Escape the Iron Curtain for Silicon Valley

The only thing everyone wants to know about the Christian life Gheorghe is the only thing he will not talk.

In Silicon Valley, where the best talent in the hottest companies - the Zuckerbergs the strands, cooks, and so forth - are household names and paparazzi bait, the name of Gheorghe is not involved Although a CEO in Silicon Valley, his company Tidemark makes management applications focused on business and financial performance, certainly not the sexiest products.

But a class of people who rely heavily in the valley - VC - Gheorghe is a bona fide hero, someone whose start was a no-brainer to invest in. And not just because of the success he had in management positions at companies such as previous OutlookSoft and SAP. This is because, as Andreessen Horowitz partner Ben Horowitz, the history of life Gheorge proves it is a "special type" that will "do everything necessary" to succeed.

"In the meetings up, we always start with the bottom of the entrepreneur," says Paul Horowitz CNET Sloan last year. "Because courage is not something you are born with, it is something you grow We had a contractor come in, and I said,. 'Tell me about your background? And he said: "Well, I was technical director and began OutlookSoft (Tidemark), and I said," No, no, no. Where did you grow up? He said: "Well, I grew up in communist Romania, and in 1989 I escaped by swimming across the Danube."


Horowitz heard this and said it has agreed to invest locally. Gheorghe but do not go there. His experience in Romania, grow up in one of the most authoritarian dictators of the Cold War? No problem. The story of how, once in America, he went from limo driver to darling of Sand Hill Road? An open book. But fear for the family still living in Romania, concerned about the impact in a country still steeped in decades of corruption after the Iron Curtain fell, Gheorge not talk about his escape.

Gheorge was eight years old when, in 1974, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu returned from a trip to North Korea - although resisted Soviet oppression at the beginning of his reign - took "a path 180 degrees [ a] dictatorship, communism, and total annihilation and absolute freedom all-wise. "

Changes in the hometown of Gheorghe, Romania's capital, Bucharest, started slowly. At first, he remembered, he and his family could rarely apples or bananas. Then, queues began - long lines for almost any type of merchandise. "It was a method of control," recalled Gheorghe. "People go to lunch all the time to talk, because if you're hungry, you can not think. So it was a method of control, you keep it under control, so you worry about everything. "Living in this version of Ceausescu's Romania was dark. Which small television was available was mostly filled with propaganda favor of the regime and patriotic songs. neighbors and even family members, spying on each other. secret police is everywhere and nowhere. And America, really the whole Western world, has been consistently denounced as an enemy, as a place where people were dying in the streets and corruption was everywhere.

Gheorghe knew education was the only way to avoid the impasse that was the Romanian army, and fortunately he took mathematics and physics and technology. A friend had a Commodore 64, and they play games on it, and new programs.

In two years, he has raised money to buy his own computer, a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and he taught himself a little programming. A big fan of music, he also began construction speakers and a turntable.

The struggle for access to books and music, and listening to the words of subversive songs like Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Run Like Hell" Gheorghe including for the first time that things were not as they seem. He began to learn everything he could about the Government of Romania, while trying not to be dragged by the secret police to promote capitalism. "if it has something to do with the Communist Party, or Ceausescu, "Gheorghe said," you and your family essentially faced total annihilation. This is usually forced labor .... Or get killed in prison. You literally have been eliminated. It [was] so bad. '

Ceausescu thugs were still full control in Romania, but also elsewhere in Europe, the freezer was thawing. The Berlin Wall fell, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia was imminent. But Ceausescu refused to let go, and was finally captured. His trial and execution took a few hours. However, the future of Romania was high in the sky. Not knowing in which direction he went, Gheorghe decided to leave. Only the mighty Danube stood between him and freedom.

Starting over
Gheorge American came, arriving at the "modern Ellis Island - JFK [Airport in New York]" with only $ 26 and not much more English than some Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull lyrics. But he had hope. " I thought there was gold in the streets, and freedom is something that you can actually go somewhere and register, "he said.

Within a week, he talked his way into a construction site, although it meant a lot to transport plywood, and never swing a hammer. When he met a former Israeli tank driver who started a limousine company, it happened.

He began driving at night, and programming per day. In 1991, he obtained the ticket that would change his life, a man named Andrew Saxony. "At the end of the race, he said, what you really want? This is a question that I remember that day, "said Gheorghe." I said I'd like to write programs. "

Saxe said he was the owner of a small company that manages a service bureau for a local cable company, and offered a job interview Gheorghe. "It was the first time in two years, someone wanted to know if I could program," Gheorghe said. He got together and became a close friend of Saxony. They built an application for the desktop service and changed the name of the marketing company Saxony Saxony and Gheorghe became a partner. Six years later, they sold the company, they were fully primed, Experian for $ 32 million.

Less than a year later, Saxony learned he had incurable cancer of the brain. But before dying - a "devastating" time to Gheorghe - Saxony issued a final challenge: "When will you start your own business? He knew that I was probably ready. '

Gheorghe leave Experian and went hunting for investors. End up with the venture capital firm A-list Draper Fisher Jurvetson, he launched software Tian ("the last four letters of my name"), perhaps the first company's predictive analytics built around Internet marketing . "As if you're Sears, how do you react to the cannibalization ... related to people who come into the store looking for a refrigerator against people looking online, "he said.

In 2003, Oracle tried Tian, ​​but "I was afraid of being cabin 9064 post-acquisition," he said. Instead, he followed the example of one of its Board of Directors, and took the position of technical director of the company called predictive analysis OutlookSoft. Between 2004 and 2007, he and his team built the company into a powerhouse, and this year they sold SAP for "short half-billion dollars."

A key Gheorghe increase in the world of technology has been a series of influential mentors. It was initially Saxony, then met Anil Bhusri, Partner at Greylock, a leading Silicon Valley VC firm and an investor OutlookSoft.

When Gheorghe started to feel compelled to SAP Bhusri drew to Greylock as an entrepreneur in residence. What bothered him was that the software had been building was used by small teams, and not through the companies he bought. He wanted a wider adoption. "I decided to look into building a company from scratch to cope with the concept of democratization of analysis," he said. "How can you accept applications that are smart and easy to use, simple ... and bring the company to help everyone manage their business better?"

This was the catalyst for the strengthening of Tidemark, and again, a mentor helped him get there. Bhusri came on board as an initial investor, but perhaps more importantly, the VC Gheorghe introduced to a group of large investors in Silicon Valley. One was Horowitz, who quickly agreed to help feed the ambitions of Gheorghe. With the support of Greylock and Andreessen Horowitz, Tidemark was launched.

18 months, Gheorghe and his team perform in stealth, seeking to replace what he had created OutlookSoft analysis tools that companies of choice. "It is not because OutlookSoft was a bad company," he said. "But it was just based on a technology that has been limited to what we could do in the previous decade, while this new platform cloud-and mobile and social experience and the user can enable us to re-imagine what these applications can do. "

Tidemark launched in 2012, and working with another start Bhusri, workday, he has already won contracts with companies like Pabst, Platinum and CEC Entertainment.

Bhusri and Horowitz, of course, are not purely altruistic. They knew that the business segment is a lot warmer than the consumer, at least when it comes to significant growth. Where recent IPOs consumer-oriented - like Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and - have struggled, the company was a better choice. Companies like workday, EPAM Systems, ServiceNow have seen their stock prices soar. Tidemark investors obviously hope it will be one of the next big winners.

Coming to America
When Gheorghe arrived in New York in 1989, he spent his first night in a hostel shabby. With a few dollars in his pocket, and the memories of scarcity and rarity, it was initially overwhelmed by experiences like walking in U.S. supermarkets and be confronted with things like 12 types of apples. "You weep," he said, because "you do not know which to choose."

Years and many successes later, Gheorghe became a U.S. citizen. To date, he mocks the way it happened. "You go to this place near the airport," he said. "This is great hanger as a warehouse. There is nothing inside, just rows and rows of rows of chairs ... with every single type of person you can think of that makes this country so great.

"At the time they put in the notice, they said 12:30, a door opens on the side, and here are two gentlemen ... and [a] is pushing a podium on wheels. The other person has a boom box. And they [stick a flag] on the podium, and they put the boom box next to them and said, "everyone standing. And the guy presses the button and the box has the national anthem and a pre-recorded message that greets you in the great United States of America, and when it finishes, they are [more] podium, and you are a citizen. "
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