Meet the Ironman of Minnesota Tech CEOs
Igor Epshteyn founded Minneapolis-based tech consultancy Coherent Solutions 16 years ago with the purpose of helping technology ventures solve, scale and develop their software products and businesses. Today, he’s still a developer, but has since become a Radical CEO.
While building his business from the ground up to 250 employees across three offices — Epshteyn has ran, biked and swam some of the hardest races known to man.
Epshteyn migrated to the United States from Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, in 1992, only a few months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Times were changing, and despite having already starting two successful businesses there by the age of 21, Epshteyn decided he wanted more stability in his life.
The first city he settled in was The Big Apple. Just under a year later, Epshteyn left New York City and his job as a software engineer at Siemens after meeting a friend in Atlantic City. The friend had recently moved to San Francisco to work for a casino technology company and introduced Epshteyn to his boss. He was interviewed, an offer was made, and he accepted the job on the spot.
A coast-to-coast road trip ensued, and after overcoming a variety of unexpected car complications, Epshteyn arrived in California. Two years later, Epshteyn and his wife, who had immigrated to the U.S. with him, had a baby on the way. They decided to move closer to relatives in Minnesota.
“When I look at my life I see three components,” explains Epshteyn. “My family, my adventures, and my work.”
Shortly after arriving in the Twin Cities, Epshteyn founded Coherent Solutions to feed his creative side while helping make dreams come true for local tech companies. After early success, Coherent expanded east, starting offices in New Jersey as well as his hometown of Minsk.
“I wanted to open my own business. I just couldn’t commit to working for someone else,” says Epshteyn. “I had this desire to work for myself. I’m not sure why, I just had to.”
Around the same time Epshteyn was also challenging himself outside of the office. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the tallest point in Africa at 19,341 feet above sea level. Then he scaled Aconcagua in the Andes mountain range in 2 weeks — a modest 22,841 feet above sea level and the highest point in the Americas.
Beyond mountaineering, Epshteyn also challenged himself on the ground and in the water. It started by doing the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, a part of the famous Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. And it didn’t stop there. In six years, Epshteyn tacked on 11 road marathons, five ultramarathons (distances greater than 26.2 miles), and four Ironman Triathlons.
An Ironman, as it’s commonly known, consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-miles on a bike and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break. Epshteyn vividly remembers his first Ironman experience in Madison, Wis. “The first one was the best because I was so scared of it,” he explains. “Thus, I trained a lot. For six months I worked out an average of 10-15 hours per week.”
But, in Epshteyn’s opinion, every race bows to the Arrowhead 135 — a run, bike or ski ultramarathon in the middle of January near International Falls. “I made it about 50 miles and my body broke down. My lower back couldn’t handle anymore and it was minus 25 degrees out. The most difficult thing wasn’t trying to keep his sweat from freezing. “It’s hard to occupy the mind when all the scenery is the same,” he recalls.
Despite Epshteyn’s many personal feats, he describes how he has never witnessed true enduring human feats until he experienced his first Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge: a 620-mile fundraising bike ride that covers the California coastline from San Francisco to San Diego.
“I was energized by the passion I saw,” exclaims Epshteyn. “Four or five people without legs rode handcycles the whole way. I didn’t even realize that one woman had a prosthetic leg till a few days into the ride. There were even blind riders who went tandem with sighted guides. One hundred miles a day isn’t easy in general, but it pales in comparison to those who did it without a leg, an arm or sight.”
Throughout all his experiences, Epshteyn always brings the “work hard, play hard” mentality back to the office. He encourages his employees to do what they believe in and have fun doing it. Along those lines, Epshteyn and a group of employees are currently training for the Tough Mudder, coming to Minnesota this May with the self-proclaimed motto, “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.”
Epshteyn says he’s ready for another challenge, but more importantly he is ready for the teamwork involved. “Really, what it’s all about is living life and getting people involved,” he says. “Whether it’s employees, friends or challenged athletes, everyone benefits. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
This post was originally published by Tristan Pollock on TECHdotMN.