Collaboration is the new innovation – in the past, people thought knowledge was power, but sharing knowledge is even more powerful

Riga, Latvia - Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners, interviewed Susanne Hannestad, CEO of Fintech Mundi, for RigaTechGirls.

Evita: Susanne, you have held powerful roles for over 18 years now. You have taken on impressive Board responsibilities for various Tech, Fintech and Financial Services companies. So, how did you get here?

Susanne: When I was with Nordea – remember that banks are obliged to follow strict legislation about appointing Board members – I was able to access positions on associated Boards, such as Visa Norway, MasterCard Forum and eventually MasterCard Europe. I believe the position I held in Nordea and my external visibility both contributed to my ability to get other board positions. At Nordea, we innovated a lot over the years, and acted as intrapreneurs. Of course, all the changes we made attracted media coverage – we were first to bring in chip cards in 2004, we were first with many other things going forward, and we started card acquisition from scratch in Norway – and these exposures helped to raise my public profile.

Evita: What about your personal challenges? In order to achieve such a high position, and just as importantly to stay there, you must have held these executive positions for long periods of time. So, what does it take from you in terms of learning, work-life balance, self-discipline, and any other pressures?

Susanne: I was headhunted as a manager when I was 28, and since then I have always held managerial and executive positions. I believe that I connect well with people, and get good ideas from people. I have always been ambitious on behalf of the unit or the company I’m leading, and the people I work with love being a part of a growing business, and seeing it going forward. When I was younger, I played on a handball team, and when I worked together with my team-mates, I always knew what the goals were. I think that this focus is my most important character trait. I have always been a keen learner, whether formally at schools or more practically within companies, and I have always learned a lot from talking to people.  My focus has been on growth in all aspects, lifting the person, lifting the unit, and on being an agent for change, to make sure that we get the growth. Finally, you should always make sure that you have time for yourself in doing what you do.

Evita: What about the innovation aspect that you mentioned? In the field of technology, quite a lot of knowledge is required – were you ever afraid to play with technologies and participate in this innovative growth, driving innovation, creating something new and having people follow you, especially in an area which is changing so fast?

Susanne: Banks are conservative, so I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it is possible as long as you understand the powerplay and politics within a bank or a larger corporation before you come up with new things, and as long as you demonstrate that your innovations are good for the bank or corporation going forward. I believe that the greatest challenge is to manoeuvre and understand the corporate politics. Technology units usually have a lot of good people, so it is important to get together and make sure to present the ideas in a way that is interesting and beneficial for the executive management or the Board.

Evita: In terms of being proactive and participatory, many people are quite smart but prefer to stay in the shadows. They are often afraid to speak up and say something which might not be received well, or else they just don’t have this drive to be in the frontline and in leading positions. So, did you undergo some discomfort when taking on leading positions? How did you handle this interpersonal part, and did you ever think, “Why should I be the one”?

Susanne: I always make sure that my people are with me. I also make sure that I use my communication skills with both my employees and my bosses, not always focusing horizontally. When I communicate upwards, my strength comes from knowing that my team is on my side and has my back. It is vital to share achievements and celebrate; every time we had a launch, we would cheer for each other! It is also important to make sure that my community – the people around me – are happy that we are moving forward successfully, and this encourages them to buy into the innovations. Of course, you will always have laggards, but eventually they will see the light if the unit continues to move quickly and reach milestones.

Evita: And now, let’s talk about your newest project, Fintech Mundi. What motivated you to establish it?

Susanne: I was with Nordea for 10 years until I left in 2012, but I became a chair of the Fintech company Zwipe three years before that, although the word “fintech” did not exist in 2009! This worked out so well that they wanted me to be their Executive Chair, so I left Nordea and worked for Zwipe until 2015. While at Zwipe, I realised there are so many Fintech companies out there, that Fintech was becoming a global trend, and that many Fintech companies were going to escalate in volume. I got in contact with a South African in London, a Briton in Tel Aviv and an Irish person in Dublin, and we discussed the ways in which we could help Fintech companies to scale with our experience and networks, building up companies to create a Fintech ecosystem – back then, accelerators and incubators were still in their infancy. That was the start of Fintech Mundi. What also motivated me was the entrepreneurship. Banks are conservative, and at this point they were still stuck in the financial crisis and caught up in the recession. But at the same time, there was all this innovation with the Fintech companies always in front, growing, with younger people, very tech-savvy and so forth. As a kind of facilitator, I thought that was very interesting and it gave me a lot of energy. Of course, I love the international space – the wider, the bigger, the better for me.

Evita: Perhaps you could highlight the hottest Fintech companies from Norway – no, not Fintech Mundi yet, that will be my next question! But in terms of what our readers should know about Norwegian Fintech, which names would you mention?

Susanne: There are several! A few niche bankers such as Aprila, and an older one, Bank Norwegian, which is doing interesting things with consumer lending. I would also like to highlight Huddlestock, which is more investment-focused. They have a dashboard and sell into bank markets, it’s B2B and kind of a white label, ever since they realised it’s easier to do B2B than B2C. Another B2B fintech is Quantfolio, selling mostly to banks. Finally, I would like to mention Neonomics, which provides open banking – they have more than 1,300 banks in 25 European countries, and are growing fast. There is fierce competition in the open banking arena.

Evita: If you could highlight a little bit about Fintech Mundi now, what are the interesting start-ups that everyone should know – in particular, are there any that have especially high potential or a nice objective?

Susanne: Fintech Mundi operate across the Nordic and Baltic states. I would highlight the up-and-coming Finnish company – Cloud Asset – a month ago, they won an award in Finland at the Forum. Two others to watch are both from Sweden – Acuminor, which is a credit risk assessment company, and Doconomy, a company that offers sustainable banking – and I believe that each of them offers something unique, something different.

Evita: Now I will ask just one question related to the gender aspect. Why should girls and women stay close to technology and develop their careers there, either as specialists or as leaders or as entrepreneurs?

Susanne: Entrepreneurships are fun, risky and very rewarding and we need both genders and diversity. I’d say that the Nordics are quite liberated, but women need a little bit more incentive to invest and found companies, so the awareness is there. We need to have a balance of all categories of diversity.

The majority of students in law, medicine and business are women, way above 50%, but in technology it’s a little bit lower, although I think that is changing. You need all aspects; even if some women and girls are afraid of math, science or technology, we need all types of professions to build tech companies. We need leadership, and girls and women are good at leading. They just need the confidence and understanding, and maybe they need a role model to understand. This shouldn’t be a hindrance – it’s a mental barrier, both individually and in society, so Go Do, Go Make!

Collaboration is the new innovation. It is important for so many aspects of business – for Fintech, and also for banks – because as a leader, you can’t stand alone, you need to collaborate. In technology, you see that there is a need for your product, but you also need to make sure that you interact with the customers, and that your functionality is appropriate. In the past, people thought knowledge was power, but now we know that sharing knowledge is even more powerful.


Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 100 senior level assignments in over 40 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Nordics and supports their global expansion plans on all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. She also supports clients in the Middle East and South East Asia with bringing Nordic talent to drive digital transformation in other geographies. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw – one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in the Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival.  Ms. Lune was recognised by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row. Ms. Lune has a PhD in Social Economy. Evita Lune speaks fluent Latvian, English, and Russian and has passive fluency in German, Swedish, and Polish.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

Achieving outside your comfort zone with Evita Lune

Miss Kaya is a lifestyle and financial platform for the modern woman. Miss Kaya got the chance to speak with Evita Lune - Partner at Pedersen & Partners, and one of Forbes’ most influential women in Latvia. She specialises in Fintech, is an advocate for the application of smart modern technology, and actively works to support women in their professional development. Given her success and active support in empowering women, Miss Kaya wanted to understand what it is that keeps her going in her everyday life and career, as well as any tips she has in keeping her finances in shape.

1. Tell us more about what you do.

I am a Global Head of FinTech Practice Group and Global Equity Partner at Pedersen & Partners, a leading international executive search firm, active in 53 countries.

2. What drives you to do your best in life and at work everyday?

I have always been a very ambitious person. I have tried to achieve the most that I can, either at work or outside. Achievement always lies outside one’s comfort zone, so I have been exposing myself to learning and development in different areas of life. And I have hopefully become a better professional, wife, sportswoman, mother and friend over the years.

3. Outside of work, what do you do and enjoy in your free time?

Waterski slalom is my main hobby, I practice it 4 – 5 times a week during summer months. During winter I do downhill skiing and yoga. I am also spending quality time with my family, exploring the nature and meeting friends in Latvia and abroad.

4. What advice do you have for other women who are trying to establish their careers and seeking fulfilment in their lives?

A happy and balanced person should look for four main areas of fulfillment: personal, professional, spiritual and physical. There is none that is more important than the others, and only the person that has a balance of all four can contribute the best in all areas.

5. You have been very successful thus far in your career. What were some main challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I come from a small country. Latvia has only 2 million inhabitants. Moreover, there are lots of stereotypes connected with post-Soviet countries. Breaking into international business arena has not been exactly “a walk in a park for me”. There are many “glass ceilings” that I have broken and many that I am still to break. I am blessed with having fantastic partners at Pedersen & Partners which have given me a great global platform to develop my professional skills.

6. As a lifestyle and financial platform, Miss Kaya believes that having a control over our finances is key to leading the type of life we want. Can you share with us some habits or tips you have in keeping track or growing your finances?

Growing my own competence and professional development have been key reasons for being able to continuously increase my welfare. I am not focusing on running after money at all. Instead, I try to become better and better every day and to deliver the value to my clients, above their expectations.

On the cost side, as a person, I do not need any luxury lifestyle, and I do not care much about demonstrating anything to others. So I am not under any pressure to satisfy some luxury standard of living.

7. Any pearls of wisdom that you go by?

If you want to change the world for the better, start with changing yourself!

 

Read the interview here.


Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels.
Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

Nurturing Nest for the Future Unicorns

Riga, Latvia – Evita Lune, Partner for Global Digital Economy at Pedersen & Partners interviewed Marili Merendi, Associate at Karma Ventures.

Marili Merendi is an Associate at karma.vc — an early stage venture capital firm specialized in late seed and series A investments in Europe’s most promising tech startups. At karma.vc Marili covers deal sourcing, due diligence, financial valuation, and all-round portfolio management tasks.
Her previous experience is in finance and investment advisory positions at various international organizations such as: Kraft Foods, UBS Investment Bank and UBS Wealth Management in Zürich. Marili holds an MSc in Business Economics from the University of Amsterdam, complemented by the extended studies in the US, Norway, and Switzerland. She is a music fan and outdoor sports enthusiast.
 
 
Evita: Let’s start by understanding, what is your job about at Karma?
 
Marili: To tell you this, let me briefly introduce Karma Ventures. We are a Pan-European venture capital fund operating out of Estonia. We invest in early-stage technology companies all over Europe, and since our establishment three years ago we’ve done eleven investments, six of which are in the Baltics:  one is in Riga - Sonarworks,  two in Sweden, two in Finland and one in the UK. Our focus is on startups that build unique tech heavy solutions and that solve big customer problems. We’ve noticed that our preference is mostly towards B2B software startups.
 
I work on deal sourcing and the initial analysis of the deal and company characteristics. Once we decide to proceed with a deal, my tasks include working with my team by preparing due diligence and documentation. When we have closed the deal, I continue to actively work with portfolio companies. However, while part of my job is facilitating the analytically structured process in working with startups, the other part is trying to enable the founders to leverage their own potential through collective knowledge sharing and open discussion with them.
 
With regard to Karma’s value add, this is a question to our portfolio companies as they are the true judges here. From practical aspects we typically focus on the business stage where there is an early evidence of product-market fit of the solution, and where the company is about to build the scaling business processes and culture for fast acceleration. What it usually means, is that we work together with the founders on business strategy and recruiting, as we believe that one can only scale by hiring great people that bring true value and know-how on scaling and making a company stronger and better. We don’t expect the founders to be experts at this, but we expect them to be able to attract the talent that have the necessary expertise.
"We believe that one can only scale by hiring great people that bring true value and know-how on scaling and making a company stronger and better.”
 
Evita: Can you share a bit more about the investments that you have made? You mentioned that there are 11 different companies, half or which are in the Baltics mainly in B2B field.
 
Marili: Sure. Up to date we have mostly invested in companies targeting B2B customers, but we also have a few marketplaces that bring together the supply and demand side. For example, in Lithuania we invested in CGTrader, which is a 3D model marketplace; in Estonia we invested in HR marketplace/platform MeetFrank that brings together people looking for an interesting job and companies looking for great talent while both may not explicitly state this interest. Regarding other companies in our portfolio, we have investments in developer tools such as AppGyver and Plumbr; machine intelligence based emotion recognition software provider Realeyes; in Riga we have investment in Sonarworks, which is a software for headphone sound calibration enabling music fans to hear more authentic sound; we also have big data analytics platform SpectX; cloud based automated computational fluid dynamics software provider Adaptive Simulations; legal tech leader TrademarkNow; and finally B2B as well as consumer focused non-intrusive home security provider Minut from Sweden.
 
Evita: What about the technology side of these deals and in general, reviewing potential investments, how do you manage to judge if this will work or not?
 
Marili: When we look at an opportunity, we consider several inputs, such as market trends: what is trending globally, where the consumers and the businesses are heading to and what business models are in place. Then we analyse the competition: what type of solutions the competitors provide, how many alternatives are out there for the customer to consider, the funding of the competition, etc. All this gives us a fairly good indication of where the innovation and its financing is heading to. We also conduct reference checks with the customers and business partners of the startup under evaluation, meaning that we directly ask customers how relevant certain technology is for them and how it impacts their business. We do not conduct technical due diligence in house, but rather get this input from customer references in order to build the thesis whether the startup is on a path to become a global player. We tend to take customer input seriously as it is fair to assume that before they decided to pay for a solution, they looked at various alternatives, thus providing us with a really good comparison and understanding of the provided value. Then, of course, we look at the team trying to estimate the existing skill set as well as the potential to adapt to life’s challenges that one encounters while trying to build a unicorn.
 
Additionally, unlike many other funds we have a tech advisory meeting with the startups, where two of the Skype founding engineers — Jaan Tallinn and Ahti Heinla — bring additional input to our decision making process. We are lucky to leverage their know-how and global experience of building and developing Skype, putting together and investing in a portfolio of global technology companies previously, and currently being active in an international scene of thriving technology innovation.
 
Read the whole interview here.
Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels.
Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

I build technology to enable better human interaction

Riga, Latvia – Māra Pudāne interviewed for Riga Tech Girls by Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners.

Māra Pudāne is a Scientific Researcher at Department of Artificial Intelligence and Systems Engineering, part of the Riga Technical University (RTU). Māra has a BA and Masters degrees of Engineering Sciences in Computer Systems from RTU and a wealth of publications and research in Artificial Intelligence. Her current focus is on developing affective computing systems to simulate human group behavior which would eventually be used to assist people with emotional challenges.

Evita: Can you tell us about the Riga Technical University and what is your role there?
 
Māra: RTU is the largest engineering university in Latvia. I am working in the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Systems Engineering. We are doing Artificial Intelligence (AI) research in our department focusing on different applications, such as robotics and intelligent tutoring systems. My main area of research is using AI in the simulation of processes in which intelligent beings are involved. More specifically, I’m considering the role of emotions in these processes, which is a relatively new direction of AI; to my knowledge, we are the first ones in Latvia who started researching and working on this.
 
Evita: What is your ambition and what is the international focus of your work from the scientific perspective? 
 
Māra: My inspiration for this topic came from the fact that people use a lot of electronics nowadays and thus loose social contact. People who choose to interact with their phones instead of peers lose in the long term, because for example in the job market those who have stronger ability to socialize tend to do better. This means that people need to acquire social skills, for example, how to behave with others appropriately. This, in turn, is closely related to emotional skills, which also called Emotional Intelligence — how well we are able to understand and regulate our own emotions and the emotions of others.
 

“Currently, our academic systems are focused on developing IQ, but there is very little emphasis on EQ. The acquiring of EQ skills occurs naturally in the classroom while people interact with each other. However, if people don’t interact anymore, there is a problem.”

My initial idea was to create an artificial playground for kids where they would be able to develop social and emotional skills by interacting with a group of artificial peers, play various scenarios, but would not hurt actual people. Once I started researching, I realized that on the one hand there has been quite a lot done in this area, but on the other hand, not nearly enough. I have currently put aside developing something like this for children since it involves many more challenges, as children require very specific strategies and tactics; additionally, there is an entirely different layer of ethical perspective when it comes to children.
 
At the same time, to develop something like this for adults, I still need to have a believable enough group of artificial peers; I mean, you don’t want a bunch of robots to socialize with. For communication to make sense, a person using this simulation should believe that s/he is talking to actual humans. Currently, I’m working on simulating a group of artificial humans who interact with each other and make it as close as possible to human communication.
 
Evita: Your research also looks closely into crowds and predicting their behavior, is it just one part of your work or your main focus?
 
Māra: It’s not my main focus but it is a part of my research. A crowd as a structure is a bit simpler than a group of people who know each other, let’s say, co-workers. A crowd has a basic structure and it’s easier to predict its behavior. 
 
When people pass emotions from one to the other, there are several ways for this to happen, which I call mechanisms. When it comes to the crowd, there are just one or two mechanisms involved in passing emotions, while in the work groups there are five mechanisms. 
 
For example, a simple, yet effective mechanism to pass an emotion is to express it verbally; this is a direct manifestation of how you are feeling at this moment — we often use it with people we know.
 
In a crowd, direct emotion expression does not work. Instead, we use a mechanism based on mimicry. People tend to mimic the emotions of others: if someone smiles, we tend to smile; such behavior is coded in our low-level social behavior models. This mechanism is called emotion contagion because it occurs exactly like a virus.
 
It’s much harder to predict the behavior of the coworkers because coworkers have relationships, i.e., a social structure, and have common things that they need to accomplish. More importantly, they have the ability to communicate if they like or dislike the behavior of another person. Therefore, predicting their behavior is so much more difficult. This is why current models that I have were first applied to crowds. Nevertheless, we are also working on scientific research and publications that cover other types of groups.
 
Read the whole interview here.

Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. 
 
Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls and a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

 

2019 – The Year of Employment Opportunities

Riga, Latvia – Evita Lune – Partner at Pedersen & Partners commented on the market trends and employment opportunities in Latvia in 2019 for Dienas Bizness.

2019 presents many opportunities for employees, therefore, companies plan to invest more resources in retaining programs; top talents who express a wish to change job or leave can expect to receive an offer of a substantial salary increase.

Employers will face many challenges because labour market trends will remain similar to last year: the unemployment rate continues to gradually decrease so the demand for labour grows, making the recruitment process more complicated and time-consuming. 

“Employer becomes more pleading, while employee – more demanding”

“Similar to 2018, this year will be good for employees. There is a shortage of specialists in the majority of functions, therefore high-level professionals and executives have the luxury to choose which company they want to join. Managers and owners of many companies also consider inviting foreign employees” says Partner Evita Lune of Pedersen & Partners.

Employers are more and more concerned with attracting, engaging and retaining employees, while the latter enjoy the increase in demand and are ready to consider new job opportunities. Wages are expected to rise 2-4% worldwide in 2019, in Latvia – around 3%. Media publications on average salary levels and labor shortage have contributed to the salary increase, thus employers are forced to think of making offers to guest workers and raising issues of work efficiency in general. The largest salary increase is expected in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

Many companies had also planned certain budget allocations for employee retention. In cases when employees announce their intention to leave, company makes a counter-offer. Top talents would eventually receive an increase of 30–50%.

“Candidates are becoming more selective and prudent when it comes to decision to change their job; not only remuneration level matters, but also other factors such as company's reputation, long-term goals and career growth opportunities,” -  added Evita.

Read the Latvian version Here.

Evita Lune and Joanne Chng interview the Co-Founder of Marvelstone Group

Riga, LatviaGina Heng, Co-Founder of Marvelstone Group. Interviewed by Evita Lune and Joanne Chng.
 
Marvelstone Group is a private investment group that develops and invests in growing businesses. It was founded by Joe Seunghyun Cho and Gina Heng and joined by managing partner, Joel Ko. One of the projects is LATTICE80 — the Global FinTech Hub kickstarted from Singapore and now expanding its network across many other cities. Gina is very passionate about women and financial empowerment, and is currently developing misskaya.com as a lifestyle and financial platform designed specifically for the modern women.
 
Evita: First of all, I wanted to ask a personal question: how did you decide to become an entrepreneur in a tech space? Was it initially planned or did life bring you to this? Can you share a little bit about your personal motivation?
 
Gina: I wanted to become an entrepreneur since young; having been exposed to my father’s business I grew up learning about business, seeing and observing, understanding how it works. After I graduated from the university, I wanted to do something of my own and that’s how it kick-started and progressed.
 
I embarked on my first job as an asset management research analyst covering Asia Pacific markets in terms of understanding what’s happening with the mutual fund and institutional fund markets and was privileged to be able to gain access to the CEOs and top management to explore the landscape in Asia, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and China. I learnt from the top guys and understood how to develop new business in new markets, formulate business strategy and manage various regulatory landscapes.
 
In my second job I went in-house to work at a top Japanese bank based in Singapore, and that’s where I understood the difference between the working culture at a US based consulting firm and a Japanese bank with a tight structure. It was a fruitful experience as I learnt more in terms of the fundamentals of different business segments and financial needs in Asia, for example, in terms of commodities, Telco, and infrastructure development.
 
After my work experiences in the asset management and banking sectors, I joined my then boyfriend who’s now my husband in setting up our own hedge fund business.
 
We were just two young people trying to see how we can do own fund, own business. We didn’t plan too far, we just said: let’s try and move along. We did all the applications for licences, we tried to do our own marketing, tried to do our own outreach, so we learned things the hard way, at a high cost.
 
We evolved and adapted over time. From our first hedge fund, we expanded to offer other investment options such as private investments or property related opportunities to reach new audiences and of course we gained more experience over time on how to deal with various types of investors in Asia and elsewhere.
 
Since we are entrepreneurs, we also understood the pain-points that the Start-ups might be facing. We tried to work on new ventures like co-working space, and incubating in new start-ups We also broadened our experience with regards to the venture capital market as we helped an Israeli VC to develop in Korea.
 
Over time, it came in naturally that we understood “hey, the trends are changing!” and the new wave of FinTech startups is coming. Perhaps due to our experience in quantitative trading, we knew that algorithms, using robots, AI, that sort of things, would be more widely adopted. So, we wanted to create a platform that could actually assist all the different new players to come to the table.
 
With LATTICE80 as one of the projects, we curated it as a FinTech and Blockchain specific platform. We knew that content is very important for our community in terms of creating a good eco system — this really is not just about space or real estate business — but actually creating the community to bring the right brains to the table, to collaborate and add more value to the whole growth.
 
It has been a great market development platform where we are able to observe many opportunities and trends being developed within just a short span of time. We knew we made a good decision to kickstart it as an independent project, when it created more impact globally than we have expected. When we take on a new idea, it is always with a long term vision in mind. It’s only been almost 2 years now, and we’re taking it overseas. We moved our headquarters to London and we are reaching beyond Asia such as in European markets at the same time to bring all the different stakeholders such as start-ups, regulators, corporates, and we also try to engage the public to understand what is FinTech, or how it’s actually impacting in their day-to-day life, what sort of business opportunities these are, applying different innovations within the financial space.
 
Being able to adapt and to be flexible to changes is important to us and I think that’s a part of being entrepreneur not just in a tech space but in general. This is what we’ve been doing for the past several years.
 
We saw different technologies that have been developed such as AI, and how they intersect with the developments in FinTech. So, I would say that lot of technology innovations are blurring the lines with regards to how tech is applied to the different business segments.
 
We don’t try to think within the box, we want to be innovative, we are not afraid to try new things, for us it’s really about being nimble.
 
We keep it very lean and light — it’s just myself, my husband, and we have another Korean partner. We try to work very independently at the same time and we come together to see how can we make use of each other’s networks or experience to extend the business. And we’re very open to collaboration to various parties and partners, whether they are corporates or start-ups because we know that in this time and age it’s really not about pure competition but actually growing the whole ecosystem bigger and stronger.
 
Evita: And how would you classify yourself? Would you consider yourself now finance expert, or technology expert?
 
Gina: I don’t think I’m any (laughs). But I do have a better understanding of the financial side rather than the tech side. It is very exciting to know what’s happening in the tech space and how different technologies and innovations can be applied in the financial world, because ultimately what we want as consumers is really convenience and ease of use.
 
Read the whole interview here.
 

Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels.
Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls and a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.
 
Joanne Chng is a Client Partner at Pedersen & Partners, based in Singapore. Ms. Chng has over a decade’s worth of experience in senior-level Executive Search in the Financial Services, Information Communication Technology, Industrial, FMCG, and Healthcare & Life Sciences sectors for global brands across APAC. She pairs this track record with 10 years of enterprise sales experiences in the IT industry. Ms. Chng has in-depth understanding of the technology landscape, and an extensive recruitment background in both technology and enterprise solutions for corporate customers.
Before transitioning to Executive Search, she gained experience in the Financial Services and Insurance industries while holding several top managerial sales roles at local and regional key market players transforming sales and service operations for strategic accounts through end-to-end high quality hardware, software, and services solutions aimed at establishing enterprise-wide intranets.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives.

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

 

Global Digital Economy Partner Evita Lune was part of the jury at the business opportunity conference “ICEBREAKERS'18”

October 8, 2018 – Riga, Latvia. The event gathered over 200 participants ranging from students interested in startups and entrepreneurship journey, to startups, to business decision makers and enthusiasts.

The goal of the “ICEBREAKERS'18” conference is “to encourage young people to explore the unknown diversity of business opportunities in various fields, and to encourage students to elevate their ambitions and to look beyond the borders of Latvia in order to promote the world experience and knowledge.”

Participants of the conference included ambitious and promising Latvian startups, such as Debitum Networks aiming to disrupt global trade finance on Blockchain, Vividly who are creating new Virtual Reality Experience in architecture, and Printful - custom design for apparel and accessories aiming to IPO in New York. Representatives from the established international companies shared their business stories and discussed the multitude of business opportunities existing in different areas. 

The conference concluded with a "Business Ideas Competition" where students pitched their business ideas and competed for the main prize.

Evita Lune together with the jury members of the "Business Ideas Competition" evaluated pitches and presented the award to one of the three winners PARKDROID.

“Participating in such events is always exciting as it shows how many bright young minds we have, and it’s fantastic that there are such platforms as this conference that encourages them to implement their ideas in real life. Being a judge was tough, but I believe we made a fair decision and I wish all the best to the winners!”, stated Evita Lune, Partner for Global Digital Economy at Pedersen & Partners.


Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls and a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

Interview with the Co-Founder and CEO of INZMO: For me happiness is not in buying new things, but in contributing

Riga, Latvia – Evita Lune, Partner for Global Digital Economy at Pedersen & Partners interviewed Meeri Rebane, Co-Founder and CEO of INZMO. INZMO Ltd is an insurtech start-up established in September 2015 in Germany by the Estonian founders Meeri Rebane and Risto Klausen. The company focuses on providing an end-to-end innovative technological solutions to insurers, corporate partners and end customers to improve sales, customer relationships, claims handling and risk management. In 2016, the company received a boost in San Francisco from the largest start-up investor in the world — 500Startups. In May 2017, INZMO was named the best fintech company in Europe by the StartUp Europe Awards run by the European Commission. In December 2017, Helvetia Venture Fund — a Swiss insurer, has acquired a holding in INZMO and has invested a single-digit million amount in INZMO.

Evita: Funding is probably the most crucial challenge for startup entrepreneurs. What was your route to getting the company well financed? I read your interview after Parnu conference where you said that one must meet more than 200 investors to attract the attention of two. Also, I read that you have spent significant time in an US accelerator to get prepared for fundraising. How much have your travelled and how much has been the effort to get investors’ interest?

Meeri: When it comes to traveling, for the last three years when we established INZMO, I have not lived permanently anywhere. If somebody asked where my home was during the last three years, it was not very certain. In 2015 we moved to Berlin and participated in Startup Bootcamp, which was the first accelerator where we participated. It was extremely important for us to get out of Estonia. Because, if you have been living and working in Estonia for all your life, then you need some “kick in the butt” or this dramatic change of environment to understand that there is a way different culture to do business, to get funding and to sell services of your company. If you want to do international business, you have to think as an international businessman.

We were in Berlin for seven months, we found three German investors, they were angel investors, and they co-invested with our Estonian angel investors. This is where we got our first round of funding. After Berlin we were few months in Estonia, then I moved to the US, because we got funded by 500Startups in San Francisco. I spent six months in San Francisco establishing contacts with insurance companies, pitching to investors and meeting investors. It was a great learning about promoting your company the US style, because this style is very different to pitching your idea in Europe or in Estonia. Estonians are great engineers, but they are not well prepared to pitch their ideas.

After San Francisco I came back to Estonia for a few months, then we raised another round of 400 thousand from one Austrian insurance company. Then we moved to Austria and built our team there, we spent there a few months, and then we moved to Zurich, because we raised quite a significant funding from venture fund of insurance company Helvetia. Helvetia operates all over Europe, but they have a head office in Switzerland. To get the cooperation going and speed it up, we had to be close to our large investor and client Helvetia.

Now we were for a few months in Estonia and are getting ready to move to Berlin, because we are building a sales team in Germany. Over three years we have spent a significant time to build up technology and now it’s time to sell our services and scale the business up. We are now putting together a team of five people in Berlin.

Regarding fundraising, yes, it is similar to a sales process like any other. You pick up a hundred potential investors or potential customers and eventually 1–3% will invest or buy from you. It’s the same logic, for one investor you pick up around a hundred contacts. It’s definitely a full time job to raise funds. I really admire people who are able to work on product development and fundraising at the same time, because I know what a great effort it is. If somebody says “I have not been able to fundraise”, I always ask “how many contacts did you cover, what is your pipeline”, and if the answer is twenty — thirty, I know that this is not a real fundraising. This is something the founders have to acknowledge, it is part of the process and it is the same everywhere. It is the same in the US, the same in Europe. To pick up one — two investors, you should cover a hundred contacts.

Evita: How do you keep your determination and focus if you have to accept so many rejections? You mentioned 3–4 investors, which means that you have contacted over 300, 400. How to keep your confidence, when you receive so many rejections, which is a norm?

Meeri: First of all, you have to acknowledge that this is a process. You cannot expect that the first investor will say “hey, this is a great idea!” and will invest in your company. You have to acknowledge that this is how it goes that 99 will say “No” and one will say “Yes”. Then psychologically you are fine with that. When investors say “No”, you have to understand why. In some situations your pitch does not match their investment criteria, which is then absolutely fine. But in some cases you will learn that your product or focus is not right, and then you can start adjusting it and creating a better story. Sometimes you have a great product, but your story is not appealing enough. Investment is also an emotional process, investors should have an interest to be involved with you for the next 7–10 years. Over time, the more you speak, the more you understand what is the story investors want to hear, and you become better in creating value proposition for investors and for your customers, also you get more confident that your offering has a value and that you are doing a great thing.

Read the whole interview here.


Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels.
 
Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls and a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives.

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

Technology should serve us, and not the other way around

Riga, LatviaAnete has more than six years experience in the multimedia design industry in the USA and Europe. As the Art Director at Accenture, Anete makes sure that the Latvia Accenture brand style guidelines are being followed, and takes part in the development of Digital design specialty. One of her tasks is also quality assurance for some of the client projects. In addition to Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics from University of Latvia, Anete has graduated from Nordic Multimedia Academy in Denmark as a Multimedia Designer, and has completed an exchange program at Palo Alto College (USA) in graphic design. Anete has lived in seven countries, climbed Everest base camp, helped Greenpeace in Australia to protect wales against Japanese hunters, and much more..
Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners leading Global Digital Economy practice interviewed Anete for Riga Tech Girls.
 
 
Evita: What is the scope of your responsibilities now in Accenture?
 
Anete: My work is divided into three-four parts. Technically the job title is Art Director. My responsibility is to follow and check if design and style guidelines are being followed according to brand identity. One side of it is an internal Latvia ATC brand, then there are also client projects, and we have a team of 20 designers, who are scattered around the world — they work closely with our clients in various countries. Very often they need a team lead or senior designer to check if brand and design standards are being followed, if everything looks ok.
One of my duties is to find new talents, going to different schools and universities to see if there are cool and talented people to join our team. I also participate in organizing workshops, for example, UX Riga, that took place recently. These workshops are related to design thinking or UX and are organized both for local audiences and the clients. 
 
Evita: Some women think technology is not suitable for them. How to overcome this fear?
 
Anete: I am not scared of technology, I am interested in it. I like futuristic things.
Changing a light bulb, repairing a bike, fixing a car. A woman can do everything if there is a need. The same about men, they can do laundry and cook if they have to. My brother is a better chef than me.
 
Evita: Since you want to do good for the world, do you see that the work you and your colleagues do at Accenture in the technology field will make our lives more convenient and there will be more of general welfare?
 
Anete: Definitely. That’s where the world is heading — setting people free of everyday tasks that they do not like. For example, see what IT can provide you with — simple example of switching on and off electricity or  heating when you are abroad. Very soon there will be self-driving cars everywhere, many simple factory works will be replaced by robots. Humans should be supervising the process and working closely together with all the appliances and technology. Big companies should see how to apply modern technology and engage people in adding more value. All the things we like less, we should get some help with.
 
There is a dangerous side in this too, because the humans are a bit lazy. Many people, if freed from simple tasks, would they really spend time on spiritual development? In this futuristic model, there would be social benefits for everyone, and you can do extra if you want to grow and develop. But having no need or obligation to work for subsistence could also have some dangers. I do not see how it will happen simultaneously everywhere. Development of cities versus country side. Third world countries. This development may not happen equally.
 
Read the whole interview here.

Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 50 senior level assignments in 29 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Baltic sea region (Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland) and supports their global expansion plans in all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. As a team leader and regional director, she manages Pedersen & Partners teams in Poland, Baltics and Belarus. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels.

Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw - one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls and a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards. Ms. Lune was recognized by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives.

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

 

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