Romanian programmer turns ‘crazy idea’ into US$6bil fortune

Daniel Dines struggled with life in the US after leaving his native Romania in 2001 to work for Microsoft Corp, but the experience created the foundation for one of the world’s biggest fortunes.

The software programmer returned to his homeland in 2005 to start the business known today as UiPath Inc, an automation-software maker that made its debut on April 21 after raising US$1.3bil (RM5.34bil) in a US initial public offering. Dines, the company’s chief executive officer, controls a stake worth more than US$6bil (RM24.66bil), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“For someone coming in his 20s to the US from Europe, it was a big challenge for me to adapt to the States, even though professionally speaking my experience at Microsoft was great,” Dines, 49, said last year at the annual Montgomery Summit technology conference.

As a result, “I had a crazy idea to go back and start a company,” he added.

‘Hidden advantage’

UiPath, which was valued at US$7bil (RM28.77bil) in 2019, is now worth about US$30bil (RM123.33bil) after its shares priced at US$56 (RM230), above a marketed range. That puts Dines among the world’s 500 richest, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A company representative declined to comment.

“Starting a company from a small place with no market has a hidden advantage: It forces you to think globally from day one,” Dines said in a letter included in UiPath’s registry filings for its listing. He had already indicated his company was preparing for a listing back in early 2020.

The company’s software performs many low-skilled tasks that businesses once outsourced to humans in cheaper-wage countries such as India or the Philippines. Known as robotic process automation technology, the technique takes over repetitive, routine data-entry and processing tasks. Some of its software has been used in hospitals and health-care projects to help with Covid-19, according to UiPath’s website.

Dines, who studied math and computer science at the University of Bucharest, grew up in Romania while the nation was still ruled by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. He founded the company as DeskOver and renamed it UiPath in 2015, running it out of an apartment in the capital before relocating its headquarters to New York in 2017.

Funding round

UiPath raised US$750mil (RM3.08bil) in a funding round led by Alkeon Capital and Coatue that gave it a value of US$35bil (RM143.88bil), according to a February statement. Altimeter Capital Management, Dragoneer, IVP, Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global Management and funds advised by T. Rowe Price Associates also chimed in.

Dines owns all of the company’s Class B shares, which carry 35 votes apiece compared with one each for Class A stock. He will continue to control UiPath after the IPO and sold shares in the offering worth about US$75mil (RM308.32mil), according to filings.

“You have to become a public company at some point to allow your employees to get more liquidity, give them stock options,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg last year. “We’re almost there.” – Bloomberg