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Escape Artist Want to combine business with pleasure? Yanik Silver is your man with a plan | By Janelle Nanos | Photography by SOTA Dzine |
So what happens when a pioneering young internet entrepreneur wants to go on vacation but can’t get his buddies to come along? He creates a business that combines travel and adventure, networking and charity, and a fraternity-like atmosphere that he can call his own. And he makes a killing doing it. Such is the story of Yanik Silver, a 35-year-old self-made millionaire, Potomac resident, and founder of Maverick Business Adventures. The Russian-born e-publishing impresario, whose father made a living fixing medical equipment, now runs an exclusive travel network for entrepreneurs who’d rather do their business dealings from a go-cart than a golf cart. MBA is an invite-only group—you must own a million-dollar business even to snag a spot—whose members can often be found kicking up dust in dune buggies in Los Cabos, Mexico; scuba diving between tectonic plates in Iceland; or engaging in a tête-á-tête with Sir Richard Branson on his own private island in the Caribbean. “I always enjoyed unique experiences, but most of my friends didn’t have money or time to do them with me,” Silver says. “So I thought I may as well create my own group of entrepreneurs who want to merge business with adventure.” Beyond his desire to have a group of like-minded travel buddies, Silver started the business to expand his network. As an added value for members, he incorporated business strategy sessions into each of the six or so trips he’s run annually since early 2004. For each day of dirt-crusted partying, Silver explains, there’s a Hot Seat problem-solving exercise or a guest lecture from a Tony Hawk, Jesse James or Branson. One element that Silver is particularly proud of is his series of philanthropic round table discussions with underserved, yet entrepreneurial youth. The group sets up an afternoon brainstorming session to share their expertise and begin mentoring relationships at each destination. During a recent trip to Reykjavik, they offered funding to some of the more promising ventures. All of this insight comes at a price, and members must pay up roughly $10,000 in the coming months; it drops to half that in subsequent membership years. The two-day Breakaways or weeklong EPIC trips can be costly—roughly $5,000 for the former and at least $10,000 for the latter, alcohol and flights not included. But Silver says these fees are the equivalent of investment capital and provide access to a Rolodex of business bigwigs, monthly one-on-one consultation calls, and opportunities for collaboration. Along with these prospects comes camaraderie and an opportunity to connect with others on sensitive business issues.
“Many of these guys with successful businesses can talk about things they can’t talk about with their friends,” Silver explains. “In one session, a guy said that his son feels embarrassed when he’s dropped off in a Corvette at school. Kids made fun of him and called him a ‘rich kid.’ We had a discussion about that.” What’s next for the group? A trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, charged with a bit of volunteering, safari-going and a swim with great white sharks. Then another visit to Sir Branson’s Necker Island to help brainstorm further for Virgin’s foundation, Unite. “Maybe I’m jaded, but I think golf is boring,” Silver says, explaining that his goal is to avoid the ordinary. “You have the pretense that comes with the golf course. Even in the bar and seminar room, you can have your shield up—your exterior. But when you’re out there, dusty and dirty, dune buggy racing in Mexico, it breaks down those barriers. At the end of the day, you’re sharing a Pacifico, and you’re all on the same playing field.” For details, visit maverickbusinessadventures.com.
FREQUENT FLYER Maverick Business Adventures founder Yanik Silver helps turn plutocrats into parachuters.