The Czech Cyber Billionaire Who Built A Fortune On Free Software

On the rooftop terrace of the five-star Hotel U Prince, Pavel Baudis surveys the town he’s lived in for a maximum of 59 years. Over his shoulder is Prague’s visitor-heavy city square and the grand gothic spires of the Church of Our Lady earlier than Týn; in the front of him stand serried ranks of ochre rooftops. The metropolis has come to be considerably more colorful in his lifetime. Baudis lived via the dark days after Warsaw Pact troops beat the Prague Spring, entrenching communism so stringent in its ideals that it would prevent his father from practicing psychiatry and limiting his schooling. Then came liberalization after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, developing opportunities for might-be inventors like Baudis.

‘He’s endured through all of it with a groovy, thrifty mindset. It’s an attitude that has enabled him to convert a little cybersecurity company he co-founded in the waning days of the communist regime into an enterprise leader taking up, and in some approaches, outdoing, aggressive American competitors like McAfee and Symantec. It has also made him one of a handful of Czech billionaires. Baudis’ child is Avast, the anti-virus software on over 400 million computers and smartphones worldwide.

Like the same products McAfee and Norton developed ine the past due 1980s, it’s designed to save cybercriminals and spies from installing computer statistics-pilfering tools. The fundamental distinction is that Avast is free and handiest online, no longer in retail stores. That “freemium” model has lifted Baudis’ corporation to giddy heights, culminating in its 2018 London Stock Exchange IPO, which set it on a path to become a $four billion commercial enterprise and has taken Baudis’ internet worth to $1.4 billion as of June 2019.


While Baudis’ swelling fortune has made him a member of the billionaire’s club, he epitomizes self-effacement. Wearing a plain military waistcoat and a black fanny %, his bristly white hair encircling a balding pate, Baudis shows no signs of his wealth. He’s taciturn all through a one-hour verbal exchange on the motel’s cold terrace, deciding on his phrases carefully as he methodically sips from a hot chocolate and an unmarried Staropramen beer. He professes to have “no expensive interests”; his most outré pastime is geocaching, a game wherein members hunt for treasures using GPS coordinates. His investments are small and practical, the maximum latest a diaper manufacturer and a nearby inn with a view of his metropolis’s most imposing landmark, Prague Castle. “I’m now not superb in hotel management. It’s great training,” Baudis says of his trendy aspect hustle.

Baudis’s most profitable decision was recruiting a headstrong American to turn Avast right into a large killer. Sitting throughout from Baudis, that man speaks over the cackles of vacationers and the cooing of relationship couples, is Vince Steckler, Avast’s CEO for a decade. It’s the first time the two had been interviewed collectively using an English-language ebook because of the IPO. The former Symantec govt, who’s louder and brasher than the Czech and, along with his bodily heft and the bald head, looks like a retired military preferred, is happy to brag approximately the agency’s success wherein Baudis demurs. “I turned into just searching at Aston Martin earlier these days. We had been the second-largest IPO [on the LSE] of the 12 months. Aston turned into the largest. We’re now greater precious than Aston Martin,” Steckler says. He’s no longer incorrect. Bond’s favored automobile maker has seen its stock plummet and its valuation stoop to over $3 billion.

Steckler became now not an apparent desire. In 2005, while he became a government at Logicon, Inc., the SEC handed him a $35,000 civil monetary penalty, pronouncing Steckler had helped the Silicon Valley software corporation Legato inflate its revenue records by signing a $7 million settlement with a cancellation clause. According to the SEC, Steckler knew that the cancellation allowance had to have prevented Legato from counting the order as a sale and had advised Legato executives on the way to disguise the clause from their finance department. One former Avast worker said that personnel used to tell a funny story about the “ex-con upstairs.”

Steckler’s record came beneath intense scrutiny from the British press during the IPO. Usually loquacious on any difficulty, Steckler declined to offer an announcement at the episode over and over these days when Forbes requested for comment. He wasn’t on the pinnacle of Baudis and cofounder Eduard Kucera’s list when they were looking for a CEO in 2009. The founders initially desired Steckler’s vintage boss, ex-Symantec VP Dieter Giesbrecht. “They found someone they referred who wasn’t me,” Steckler jokes. Giesbrecht declined the offer but introduced Baudis and Kucera to Steckler, who jumped at the risk of transporting to Prague from Singapore and taking the helm from the cofounders, who’re now guiding the enterprise as board directors.

Johnny J. Hernandez
I write about new gadgets and technology. I love trying out new tech products. And if it's good enough, I'll review it here. I'm a techie. I've been writing since 2004. I started back in 2012.