INTERVIEWS

Wolfpack Digital’s ‘hunt’ for Premier Digital Solutions Explained by Founder & CEO, Gina Lupu-Florian

February 17, 2020

Georgina ‘Gina’ Lupu-Florian, the Founder and CEO of Wolfpack Digital, ‘hunts’ the best solutions for technical constraints and believes this is the best time for women in professional spheres. On a special tête-à-tête with MobileAppDaily, she imparts some valuable insights and messages for future entrepreneurs.

Full Interview

1. Wolfpack Digital will turn 5 this year. Can you take us through its journey and include aspects like the formation, the naming, the vision, its growth strategy, etc?

Wolfpack Digital started 5 years ago with the purpose of touching the lives of as many digital products as possible. We simply love ideas, innovation and tech entrepreneurs, and we are really passionate about how technology can help individuals and organizations live better, work better and sell better. 

The name of the company stems from my surname, “Lupu”, which means “Wolf”.

I started the company after returning from London, where I studied and worked for 2 years. As an iOS developer with a diverse background - in Engineering, Psychology, Public Relations and Business Management - and a deep affection for how technology brings positive change, it made sense to return to my home town, Cluj, and make the best out of the tech talent here to build a product-oriented company. Being product-oriented requires cross-domain knowledge and creative thinking combined with strong engineering skills and this is what Wolfpack Digital brings to the show, or so we like to believe. Another important aspect at the time I founded the company was my ambition to make our working environment and the team simply amazing. 

Right now our team has grown to 50 people, who are strong professionals in UX/UI, web development, mobile development, quality assurance, product strategy and project management. Our entire team is in-house, and the growth strategy has always been more focused on quality, rather than quantity.

2.  As a B2B agency you have to work with a lot of industries. Is there a methodical approach for each industry or does your company have a standard strategic model for all?

Our top 5 industries for 2019 were transportation, fintech, IoT, HealthTech and social. There is a standard strategic model that we use for any product during product development, regardless of its industry, however, when we work on the product strategy, domain-specific knowledge can be valuable. For example, when we go through the discovery phase for a fintech product, there are relevant questions we answer together with the client (such as regulation-related aspects) before choosing to invest effort in certain functionality. 

3. When dealing with startups how do you guide a fairly new business to choose a lucrative app development platform?

Since we are a web and mobile app development company, we are quite versatile in terms of the platform we can offer and therefore we are always ready to go for what works best for the customer. Aspects we take into consideration and carefully analyze together with a client are market size, target audience (demographics, business/leisure users, etc.), user experience constraints, computational complexity, validation plan, etc. We always “hunt” for the best solution within the given constraints.

4. You started out as a Java developer with Nokia then as an iOS developer and now currently leading an agency. Can you describe the transition from becoming a developer to a Founder and CEO? 

Since I was always interested in many fields, ranging from tech to human psychology, business and creative industries, the transition felt natural - just like stepping into the right pair of shoes. 

Even before starting the company, I was helping some of my iOS freelancing clients with their product strategy and UX/UI design.

As an early founder, I had the opportunity to fill in all the roles in an organization: from sales to the designer to office admin, and this suited me perfectly. Having been in all these roles helped me understand better, through direct experience, how to improve the results and experience of each role from the position I hold now, so as to offer a smooth ride to both customers and team members. 

5 years after founding the company, most of my work now is centred around vision, culture, improving processes, internal problem solving, and business development. 

5. Do you miss being a developer?

I love this question! To be fair, sometimes I miss being a developer, however, I realised quite early in my career that I prefer to be in contact with many other aspects involved in building a product. As a big-picture kind of person, what I miss the most about being a developer is the focus time and the feeling of high productivity with immediate and measurable results for your work. Focusing your mind on a single task and becoming immersed in finding the right solution is what I find most valuable in a developer’s day-to-day work experience, especially when multitasking as a manager. 

wolf

6. Hybrid apps have gained significant momentum in recent years with platforms like Ionic, React Native and Flutter becoming popular. How do you perceive the clash between Native vs Hybrid apps?

I believe hybrid platforms are highly promising, but they haven’t lived up to their initial hype yet. Since we believe in the importance of high quality, we always advise our clients to build native apps, as this also increases their chances of getting their app validated on the market. Surprisingly perhaps, when drawing the line, native apps not only perform better in terms of user experience, but, in many cases, also in terms of cost-efficiency: when trying to reach the same level of smoothness in a hybrid app, many times a lot of time is invested in fine-tuning, and when adding things up, it might not be worth it. The time to launch is also shorter when you use native technologies. Nonetheless, if the budget is limited and the app is not very complex, hybrid is a good solution too. If having your product be platform-independent is what you are looking for, then of course going for a web application is the go-to choice. 

7.  With AI and ML wielding incredible powers with time, do you believe they’ll be forever growing or will there be a saturation point? 

As a PhD student with a thesis focused around ML applied in Psychology, I really believe that the power of AI is and will be transformational for human-kind - with both positive and negative effects. As with everything else, growth cannot be exponential and it might slow down at some point. However, I am of the opinion that the challenges and the problems AI will aim to change will be different in a few years, and the science itself will turn into quite a different beast.

Wolfpack Digital’s

8. How do you manage competitor threats? What makes you believe businesses should choose Wolfpack Digital over its adversaries?

In the general context of each and every business needing to embrace technology nowadays, I reckon there is plenty of fish in the sea for everyone. That being said, competition threats can occasionally be difficult to manage, however, from my perspective, it’s all about focusing on the brighter side of competition - i.e., it’s making you continuously push for innovation so as to stay on top of the game. As a kid and teenager, I used to be a competitive athlete and I also participated in any contest I could (Physics, Biology, Math, Literature, etc.), so I love fair competition. 

I believe businesses should choose Wolfpack Digital because of our dedication and reliability, combined with our product-oriented team’s ability to deliver creative and high-quality results. When working with us, businesses value enjoyable, honest and open communication as one of the most important aspects of our collaboration.

9.  What are the current challenges and future plans of Wolfpack Digital?

Our current challenges are focused around optimising internal processes, managing growth, and being selective with the projects we work on, so as to build even more long-term relationships with our customers and have our team work on meaningful apps and digital products. 

Since at Wolfpack Digital, we also build our own products and have won awards with some of them, the plan is to keep investing in our internal startup division and bring and grow these products on the market. 

The main focus in the next few years will be around consolidating our team and brand, and offering a continuously improving experience, for both our customers and our team.

10.  IS your current expansion plan inclined more towards a horizontal growth or a vertical growth and why?

Our current expansion plan is inclined towards vertical growth more, as we are already covering several markets, with our focus being on perfecting the services we provide and reaching clients and projects of greater impact. 

11. A study revealed that in the last two decades, female-led businesses grew by 114% and now 40% of the businesses in the US are owned by women. Isn't that a great sign? Also, what challenges did/do you face as a female entrepreneur?

It is definitely a great sign. Having said that, we still have a very long way to go! These are the best times in modern history to be a woman, as I often find myself thinking. There are still challenges, and the percentage of women-owned businesses (especially in tech) is much lower in my country. 

The hardest hurdle to overcome is the unconscious bias people have when they meet me, which makes it harder to build trust, sometimes. In this sense, everyone can see a huge global effort being made towards affirmative action, which I think is great - as long as it rewards competence. In the end, it’s about allowing everyone to be considered at the start line for any position, project etc. And the nasty thing about unconscious bias is that many times women are overlooked when it comes to considering them as speakers for conferences etc. It is also proven that diverse teams perform better and we get to experience it in practice more and more, so I hope and believe the next generations will not have an issue with such bias.

However, I think there is a great opportunity in facing these challenges, as you can choose to see them as motivators to become better. For example, if you have to work twice as hard to get somewhere (which is not fair, of course), this will make you an exceptional professional and the gains will definitely pay off in the end. Also, in many cases, your unique perspective and voice can bring an incredibly valuable contribution when discussing solutions or any kind of topic. 

12.  You have studied and worked in London and now with Wolfpack Digital you’ve retreated to your home turf. What brought you back to Romania? Wouldn’t London have served a better option?

In a way, half of my heart remained in London once I left and I still visit the city as often as I can. Nevertheless, I believe Wolfpack Digital couldn’t have been born anywhere else than in Cluj. 

What brought me back to Romania, among other things, was my desire to contribute to positive change in my country, which is hugely affected by emigration. I wanted to bring back business-oriented knowledge and my high-end startup experience (I used to work for a smart jewelry FashionTech startup in London) to a place where there is a lot of tech talent. Cluj is actually considered one of the top 3 tech hubs to watch in 2020, according to Slush. At the time I started the company, the main opportunity back home was that quite a few local companies had a tech startup-oriented or a product-oriented mindset, which meant that what I was bringing to the table had a greater chance of making an impact.

13. Lastly, as a young businesswoman, what would you advise to the CEOs of tomorrow, especially women?

I would definitely advise them to dare more and to have the courage to pull through what may seem uncomfortable situations, as there are so many wonderful growth opportunities beyond them. Especially to the CEOs out there who are women (but not only to them), acknowledge that the value of diversity is huge and choose to see your uniqueness as an advantage and a driver to shine and become better every day. 

Key Takeaways

  • Wolfpack Digital is a digital agency based in Cluj- Napoca, Romania. The name comes from Gina’s surname ‘Lupu’ which means ‘wolf’.
  • Wolfpack has a principle model to approach a new client, although, during product strategizing, it goes through domain-specific enquiries.
  • Gina misses being a software developer and feels that the transcendence from a developer to a Founder and CEO was natural.
  • The impact of Machine Learning will be transformational with its share of merits and demerits on humankind, and its growth might slow down in the future. Yet the scope for Artificial Intelligence as a technology will be phenomenal.  
  • Wolfpack Digital is moving towards a vertical expansion with the current focus on staff consolidation and improving customer and intramural experiences.
  • As a female entrepreneur, the unconscious bias people in general present is the most difficult thing to deal with.
Twinkle <span>Product Strategist</span>
Written By

She is a writer and content marketer at MobileAppDaily. Her knack around the mobile apps is merely splendid. Her experience in the tech industry has assisted her in churning out the best and more importantly, unbiased mobile app reviews.

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