Vince has built a $300 million a year security software company out of Prague, with a global customer base. Fantastic story, a must read!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Vince Steckler: I’m originally from LA but I don’t remember much of it. We left when I was two. I grew up in Orange County in a place that we lovingly call Garbage Grove. Its official name was Garden Grove. I was always a geek. I studied Mathematics and Computer Science in school. I finished two Bachelor’s in four years.
Sramana Mitra: Where was that?
Vince Steckler: University of California – Irvine. This was back in the late 70s. I graduated in 1980. I kicked around as a programmer for many years. I worked on, strangely enough, nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons safety. I eventually moved back to the East Coast, working mostly on government work. I started up for a government contractor a software resell business where we became the largest reseller of enterprise-wide software licenses to the Feds. For example, Oracle, Netscape, and Sybase. Pretty much, all the large licenses.
Sramana Mitra: You were based in Washington?
Vince Steckler: Close enough. I was in suburb Virginia. These were typically eight-figure deals. Average size was $15 million to $20 million. From that, I got a lot of experience in the more commercial side of software. Symantec recruited me to start up their government business.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?
Vince Steckler: I joined Symantec in 2000. From 1980 to 2000, I was doing government integration business. I switched over to Symantec in 2000. I started up the government business, which was non-existent. We took that from around $15 million to $150 million in two years. It’s what actually carried Symantec during the dot-com crash. Our government business was bigger than our commercial business.
It was not just federal, but state, local, education. It was a very successful thing. I got bored with that after about two and a half years and I got offered the chance to take over Asia. I had never been to Asia, but it sounded like a great opportunity. I said yes and moved to Singapore.
Sramana Mitra: Singapore is actually not so difficult.
Vince Steckler: I met my wife in Singapore. She’s Singaporean. We moved Symantec’s Asia business from being headquartered in Sydney. Since us Americans tend to be geographically challenged, they’d always thought Australia was part of Asia forgetting that from here to Australia is closer than from Australia to Beijing. Japan was actually Symantec’s second largest market in the world behind the US. It was very big. Asia regions tend to struggle since they’re so far away from headquarters. Controls are lax.