Female Russian Mobile Tech Entrepreneur Adapts to Succeed
How can you get from Miami to Moscow in 10 minutes flat?
Through the global women’s network!
While in Miami in December 2013 speaking at the WeXchange (the first pitch conference for women entrepreneurs from Latin America), I met Silvina Moschini, an international expert on social media and Internet marketing. Silvina connected me to Yoanna Gouchtchina, a mobile tech entrepreneur and the founder of ZeeRabbit.
Yoanna lives by the mantra, “Never stop, never get comfortable, adjust to the change quickly.”
“Never stop, never get comfortable, adjust to the change quickly.”
From the ages of 16 to 24, Yoanna studied and lived in the United States where she completed undergraduate and graduate degrees. “My view about the world was very Americanized,” Yoanna said. “At the same time, I still closely followed what was happening in my own country. When I graduated with an MA in Commercial Diplomacy, I went to DC with other classmates to look for work. Most of them got jobs working for the U.S. government. I was offered a job by a U.S. consulting firm to work on a project for them in Moscow.” At first, she was reluctant, but after some consideration it seemed like a great opportunity to apply the knowledge she gained in her own country.
Then, two years later (in 2006) she struck out on her own and has been working for herself ever since.
“My career path is diverse. I started with marketing nuclear cities and worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shifted to trade and investment consulting, and then shifted back to marketing but in the field of mobile advertising technology,” Yoanna said. “My career decisions were always influenced by an internal search – the drive for what I was doing, and only after evaluating the financial aspects of the field. I’ve always looked for meaning, the WHY, established goals to motivate myself to do what I do, researched the subject thoroughly before getting into it, and then continued learning in the process.”
“I’ve always looked for meaning, the why…”
While Yoanna finds Russia to be tolerant of working women, she finds doing business in Russia to be very challenging. Specifically, in working through local regulations and officials. “A large part of what we spend our time on is working around corruption and red tape,” Yoanna said. “The difficulty and challenge is to stay motivated and build a business. But, if you believe in what you are doing, this will take you far, and will help you motivate people around you.”
One of her greatest challenges to date was a project in the pharmaceutical field, which was killed after a lot of preparation, getting approvals, and lobbying. Why?
“Because we refused to bribe some people,” Yoanna said. “It is very difficult to overcome moments like this, as you are tempted to ‘Do as the Romans do.’ Especially after you invested a considerable amount of time, money, and have a number of professional people in the field supporting you. [It was a] very hard decision. However, you just have to step aside, talk to your partners, make sure that everyone is on the same page, and move on. It is not always worth it to break a wall, or it is not always the right time to do it. The most important thing is your reputation – that will carry you further.”
“The most important thing is your reputation – that will carry you further.”
Shortly after this challenging experience, Yoanna enrolled in a doctorate program in Business Administration while continuing to run her business. She was searching for inspiration of what to do next. While she didn’t finish the program, about six months into it, she was inspired by interacting with other business people like herself.
“Basically, it gave me a push to expand my horizons and look somewhere else,” Yoanna said. “I didn’t have to look very far, as mobile tech was always an interest of mine. All I needed to do was to identify an area that was new, exciting to me personally and that had potential for development. It took me about nine months to decide to start to build a new business – ZeeRabbit.
While 2013 connected 7 million devices – mainly in Russia – to the ZeeRabbit platform, her current goal is to build out a mobile in-app ad and media channel for brands to communicate with users. Yoanna said, “Over the next three to four years, the plan is to have 100+ million devices reached by our service globally with focus on Russia, and Europe.”