Papirov Has Everyone Looking at Paraleap
Which is more perilous: fleeing the Soviet Union before the fall of communism or starting up a cloud-computing business with no venture funding, one employee, and a non-traditional sales and marketing strategy based on social media blogs, Internet feeds and word of mouth?
Igor Papirov has done both and lived to tell about it, but there are more perilous waters to ply before he reaches a safe -- and hopefully profitable -- haven. Papirov, the founder in chief of Paraleap Technologies (he spurns titles), is undeterred by the challenges ahead and actually seems to welcome them. After being a hired gun for the past 15 years, he's now a one-man shop on a mission.
Like his business plan, the mission that brought him to the United States from a little town in the Ukraine named Chernovtsy was anything but conventional. Life in the former Soviet Union was discriminatory toward Jews, and Papirov's parents yearned for the unadorned opportunities they envisioned in the United States. Rather than wait for the USSR to implode, the Papirov family packed light and flew the communist coop in 1989.
Theirs was an extended journey. "We went first to Austria, and we spent about a month there," Papirov recalls. "Next we moved to Italy, spent five or six months there, and then we were allowed entry to the United States. This was the typical route for somebody who was looking to migrate from the Soviet Union to the United States. There were various agencies set up in these two countries to help with the move. We were part of the last batch of people that migrated that way."
Chicago was the end of the line. At age 16, Papirov found himself a stranger in a strange land. But he was driven, and he graduated in the top of his class from Senn Metropolitan Academy, a high school he describes as "serving poor people" on Chicago's north side. He then attended the University of Illinois, Chicago, from which he graduated in 1996 with a degree in mathematics and computer science. While he was still in school, he got his first real IT job. As he puts it, "The market was hot, and my skills were usable, so I started working for a small software development firm doing work for the metal finishing industry, of all things."
Over the ensuing 15 years, Papirov moved up the career ladder. He had the foresight to immediately become a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer at a time when that credential was difficult to obtain and there were only some 6,000 recipients. Along the way, he gained more experience as he dug deeper into architectural development and took on more rigorous projects.
Which leads us to Paraleap, and Papirov's leap of faith into the thresher of corporate competition. What was he thinking when he chose not to have any kind of conventional sales staff?
"I really believe that most of the time these days, we get our information from the social media," he says. "No matter if you're a large company or a small start-up, the first place people go to look is online, and being visible in various sources that one would go to look for a solution within my space was most important to me -- and the most cost-effective approach."
Even though he's not venture-backed and has no employees other than himself, Papirov has no long-term debt. He does have what might be termed a "dry" angel investor in Microsoft, which, not surprisingly, has a "great interest" in a product that elastically scales Windows Azure up and down.
"Ever since launch, we've been contacted by five or six different lines of business within Microsoft with various inquiries, and we're following up on that and trying to grow," he declares.
Of course, growth would be less of a concern if Microsoft simply made Papirov an offer he couldn't refuse.
Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.