First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Victoria Duben: Good for us; none of the family members has suffered from COVID-19 so far. On the other hand, I personally think that most people will pass through this at some point. Most likely, COVID-19 stays with us as an ordinary flue we all had at least once in our life. I hope that scientists invent a vaccine soon and this disease won’t take much of people’s lives.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Viewst.
Victoria Duben: I graduated from the Physics department of Moscow State University nearly 15 years ago. I have a Master Degree in Physics and Applied Maths. For ten years, I worked in investment banking. I joined a hedge fund right after my graduation. I used to manage a portfolio of different types of assets, including derivatives, I worked with institutional European clients, and I worked as a trader as well. Back in 2015, I met Igor Barinov, a talented engineer, and soon I quit my financial career to start working with Igor on software for digital advertisers. That is how it all started. I knew nothing about digital marketing at the time, and I brought to the project all my financial and operational expertise.
How does Viewst innovate?
Victoria Duben: We live in the accelerated technological and digital world. And the virus changed the way we use internet. With nearly all off-line activities called off, we went online even faster. Small businesses had to move online to survive. There are many helpful tools for beginners to create a website (wix.com or tilda.cc), to start an online shop (shopify.com or ecwid.com), to create visuals for your products or services (canva.com or crello.com). Viewst team has developed a simple tool for all things ads. With Viewst, businesses are able to create animated banners for their commercial campaigns quickly and effortlessly. And professional teams are able to outrun a boring production routine and concentrate on creativity instead.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Victoria Duben: Despite the fact that we are building the IT startup, we were affected by the pandemic during the spring months. Most of our customers put on hold or slowed down their activity. Businesses were changing the strategy and rethinking their marketing spends. At Viewst, we faced many short-term challenges, such as those related to health and safety, cash flow, consumer demand. However, we navigated these challenges successfully. We anticipate the new market conditions will strengthen Viewst position and positively affect the growth.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Victoria Duben: We were lucky to avoid any layoffs, though we cut our expenses as much as we could. Being a startup, you can access free deals and credits by Google Cloud and Amazon, HubSpot and Notion, Stripe and Crisp, and many other useful tools to keep operating. Cash is the king, especially during periods of volatility and high level of uncertainty. We did our best to find as many deals as possible, and it saved us resources and helped to stay afloat. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the team is the major support for the founder. The more transparent the leader is, the better she communicates the real state of business, the higher is the level of trust and the willingness to work even harder to succeed.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Viewst in the future?
Victoria Duben: Restful sleep and sport exercises are the best sources of my energy. During the pandemic, I have acquired new habits, such as meditation and interval nutrition. Over time, I can say that I feel better now. I personally think that this year gave us a chance to become closer to ourselves, slow down, learn, and understand what are really important things in life. I’m grateful.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Victoria Duben: Adtech is a highly competitive space. And some companies are solving similar problems. Some of our early users were comparing us to Canva before they even tried the service. And now, they call us Canva for display ads. Viewst and Canva were developed to solve a different kind of market pains. While Canva was designed to democratize design and provide a simple but powerful tool for users to create decks and business cards, cards, and social media posts, Viewst was designed to help users create all kinds of rich media and video ads quickly and effortlessly. There are other competitors like Photo Shop and Adobe Animate, Bannerflow and Bannerwise, and a bunch of smaller players. Still, most of them require a certain level of expertise and knowledge to work with them, while others are expensive and too complex. Viewst enables users with little to no design experience to create all kinds of ads from scratch in minutes.
Your final thoughts?
Victoria Duben: Since we are getting closer to Festive Season, I would like to wish strong health and best of luck to all entrepreneurs and founders. Whatever are the challenges, don’t give up on your dreams.