Over the course of his career, David Schoch has left a footprint of success in a variety of roles across different industries and geographies. He has embedded himself into the growth of both early-stage companies and global corporations, earning the reputation of an expert in building and scaling businesses in various stages of development.
A resident of Serbia for well over a decade, he has recently been promoted into the role of Chief Operating Officer at HTEC Group. We have taken this opportunity to discuss his professional (and geographical) journey, his role at HTEC, and his vision for the company further down the road.
The road to success
In contrast to the impressive path that his career has taken and the complexity of the roles he has played over the years, David states that his guiding principle has been far less elaborate.
“My criteria have revolved around doing interesting things in interesting places with interesting people. It’s been a fairly simple strategy.”
Starting out in business development, David quickly rose to the rank of managing director in one of the companies he has worked for early in his career. In 1994 he had moved to Prague, where he established a career in telecommunications. He had helped build the largest alternative telecom service provider in Central Europe and became responsible for running its operations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The company was eventually sold to Deutsche Telekom, and David had moved on to the UK, where he spent six years, first working for a company that would go public during his tenure, and then for one of the largest global telecom operators, running business development for several of its sectors with a primary focus on the finance sector.
“During that time I got the idea to come back to emerging markets, which I preferred to working in developed corporate markets. That’s how I came to Serbia. I ended up raising €24 million euros for the consolidation of internet service providers in the country. With that, I founded Orion Telekom, developed a national team, and built that business up with a few partners.”
What may have seemed like another stop on David’s professional globetrotting journey ended up being a more permanent stay.
“I have now been in Serbia for 13 years, which is the longest I’ve been anywhere in my career. I’ve established roots and family here, so this is now home.”
Over the years, through all the different roles he has assumed, David has built up broad expertise in high growth scenarios. Throughout his work, he was continually responsible for areas that directly impact the success of a business.
“I tend to focus on a handful of things: identifying the opportunities and executing on them, allocating capital — where do we invest, identifying and developing talent, and trying to define the culture we need to succeed, given the opportunities, the threats, and the nuances of our industry, seeking out ways to implement that culture and to get people to embrace it.”
Identifying opportunity has become David’s forte, and he has had a front-row seat for HTEC’s growth and watched the opportunity emerge for the company.
“I have a long history with the founders of the company, going back at least ten years. They were forming the Serbian Business Angels Network when I formed the Serbian Private Equity Association, and we quickly saw a lot of areas to collaborate. They were easy to work and get along with, so we clicked quite quickly. Back then, they were still getting started with HTEC and growing organically. I’ve watched them, frankly, shoot up like a rocket in this region. Through the process, I’ve watched them bounce back from all kinds of issues and continually exceed people’s expectations. For me, it has been a need-to-watch journey as a spectator, and it was also a lot of fun personally, seeing your friends do so well.”
And while he has spent a long time observing HTEC’s growth, it wasn’t until recently that David made the leap from spectator to active participant.
“We’ve had conversations for years on how I might be able to help them, what the opportunity was and where I might fit in. We had that conversation once again in September, and this time all the planets were in alignment. When I looked at where HTEC was and some of the challenges they were facing, and then where I was and the things that I was doing, a window of opportunity opened up for me from a career perspective, which coincided with this huge push to expand the business. There is a track record of success that is unmistakable, but I also wanted to know how the company operates and what the expectations were. It is a big step, particularly when you know each other personally, and you want to make sure that the professional relationship is going to work. The planets were in alignment, and I made the decision to jump in with both feet.”
Seizing the moment
David has entered HTEC with the goal of understanding the lay of the land, identifying the challenges and finding areas in which he can provide the greatest value. Recently, he has been introduced as the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
“We’ve got engineering capability that is world-class, which is evidenced by our client base and the types of work we are entrusted with. My role is about helping the rest of the organization rise up to reach that level, whether it’s sales, or marketing, or HR, or finance — getting everything up to that level where we’re able to interface with the most important entities, whether it’s investors, customers, or the stock market. In order to do that, we need to be excellent not just on the technical level, but on the corporate level as well.”
While David marvels at the growth the company has experienced in the last year, he is also quick to point out the challenges that arise from such accelerated growth.
“The company has already grown so fast that it has stretched its capability, not just in terms of engineering, but overall. The strategy is really clear. We know where we’re headed, and now it’s a question of execution: how do we get there, what resources do we need, and then once we have those resources how they all need to work together and interact. The culture of excellence and our approach to customers that have been a big part of our success is something that I haven’t seen in peer companies. Having engineers that are very broad in their capabilities and looking to exceed expectations, as opposed to simply meeting them, which then enables us to develop relationships with our customers — all of it is quite unique. It is essential that we maintain that degree of dedication and excellence as we continue to grow.”
In this process of internal consolidation, David strongly emphasizes the role of management across all company levels, particularly the need to develop the management team and provide it with a shared focus that ensures that everyone is aligned around the strategy. In this process, he sees his role as an enabler of this development.
“I am here to be a resource for our managers, to help them grow, solve problems, execute on the opportunities, and make sure that all the parts fit together nicely and that the machinery is able to keep moving.”
As to where the machine is moving, David is quite unambiguous.
“Through all of my work and everything I have achieved over the years, I have yet to see a platform for growth that’s positioned better than HTEC. I am certain I will never see this type of opportunity again in my career because it doesn’t happen that often. Basically, we’re in the Beatles, only we don’t know it yet. We’ve been in Deloitte’s Fast50 from 2011 to 2015, and people think 'that’s nice', but if you look underneath that, it’s a massive footprint in an area where there’s been a huge amount of growth, particularly in the tech sector. As a platform for growth and opportunity, I don't’ think anyone in this company will experience this type of opportunity again.”
With David Schoch on our team, we are confident in our ability to seize this opportunity.