Waldemar Birk, co-founder and CEO of the TenderHut capital group, one of the top developing companies in the IT industry, has passed away at the age of 72. He was considered a renaissance man by his associates and close friends. A PhD in Informatics, businessman, polyglot, and most of all, a man of great energy.
Waldemar Birk was well-known and respected in the Polish IT business environment. Two years ago, when he attended the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 gala together with his associate, he was named the oldest startupper in Poland. And not without reason; at the time he was 70 years old, but his ideas and vigorous character were envied by his much younger colleagues.
Constantly active, both professionally and privately.
Waldemar Birk, who was originally named Wlodzimierz Brzoza but changed his name due to difficulties in pronouncing it when he lived abroad, worked on the largest IT projects for years, both in Poland and Denmark. A Pole of Jewish origin, born in Kazakhstan, he also held Danish citizenship. He dedicated his life to technology, attending the Warsaw University of Technology, where he also received his PhD in informatics. After finishing his studies, he moved to Denmark in 1976, where he started working as a programmer, analyst, project manager and salesman. His career advanced rapidly, allowing him to participate in ventures like managing the Isztar project – an integrated customs platform in Poland. His other achievements include co-creating the strategy of implementing the Schengen system for the Polish Police, as well as implementing the strategy of criminal intelligence in the Polish Police or the strategy of implementing a quality management system in DNA laboratories of the Polish Police.
Besides working for big business and implementing IT projects worth millions of euro, i.e. the customs system in Denmark or the Polish tax system Poltax (where he was the author of the NIP number, which is the taxpayer identification code), Waldemar always dedicated himself to minor hobbyist ventures. He popularized the old Polish tradition of breeding capons. He participated in several cooking TV shows hosted by master chefs and healthy lifestyle promotors such as Maryla Musidłowska, Robert Trzópka, Katarzyna Bosacka, Maciej Nowicki and Karol Okrasa. He also bred Maine coon cats (reaching the number of 20 cats in his household). Waldemar was involved in promoting information concerning Dr. Bach's essence, used for changing animal behavior. He even ran an online shop with animal cosmetics. At the age of 69, when most people are thinking about retiring, Waldemar Birk, together with Robert Strzelecki, began creating the TenderHut capital group, planning to create a company similar to Asseco within 10 years.
A kind man, an outstanding boss.
He wanted more – constantly hungry to accomplish new goals. Thanks to his coherent vision and bold strategy, the TenderHut group grew to be one of Poland's top developing IT companies in less than 3 years, having 7 foreign departments and implementing international projects. For his employees, Waldemar Birk was a person they could look up to. He taught them how to combine work with passion. Many of his associates remember him as constantly smiling, with kind eyes, always ready to help others. Their memory of him is as a good person and an outstanding boss. He often surprised his colleagues, by inviting them to the company kitchen for scrambled eggs that he prepared by himself or bringing his private grill to a company picnic, and by sharing coffee straight from a Columbian marketplace, for instance. Once, he even invited several dozen of his co-workers to his house for personally prepared dumplings called kołduny. Not to mention the time when he organized a diving course at an integration trip. Within the company, he talked to everyone, but the conversations hardly ever concerned work. He talked about everyday life, his vacation plans, diving experiences or his cat giving birth to kittens. His attitude brought him closer to other people. He established close relations quickly.
A renaissance man who wore his heart on his sleeve
His associates, friends and acquaintances recall him as the "renaissance man". Waldemar Birk amazed everyone with his extensive knowledge, as well as with the fact that he was interested in everything, being a very kind and sincere person at the same time. Despite his numerous duties related to being CEO of TenderHut as well as responsibilities concerned with managing subsidiary companies within the group, he always had time for anyone who wanted to talk to him or needed his guidance. Birk considered every worker to be an important factor in creating a strong organization, and treated everyone equally despite his age and position in the company. He surprised his interlocutors with his skills, like the ability to speak fluently in four languages or his sense of humor on numerous occasions.
In 2016, Waldemar Birk had the opportunity to receive an award in the name of TenderHut, being one of the top growing technological companies in central and eastern Europe. During the award ceremony, it turned out that Waldemar was the oldest person at the event. The community jokingly referred to him as the oldest startupper in Poland. They were astonished to find that Birk found the title amusing, ultimately proving his self-detachment and great sense of humor.
He died as he lived – actively
On the professional level, Waldemar Birk stood out with his broad competences, but privately, he was a person curious of the world. The activities he engaged in after work show how complex and diverse his personality was. Sport was one of his passions, making his physical shape the subject of others' admiration. He liked to reminisce that, in his high school years, he played in the second league of basketball despite his short stature. Diving, swimming, golf, basketball, handball, tennis, jogging and badminton – these are the activities which the CEO of TenderHut engaged in during his time off. His life ended in a hospital, during his vacation, having suffered a heart attack on a ski slope.
Waldemar Birk passed away unexpectedly at the age of 72, leaving his family, friends and associates bereaved and sorrowful. All of a sudden, the absence of his enthusiasm, curiosity and energy, which influenced others, is felt. His memory will be preserved not only in the hearts of the people who knew him, but also in his creations. When asked in an interview what the secret behind his personal success is, he replied, "I keep a positive attitude towards new ideas, I try to avoid negative thinking. Also, by nature, I am a hard worker." These words accurately describe the character of his unique personality.