Vlad is the CEO and founder of RingCentral, which provides VoIP, hosted PBX, voicemail, fax and Internet call waiting services through platforms such as RingCentral.com, Pagoo.com and Buzme.com. Prior to RingCentral he was the founder and CEO of Ring Zero, a provider of desktop voice and fax communication software for the OEM market. He graduated magna cum laude from San Francisco State with degrees in computer science.
SM: Vlad, where do you come from?
VS: I was born in Odessa, which used to be part of Russia and is now part of Ukraine. I came to the Bay Area to finish high school.
SM: What made you come here to finish high school?
VS: I came with my parents. My whole family immigrated. It was the thing to do in those days, and we were lucky to get out. We are happy that it took place.
SM: Was there anything you brought with you from your Russian childhood that is relevant to your story today?
VS: I came to a new country with no money and no friends, and I could not speak the language. I had to learn to fend for myself. I learned I could survive and make it. This is the greatest country in the world, I really do believe that. My story is proof of that.
SM: So let’s get back to your story. You did high school in the Bay Area. What comes next?
VS: More specifically, the educational system in the Soviet Union was pretty good and I was a pretty good student. That certainly helped with the core science subjects. Math and science were easier for me than for the average American student. That carried me only so far. The rest you have to take for what it is, and when it comes down to it America is the land of opportunity.
SM: Where did you go to college?
VS: I just went to San Francisco State.
SM: Had you learned English by this time?
VS: I was 14 when we came in, so I was doing OK. I was able to get my degree early because of the way some of the education converted from the Russian system to ours. Somehow I saved two years and was able to graduate from high school at the age of 16. I went to San Francisco State because my parents didn’t even want me to travel across the bridge to Berkeley. It worked out. Initially I went there for pre-med but soon realized that it was not for me.
I took a computer class, and it all seemed very natural and native to me somehow. Things more or less progressed from there. After graduation I worked for a year and then went back for my masters in computer science. Computer science was not as formal of a degree then as it is now, but my degree actually was in computer science. It was all about programming languages. My core curriculum was a lot of math, calculus and statistics.
SM: What happened after you finished your masters?
VS: I actually got in the car and went looking for a job. I was down in Santa Clara and saw a sign in a window which said “programmers wanted”. I didn’t know anyone. My father was a mechanical engineer and my mother was an electrical engineer. They had nothing to do with computers so I had no connections. I ended up working for a small company called Corporate Data Sciences, so I guess a sign in the window worked.