David Makharadze ('97) has always had a passion for entrepreneurship. Since graduating from Cornell, he has both grown his own businesses and given back to the Cornell community by partnering with Student Agencies to involve students in his entrepreneurial ventures, enlisting SAI student managers to run his startup.
To keep the entrepreneurial side of his mind fresh while working his first job as a day trader, Makharadze started Downtown Bytes (originally Wall Street Bytes), one of the only physical and online restaurant guides in existence at the time. Rather than quit his job, he found that he could leverage his job as a day trader and his work at Downtown Bytes against one another. Working on Wall Street, he would often host events or take clients and colleagues out for meetings at restaurants he worked with or hoped to work with for Downtown Bytes.
In 1998, Makharadze partnered with Student Agencies to help further the mission of the organization by involving students in the production and running of Downtown Bytes and providing practical, hands-on, entrepreneurial experiences. Eventually, the position transitioned into a summer internship during which Cornell students ran the publication for 10 years.
While still overseeing Downtown Bytes, Makharadze got a new job at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) but soon realized he was getting more out of his work with Downtown Bytes despite putting in significantly less effort. He felt empowered running his own company and writing his own checks. Consequently, he started facing difficulty staying motivated as a consultant because he found the upside so much greater when he spent those extra hours working on his own company. The first year, he made enough money to confirm the potential of Downtown Bytes; he started small, but his success gave him confidence in his product. Makharadze says: “It was a question of ‘Could I be successful doing it?” He knew the only way to find out was to try. Eventually, his hard work paid off, and Downtown Bytes reached a point of distributing 50,000 copies.
Since Downtown Bytes, Makharadze has moved on to other entrepreneurial ventures. He co-founded a technology company, Zustek, which grew to 200 people internationally. He sold Zustek to a private equity group in 2007. Today, he is the Managing Partner of Diamond Rock Partners, a real estate investment advising company that he founded. He became truly involved in real estate after selling Zustek and the market crash in 2008. He expected a correction in the real estate market, but it was even greater than he anticipated. He started buying distressed assets and completing their developments, as well as doing ground up construction. He felt that he was fortunate enough to work with good people and have some luck on his side to enable his hard work and investments to pay off. However, Makharadze believes that luck is not enough: "You have to work really hard and stay on top of things." Currently, he is working on a project in San Diego, CA comprised of 6,000 square feet of retail and 207 apartment units.
Makharadze’s advice to students would be to start a business or take part in a start-up to get involved in entrepreneurship and gain exposure as soon as possible. He recognizes that it may not be for everyone, but the pride he felt from launching his own business was so great that he knew he needed to pursue entrepreneurship.