Viktoria Ruubel: "Focus is everything!"

Viktoria Ruubel is a co-founder and one of the mentors at VUNK 2016 program. 

She's also the Head of Digital Product at IPF Digital, a global leader in innovative digital financial services. The company operates in 8 different markets, including Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Australia, Spain and Mexico.

You can ask Viktoria for advice on product strategy, business models, go-to-market strategy, and marketing approaches for scaling your business globally. In the following interview she shares her thoughts on IoT, blockchain and what drives her to build great products.

Throughout your career you’ve worked in very different industries from paper to fashion, from telcos to finance. What’s the connecting point? What has drawn you from each one of them and what have you taken with you?

The overarching theme in my career has been digital transformation. All of the listed industries have gone through huge changes during the last decade. In terms of telecommunications, today you can communicate with anyone anywhere in the world for free, providing that you have data connectivity. You don’t even need a number or a dedicated service provider anymore. Similarly, a customer can buy and sell fashion from across the globe and have items delivered in less then 24 hours. The Fintech industry is undergoing a lot of changes as we speak – new regulations and technologies will allow customers to use banking services from anywhere and at anytime, with transparency and agility that we have never seen before.

Each and every industry I have been a part of has been in a digital transition, and the phrase ‘that’s not the way the industry works’ does not sit well with me. The status quo can and should be challenged, and companies who don’t understand that will find themselves observing from the sidelines as newcomers pass them by. The digital revolution changes every industry on the planet and I believe that it is only getting started - there is still so much left to disrupt!

What’s the most commonly given piece of advice you give to start-ups?

I’ve been part of three start-ups (one of which was my own; it ultimately failed, but taught me a lot). Among many things, I’ve learned that FOCUS is everything – you have to focus on your customers and the problem that you solve for them. You also have to focus relentlessly on EXECUTION – actually building the stuff. The rest is often just noise and distraction, so my advice is - focus and execute.

You have written in your VUNK introduction that you’re a blockchain enthusiast. Do you have any specific hopes regarding blockchain and the problems it could help solve?

Cryptocurrency was the first widespread use case for the blockchain technology that helped to validate the concept of widely witnessed distributed consensus. Today, blockchain has evolved far beyond the Bitcoin, and is being adopted in industries like healthcare, defense, and finance. Being rather closely connected to Guardtime, I know for a fact that blockchain is decidedly out of the ‘hopes’ stage. In fact, it is already helping large enterprises and governments to tackle global challenges in data governance and cybersecurity with a completely new approach and set of possibilities. As it represents such a fundamental change, it will take time for blockchain to be embraced universally. That said, the benefits of blockchain derived capabilities into core infrastructure are undeniable to many organisations, and new end-customer solutions are being proposed on a daily basis. It’s a truly exciting space, how can one not be an enthusiast!

What do you expect from VUNK 2016? Were there any interesting ideas at the first Idea Garage you hope to see up and running?

Our 2015 VUNK program has produced a great bunch of startups that are still active on the market, serving their first customers and gaining revenues. We proved we can ‘walk the talk,’ and it is clear that startups working with VUNK are much more successful in the long run. My expectations for 2016 are really high – I expect game-changing ideas that address real, global problems and offer innovative solutions. I am looking forward to founders who dream big, learn fast and are ready to work hard. In that respect, the first Idea Garage was a success – the ideas were strong, the pitches were interesting and I’m already excited about couple of start-ups.

What has been the biggest trend in the whole ICT field that you feel has not lived up the expectations?

Wearable tech was supposed to take over in 2014, and then again in 2015 (with the Apple Watch release), but obviously that still has not happened. This trend was one of the most overhyped technological predictions. Wearables (on the wrists, necks or fingers) as an industry and market are still incredibly immature. I believe the Apple Watch will create a slow but rising tide, but it’s evident that wearable tech needs to find and prove its value for to be a part of our everyday lives.

And the last one - what is your main professional personal goal?

It’s very simple: keep on doing the things I love to do the most – finding incremental customer problems to solve and turning them into amazing digital products. That’s what I do at IPF Digital. We are active in 8 different markets (and still adding new ones) across the globe – I’m fascinated by working on products that can serve millions and millions of customers. The Fintech industry is undergoing a lot of interesting changes, and IPF Digital intends to be a part of this revolution - we’re reinventing our existing products and business models, and building new innovative digital solutions. I’m truly excited to be able to contribute and be part of this revolution.