“We used to ski across the river when it was frozen like this – the track was on the other side from the school,” he says outside Lielvārde Middle School, the place he has chosen to meet up.
On The Road Facts
Location: 56.713766, 24.819220
Date: February 16, 2018
Company: D8 Corporation
Address: Gaismas 17, Lielvārde, Lielvārdes pilsēta, LV-5070
Temperature: -7 C
“If I had been at a different school, I might still have ended up in computers – but for sure it wouldn't have been in financial technologies,” says Juris on the spot where thirty years ago he was among a select few able to study a new subject that some people believed was even more important than learning to drive a tractor: computing.
“It was quite hard for a boy from the country to get into computers. I got a scholarship from the kolkhoz (collective farm) and this was one of only two places outside Riga where you could study computing. Luckily I had a great teacher who eventually became involved with a bank and recommended me to them. I even know what he said to them: 'He's good, but he can be kind of lazy...' laughs Juris.
That led to more than a decade's experience building IT systems for Latvia's nascent banking sector following the re-establishment of independence in 1991, all the while building up more contacts and impressing more clients before the decision was taken to start D8 Corporation on April 1st, 2002. Initially that April Fool's Day date seemed a bit too prophetic.
“Basically we spent our money within a year on the wrong project - accounting systems. We realized we needed to stick to what we were good at – banking and retail – and used our existing contacts from working with the banks to build the business, initially just in Latvia, then the Baltics, then Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Now we have 75 employees and operate in 28 countries worldwide from four offices. We're very interested in Kazakhstan right now.”
D8 currently has 10 different product lines providing cutting-edge payment software and solutions to banks and other financial institutions with comprehensive support services. The company also works closely with the world's largest FinTec company, FIS on payment card processing.
Yet despite the interconnected, tehnologically-driven nature of modern society, it is direct, personal connections and face-to-face meetings that surface time and again as a major element in D8 Corporation's success and Juris' own personal story.
“We had a situation with a client in the Dominican Republic where, once a month, their system would slow down as everyone made deposits and withdrawals on payday. Technically you could handle it from Rīga, but you have to prove to management that you are committed to finding the solution and that's difficult if you are not on site,” explains Juris.
“That's one way there has been a real transformation in me. At school I was not what you would call outgoing. I was quiet and reserved like a lot of people in IT. But I realised I needed to change that in business. I even enrolled for an MBA. I didn't finish it because I just had too much work, but it was useful in allowing me to measure myself against others and it showed me that I was not so different after all.”
A car pulls up and a window is lowered. “Hello boss! Good to see you again!” says a jovial fellow with his son in the passenger seat. He shakes hands with Juris before rolling up the window and driving off.
“He was a classmate of mine,” Juris smiles, “I haven't seen him for twenty years.”
It just proves again that even when you're involved in large-scale international business, a small-town upbringing is something worth having. Juris pauses for a moment and reflects: “Now that I think of it, more than half of our team come from the countryside.”
The Red Jackets unites the best exporting brands from Latvia with top-notch products, services, knowledge, and values. These are brands rooted in Latvia and the movement aims to spread the word about Latvia through its brands, exceptional people and inspiring places. Supporters of the Red Jackets movement include the European Commission representation in Latvia and ALTUM state-owned development finance institution.