Sramana Mitra: Let’s do this a bit chronologically. You finished college in what year?
Andrew Filev: A little bit more than a decade ago, I think.
Sramana Mitra: The Internet was in full swing in 2005. You were still in Russia at this point?
Andrew Filev: Yes, I was still in Russia. I was eager to move. I was passionate about moving to Silicon Valley since my teenage years, long before I started my own company. I actually delayed it because I couldn’t’ just leave the company in its infancy. I’m not the kind of guy who drops things midway. The fact that I had a company delayed it a little bit, but since my teenage years, I was passionate about moving to the Valley.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you move?
Andrew Filev: I moved around 2006.
Sramana Mitra: What brought you here? What did you do?
Andrew Filev: The first inspiration came from a series of articles in a science magazine about a Russian immigrant to the Valley. He talked about the good and bad things. It just resonated with me because I was super passionate about technology. It seemed to me that this was the place to be. I’ve traveled the world and I’ve been to many different countries and places. I always gravitated towards the Valley because there are so many people to discuss your ideas with.
Another thing is based on the pattern recognition. If you look at the super successful tech companies, most of them are based in the Valley. I thought there has to be a good reason. To me, there is a difference between invention and innovation. Invention is your clever idea. Innovation is when the whole world is using your idea. When it comes to innovation, the Valley is leaps and bounds ahead of other places. I’m oftentimes a try-before-you-buy kind of person. For me, it was pretty easy. I took my laptop. I took a duffel bag and flew in.
Sramana Mitra: You did not come here with a job. You just came here.
Andrew Filev: Yes. First of all, my first company could sponsor me and Wrike was in the making. From the perspective of having something to do, I was all set. I felt I could run the business from any place of the world, but the most exciting and fun place would be the Valley.
Sramana Mitra: You said that Wrike was always in the making. What was going on?
Andrew Filev: My thoughts started to crystallize. It was very early days where I don’t remember if the cloud was out there already, but you could definitely see that it’s the future. That was one thing. Another was I was very early on exposed to the digital transformation of the software industry. When I started, I looked at other companies and they were running on this long release cycles of two to three years. I got exposure to teams and processes very early. I was super excited about the value of collaboration and the new way of delivering software projects where you could move so much faster. I saw the transformative effect of both processes and technology and how it could transform and accelerate a whole industry.
I thought that this similar digital transformation would happen to a lot of other industries. Last but not the least, I was already a firm believer that work management and collaboration will move out of spreadsheets. It was too cumbersome. When you need something done, you need to call in a meeting. It’s super complicated in distributed teams. I was really passionate about figuring out a good way to solve those problems. I felt that the whole world will benefit from it.