I’ve always had a tough time deciding between the mathematical sciences, social sciences and creative industries. The rigid educational system in Romania provided few multidisciplinary options, which is why I chose to study two Bachelor’s degrees simultaneously. But following graduation, I was missing that connecting bridge to properly integrate and act on my diverse interests. Romanian entrepreneurship is only now beginning to flourish, back in 2011 the opportunities and support for a fresh female university graduate dreaming big were fairly limited.
I still remember visiting London and the majestic buildings of King’s College for the first time and thinking that I wanted to study there. I decided to apply for a Master’s in Electrical Engineering with Business Management and was awarded a scholarship to do so. That was the first step on a mind-opening experience that inspired and shaped me as an individual and as a future entrepreneur.
Attending class at King’s felt stimulating and relatable. A focus on applying integrated knowledge and managing engineering projects inspired me to dare, to develop and to trust my creative thinking abilities, whilst always considering practical applicability. I made a big decision about my future during my studies too: I would move back to Cluj and start my own business in the tech industry. This way I could bring together all my interests and make use of a strong pool of tech talent. I wanted to do something different and I wanted to give back to my hometown.
After some time working as Lead iOS Developer for one of the hottest tech startups in London, building smart jewellery, and having advised other startup founders with their Product Strategy and UX, I finally decided to implement my plan and I moved back home and started my own company. Wolfpack Digital is a start-to-end digital product development agency, designing and building web and mobile applications from scratch while offering full product and business strategy support to both startups and large companies. The name stems from my surname, Lupu, which means ‘wolf’ in Romanian.
Five years later our team of 50 people has served and partnered with more than 40 companies from the UK, Europe, and the US. This year my company was nominated as Best Software Development Partner in the national final of the Global Startup Awards competition. My work as CEO and the challenges I’ve met pushed me towards co-founding the local Women in Tech Cluj community, which energises me tremendously.
As a businesswoman, there are a few things I have learned that I think are worth sharing to fellow and future entrepreneurs:
First of all, your mental health will be challenged, and it needs to be cherished and nurtured. The journey has been a tough but rewarding one. Find a sustainable balance of work and relaxation, and do your best to focus on the positives while acknowledging the grey areas and setbacks.
Secondly, although measuring outputs in business is highly valuable, do not underestimate certain actions that simply feel right, even if their impact cannot be directly measured - especially the ones where you give back to the community. You never know where opportunity may arise and seemingly useless actions sometimes pay off in surprising ways years later.
Scaling up can be particularly challenging, and adapting your work processes is key. As your team expands and keeping close relationships with your colleagues becomes more difficult, make sure you have a great management team. Diverse teams may be more complicated to work with, but they are the ones that can bring the most value when solving problems.
The best business development trick I have found so far is doing a great job on every project, as this naturally attracts more business. Most problems are to do with communication or expectations, so there are two things to actually manage: people and expectations. Excellent communication is the most important skill to master to do this well.
Clients and team members are equally important, especially in the tech industry, and there is a never-ending game of balancing the two. However, a strong company culture that encourages both skill and the right attitude ends up serving clients as well.
Last but not least, focussing on vision and ideals is important, but making the best of what you have is what wins the game. In this sense, I have come to value optimal solutions over the ‘best solutions’.
To all the potential entrepreneurs out there, and particularly my fellow female entrepreneurs, remember there is just so much you can give to the world. You just need to be courageous and embrace your uniqueness as your strength. And a big thank you to King’s for showing me the way!