Richard was born in Bulawayo although his mother was South Africa. Her parents had emigrated to SA from Lithuania. His father was father born in Bulawayo to his parents were originally from Romania via the UK.
Richard attended a Jewish Day School in Bulawayo – Carmel until he was 9 years old when his family moved to Johannesburg and started at King David Primary in Standard 2. (It was at Carmel that Michael Kretzmer (the film maker of J’Accuse!) became my “best friend”).
After he matriculated from King David High School at the end of 1971 he studied a BSc (#1 in the class) and MSc (Electrical Engineering) at Wits and in 1977 landed a merit scholarship from Wits to enroll at MIT in Cambridge/Boston MA to get a MS at the Sloan School of Management. After MIT in 1979 he was recruited to join a consulting company MDS that had been founded by MIT and Wharton professors that specialized in quantitative market research for Fortune 500 companies.
Richard grew up in an entrepreneurial family so that bug took hold of him in 80’ when the PC industry was relatively young and he started his first company Alpha Software with his older brother Selwyn (who had matriculated from King David in 1969.) They grew Alpha rapidly based on an easy but powerful database application building product (Alpha Four) that Selwyn designed and an innovative marketing approach leveraging direct mail (not email) that he developed. (They sold about 750,000 licenses to the software globally.) They then considered taking the company public in the mid 90’s but ended up selling it to a public company trading on NASDAQ and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
During that period that Richard co-founded the Massachusetts Software Council to promote Massachusetts software companies and to create jobs. It ended up being the largest trade group for software companies in the country. He served in the roles of President and Chairman of the council for a number of terms.
After they sold Alpha to the public company, Richard was appointed as the CEO of the public company and spent a lot of time commuting between offices of the company in the US and Canada. Eventually they sold the public company and with Selwyn decided to relaunch Alpha 15 years ago when the web started emerging as dominant operating system for desktops laptops.
People often ask him what is like working with his brother? “In my case it has been a gift and it has helped keep us very close. A big part of the secret is mutual respect and focusing on different parts of the business”.
Richard has served on four company boards. (Other than Alpha Software):
1) Tubifi - A company that I co-founded with a very good friend – an ex-Davidian that would automate the building of broadcast quality commercials via the web
2) Silent Systems – A company that had patented technology that made computers run quieter.
3) O3b – A company whose mission was to bring high speed internet to the 3rd world and remote parts of the world via a constellation of MEO (medium earth orbit) satellites. This company was eventually sold for $2.4 Billion
4) Legacy Technology – an IT services company
He is currently running and growing Alpha Software along with his brother. Their focus is in low-code software that dramatically speeds up the development of web and mobile business applications and the conversion of complex paper forms into sophisticated mobile applications that can operate fully with no internet signal (which they have patented).
His long term goal is to be able to establish dog farms in SA and US so that no dogs are denied the right to live because there is not enough money to support homeless dogs.
“I am grateful to the value system that King David helped foster. Along with my parents, it instilled in me the importance of core human rights and treating everyone with dignity and respect. Also King David helped me think critically and creatively.
Highlights of my time at King David include the friendships developed there, appreciation of my Jewish Heritage and recognition of the importance of Israel, plus getting selected by Mr Pierce (Maths teacher) at a young age for the 1st cricket time! (this was a tremendous confidence booster).
Notable teachers from my schooling include Mrs Rothbart in Standard 3 – she inspired me (in Standard 2 I had a D average - which does not stand for damn good:) and in Standard 3 I had an A+ average - which illustrates the power of a great teacher!). Mr Urinovsky and Mr Torbit – they gave me a love of physics. Dr Thomas and Elliot Wolf – need I say more about these two special people! Mrs Zampetakis – she gave context to us about the injustices of apartheid and also made us aware how different sides can have very different perspectives and narratives re world events. “