year that he gave up competing in the sport, he references it like it was a lifetime ago. His sights are no longer set on athletic feats but business ventures. “I knew that I had to pause fencing and start working on the bigger things in life,” he said.

Baghadijan emphasizes that another childhood hobby primed him for his outlook on life. “Chess was the only thing I could focus on as a child, and it puts you in the mind-set of, ‘OK, I want this, how do I get it?’” he said. “After the first four moves in a game, there’s billions of potential position combinations — you just have to figure out the steps.”

‘Not the next Zuckerberg’

The college freshman represents a fusion of youthful energy and adult ambitions. He’s already gained meetings with titans of industry, often through cold calls or asking mentors to put him in touch. Sometimes, people tell him he’s bound to be “the next (Mark) Zuckerberg,” Baghadijan said, adding, “That’s cool, but I’m not the next Zuckerberg.” He wants to be known by his own brand, Baghadijan.

He credits his private school education as well as connections from Brunswick and Greenwich for propelling him forward. “Being in the Greenwich bubble means being around the most intelligent, experienced people in the world,” he said.

Many have taken him under their wing, giving him advice and expanding his network. “He blew the socks off me when we first met,” said Scott Williams, president of The Nantucket Project, where Baghadijan worked as a summer intern before college. “He has so much passion that it can be off-putting, but I don’t know if someone could teach him any more critical thinking skills. ... He’s already confident enough to run his own business. He has so much energy that I think when he settles into it, people will naturally follow him. I don’t know where, but I know his passion will lead him to making the right decisions.”

Whether Baghadijan will finish college is up in the air, he said. He’s applied for the Thiel Fellowship, a two-year program that awards students with money and mentorship if they’ll agree to drop out of college. He’d take the opportunity if offered, Baghadijan said, but he plans to stay in school until there’s a clearly better alternative.

Baghadijan’s spirit for entrepreneurship is so overwhelming that its prompts asking whether he could ever work for another boss. He acknowledges that his drive is to be a business chief but that there “will be a point when I become a joiner, not a founder, because to be a good employer you have to be a good employee.”

Some places he could envision himself working include Activision Blizzard, an entertainment and video gaming business, and Disney’s Pixar, because “that’s where dreams come true.”

For now, Baghadijan is finishing his second college semester in between meeting with potential investors for Skippit. “You don’t know which company will be the one to make you,” Baghadijan said.

Contact the writer at mbennett@greenwichtime.com; Twitter @Macaela_