Meet the CxO – Mihai “Mike” Drăghici, CEO Techsource
Mihai ”Mike” Drăghici is a serial entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience turning ideas into products and launching startups in several countries including USA, Canada, Romania, Mexico, and India. He has founded over 15 companies that range from sole proprietorship in smaller local markets to several limited liability partnerships and corporations doing business across the United States. He has two provisional patents on proprietary technology for a mobile dispatching terminal used in taxis, a lottery gaming system for non-banked markets and a non-provisional application submitted for a luggage tracking device. He also has filed a US trademark on “PayByFace” (a face recognition payment processing platform). He is also a full stack senior software engineer and system architect with many years of experience working on enterprise cloud platforms, mobile apps, databases, web services, front office applications, business intelligence systems, ML/AI & data science, scalability and performance frameworks.
Tell us a few words about how your company started.
I recently returned to Bucharest in February 2018 after living in the USA for the past 35 years. I’ve been working in the technology sector as a software engineer and serial entrepreneur for over 18 years and it was very logical to start my first company in Bucharest as a technology service provider. Tech Source Consulting SRL will be the technology base and IT consulting for all the other incubator companies I have already started building here in Bucharest which focuses on disruptive fintech solutions, legal system software, enterprise risk management, entertainment networks, advertising networks, robotics & automation, B2C and B2B marketplace applications.
What drives you each day?
I love turning ideas into real products and services that solve problems, are disruptive and innovative. I’ve launched startups in several countries including Mexico, Canada, USA, India and now Romania. I enjoy all the innovation challenges and process inefficiencies that a new market presents when legacy systems can’t keep up with trends in society, human resource demand and infrastructure scalability problems. There will always be problems to solve and as an engineer this keeps me going every day.
What do you believe are the three main accomplishments that brought you here today?
In winter of 2017 I decided to sell all my property in Seattle, Washington and find a new investment venture for 2018. I closed the deal on my 40-acre property in western Washington and sold my sailboat and three cars. I also quit my job as senior engineer for Vertafore and was at a point where I could do anything I want next. I decided to buy a plane ticket to Bucharest and the rest is history…
What do you believe are the three main failures that brought you here today?
Going back to the situation in Seattle, the primary failure that guided me to come to Bucharest was that Vertafore decided to move their headquarters to Denver, Colorado and so over 80% of the Seattle headquarter staff was laid off, asked to relocate, or be part of the elite few who got to remain there. I was part of the elite few who was asked to stay behind but I wasn’t ok with the situation and therefore I decided to resign. The second failure which guided me to choose a new adventure in Europe was that my investment property to build an off-grid resort and vineyard in western Washington was becoming too challenging and too expensive to keep building and I decided to list it for sale and it sold right in time. The third failure which motivated me to fly to Romania was a strategic partnership with a VC firm that didn’t have sales traction in the initial phases while I was advising them on their enterprise technology solutions and architecture strategy for their portfolio companies and product offerings, so I decided to end that joint venture and look for something new.
Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?
Yes, absolutely. I like watching movies with my girlfriend and going on road trips on the weekends. We travel every chance we get, and we’ve already been to Italy this summer and she has shown me many places throughout Romania including the mountainside and the coastline and several castles and lots of sightseeing. But because I love what I do and have so many different projects and startups even work is not really work. There is a saying that when you love what you do it’s not work anymore, and it becomes fun!
Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?
I actually don’t read very much surprisingly. Since I write code as a programmer I try to stay away from “words” when I close my laptop at the end of the day. I prefer to be outdoors and gain knowledge purely from real experiences and from deep conversations with other smart people.
Education – classic or alternative? Both?
I didn’t obtain a degree and dropped out of school because my career took off at an early age and I was already learning more at my job than they were teaching in school and I was getting paid for it. So, it was an easy choice to choose “work experience” over school and I’m grateful I made this choice, especially because I’ve followed a serial entrepreneurship path in life and I believe having the freedom to explore ideas without judgments or direction and learning from multiple failures is perhaps a more advantageous and a more robust “educational system” in the long run.
Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on.
I’ve had many clients in the past 18+ years since I’ve been doing business in the tech space in several countries around the world.
Name a few of the biggest clients you work for.
My most noteworthy client here in Bucharest right now is Société General – European Business Services and I was selected to be part of their Catalyst 3.0 Accelerator program this year.
Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.
I’d like to start with the most beloved project – PaybyFace. Its meant to make electronic payments with biometric means, in this case using facial recognition through a simple selfie. Although worldwide technology has allowed this for several years, such projects have not been outlined in Romania for the time being. From the start, PaybyFace was an application designed to scale and be deployed in many industries. For example, in retail, I even started testing in beta, how a customer enters the supermarket, makes his purchases and then stays at a home where he can pay for himself, only through a selfie, then at that special house to receive discounts for making the payment in this way.
Another project ARTFIRST, which made me be creative and innovative in the same time. The purpose is to build a community of highly creative people and sets the stage for everyone to experience an art exhibit of original paintings, sculptures, photography and poetry alongside the artists who created them. ARTFIRST events happen in the capital city of Bucharest, Romania renown for its European and International art museums and art galleries that attract visitors from across the country and tourists from around the World. The appetite for art in the city is prevalent all the way from the endless graffiti in the streets to the National Art Museum’s one-of-a-kind collections and famous masterpieces. ARTFIRST gives artists a unique opportunity to shine in the spotlight at our art exhibits in different locations around town on the first Saturday of every month. Artists get a chance to stand by their creations, meet the audience face to face and talk to potential buyers during the silent auction events.
What was the biggest struggle?
Selling off my majority shares in a digital marketing company I built over three years back in 2011 in Seattle to my business partners.
What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise?
I have several companies and each one is unique with the solution, services and product offerings. I typically launch incubator startups in the disruptive tech space and I try to provide cutting-edge innovation to solve real problems. This strategy and vision usually put me ahead of my competition and sometimes I have no competition at all depending on the market I choose to launch in.
How are your products innovative?
I solve complex problems using a combination of existing, well-defined solutions from other sub-problems in order to achieve real innovation with a simple and easy to understand methodological process for the consumer/client.
Who is the biggest innovator for you?
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?
Don’t be afraid to fail, learn to negotiate and get what you want, hire a good accountant and a good attorney.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
Raise seed funding for any one of my Bucharest incubator startups.
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
Build a unicorn company in Romania. (billion valuation)
Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?
The people in the group I met with are in the same business mindset as me and their openness and willingness to help you succeed is priceless. Choosing your partners in business is critical to the level of success that you can achieve and my choice with Smart Alliance aligns with my company goals and my vision & culture.
How does it benefit you?
To gain more exposure in the local and global marketplace and to build my network of influence to achieve the goals I’ve set for my company growth trajectory into 2019 and beyond.
How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?
A mutual beneficial relationship.
How do you see the evolution of the cluster?
This group of smart individuals and the intellectual property they all bring creates a true potential for future growth and builds a force to break our limiting barriers, expedite solutions for all our customers, and deliver the highest quality products and services in the marketplace with the constant changing landscape from technology impacting our society year after year.