A math genius who started his career in the land of Dracula has drawn inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci as he builds Romania’s greatest IT startup.

I first met Florin Talpes, CEO of Bucharest-based computer security company, Bitdefender in 2012. During that visit, I learned that Romania has to be good at computer security because it’s right next door to what he thinks is the world’s biggest computer hacker, Bulgaria.

I had a great time riding an ATV in the Carpathian mountains where I saw a bear running away. And I was blown away by my visit to a castle where Romania’s last king dwelled about 100 years ago.

In a recent interview, Talpes explained why Leonardo da Vinci is such an inspiration. Talpes was the top student in his high school and had a 4.0 GPA as a college math major.

His first job was teaching math in Sighisoara, “the stronghold where Vlad Tepes, who inspired the Dracula historical character, was born,” according to Talpes.

From there, he proved his entrepreneurial skill. As he said, “I grew multiple businesses from scratch, some of which I sold. One of the companies I grew is Bitdefender, which has become the largest IT company controlled by Romanians.”

And Talpes clearly takes pride in being a business leader. As he explained, Bitdefender is “a brand Romanians are proud of. Bitdefender is an example of how to build a company from Eastern Europe in the field of high-tech innovation, then expand successfully in international markets.”

Here are four ways that da Vinci inspired Talpes.

1. Know your limits.

To be successful, you must have self-confidence. So while it helps to learn from geniuses in your field, it is also good to know your limits.

For Talpes, da Vinci was impressive yet someone to whose greatness he did not waste time aspiring. “I do not have role models, but when I was young there were two people who impressed me: the great mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss and Leonardo da Vinci,” he said.

These great mathematicians helped Talpes to realize that he could make his best contribution by improving the local startup scene. As he said, “da Vinci and Gauss are giants of humanity. I try changing the community for the better.”

The takeaway from this observation is that role models are of greatest value if they help you focus more clearly on what you can do well — and what you can’t.

2. Make your community better off.

Sure Romania’s startup scene is not as developed as in places like Silicon Valley. But even if you’re in Palo Alto, there is tremendous benefit in giving back to your local startup ecosystem.

Talpes has founded an organization intended to achieve that. “With other entrepreneurs, my wife--an e-learning entrepreneur in the Forbes Top 10 most influential women in Romania--and I founded the Romanian Software Industry Association,” according to Talpes.

Many entrepreneurs feel that they’re too busy to grow their company and give to the community. In fact, doing both in parallel works better.

3. Do what you love.

One of the big themes in my research into entrepreneurs is the importance of matching what you love to do with the skills required for a company to succeed.

This is a rule that makes entrepreneurship intensely personal. If a founder is great at the skills needed to succeed in a business, he can make it grow. If not, he might as well find a different field that values his strengths.

Talpes has found a niche in technology entrepreneurship which values his ability to lead people to build great products that capture new market opportunities.

His pre-startup work helped him to identify and refine these skills.

As Talpes said, “Nothing was planned. I ended up working in the IT industry by chance. I’m a mathematician. I think it’s a powerful industry based on innovation, and the standards are very high.”

He continued, “As a researcher at the Computer Science Research Institute, I was inspired by the teamwork with my first boss — the commitment, very high standards, and the continuous desire for improvement.”

Everyone has different strengths — just make sure that yours will help you to win in your chosen field.

4. Seek balance.

Balancing work and family is a big challenge that’s difficult to get right. But the old saying applies: on your deathbed you never wish you had spent more time at work.

Talpes takes pride in his family. “I feel successful particularly when I'm thinking of my family. I love my wife — we have two sons who will turn 29 this year, and we have a united extended family,” he said.

Talpes seems to have arrived at the right balance. He said, “I spend most of my time doing what I enjoy: developing innovative projects, activities and projects undertaken with my family. I would say that this represents approximately 80% of my time.”

He plans to increase the time he devotes to his community from the “5% to 10%” level. “In the future the time devoted to my community will increase and the time devoted to my business will decrease,” said Talpes.

Talpes’s experience suggests that the balance between work, family, and community will evolve over your life.

And if you’ve never been to Romania — it’s a memorable experience that did not cost me my blood.