When Daniel Dines tells his friend Andrey Khusid, in all seriousness, “The best treat we had was our foolishness,” it can sound like a riddle. But for Daniel, it was literal: The founder and CEO of RPA giant UiPath picked a particular moment to hypergrow his company, a gamble that was exceedingly expensive.

“You went really aggressively in your go-to-market,” replies Andrey, the co-founder and CEO of Miro, the suddenly ubiquitous visual collaboration platform valued at $17.5 billion. He knows what aggressive looks like. And still, he manages to understate the move he watched Daniel attempt starting in 2018.

Daniel realized UiPath was in third place in the budding RPA (Robotic Process Automation) market — and figured the task-automation business would soon become a winner-take-most sector. So he declared to his board and his sales team that the time was right. They strapped in and in a year’s time rocketed to $145 million.

“The next year, when I tried to do the same, it was a freaking disaster,” Daniel tells Andrey. UiPath catapulted to a stunning $336 million … while blowing through every last one of those dollars do so.

But his ‘foolishness’ had shifted the battlefield. His competitors had to burn a fortune chasing him. Then, 2020 happened. He downshifted, became cash flow neutral, and still grew 127 percent during that first Covid-stricken year. UiPath went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2021 valuing the company at a staggering $36bn market cap.

The outsider’s guide to self-realization

These two founders are friends and advisors, connected by the shared triumph of having taken long roads to becoming big in America— home to half the world’s software spending.

Daniel knew from a young age, growing up in the Romanian town of Onești, that he’d be an entrepreneur. During the collapse of communism he made a hustle of currency arbitrage and played competitive bridge. At university he taught himself to code, and in 2000 moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft, where he never once met a customer.

Five years of rain wore on him, and he headed back to Bucharest to launch his own venture. Gradually he learned how to listen to clients, to tailor his products: largely, tools that can understand documents and bring order to unstructured data, freeing humans from menial input tasks. “You need to build the muscle to have empathy for customers,” he says. Solve their problems and everything falls into place.

Andrey, by contrast, was toiling at a creative agency when he began imagining a job where he didn’t have to reinvent his work every day from scratch. He started building his virtual whiteboard, a SaaS product now in use by 50 million people and practically the entire Fortune 500.

For years his company did business as RealtimeBoard — not the most ‘sexy’ handle, Andrey admits. But in 2012, when they shipped from a single office in central Asia that domain name was what they could afford. It cost $10.

“We build the canvas, and we want everyone to realize their potential by interacting with the canvas,” he says. “I want us to realize ourselves.”

Humility feeds boldness

Daniel became Romania’s most renowned entrepreneur by figuring out when to flex and when to yield. When he set out to define the UiPath corporate culture, he struggled until he had an epiphany to distill it down to a single word.

He settled on the unlikely term “humility,” and admits it’s less a descriptor of the company and more of a goal; an antidote to the arrogance he saw from the competitors that could have dominated the RPA market if only they’d taken his scrappy startup seriously.

“Humility gives you clarity,” he says, in the same breath he compares the exponential spread of UiPath to Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde. “Capacity to change your mind. Move fast. Change your decisions fast.” Humility, to Daniel, is what allows him to interpret new information in bold ways.

It’s a principle that Andrey co-signs. When he hires at Miro, a candidate’s experience comes second to chemistry and flexibility — approaching the job with the beginner’s mindset.

Miro’s mission is to empower teams to create the next big thing. But of course the next thing is always an unknown. And Andrey’s personal journey as a leader is to figure out how other people come to know him. “I learned that there is your intent and message,” he says. “Then there is how others perceive it. And a reality-distortion field in the middle.”

Pulling down those barriers is what his company does at scale. Miro hyperscaled because tens of millions of people around the world shared in the frustration Andrey felt when he tried to show his work to clients in faraway places. The man from the vast center of Earth’s largest land mass built a better way to connect to anyone, anywhere.  

Now he’s an expert in how teams interact. Every team has a persona, he says. You must optimize for the loops each team creates. If you can harness those unique traits — and get crazy with them, even — the world is yours for the taking.