Zack Rinat is currently CEO and founder of Model N. He was a member of the 1995 founding team of NetDynamics.
SM: Let’s start by going over where you grew up, where you were educated, and your early background.
ZR: I am an Israeli, born and raised in Israel. Like every Israeli I had to serve in the military, so I spent four years in the service. I was in the Special Forces.
SM: Did you have to fight?
ZR: I was a company commander, and yes we had to do some crazy things. I was in the military for four years and then I felt I needed to regain my youth so I went backpacking throughout South America for a whole year. I came back to Israel and got the degree from the Israel campus of IIT.
ZR: Yes. I received my degree in Computer Science after which I worked for a couple of years designing software for aircraft navigation systems and missiles. I came to the United States in 1988 to attend Harvard business school.
SM: Why on earth did you do that?
ZR: When I graduated, I actually signed up to come to the United States to get a PhD in computer science. I was accepted and then changed my mind and decided to work before pursuing a graduate degree. I worked on a very interesting project in Israel. They were building an advanced jet fighter, their most advanced thus far. It was just an incredible project. I worked on the flight control computer which was a critical component of the project, and it was 24×7 for 14 or 15 months. The project was then stopped for funding issues which is another interesting story. The US Government was funding this project, and they had a lot of pressure from the aviation and defense industry to cancel this project and not to create a competitor for General Dynamics. However, they could not just cut the funds because it would create a lot of issues, so they told the Israeli government they could use the funds for the fighter or for something else.
This became a big debate in Israel – should they build a new jet fighter or not, and ultimately the project was canceled. I felt really bad about this because it was a great project, and we did a great job only to see that someone from the top cut it. That is the point that I made the decision that I was not going to let other people control my destiny.
SM: You wanted to be at the top.
ZR: It is not even about being at the top as much as it is the ability to control your own future and destiny. You do not have to let any other contextual factor impact you. Because of this I decided to pursue a different course. I stopped going after the PhD in computer science and decided to go to business school. Later, I came to the valley in 1990. I worked for five years at Silicon Graphics in a variety of operations in manufacturing and marketing positions. In 1995 I co-founded NetDynamics.