Soon after that we moved to Switzerland and started our MSc. degree at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. While we personally were just students, the company started to have a life of its own in a way. Paying taxes and salaries and keeping your accounts straight can be a burden, but then it also grants you quite a few rights. You become trust-worthy.
In a way, that was juxtaposed with our life in Lausanne - while we were trying to convince the Swiss that we are trust-worthy to rent a place, the company itself was gaining more and more ground as a responsible, mature institution. While paying high rent in Lausanne, the idea that the company could purchase a place of its own in Romania became more and more emphatic.
So that’s where October 2012 found Alex and I. On the one hand we can choose any place in the world, but that means we need to invest time to build trust in the new context, or we can return to Romania and take advantage of the trust we already built in the past years of running our company here.
The advantages were clear - trust, family and language. The disadvantage was popular belief - the trend these days is to leave the country, rather then return to it, at least among Romanians. But even this con turns to be a positive thing when you put it in economic terms: given low demand and constant supply, the price goes down. After couple of sleepless nights, we decided to give Romania a shot. What is the worst case scenario? We find it completely unbearable and then we pack our bags and go back to the West. What is the best case scenario? We find a beautiful house for a lower price and we go on with our coding, closer to our families.
In the end, we ended up with the expected value of the two outcomes. We found a beautiful house, but not for as low of a price as we initially planned for and not right away.
This time a year ago, we were in Lausanne, Switzerland, under a lot of pressure to finish all requirements for our MSc. degree and at the same time we had to make an important decision. Where next?
We had all the choices international students have these days: pick any country you want and chances are you’ll find a well paid job within days in the IT industry. But one choice in particular made more sense than the others. Romania. Our home country. And the struggle began.
Yesterday we signed a long term partnership with this country (more on that later), so it’s probably a good idea to look back and identify the turning points that lead to that decision.
Looking back, the seed of this choice was actually thrown on someone else’s path. Had I not met this person, my choices would have been probably much much different and I would be in a completely different situation.
About a year before we met, Alex wrote the first lines of code of what is now Golf Genius Software, the American golf software startup we have been working for 5 years now. The relationship, collaboration and trust grew throughout the years. I met Alex and joined the company couple of months later. Both I and him declined offers from Google and Apple to build this company. Through Golf Genius Software, apart from specializing in web technologies, we learned how important it is to listen to customer feedback and to communicate with them. We are now the official scoring system for the Professional Golfers’ Association of Canada and that makes us really really proud.
Since we were still students in Germany and then in Switzerland while developing Golf Genius Software, we needed a legal framework to be paid and pay taxes. That’s when Alex and I founded Take Off Labs in Romania. While reading about it, there were quite a few advantages to setup a limited liability company in Romania. In 2011, there was a program available to promote entrepreneurship amongst young people who want to open their first business: limited liability companies for debutants (SRL-D). The costs for incorporation were close to zero and we also had (and still have) some tax benefits. In terms of taxes, the 16% flat profit tax was low in comparison to other countries. But ultimately, language and communication made all the difference. As we weren’t speaking fluent German, nor French, we were trapped in the bubble of our university campuses, thus limiting our access to the know-how we needed.
In June 2011, Take Off Labs was born, a Romanian company.