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From $3 a Day to Successful Entrepreneur: Tomas Gorny, CEO of Nextiva (Part 1)

Posted on Sunday, Jun 29th 2014

I see so many people making excuses for why they are not successful – discrimination, fate, luck, all external factors. Read Tomas Gorny’s story. I hope it will give you some perspective and some attitude adjustment that hopefully propels success.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with your background. Tell us where you are from, where you were born and raised, and in what kind of background.

Tomas Gorny: I was born originally in Poland. I lived there for 14 years. It was a communist country. Poland didn’t have middle-class families at that point in time because everybody was relatively poor. At the age of 14, I moved to Germany where I spent another six years. Then at the age of 20, I moved to the United States.

Both my parents were very hard-working. I had a brother nine years younger than me. My parents were very conservative and not very business-minded. Very early on, for no apparent reason to me, I hustled different things good and bad. That’s how I grew up. I grew up simply and I grew up in a country that, back then, had two TV channels that were in black and white. Early on, I started mentioning that I wanted to go to America. I don’t know much about your background but from what I’ve read, you are from India.

Sramana Mitra: I also grew up in this two-channel world in India.

Tomas Gorny: They looked at themselves and their first reaction was, “We don’t know anybody in America. What are you talking about?” It wasn’t a conscious choice. My mom always reminds me that I was saying this as early as six or seven years old. When I was growing up, I started to become more of an organizer. I didn’t ever feel pity for myself. I never felt like I was living in this poor country and that I’m doing terrible.

When I was seven, I did visit Germany. The contrast between Poland and Germany especially back then was probably like ancient India and the US. The contrast is extreme. You’re coming from that Eastern bloc – very much occupied by Russia – to this Western European country where everything is there. They even had escalators and I said, “This is cool.” I was riding escalators and elevators up and down when I visited Germany. That was an attraction for me. I got back and thought I liked Germany. When I was 14, I somehow convinced my parents that I should move to Germany because there would be better opportunities there than living in Poland. There were limited growth opportunities for me in school and business.

I wasn’t a really good student either. Being left behind in the class is a little bit different than in the US. It would be a big shame for the family. I always made it from grade to grade but just barely, because I didn’t give a care if I study or not. I had alternative motivations and other hobbies. I convinced my parents to move to Germany and they agreed. Then things clicked for me, “I’m in this country and I don’t speak their language. I should learn very quickly.” Now I have the opportunity to do significantly better. I don’t need to hustle but I can actually learn. I went to a business college. It was a college that was limited to only 90 students a year. I got in because I bribed the principal of the college with soccer tickets. I was the second best student in the entire class. I didn’t like the teacher in my second year, so I lost interest. That was exactly the time when I started my first business.

This segment is part 1 in the series : From $3 a Day to Successful Entrepreneur: Tomas Gorny, CEO of Nextiva
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