David Roth, CEO & Cofounder | AppFirst

A quote from Teddy Roosevelt provides inspiration to David Roth: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Roth has made a business of crossing the other half. Here, he shares what he’s learned about himself throughout his impressive career.

AppFirst» I “grew up” professionally in the high-tech space of the late ’80s and early ’90s. I cut my teeth at companies like IBM and Microsoft, but left the corporate world in 1995 to become a serial entrepreneur.

» AppFirst is my fifth successful start-up. Three of my other four companies were sold to larger companies.

» I don’t know how to be different. I was built to be an entrepreneur.

» To be successful, find what you are good at doing. Then find what people need. Overlap the two and you have a future.

» Leverage your partnerships. Find out how to work well with others. Find out how what you each do compliments each other’s business and makes it work.

» Being a successful entrepreneur is more than ego or money. It’s believing in something passionately. Believing it will succeed. Believing it is worth any risk. Believing in the deepest part of your soul that no one can do it better.

» I wasn’t the healthiest of kids, but I was scrappy. I almost died three times at birth. But, though I had a number of challenges, my family always treated me as a miracle and, as a result, told me I could do anything. I believed them. Even today, when challenged, I visualize success then achieve it.

» My 30-second-elevator speech can be summed up in 10 seconds: AppFirst is an affordable software-as-a-service solution that helps technology executives and their teams stay on top of issues that affect their business in real time. We run with every app, across every platform. AppFirst sees it all.

» My best business decision? Surrounding myself with great people who are good at what they do. Success is best achieved by taking a group of passionate people and solving a meaningful problem for a large market with unmet needs. The challenge is keeping in touch with what’s valued by others and staying two steps ahead.

» Though the space we’re in—application-performance management—may
appear crowded,
I knew we could design something that would completely change the field. And we did.

» Now, we’re in 70 countries around the world. Our next steps are to build out sales and marketing so that we are no longer a “best-kept secret.”

» Strength in business is about resiliency. Having a thick skin. Knowing how to bounce back. When I was a child, my mom nicknamed me Bounce-Back David. I suppose it’s in my DNA, because I won’t be deterred from any opportunity I feel is worth having.

» Right out of college, in one of my first jobs, I began to understand what it takes to be part of a team. It’s not one person, or one part, but the whole that makes it work. Understanding your part—and how the other team members’ parts come into play—generates success.

» Relocating to New York City with Microsoft in 1992 challenged me to take my game to another level. It’s a different pace, a different scale. Being my best and
growing professionally could not have happened in a smaller market.

» Results matter and listening leads to results. You don’t have to have all the
answers, but you have to be able to listen to your customer, show care and concern for their needs, and then make what matters to them happen. Working hard is an expectation, but working smart can take you farther.

» Beyond specific skills and education, I believe in grit. How passionate are you about what you are doing? Are you willing to risk everything to be great? On your worst day, are you willing to work through the problems and work things out? How someone handles challenges and adversity speaks a great deal to who they are.

» Being an entrepreneur can be consuming and lonely. Prioritization and communication help you keep the right things in perspective, but there are choices and trade-offs. I am there for my family, but since something has to give, I’ve probably become a bit disconnected from a number of my friends.

» Before the sun is up, I have several tasks under my belt. At the end of the day, though, it’s not about how many things you did, but what you accomplished that was critical. What moved the needle in a positive way.

» Really strong coffee is also important.

» The one thing I strive for is to make tomorrow more memorable than yesterday. Winning awards is cool, but knowing you’ve helped a customer who has been living in Hell gives me greater satisfaction.