Amid three startups, grueling ultra-distance trail races and an international move with his family of four, Russell Benaroya (’03) thrives when stretching the outer limits of his comfort zone. The self-described serial entrepreneur’s story is full of many big risks, but a common thread is his connection to the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Benaroya started his career in investment banking and then joined former Anderson alumni working in venture capital in Los Angeles before enrolling at Anderson himself in 2001. He returned to venture investing after graduation, but he knew he wanted to test his ability to be an entrepreneur. He moved to Seattle and launched a health care business with fellow Anderson graduate Eric Page (’03). Suddenly, the concept of any “typical” post-MBA path ceased to exist.
“My professional life has been so interconnected with Anderson in many interesting ways, and I’m grateful for the experience.”
“Anderson fuels that entrepreneurial spirit — that passion, that desire to get out on the front lines and make a mark,” Benaroya said in a video call from his office. “I just couldn’t shake that or get it out of my head.”
Entrepreneurship can be an emotional roller coaster, and Benaroya contemplates tough questions and builds his grit on the trail. He competes in trail ultramarathons, running up to 100 miles across punishing terrain over hours or even days.
“Being out on the trail for 30-plus hours strips you down to your core, where you face the possibility of failure, work through the lows and celebrate the moments of progress,” Benaroya said of the training regimen and races. “In many ways, that is so much of the entrepreneurial journey: high highs, low lows and a lot of self-reliance.”
Last year, Benaroya and his family took another big step when they moved to Costa Rica, fulfilling a longtime goal to live abroad for a year. They currently reside in the capital, San Jose, testing an idea they call “geographic freedom” — the ability to work with a purpose, anywhere in the world, while achieving one’s economic and social goals.
Benaroya also reconnected with Page, and they became business partners again, 10 years after selling their last company. Today, they own Stride, an outsourced back-office bookkeeping, accounting and HR services business for high-growth technology and professional service companies.
Benaroya likens his new business to UCLA Anderson, saying that it provides a solid foundation for people with big ideas. “Stride allows entrepreneurs to stay in their genius zones,” he said. “They can focus on the things that will really move their businesses forward.”
In recent years, Benaroya has started giving back to Anderson as “a way to connect on an enduring basis.” Now, he invests in the next generation of entrepreneurs by giving to the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator, a launchpad for innovative student and alumni ideas.
“My professional life has been so interconnected with Anderson in many interesting ways, and I’m grateful for the experience,” he said, reflecting on his journey. “Anderson has given me the confidence to spread my wings and know that when I take the leap, I’m going to figure it out.”