Executive edge: David Fein
At age 16, David Fein became the second youngest person to set foot on the South Pole. His life has been an adventure ever since.
The 50-year-old president and CEO of Colorado Springs-based ValuSource Software was a sea cadet - the Navy Reserve for young people in Southern California - when he read about the South Pole adventurers, and his notion of traveling to the South Pole on an icebreaker took fire. He stuck a flag on the ice and dreamed of presenting it to President Reagan at the White House.
"It was totally thrilling to have such a wild fantasy come into reality," said Fein, who in 1986 co-founded ValuSource, which today dominates 80 percent of the business-valuation software market. "I never got to meet President Reagan, but I'm still a little stunned that the Navy took my idea seriously. From that experience I learned early on how to sell ideas. To me, business is an endless series of taking a vision and trying to get it into reality while motivating and inspiring everyone from employees to investors to partners."
Fein went on to the University of California-Santa Cruz, and from the day he entered a computer lab, he knew computers spelled his future.
"Computers were like a puzzle to solve, an endless puzzle, and over time the whole world of computers changes so it doesn't grow old to me," said Fein, who majored in computer science while blending his unceasing sense of adventure with his studies. At age 18, he operated a sailboat charter business and at 25 sailed with a family across the Pacific to Tahiti in a 34-foot boat.
"My mother was an adventurous spirit - she took us to Spain to live - and my father was a businessperson who did all kinds of amazing things and was very accomplished," Fein said. "I learned early on from both of my parents that the world is an interesting place to travel."
Today, Fein's world is a place to grow his business, as ValuSouce launches its international version in 14 countries and six languages.
"It's clear the world is interested in formal valuation. China alone has a huge interest in valuations with 60,000 valuators, so it was time to come out with an international version," said Fein, who would not disclose figures or growth projections of the privately held company. "We're the largest valuation software provider in the country - soon to be the largest in the world."
He admits the company has come a long way since 1986, when he co-founded ValuSource with Craig Moncrieff in a San Diego apartment, working 80 hours a week and foregoing vacations for seven years.
"When I look around the world and see where our software goes and that people from all over the world are buying it, well that's a very interesting phenomenon to me," said Fein, who employs 20. "I create an environment where employees have a lot of freedom. People want to be in a place that makes a difference, and I create an environment that fosters that. Some of the projects we've taken on are pretty exciting."
ValuSource worked closely with Microsoft to develop products built around Microsoft Office.
"Microsoft wanted to integrate some of our tools, invited me to their headquarters and helped us with technical support," Fein said. "Getting help from Microsoft was so important to us."
ValuSource also created partnerships with the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts and the Medical Group Management Association. By 1994 the company experienced 50 percent year-over-year growth and operated with no external funding.
"As the world gets more sophisticated, as economies pick up, the international thing is big," Fein said. "Life is exciting. I'm more excited now than I've ever been in my life."