Eskimi CEO Vytautas Paukštys: “I appreciate hearing from people and learning from them”

Vytautas Paukštys has been leading Eskimi for 14 years already. The company has been growing, and the services have been expanding, despite the natural rises and falls. Today, let’s meet the person who is standing behind the whole global Eskimi business.

Eskimi development: from local to global

Eskimi was not Vytautas’ first attempt to create a business. Before, he had a lot of experience, which was like a preparation for his big move. “When I was eighteen, I started working with website creation services, this was the first business we launched with partners. Then we went into such fields as mobile payments, telemarketing, retail, real estate and some other areas. After some time, I realised that IT and telecommunications are the future, especially mobile internet.”

Eskimi was established in 2006 in Lithuania. Now a truly international company operating in different continents, it was local back then: Eskimi was providing products for Lithuanian mobile operators. The first international move was Eskimi Social—chatting and social networking platform released in 2009. “In the beginning, we didn’t expect that the product would spread outside Lithuania. Still, we noticed the growth of mobile internet, and we realized that emerging markets, countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, or the whole continent of Africa will grow super rapidly in this space. We soon had several million users, started traveling and established business operations and offices. Our journey started with a lot of experiments,” says Vytautas.

Expanding the ranges: products and markets

Further Eskimi products came as consequences of each other. Introduced in 2013, Eskimi Pay functioned as a way of billing some Eskimi Social functions, such as content and virtual goods. In cooperation with mobile operators, Eskimi Pay provided an opportunity for users to pay from pre-paid card balances, expanding the solution to other developers in more than 20 countries. Finally, Eskimi DSP was born as the continuation of expanding Eskimi services. Advertising was becoming more and more programmatic, and owning a demand-side platform reasonably broadens the clients’ positive experience as they can get more desired services in one place. As Vytautas claims, a lot of accumulated experience went into Eskimi DSP, especially regarding the scale opportunities.

Vytautas admits that despite the successful-looking story, the failures are inevitable. “Recently, we counted that we created 38 different products out of which only eight were successful. Anyway, the most difficult time for any business is the first year or two when you start or change the business model. In times of change, you drive in the highest gear to survive.”

Still, eight products are enough for Eskimi to operate successfully across the world. The company works globally: customers use its products in most European regions, Africa, Asia, Russian-speaking countries and recently Eskimi has stepped into Australia and New Zealand. “We’re planning to expand worldwide. If we notice that in any market there’s a gap of a service that we could provide, or we could bring any innovation, we see that market as a new opportunity,” says Vytautas.

Working with the right people

Of course, as Eskimi operates in different countries and continents, that could be a challenge to keep smooth communication and the strong company culture. However, Eskimi CEO says that overcoming challenges is easier once you have a strong team. “We communicate a lot with the management team, have 1-on-1 and joint calls. I spend a lot of time with my colleagues, and I try to always feel the company’s pulse,” shares Vytautas.

He also discloses the importance of hiring the right people. “Over time, Eskimi culture was crystalized, and we make fewer and fewer mistakes when choosing people who join us. We learned how to invite people that fit culturally and have appropriate competencies,” he says. Eskimi CEO underlines that there are two aspects of choosing a good fit for the company. As he says, the first rule is a proven track record for clearly defined responsibilities. “For example, a salesperson must have a strong professional network, proven sales experience, and be an expert in digital. For the personal qualities—flexibility and ability to learn, to grow fast are essential. Also, we’re looking for people who tend to talk straight. In Eskimi, we strive to build a strong feedback culture. We promote open and honest communication with each other. Sure, sometimes it’s hard—but working in such an environment is way easier,” claims Vytautas.

Helping colleagues and learning from them

There is a prevalent view that CEOs spend a lot of time alone, feel stressed, and somehow lonely. However, Vytautas’ case is a different story. He says that he spends a significant amount of time with team members: he aims to help people perform better, to eliminate obstacles, to improve the processes, to give advice. “I appreciate hearing from people and learning from them—this is how I see what’s going on and what to do next,” Vytautas admits the value of a strong relationship with the team. Working with people is also one of the things why Eskimi CEO enjoys his job. “I don’t feel isolated and have an awesome team,” he says.

Vytautas also is glad that he works with a sophisticated product in the ever-growing industry. “Eskimi DSP is a pretty complex product, and the market is global—there are plenty of possibilities to grow. That’s why this mixture is great: you have to understand how the new markets and new strategies work, you have to meet clients’ needs—and do it quickly. Every day, I see more and more new directions and places for improvements,” Vytautas shares his thoughts on working in the programmatic advertising industry.

Challenges and rewards of being a CEO

When talking about the challenges of being a CEO, the company leader admits that the main one is proper execution. As he says, “you always have to do more with less resources that you wish you had. It’s like juggling with lots of balls—serving the customers, providing an ever-improving product, moving forward faster than the competition.” Vytautas also shares that it is not easy to see his team tired. “Growing fast means working hard. Of course, everyone is happy when we experience success. But when looking back, I see how much sweat and tears it has cost. Stress and feeling tired—yes, they happen and we try to celebrate our achievements with a significant amount of energy,” he admits.

However, there must be a reward that pays for the difficulties. Vytautas distinguishes two kinds of rewards—short-term and long-term. “Joy of the achieved result is a short-term reward, because you immediatelly set a new exciting goal. What’s rewarding in the long-term, is the created product and ever improving team. It’s rewarding to realize that we created a product that serves hundreds of clients—as well as to see a person who started in Eskimi a year ago, and how (s)he changed during the year, how much (s)he learned,” he reveals where he sees the meaning of his work.