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Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Andrew Filev: I was born in St. Petersburg in Russia. I got interested in computers pretty early. I spent a lot of my childhood playing with computers, building and programming, and designing. I also had a big interest in other sciences as well. I competed in different math, physics, and chemistry competitions.
Part of my heritage and the reason why I did a lot of that was that if I go back in time and compare my upbringing with what I see today for my kids, there was very little entertainment. Everything was pretty scarce. I spent my childhood summers mostly reading books and playing chess with my grandfather. I still am a very passionate reader. One story was one weekend, I was bored. I took a Chemistry textbook and read the whole textbook for the whole weekend. That covered me for the whole year.
Sramana Mitra: That’s really funny. Did you do all your schooling in Russia?
Andrew Filev: Yes. For high school, I went to a magnate school. It focused on physics and mathematics. It was one of the best, if not the best, schools in Russia. I grew up with kids who were much smarter than myself. I still remember that we had these stairs to the second and third floor. On the stairs, there was a big billboard with the names of students who won various international world competitions. I’m a very competitive kid. You grow up looking at this every day. It’s pretty inspirational. Another one, which I still remember vividly, is my first grade when I got to that school. A lot of people who got there had private tutoring. My first grade there was 2, which translates to F in America. I quickly became the star student in my class. The lesson to me is I should always be learning. It doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is how fast you’re progressing.
Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. You finished high school in Russia. What about college?
Andrew Filev: I studied Computer Science in one of the best schools there. To be honest, most of my time, I was working. I started a full-time job in between the first and second year of college. By the time I was in my second year, I was already running my own company. I started my business back then. Quite early on, I focused on my passion on business. I still wanted to graduate, but I did that as little as possible.
Sramana Mitra: The business that you started in college, what happened to that?
Andrew Filev: It actually grew very well. It was a consulting business. When you do your work well, you get paid. We had offices in multiple countries. We had more than 100 engineers working on more than 20 projects. It became the inspiration for Wrike. It grew so fast that I could see the vast difference in efficiency between when we started the company with five guys in one room versus right now, where we have offices in multiple countries.
I spent most of my time in emails, spreadsheets, and meetings trying to understand what was going on. Sometimes, I had no idea what was going on. I needed an answer right now. That’s when I started thinking hard about management work collaboration platform that would allow people regardless of whether they’re in the same room or are separated by an ocean, to run smoothly and perform fast. When you have a goal building a system that would support you versus having to do all this babysitting and administrative work.