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You don’t often hear “Russia” and “successful entrepreneur” in the same sentence. Ratmir Timashev is the exception (perhaps Yuri Milner is another). He went from being a grad student in chemical physics at The Ohio State University to the CEO of his own startup, Aelita Software. After seven years of leading the company, alongside his college roommate Andrei Baronov, to virtually double-digit growth each year, the company was sold to Quest Software for $115 million.
Timashev then invested $6 million of his own money and without any outside VC funding founded Veeam (pronounced “vee-em”). Veeam Software was created to provide similar systems management solutions for virtualized server infrastructures, leveraging the trend that built software companies like VMware into fast growing multi-billion enterprises. Started by Timashev and his co-founder Baronovin 2006, Veeam has been profitable since 2009. With 99% year-over-year growth, Veeam expects revenue to surpass a quarter billion dollars this year on its way to what Timashev believes will be a $1 billion revenue business within five years.
“I moved on from Quest Software in 2005 to start a new enterprise. My partner and I looked around for a year, and saw that virtualization was becoming a huge trend. And in 2006 we started a new business, originally in Europe. We listened to customers in the space and showed a prototype of our solution. It took a year and a half to release our first product in 2008. In six years, we’ve grown to $275 million in revenue, $220 million in GAAP, 90% of which came from our flagship product, Veeam Backup & Replication,” says Timashev.
Back in 2006 with 69 percent of US companies implementing virtualization, Timashev recognized the big need and trend in virtualization and realized a great opportunity to build a software company centered around virtualization management and backup of virtualized infrastructure – leveraging the success of VMware. Veeam built modern data protection specifically for virtualization and cloud.
Timashev is disrupting existing markets with Veeam by including capabilities in their software that others sell as expensive, separate components. Virtualization is now the new standard for the enterprise datacenter – it’s the norm rather than the niche. Veeam’s backup solution which is designed specifically for virtualization rather than physical, legacy systems is being met with great acceptance. Adding new customers at the rate of nearly 3,000 a month, Veeam’s annual bookings revenue grew 62% in 2012 and 58% in 2013, and rapidly gaining market share on big players such as CommVault and Symantec, according to Timashev. With no signs of slowing down, Timashev’s journey from Russia to multi-millionaire entrepreneur is remarkable.
“My partner Andrei is a brilliant scientist, brilliant technologist and brilliant business person. He knows how to say ‘no’–it’s the most difficult thing to do, solving problems in the most elegant way. He makes my job very easy. We met when I was 18 years old and were roommates at school. We grew up together. Being a scientist was a prestigious profession in Russia when we were getting our undergraduate degrees in the ’80s,” says Timashev.
But then Perestroika came along , followed by the Soviet collapse in ’91. It was hard to make a living as a scientist. Most of Timashev’s friends went into business and he decided that’s what he wanted to as well and developed a side job selling computers. ”I thought I was a pretty good entrepreneur–but I had to feed my family. I realized that to be a real entrepreneur I would have to go to the United States to learn business. Science was my ticket to the U.S. when I was accepted into the PhD program at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. I went to learn the language and the culture. I came in ’92 for my PhD in Chemical Physics and in ’95 left to start my own business. That’s when I asked Andrei to come join me in the U.S,” says Timashev.
“We started our first business as graduate students in our dormitory. We knew nothing about business. We learned along the way. Our first idea was an Internet ecommerce start-up. We thought soon Vodka would be pouring from your computer!(laughing…). We were selling computer parts to Russia. We built an online store in ’96–just like Amazon– accept that we were in Columbus, Ohio, not Silicon Valley and were not exposed to all of the fast developing technology trends and especially the culture of building fast-growth companies like those coming out of the West Coast,” says Timashev.
“With Veeam we first incorporated in Europe (Cyprus and Switzerland) and Russia. Russia as you may know is not an easy place to start a business, the legal system is not very strong. It’s also difficult for businesses because the people with the right skills are not available. We selected Cypress for legal purposes to incorporate as a holding company,” says Timashev. With over 1,200 employees, the company’s worldwide headquarters are now in Baar, Switzerland, with North American headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and an additional office in Atlanta.
“I used to believe that all the key people had to be in one place. Now it doesn’t matter–Russia New York, Miami, Zurich or Dubai. The business is wherever we are that day. I travel a lot with my family. Skype is the standard for communicating. Now I am available within a few minutes from anywhere on the planet. Ten years ago that would not have been possible,” says Timashev.
“Early on when we were building Aelita in late 90’s, we made tons of mistakes. There’s a saying in Silicon Valley–’the best product doesn’t always win’. In fact, the best product never wins. It’s not enough to have the best product. To win in this very competitive market one needs to have the best product, the best sales and the best marketing. And, the best people behind it all! We come a from a science background–the best science school–Moscow Institute of Science and Technology, but a major factor for our success was being in the right place at the right time,” says Timashev.
“The world has changed. Globalization is happening in a real way. Founders see no borders. We understand the U.S. culture and we also know Europe, so we have the advantage of knowing a European way of doing business as well. Sometimes it’s hard for U.S. businesses to grow outside of the U.S, but not for us. About 45% of our business comes from the U.S., another 45% from Europe and the balance from the rest of the world,” continues Timashev.
“I learned sales and marketing and my partner is a world class software developer,” says Timashev. Together they are pushing Veeam to be the next big winner in virtualization and cloud technology. “We’re operating in the right place, in the hottest market segment,” concludes Timashev.
Bruce H. Rogers is the co-author of the recently published book Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders now available on Amazon http://amzn.to/OETmMz