Meet the CXO – Soft Dreams, Ionut Dumitru
How was your company incorporated?
I started coding as a freelancer during the University. I used to apply for jobs on a website called https://www.rentacoder.com/. At first, I did other people’s homework and then, as my rating was growing, I started to get better and bigger projects. I got to the point where I was in the 40th position out of hundreds of thousands of coders around the world and this allowed me to bid and be considered for bigger projects. Actually, the idea of incorporating my own company came in 2004 after winning such a project. Don’t imagine it was a fortune, just a couple of hundred dollars, but that was the spark I needed to move things further to the next level and start my own company.
I think my experience on the platform taught me the basics of business: how to make yourself visible and differentiate yourself from others – there’s no tougher coding school than the one where you’re bidding against highly competitive markets, how to value ratings and make them work for you, and how important it is to do your job well, to keep clients closer on the long run. It pays back, one of the biggest clients we had on the platform is now our client.
What drives you every day?
I think it is a combination of passion and the wish to do things that matter, goals you believe in. I absolutely love coding and I never get tired of doing it. And I don’t mind working overtime, going the extra mile, stepping out of the box, sometimes sacrificing my free time…
Of course, as in every business, there’ve been hard times and more challenging circumstances.
What do you believe are the three main accomplishments that brought you here today?
I think working with American companies has influenced me and my leadership style a lot. I learned how to coach and nurture solid relationships in the workplace. I am all the time present and willing to help, I enjoy sharing my experience and I think I managed to build a healthy relationship with my team in which they know I am there for them. Besides coaching, I could say that the continuous learning mindset is something I borrowed and have been practicing and preaching.
Then, our server management product is an important accomplishment. We invested a lot of work in it and has a huge potential to go internationally. It would be a great step for us as a small company and a nice return on our investment.
Last, but every time on top of our list of priorities and most important is our team. Probably the pandemic was my toughest lesson because then I could see how important it is to be and work together and made the team even more relevant for the entire business.
What do you believe are the main failures that brought you here today?
We’ve had some. For example, food platforms are trending now, and I remember a project we had before apps such as Oliviera and Food Panda were launched. We created something nice, but when we went to the restaurants, we realized they did not know and were not willing to learn to use the tablets. Then, bigger players came with bigger marketing budgets, and we decided to give up the project. It would have been an unfair competition and I think it is good to know when to stop
Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?
In spite of my working long and random hours, my family comes first. I’ve tried to separate things a bit lately, so I invest my energy 100% there every time we are together or we plan holidays, outings, and events together, it doesn’t matter if I need to work during the night to catch up with my work.
Now tells us more about the business you are running. Before the pandemic, our clients’ portfolio included many American companies, but with the lockdown and all the budget cuts that in some cases left us out, we needed to find more sustainable solutions on the Romanian market, too. And the clients we started working with, brought us other clients.
We also work on a project we received financing for, Cluster CS, and we have an entire year to conclude that and get to the next level with the product. It’s a complex product that requires adding new functionalities, and the reconstruction of certain parts of the product, and we aim at getting with the product in an area where we can meet the quality and security demands to get bigger clients. The product is very interesting as it refers to scaling a server infrastructure in case of heavy traffic and it is something that could work in integrating very complex structures. We have only a few steps to take to be able to cover all key security aspects.
What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise?
We are a relatively small company, and we are all quite technical, therefore we have a similar understanding in terms of quality. We have extended experience in product delivery, and it is easy for us to be in our clients’ shoes and deliver the level of quality expected from all points of view: website structure, flow, server infrastructures, and cloud solutions. We understand very well the process, we come up with good recommendations and generally, the result is a high-quality product.
What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?
First, be ready to invest a lot of time and energy. You need to be willing to continually learn and study best practices. A mentor would also help you see if the path you’ve chosen is the right one and avoid making mistakes others have already made.
What do you want to accomplish this year?
This year is going to be focused on promoting our product, and that involves an entire switch from the service provider mindset to the product provider one. We’ll have two divisions, each focused on its own target and currently, we are evaluating the proper assignment of resources.
Why Smart Alliance?
You can’t work in your own box and expect to be discovered. Smart Alliance has been the perfect place to meet other Romanian tech companies and be introduced to their products as well as find partners. Being part of this community is also good PR for us as we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our products not only among the Smart Alliance members but to the entire tech community.
Have you had any projects with the members of the cluster?
Yes, actually the project I was mentioning above was gained with the help of Omega Trust.