She’s a Youtube star and startup entrepreneur who runs three channels that span 5 million subscribers.
We had a delightful conversation. She’s one of those people who really nails the balance of extreme warmth and impressive ambition. It was a joy to learn from her.
I like interviewing people to dig down at the earliest moments, which I call “zero to one” moments as a nod to Peter Thiel.
Below are some of the highlights of our conversation about how Marina went from zero to one.
When did she get started?
I started my Youtube channel in 2014. I found out that American universities have full-ride scholarships and I decided to try because i’m so passionate about education. When I was preparing for my GMAT I realized there’s a whole world called Youtube—because I never watched Youtube before–and I realized there is not much content about people taking GMAT.I hadn’t seen a lot of personal stories so I decided that i’m gonna release a couple videos to build a community of Russian students who are going through the same process…
Did she tell anyone about her videos?
Just her parents. And for reasons other than you think:
I was not willing to share this with ANYONE in my circle so it was never on my social media. I never shared on Facebook that I had a channel. Never shared on Instagram. I never told any of my friends.I just told my parents because I wanted them to be quiet when I was filming because we lived in the same apartment I lived with my parents until I was 25.
All of her first videos were shot and edited on her Iphone and she uploaded them at her office’s internet because she couldn’t afford home internet:
I made all the videos with my Iphone and edited them in iMovie on my Iphone so my eyes would be almost dead after because there were smaller Iphones. I think it was Iphone 4 Iphone 5—I don’t remember–but it was really small and it took me around four to six hours to edit a video and I would create everything myself.Thumbnails also took hours; I was just staying at the office because we we didn’t have enough money to have internet in our apartment so we relied on the office internet and it was also slower than I needed. I would just stay in the office till midnight to wait for the video to upload and publish it and then go back home and then the next morning we’ll come to the office and check the comments or check the views
Was she scared of the camera when she started? Nope. She was scared of people reacting badly to her work.
I wasn’t really scared of the camera. I was scared about the feedback…my worst case scenario was either no one watching the video so it wasn’t of value or just getting feedback that this is useless.
The ah-ha moment when she realized she had an idea for a startup:
Our value prop was that the majority of [study abroad] agencies charged a $300 fee to find your program and we’re gonna do it for free; we’re gonna just live on commission such that the school pays us. That was our innovation. So we started the company in 2011…
Full video here: