Daniel Dines is the billionaire founder of UiPath, a tech company that codes and trains software robots to automate processes.
Today, his net worth amounts to $5.5 billion (likely to increase since automation is growing fast).
Read on to find out how this Romanian entrepreneur built the biggest company in Romania which made him the richest man in the country.
Dines was born in a small village in Romania in January 1972, the son of an engineer, and a teacher. He was raised by his grandparents.
He spent his childhood playing football and hanging out with the other kids. It was the happiest time of his life.
He fell in love with reading when he became a teenager and even wrote a novel.
Unfortunately, writing wasn’t the best of his abilities. He gave it up and focused on math instead.
He graduated in 1990 and entered university to study math and computer science.
It was so boring he didn’t attend any classes. He learned how to play bridge and earned money in tournaments instead.
He obtained his degree by just showing up for the exams.
Learning a Skill
In the mid-90s, one of his first jobs was to run a job listing business. He learned one day that programmers in Bucharest were making a substantive amount of money doing US-outsourced coding jobs.
He borrowed a book about C++ (a computer language) from the library and taught himself how to code using his friend’s computer while he slept.
At 29, he was good enough that Microsoft hired him and got him to move to Seattle.
It wasn’t easy. Daniel read English, but he didn’t speak it. He understood 50% of what was said in meetings and struggled to answer the questions.
It took him several months before finding out that a “folder” was more than just a Microsoft icon.
After three years in Seattle, Dines longed to go home. He had no desire to stay in the US forever like most Eastern European immigrants. His life had been good in Romania.
However, he feared failing to find a job in an interesting company in Bucharest.
Half of the students he had studied with had left the country. Romania wasn’t exactly a place that attracted smart people.
So he waited two more years, then came up with a solution: starting his own business.
Before he left, Daniel got the idea to create a software outsourcing company.
He secured a few contracts, went back to Romania, and started DeskOver.
That period was one of the most challenging times of his life. Daniel had no money, worked out of a small apartment, and struggled to pay his employees.
Working with his developers, he noticed the repetitive boring tasks they had to handle, so he experimented with building software to automate them.
But that wasn’t the priority.
DeskOver struggled until 2011 when it lost its biggest outsourcing client.
So Dines, exhausted, made a bold move.
He gave up outsourcing and committed to building automation software instead.
He saw the end of the tunnel when, in 2012, the Indian company Blue Prism, inventor of the term RPA (robotic process automation) and one of Dines’ customers at the time, showed him how they were training Dines’ software to automate data entry.
“This is it”, thought Daniel.
His intuition had been right. In 2014, DeskOver reached $500k in yearly revenue, an impressive sum for a Romanian company.
Progress has been exponential since.
UiPath builds robots that automate mundane tasks. It pulls data from different parts of a system, assembles it together, and does whatever it has been instructed to do afterward.
The robot is efficient, but it’s not exactly pure AI that reacts on its own when it encounters a problem it wasn’t programmed for.
However, the bots are designed to be easily maintained when confronted with a new task or environment. This makes RPA an efficient solution that more costly automation practices can’t rival with.
Daniel rebranded DeskOver into UiPath in 2015 and shifted the business model to SaaS. He then raised $1.6 million on his first round to fuel growth.
“After 10 years of no luck, we had all the luck in the world”, he said.
UiPath’s sales model stimulated growth like nothing else before.
Instead of competing with big consulting firms that he was rendering obsolete, Daniel leveraged them. He equipped consultants with bots if they promised to maintain and update them.
It was a seductive offer. UiPath paid up to 80% in commission and taught free classes on how to deal with the bots.
Consulting companies became UiPath’s indirect sales representatives.
As a result, Dines didn’t meet any of his customers face-to-face for two years. He closed deals over the phone.
Rumors quickly spread and the biggest VCs in the world came knocking. One of them was Masayoshi Son’s Vision Fund.
Son wanted to invest one billion into UiPath, but Dines only let him invest $300 million. Dines wanted to welcome other investors, thinking that the more people he could seek advice and knowledge from, the better it was.
When competitor Blue Prism went public, Daniel understood that he had to go bigger if he hoped not to get crushed by the competition.
He opened offices with sales executives around the world and moved the headquarters (and his family) to New York in 2017.
Nonetheless, he still spends 1/3 of his time in Romania, which has the biggest offices and welcomes 25% of all company employees.
With 3000 employees, the company became too big to remain private.
When UiPath went public on the 21st of April 2021, VCs made a lot of money.
Daniel Dines’ main edge is his desire to learn.
He never stopped reading since he was a teenager. The first thing he does in the morning is read — and he reads pretty much anything, from history books to sales books. He only shows up at the office at 11h00.
When he was looking for a first seed investment in 2014, Dines didn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer, so he learned all of the legal terms by himself.
According to him, the best thing money can buy isn’t goods, but knowledge. Money enables you to get the best doctors, the best coaches, the best professors, and the best advice from the best people.
Otherwise, he doesn’t care about money. He considers it futile to spend 10 years of your life grinding for the sole purpose of affording “better vacations”.
The only “lavish” spending he assumes is his Greek private chef (he’s admitted being lazy and only doing the things he wants to do at UiPath).
Apart from that, he enjoys wearing inexpensive clothes and just lives his life how he used to at the beginning.
He is not in UiPath for the cash. He’s in there for the mission. While Bill Gates wanted to put a computer in every home, Daniel Dines wants to build an AI robot “for every person on the planet” — the company’s mission.
As he says, no one knows what UiPath will look like in 6 months since they are the first to do what they’re doing.
Their customers are Google, Microsoft, Toyota, and a handful of other big companies. Their robots already automated millions of hours of work, which freed consultants and let them focus on more creative tasks.
No need to be a genius to see that it’s the future.
The company has a bright perspective ahead.
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Picture credits: UiPath