Hard to believe that tech's most powerful players were once squabbling for a piece of videochat site Chatroulette. Its teenaged Russian founder spurned them all, and Chatroulette is close to dead. Now he's having second thoughts.
We were definitely impressed when 18-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy gave a verbal smackdown last spring to fellow Russian Yuri Milner, CEO of powerhouse investment firm Digital Sky Technologies. In a New Yorker profile, he openly complained of Milner's "harassing" attempts to let him invest in Chatroulette. How times change. Chatroulette, it's now clear, was a fad; Traffic has tanked, and Digital Sky probably wouldn't take a forty percent stake in it for free these days.
To his credit, Ternovskiy now realizes it was a mistake to turn down every million-dollar offer—a conclusion probably born of equal parts increased maturity and having seen The Social Network. He told Fast Company in an interview:
"After I declined the offers, I realized it was very difficult to execute something myself. I think I would accept the offers now, because I'm much more educated about it. But I'm not sure things would be better if I took the offers back then—I think traffic would've gone down anyway after the investment."
Ternovskiy probably blew a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, but it wasn't all for naught: He's made it to Silicon Valley and is talking like a seasoned tech veteran when most kids his age are worrying about finding a date for prom.
[Image of Ternovskiy speaking at the Webby awards]