David Gurle has pioneered much of how we communicate today as well as the next generation of internet privacy tools and has formed a syndicate of global financial institutions.
David recently appeared as a guest on the DealMakers Podcast. During the exclusive interview, he shared his journey, the experience as well as lessons learned working directly with Bill Gates at Microsoft, raising hundreds of millions from top tier investors, and many more topics.
Navigating The World & Pulling It Into The New Era Of Tech
Having a French father and an English mother, and spending his childhood living in Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, David Gurle gained a global multicultural perspective early in life.
Gurle says, “I had the chance to first be street smart before being academic smart, and play, and strategize in winning those kinds of your small day-to-day battles. Growing up like that was an experience that taught me a lot about pragmatism, about understanding others, and about figuring out a way in which you build peace, and you move forward with a consensus.”
At 14, he arrived in Cannes in the south of France. He became a ski instructor and thought that was going to be his future. Then in the time of Atari and Commodore, the dinosaurs of computing, he found a passion for science and a passion for precision. He earned his Masters in computer science and telecommunication.
Then in 1995, after working for companies like Digital Equipment Corporation and France Telecom, he realized that everything was going to converge to Internet Protocol (IP). If you have used services like Skype, that’s because back in 1995 people began to be able to send voice through packet networks like IP. He began to get involved and even moved to Israel during the Iraq War.
In order to challenge himself, he decided to write a book on voice-over-IP. He started as he was traveling back and forth to Israel and other places around the world. He has gone on to publish at least five books so far.
To Microsoft & Beyond
David says he realized that in order for a voice-over-IP to become real, Microsoft had to embrace it because you had to embed that stack in Windows. And if it was part of Windows, then the revolution would start.
After stints at ETSI and VocalTec, he joined Microsoft, resigned the next day, but ultimately stayed on to help build this out. It took just a few weeks to meet Bill Gates. He ended up being the General Manager of Microsoft’s real-time communication products.
Once Microsoft adopted this new protocol, everybody knew that they had no choice but to stick to it. That basically became the enabler for pretty much everything from your mobile phones to Skype. David actually joined Skype too, until it was later acquired for $8 billion.
Organizing a Global Business Symphony
When he landed in Palo Alto he found a completely different culture. An extremely entrepreneurial one. That’s a very, very compelling set of people who are always challenging the status quo, and trying to make you realize that if you do nothing, you are worthless.
He caught the entrepreneur bug. Some of the people at his last employer even invested in his own company, and Perzo was born. It was a hit.
Pretty quickly, David had the chance to sell the company and cash out. Instead, he coordinated a consortium to buy the company. He took a pass on an exit that would have been financially life changing in exchange for the opportunity to do something even bigger, and stay a part of it. Symphony was born.
So far Symphony has raised $460 million. Investors include Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Standard Chartered, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Google, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Citi Group, HSBC, Wells Fargo.
Today he says, “I think every global financial institution is actually an investor, obviously also a customer of Symphony. What’s interesting is that they first were being a customer and then they became investors. So, that’s even better.”
David has a really interesting take on raising funds. To him, it is not just about money by any means. It’s more the mental challenge.
He says, “It really tests your thesis with sophisticated people who are putting money at work by taking a huge amount of risk, trusting you, trusting your plan, trusting the team, and trusting pretty much the ecosystem that you are building, and testing yourself each year against all these smart money people.“
He calls it a very, very rewarding test. From his perspective, if you graduate successfully with the right terms and the right valuation, that builds confidence. Then from there, you progressively get better at it. The team that you work with is also a very important part of the equation. Because they grow with you, and also, they obviously reap the benefits of the growth of the company.
In essence, as described by David, storytelling is everything in fundraising and he was able to master this. Being able to capture what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Present & The Future
Now Symphony has 300 people, a global company presence all the way from Palo Alto to Tokyo, 400 firms as customers, 400,000 users, $50 Million dollars in revenue, and is growing at about 40% a year.
Towards the future, David thinks the next phase is people starting to realize that security, privacy, and confidentiality are important attributes to the digital human that we are becoming. We haven’t had much of that privacy recently: Just Google “Facebook.” Though, it could get better if it’s up to David and Symphony.
He’s changing the way messages, documents and trades are sent, creating a whole new concept in security that many just don’t even realize they need yet.
How to Be Successful at Anything
If you’re aspiring to be an entrepreneur and to start a business, David says you should expect it to be a lonely road. That can even be true with friends, family, and teams around you. Be ready for it.
You bear the burden of responsibility and accountability at the end. Building a great team and organizing them is critical. Then, David says, “you shift your focus on how to become a better puzzle-solver as opposed to how to run better technology or a better business.“
David‘s opinion is that at the end, it is how people work with each other that matters more than what they do, and if you do it well, then you can be successful at anything.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Identifying big markets
- Raising capital from strategic investors
- Lessons learned from Bill Gates
- Innovating in regulated markets
- How to brainstorm crazy ideas
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This Article first appeared in forbes