You hear a lot about young entrepreneurs identifying an unmet market need and learning how to build a fast-scaling company as they go.
For me, my path to entrepreneurship started out a little differently. Here’s the story of how I decided to stray away from the beaten path of my established career in academics and technology to take the leap into the entrepreneurial life.
“Starting a business wasn’t a direct, natural progression path for me.”
Growing up in Romania, I wasn’t surrounded by an environment where I was encouraged to take risks and push the norm. Instead, the societal expectation was to pick a safe, stable path and stick with it. For me, one such path was to become a university professor. I earned the usual trophy of degrees required to become a professor—a Masters, PhD, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Computer Science, from three different universities. With my academic accomplishments, two years as Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Politehnica University, and a few years of work experience in the technology industry on my CV, I was offered an academic position with SFU. This was it, wasn’t it? The exact direction I had wanted my path to lead to. Though, at the same time, I had another opportunity to join the newly created Mobile Gaming division at EA. Was I supposed to stay with what I knew and follow the stable, steady growth path I had worked so hard to create? Or, did I shake up what was already good and take a risk that excited me? It was daunting, but I chose EA. I was excited by the potential that mobile had on disrupting the gaming industry.
Since EA, I’ve spent years working with various technology companies (Microsoft, Blast Radius, and iQmetrix to name a few) to build and lead high-performing teams to build word-class digital solutions and winning software products. It may seem a little odd—an academic coming from what’s seen as a traditional, hypothesis and validation-driven background, entering into an industry that’s known for constantly changing, evolving, and, at times, being uncertain. Academia and business—two worlds that seem so vastly different but, what I’ve learned over the years, are more similar than they seem. Interestingly enough, both have taught me how to learn, focus, accept failure, be curious, and challenge the status quo.
“From all of this combined experience, in academia and technology, I began seeing an overlap of what I was truly passionate about and that was building.”
I loved building high-performing teams with individuals who had great potential and building products that added value to customers or internal teams, while leveraging the framework and approaches to problem solving that I had taken from my academic background. During this time of self reflection and discovery, which started while I was the Director of PMO at iQmetrix, came a moment when I saw the limitation of not being able to apply everything that I had learned throughout my experiences to build an organization the way I wanted to deliver the most value. This is where the thought of starting my own business began trickling into my mind. Once again, I was deciding between continuing on the established career path I had created, or changing directions and stepping onto an unfamiliar route.
“As scary as it was, I chose to start something completely new and build a company from scratch.”
It was daunting. Leaving a steady career path I had spent years building in the technology world wasn’t that simple. In addition to the usual commitments to support the family, there was the risk associated with investing a significant amount of time and personal resources in starting something from the ground up. Knowing that this was a new area for me, and that the failure rate for most startups is high, this wasn’t an easy decision, nor did I know if it was the right decision. What I did know was that in order to develop myself further and faster, a startup was the next challenge I wanted to take on. It wasn’t easy. My discovery process of starting a company was riddled with mistakes and there was always the temptation to go back and work for a company within a capacity I was familiar and comfortable with. But ultimately, as I had learned from my degrees, nothing enduring and meaningful gets built easily or overnight—it requires commitment, focus, grit, and an open mind to keep learning.
I’ve spent years now balancing my interests and learnings from the academic and technology worlds and, essentially, that’s what led to the inception of Aequilibrium. Aequilibrium is built upon the balance of user experience and technology, craftsmanship and speed, thoughtfulness and agility. All of which, I’ve found, are key in creating winning products and organizations.
I may not be the archetypical tech startup CEO and my path to starting my own business has been unconventional to say the least, but it’s been filled with self reflection, discovery, challenge, and growth. From academia to entrepreneurship, I’m excited to be sharing my journey with you and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me next.