People - July 2006

India fits into his theory of Relativity
by Chris Richter

When Steve Maysonave replaced founder Vivek Wadhwa as CEO of Relativity Technologies Inc. three years ago, the Raleigh-based software maker was flirting with bankruptcy. Now it’s boosting employment in India — not by exporting jobs but by adding them to serve customers there, including large outsourcing companies.

Maysonave estimates that 15% of Relativity’s revenue will come from India this year, up from 5% last year. “We have such significant momentum in India that the only way we can really grow it properly is to set up our operation there and have people on-site.” The company won’t disclose revenue but says it was up 23% in 2005. For the first quarter of 2006, it was 96% higher than in the same period last year.

Its Modernization Workbench software lets users update older applications to work with newer computer systems. Maysonave, most of whose career has been in high-tech sales, changed the way the software was distributed, including a deal in which it is sold under IBM’s brand. “That was a huge win for us in establishing, from a technology standpoint, the credibility of the company.”

After earning a bachelor’s in business management in 1968 from the University of San Francisco, the California native started out as a software engineer for RCA but decided the technical side wasn’t for him. He worked in sales for companies such as Intel and Informix, now part of IBM, and started a consulting business in 1998. He discovered Relativity while investigating potential investments for Japanese trading companies.

He got to know management, and Wadhwa, who had suffered a heart attack, asked him to take over as president and CEO. “Vivek was very candid with me. He had been through multiple presidents before.” The relationship between Wadhwa, who stayed on as an adviser, and the company’s investors proved to be more contentious than Maysonave anticipated. Let go in 2004, Wadhwa sued, contending that he was wrongfully terminated. The suit was settled last year. He teaches at Duke University, writes an online column for Business Week and has no stake in the company he launched nine years ago.

The lawsuit cost the company time and money but didn’t squelch growth. Now profitable, it has 122 employees — 35 in Raleigh — and plans to add more, including 20 in India by the end of the year.

Maysonave, who will turn 60 in September, says, “People tell me I look younger than I actually am. I definitely have more gray hairs after the last few years.”