A Chance To Help During Christmas: Latvian Startup Founder Battling Cancer

With Christmas approaching tomorrow and the giving mood and campaigns of many organisations large and small reminding us to be good, we have taken up our own ArcticStartup do-good challenge to turn the Christmas hype into real impact for a fellow founder from our own startup community. The founder of Latvian Repairy Maxim Fjodorov is currently battling a nasty form of cancer, lymphoma, occuring in lymphatic system.

The Funderful team led by  Maxim’s fellow SSE Riga graduate Raimonds Kulbergs has launched a fundraising campaign earlier this year to help maintain his treatment. Thanks to Martins Zutis, Dmitrijs Dementjevs Dedelis and Gediminas Uzkuraitis the platform was set up within a month. Maxim’s university’s Alumni Association helped to spread the word. While the campaign is still active and has helped cover medical expenses for Maxim up till now, more help is needed. We believe Christmas is a good time to tell Maxim’s story and ask our community to help.

Repairy was founded by Maxim Fjodorov, Mareks Veinbergs and Arvis Zeile in early 2012. All three met working on a project for a spare car parts distributor and realised that auto repair shops were left behind in terms of tech solutions for their data analytics and supply chain management. Soon a solution for car repair shops’ CRM was born.

The startup developed quickly, won Seedcamp Berlin and was admitted to 500 Startups winter cohort that same year. The team flew to San Francisco and dived into an intensive mentorship programme. Maxim was leading the team of three and was constantly encouraging them to push their limits.

‘Max is our visionary,’ told Repairy co-founder Mareks Veinbergs. ‘He is totally obsessed with start-up society, design, creativity and art. Without Max, I guess, we might have no courage to go on.’

You can see Max practicing Repairy pitch at Seedcamp Berlin below.

Meanwhile Maxim’s wife Kristina was expecting their second daughter, Paula. It was a challenge for Maxim to figure out how to be there for his family while not letting down his co-founders. Eventually, halfway through the acceleration programme, Maxim returned home to Riga while still keeping up with 500 Startups training online.

In Latvia there is a law for fathers who want to be present during childbirth to run an x-ray scan of their lungs,’ Kristina explains. ‘We can thank this law that Max is still alive.’

During the scan doctors noticed unusual formations in his chest stretching into lungs. Paula was born the next day but she did not see her father. Maxim was in hospital undergoing full examination. In five days the diagnosis was established – lymphoma, lymphatic node cancer, in 4B stage.

‘Max’s will was astounding,’ Repairy co-founder Arvis Zeile remembers. ‘Despite the shocking news he continued to work hard on Repairy every day while looking for cures in his spare time. He was still actively involved in our startup in Jan-Feb 2013 up till the point where he was forced to admit that it was impossible for him to get better without giving up Repairy.’

Max has been doing a lot of alternative medicine to supplement traditional medicine and reached positive results. Inspired by the preliminary success and determined to do everything to combat the disease, Maxim’s family sold all their property in Latvia and moved to Dubai where Kristina’s sister and mother offered help.

‘It was much warmer there and Maxim was making an even better progress,’ Kristina recalls. ‘He was running twice a day, felt good and was about to return to his work again.’

But things got complicated in November. Maxim started to feel acute lumbar pain. As closer investigation revealed, cancer had weakened his immune system and an old back trauma received in childhood had manifested itself again. In January 2014 Maxim could not walk anymore and since April 2014 he has been in bed.

The new challenge required more investigation and more intense treatment, while family’s savings were running out. After more than 20 months of struggle Kristina resolved to admit that they needed help. She posted a public status update on Facebook finally sharing the story with the wider audience and humbly asking for their support.

‘It was a no-brainer for me as soon as I saw it,’ explains Konstantins Antropovs, the president of SSE Riga Alumni Association. ‘Maxim was a great fellow schoolmate and a reliable friend back at the university. I knew that I definitely had to do somthing to help him.’

The same feelings were shared by Raimonds Kulbergs, the founder of Funderful, a Riga-based startup specialising in engaging community crowdfunging. A dedicated crowdfunding platform was set up and ready to receive contributions already in July. The address is directly linked to Kristina’s PayPal account and is still active.

The campaign page indicates that it has raised €5,032 to date. However, Kristina notes that she has received an estimated €15,000-20,000 to date via various channels (like direct wire transfers and PayPal) largely thanks to the campaign organized by Alumni Association. The funds raised have enabled Maxim’s treatment up till now (which costs a minimum of €4,000 a month) and doctors have now directed him to another round of investigation.

‘There is also help needed for Maxim’s children,’ Kristina explains. ‘My sister helps a lot to take care of them but I see that the older daughter Anna may require professional assitance. She is very fragile and emotional. It is hard for her to contemplate such a sharp change in her life and her father’s condition. If Paula is too young and for her Maxim lying in bed is a norm, Anna remembers how things used to be and is often frustrated.’

There are five ways we can help Maxim and his family:

1. Visit the Funderful platform and donate

2. Contribute directly to Kristina’s bank account in Latvia:

Account number: LV22HABA0551017284245

3. Contribute directly to Maxim’s bank account in UAE:

Bank: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC
Account number: AE310030010178331208001

4. Spread the word about Maxim’s situation

5. Contact Kristina for any suggestions, in-kind contributions or other help: kristina.reinberga (a) gmail.com

Even though Kristina may not be able to respond promptly due to many emails and a lot of medical arrangements that she has to keep track of, Max eventually receives all messages addressed to him and they help encourage him a lot. So even droping a few lines or filming a short video for Christmas can go a long way.

Below is Max’s response to all the personal messages submitted on the platform.

It reads:

‘Unfortunately I am not able to write much, answer all letters and personally thank everyone. However, I am sincerely thankful to all of you for the support you showed to me and my family in this difficult moment. THANK YOU all a lot!’