Editor’s Note: Sam Bayer is the founder and recently retired CEO of Corevist, a Durham-based bootstrapped software company launched in 2008.  Bayer launched his career in 1980 working for IBM, which he left when he founded his first entrepreneurial endeavor Axiom Systems in 1987.  Axiom would eventually be taken public through an initial public offering.  Bayer notes that his entire 42-year professional career was guided by his determination to negotiate win-win value with his customers and fueled by his thirst for knowledge and scientific approach to problem solving.  Now, he will be recounting his entrepreneurial leadership experiences in his “Stories at Work” series for WRAL TechWire.  You can also follow Bayer on instagram @sam.bayer and at sam.bayer@gmail.com any feedback about this series.

His blogs are the latest addition to our Startup Monday package. WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


DURHAM – I was raised on this story, an anonymous Yiddish parable:

“Imagine if everyone in the world came together and gathered in one huge circle. They then individually packed up their worldly troubles into a bag and threw their unlabeled bags onto a pile in the middle of the circle. When asked to retrieve a bag, people would kill each other to get their own bags back.”

Telling this story was my Holocaust survivor Dad’s way of giving me the tools to cope with my 1960’s New York City elementary school traumas du jour.  And he knew from what he spoke.

‘Stories at Work:’ Introducing a new series on entrepreneurial leadership

Remembering his family

Gershon Bayer’s bag started filling in September of 1939, right before his sixth birthday.

The Russians invaded his birthplace, Sarno, Poland (now Ukraine) and arrested his father for the triple anti-communist infractions of being a Polish loyalist, Jewish and a Zionist.

On that day, his dad was exiled to a prison camp in Siberia never to be seen again.

Next to go into Dad’s bag was the six years he, his mother and sister, spent in a Siberian work camp, as relatives of the imprisoned enemy of the Russian Empire; enslaved to the hard labor of building roads and railroads.

He made his point. I would definitely kill to keep my own bag.

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What entrepreneurs can take away from this parable

Having bootstrapped a growing Enterprise Software company for the past 14 years, I can attest that I always had a full bag.

I was always understaffed and undercapitalized, my product never had enough features, my co-founders had severe health issues. In the most recent years, we not only had to deal with the  COVID-19 pandemic, like everyone else, but since half of our company was in Belarus, we also dealt with the double geopolitical whammy of Lukashenko stealing an election in 2020 and Putin invading Ukraine in 2022.

When your people are threatened with beatings, jail and can’t count on a rational response to Covid, electricity, water or the internet, it is really hard to run a business.

Thanks to my “bag story” upbringing, I knew things could always be worse and the best path forward was to embrace all of my challenges as part of the startup adventure that I was fortunate to be on.

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Dealing with the challenges

One by one we dealt with the challenges.

Not having a lot of cash wasn’t a problem, it was an asset.

We couldn’t afford to chase a lot of ideas that wouldn’t pay off quickly.

Our constraint was our ability to generate revenue and everything had to be focused on that. We knew that when clients exchanged their money for our product and services we were on the right track.

The flip side is that too much cash dulls your senses.  You live the “if I build it they will come” illusion and don’t hear or see things clearly until it’s too late.

That’s why we resisted any outside investments until we were 99.99% sure that we had everything in place, or at least knew what we were missing, to scale the company.

That took us 12 years!

As far as my co-founder’s health was concerned, there really was little choice but to remove them from the business.  A difficult, yet necessary, decision with its own silver lining.

While I was quite sad to part company with them, it gave us an opportunity to retool with skills and experience  we desperately needed to take us to the next stage.  It turns out  absolutely no one is irreplaceable …at least, we learned that we should be managing ourselves to that end.

As for our Belarusian colleagues, we were able to help most of them leave the country to safer environs in either Poland or Georgia.

Bags are constantly filling up, in life and in business. Maybe it’s time we put our names on them from the start and accept the opportunities they present.