My Week: Alex Pinchev of Acronis

The Russian serial entrepreneur and software firm boss on his stint in the Israeli military, building billion-dollar-turnover technology businesses, and why his board calls him, 'Mr Not Enough'.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I have been talking since six o’clock in the morning so my voice is almost gone. I’m in the middle of a two-week trip, visiting six countries, meeting many of my Acronis staff, partners and colleagues. I think it’s very important to check in with the guys occasionally and remind them that if they need me, I’m here.

I believe in flat hierarchical structures, not top-down management. I think it’s something I picked up in the Israeli military. In the army there, no one calls you ‘Sir’, or ‘General’. I was a Major but everyone just called me Alex.

I was drafted into the Israeli army after my family emigrated to Israel from Russia 40 years ago. The Soviet Union was not a nice place to be, and we were the last of my family to move. I had a Master’s degree in computer science so I was recruited into the elite computers unit. I am not allowed to tell you anything about my time there, except that it was one of the best, most innovative technology schools in the world. Why do you think that the second-largest number of software start-ups come out of Israel? Or that the second-highest number of Nasdaq-listed technology companies are also Israeli?

I was in the army for six years and then I decided I wanted to explore the new world. I went to Germany, and planned to stay for two years but I was there for 15. I started four of my companies there. Then, in 2003, the then CEO of US software company Red Hat [the open-source Linux operating system pioneer] called me. I had been working in the enterprise space all my life, and Red Hat wanted to make the leap from a consumer-facing firm to big business. I joined when there were 300 people and a sub-$70m turnover. Nine years later when I left, it was turning over $1.2bn, generating a lot of cash, with all enterprise clients.

It was not an easy decision to leave but building companies is what I love, what I’m good at. I had been on the board of backup software and recovery business Acronis sine late 2010 and I loved the space. My first ever business had been in data storage too.

When I came on board as Acronis’ CEO, I made a lot of changes. I concentrated on enterprise clients, acquired a very exciting software company, GroupLogic, and changed the culture at the business.

Back at Red Hat, my guys gave me the nickname ‘Mr Not Enough’ because I am never happy with results. My management team called themselves the ‘Not Enough Club’. You can’t be satisfied with success; that is very dangerous. If you have a successful quarter, celebrate for a few minutes till midnight and then the next quarter starts.

This is particularly true of the IT industry. It used to be that technology was changing every second. Now, it is changing in the nanoseconds. The innovation never stops. Still, at least it gives me something to worry about. If you are a CEO, and you are not worried and sleeping through the night, something is wrong…

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