The Founder and Chairman of Volta Global, Marko Dimitrijevic is an international businessman with over three decades of entrepreneurial and investing experience. Volta Global is a private investment group with investment activities in venture capital, private equity, real estate, and public markets.
In addition to his work at Volta, Marko is the author of Frontier Investor: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets, a book the Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, Michael Spence, hailed as “a tour de force.” Marko is also known for his photography, public speaking, and philanthropy.
Marko Dimitrijevic founded Volta Global with one goal in mind: building an investment group with a philosophy is guided by its permanent capital base, allowing for transformational, flexible, and long-term investments.
Of Yugoslavian origin, Marko Dimitrijevic was born in Switzerland where he attended the Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC) at the University of Lausanne. He acquired Swiss citizenship in his early 20s before going on to earn his MBA from Stanford University.
In the earlier part of his investment career, Marko managed large securities portfolios as Senior Vice President for the Fortune 500 company Triangle Industries and its successor, Trian Group.
Marko Dimitrijevic was trailblazing investor in both high-growth companies and emerging markets, experience that has contributed significantly to his leadership and activities at Volta Global. Over the years, he has visited over 150 countries, including 120 emerging or frontier markets. He was one of the earliest Western investors in China, Russia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia, and is fluent in English French, Spanish, Serbian/Croatian, and Portuguese, with proficiency in Italian and German.
As a philanthropist devoted to innovation and education, Marko established the Stanford Graduate School of Business Emerging Markets Innovation Fund and has endowed numerous scholarships. In addition, he founded the Miami Science Museum Underwater Festival, served on the Stanford Business School Advisory Board, the Stanford Business School Trust, the Executive Committee of the Frost Science Museum, the Pasteur Foundation, and the Investment Committee of the Adrian Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
An experienced photographer, Marko Dimitrijevic has been armed with a camera since his teenage years, having honed his skills during his extensive travels. With a particular passion for nature photography, Marko’s work has been published in numerous photography magazines including Islands, Seacam, and Showboats International. He regularly blogs about both photography and finance.
Marko currently resides with his family in Miami, Florida, and can be found reading, traveling, and paddleboarding in his free time.
Where did the idea for Volta Global come from?
After working in the investment business for a long time, I realized that the existing model of investment firms was lacking. On the one hand, you had firms that specialized in a particular asset class, but these would typically raise funds that have a given maturity — in other words, an expiration date, which is not very attractive to some companies. On the other hand, you have firms who manage diversified portfolios with liquid securities, but don’t typically invest in the types of businesses we do.
Volta Global is the realization of a hybrid public and private business model, if you will. Our competitive edge is that we are not constrained by having to sell investments, but unlike many private investment firms, will readily and actively invest in public companies we feel strongly about.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For me, there is no typical day. I may have meetings with entrepreneurs or companies interested in capital, or I may be reading and researching new topics, trends, and industries, then developing a plan to connect with companies and people in the field to work with. I’ll admit that am driven by curiosity, and it ends up dictating my schedule — something I consider a business strength, since it allows for great flexibility to accomplish tasks without boxing myself in. This leaves room for meditation and creativity throughout the work week.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At Volta Global, we bring ideas to life by talking to people in the field and learning as much as we can about the industries we invest in. We also try to partner with good people along the way to bring concepts into fruition or help companies achieve their goals.
This takes time and vetting. When looking for a good investment, we first analyze the downsides and upsides, keeping our eyes out for things that are scaleable and attractive. When the stars align, we invest. Since I am also a photographer, it’s helpful to use the art as an analogy: just like with photographs, I look for patterns where I’ve had success before, and then adapt to the elements based on the situation instead of copying blindly. And just like with photographs, this is how ideas come to life: the vision comes first, then we do the work to make it a reality.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Right now, I’m particularly excited by e-commerce, which is a long-term trend, and one that is certainly detrimental to traditional retail. It’s exciting and sustainable, which is great, so I’m always looking for innovation in this area. Nutrition is another exciting trend — I’ve been doing a lot of research in insects as a form of nutrition, but perhaps that’s a topic for a different blog!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m a voracious reader. Seriously — I spend at least six hours a day reading up on things for business, entertainment, or just general curiosity. I like to start my day reading (usually the Wall Street Journal), covering economics, markets, technology, and more. This makes me better informed, which I think makes me a more productive entrepreneur, as I have all the information I need (and then some) to get things done.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If anything, I’d advise myself to try and stand back and take more time looking at the forest rather than working really hard at the trees. By this I mean that so many of us continue to do the same things we’ve always done well, that we forget about the bigger picture and don’t look around for bigger and better opportunities.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Electronic communication is overrated. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s not meaningful, and in the world of business if you rely on it too much, it can be crippling. Everyone should know how and when to talk on the phone — it’s a business skill worth developing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I disconnect from my phone. I recommend that everyone find an activity that they can do while totally disconnected from electronic devices — I paddleboard, for example. I can spend 40 minutes, an hour, or two hours clear of interruption. Eliminating distractions gives you time to think. I dwell on pros and cons of business, new ideas, and come up with answers to difficult questions using this offline time, which is healthy for the mind, body, and beneficial to business as well.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
One strategy that has been effective is hiring great people, giving them plenty of opportunity, and seeing how far they can go. When hiring, I look for a combination of people that are smart, curious, hungry and honest. But that’s not enough in and of itself to stimulate a business — if you box them into one responsibility, they won’t show their potential — they will do what they are asked and not much more. By giving them creative responsibility and allowing them to prove themselves, they enhance the whole company through creativity. When all associates have the freedom to explore new ideas and come up with new proposals, it helps the business grow and flourish.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In 1991, I started a hedge fund — an investment vehicle with a broad investment mandate — and I was fortunate to be successful very fast. But in the mid to late 1990s, a new business investment strategy was emerging called “fund of funds.” Basically, those were funds that didn’t invest in individual stocks and bonds but instead held a portfolio of other investment funds. In racetrack terms, you might say the managers of these funds were paid for choosing the jockeys, not the horses. At the time, it seemed like an easy business, but I didn’t think there would be much demand for it. Although I had the team with the skills to do it, I didn’t pursue it. In hindsight, it turned out to be a mistake as this new business model grew to become as big as the hedge fund business itself. This is a lesson for any successful entrepreneur that may ignore new or lateral opportunities because he or she stays too focused on their core competency. It’s important to do what you do best, but stay open to developing horizons.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A new business I have thought about is creating a natural or organic alternative to the 5-hour Energy Shot. Those drinks have been very successful, but contain a lot of chemicals. There’s an opportunity to create a potent, fast-acting energy drink that is good for you with similar characteristics.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent about $100 visiting several museums in Paris. I visited the Musée Rodin which has a number of spectacular sculptures in a large shaded garden in the middle of Paris. It’s a great place for reflection and to unwind from the noise of the city of lights. I also went to Musée Marmottan Monet which has the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world. It’s just extraordinary to see so many of his works at once. The privilege to view timeless works of art is not only priceless, but incredibly moving. You get to imagine the artist moulding a sculpture with their hands, or Monet executing his paint strokes. You get to see these masterpieces that are blurry up close, then watch the strokes come together when you stand back. It’s breathtaking, and more than worth the small investment.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
At work, we use Slack for internal communication. Though, like I mentioned before, phone calls and in-person conversations are still at the crux of all important business decisions, Slack is a great mini-forum ideal for sharing ideas efficiently, especially between people not currently in the same office. When we’re on the same page and able to have back-and-forth conversations regularly over Slack, we are all more productive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would be remiss not to recommend my book, Frontier Investor: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets. Everyone in the business community should at least be aware of frontier markets, because they represent 20% of the world’s GDP, which is bigger than the US! Not everyone knows about this, but I truly believe understanding the international investment landscape is important if you want to see success in any market.
What is your favorite quote?
“Strength and honor,” the saying from Gladiator. I always come back to this quote in my personal and professional life, as it is the essence of persistence, a key part of my character.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.