Rui Ribeiro of Jscrambler: “In terms of factors, you need people, timing, luck, and execution”

In terms of factors, you need people, timing, luck, and execution. For me personally, the most important ingredient is people. You absolutely need great people to get things done and execute your vision. They influence everything. Then you need a mix of timing and execution — better execution at the right time. These go hand in hand. Startups […]

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In terms of factors, you need people, timing, luck, and execution. For me personally, the most important ingredient is people. You absolutely need great people to get things done and execute your vision. They influence everything. Then you need a mix of timing and execution — better execution at the right time. These go hand in hand.

Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.

Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?

In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rui Ribeiro.

Rui Ribeiro is the CEO and Co-Founder of Jscrambler, a company he has led since 2014 from bootstrapping to a growing business. Rui currently executes the company’s growth strategy, as well as setting its vision and culture. Today, Jscrambler’s groundbreaking client-side security solutions are recognized by the industry and trusted by the Fortune 500 and over 43,000 businesses and individuals globally.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I come from a computer engineering background and started my career in banking working as an engineering consultant. I was able to work on projects involving almost every single bank in Portugal and before ending my career in banking, I was leading teams and high-stakes projects. It was at this time that I took the huge leap of creating my own business.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

As early as my days in college, I was really into cybersecurity, especially web security. And at this time, I came to be aware of several client-side security flaws on websites, which was still an underexplored area. We were undergoing a global shift where there was a lot more information running through the client device (i.e., a browser) and companies were still relying solely on traditional security that did not protect their client-side code — so I understood that this could lead to some major attacks.

But the big “Aha Moment” happened when I almost had my banking information stolen through a client-side attack. I was navigating my bank’s login page and saw something weird going on in the page, like a formatting issue. I decided to dig around in my computer and it turned out that I had malware that was configured to steal my login credentials. So even though I routinely updated my operating system, maintained my antivirus software, and have a wealth of cybersecurity knowledge, I almost fell prey to attackers. This made things real. It became clear to me that traditional security solutions like antivirus weren’t doing enough to protect users.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

There’s no name in particular that comes to mind right now. But what certainly made a difference was the fact that through my whole life I was always surrounded by people who made things happen. Not only in my own family, but also through my career, I have always been lucky to have people in my life that were faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges and still managed to tackle them. This became embedded in my DNA and eventually also shaped the company’s culture.

And of course, Pedro has been there from the very beginning. He came from a very scientific background, so it was a perfect match that played to each other’s’ strengths. And we’re very likeminded, we both have the mindset of “let’s figure out difficult problems without being afraid of all the hard work it will take”.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We take on intimidating topics and find solutions in a very unique way. This not only generates recognition from the market (including competitors) but also gets us lots of great feedback from our customers. They come to us and say, “you made it possible that we achieved this, it enabled us to go farther”. So, we end up shaping security in a way that doesn’t become a burden for organizations, but instead becomes a business enabler. There were turning points where we began a much closer relationship with our clients, and this has been crucial for our growth as a company.

Today, I would say that our biggest brag is that no employee of Jscrambler goes a single day of their day-to-day life (outside of work) without interacting with a company that is present on our client list. They can tell their family and friends “we help that company be more secure”.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

First off, I strongly believe that our first contribution to the goodness of the world is creating opportunities for everyone that works with us that they probably would not find anywhere else. We have always been concerned about training the team and giving them opportunities to grow. This may not change the world, but it deeply impacts a group of people that’s close to us and that’s something that I personally deeply care about.

But our success is definitely bringing goodness to the world in a more macro way, I have no doubts about that. By working with the biggest enterprises in sectors like banking and e-commerce, we are effectively protecting the data of billions of users worldwide. Of course, this is great because we enable companies to grow faster and have security covered. But better than that is knowing that our security products actively prevent credit card skimming and other attacks like data leakage that lead to identity theft and transaction fraud. Each attack that we help prevent is changing a life for the better.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I know myself very well, especially my limitations — what I’m good at, what I’m decent at, and what I’m mediocre at. I always assume that there’s someone better than me out there. And then I surround myself with people who are better than me at those skills where I’m lacking, while continuously improving what I’m good at.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

I often heard that an entrepreneur must always be tenacious and focused on the objective. And while this is true, you must always avoid living in your own bubble, avoid marrying yourself to the idea that’s on your mind. “You have a good idea, go ahead” is probably not good advice. First you need to be able to execute and then see which of your multiple ideas matches your ability to execute. I had to learn to pick up my ideas and save them for a later time when I’ll be able to execute them. This balance is crucial to enable the next step.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

At the beginning of my journey, everything was hard. There was no funding, no way to get there. It was a pain to get people to understand that our value proposition made sense, that it was very important to protect the client-side. At the time, this wasn’t even a concept, people thought there was nothing to protect there and you should only keep protecting the server and the network. So how do you sell something that no one can even understand? We were very early to market. But looking back, we had to be early — otherwise, we wouldn’t have had this fantastic growth experience.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

Thankfully, we had a series of high-profile customers at the early stages and they supported us through this stage. Their feedback and enthusiasm about what we were doing really pushed us forward and boosted our growth.

And of course, when you start employing people, that’s a huge responsibility and you want to always do right by them. So, above all, it’s people that push you farther.

One technique that has definitely helped us brave through is that we have an engineering approach to everything. So, we break a huge problem down into manageable tasks, we complete these tasks, and eventually we’re able to climb the mountain.

The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

The emotional rollercoaster is real. And I’ve seen companies that are so keen on making the highs last that they end up celebrating every single thing all of the time. We kind of have an opposite approach: when we do something great and reach first place, we always think “but what could we also have done better?”. I think this still stems from our “engineering goggles”. We look at the roller coaster and immediately think of the sum of the parts — there are some problems, but you will compensate by achieving some small victories along the way. There’s a balance and things tend to mellow out if you zoom out far enough. This approach of softening highs and lows allows you to manage these times better, you become more rational and think “what have I gained from this? What is the next step?” You don’t settle, you project yourself forward and eventually realize that the small achievements are good, and you should celebrate them, but it’s no cause for euphoria, and the same is valid for small defeats. You look for the big picture to find stability. You don’t focus too much on terrible days or perfect days to avoid tunnel vision and understand the context and focus on the long road ahead.

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks for your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

Well, this is almost impossible to answer without knowing the exact business. But the most important metric is whether fundraising will enable one of two things: to go to market faster or conquer the lion’s share of the market.

My belief is that from the point of view of the idea and product, the best fundraising is paying customers. But if you already have a tried-and-true model and just need to accelerate, you need the fuel of venture capital and that must be your main goal.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

It always depends on your goal, how you define success. In theory, successful startups are those that reach amazing valuations. But some people have their specific goals “I want to reach X”, “I want to impact how humanity does Y” — and they might not have fantastic valuations but still have successful businesses. But then there are startups where everything fails: you don’t meet the financials and fail to provide a good ecosystem for people.

In terms of factors, you need people, timing, luck, and execution. For me personally, the most important ingredient is people. You absolutely need great people to get things done and execute your vision. They influence everything. Then you need a mix of timing and execution — better execution at the right time. These go hand in hand.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Being a copycat — it never works, unless you have the best funding in the world. There are copycat models but copycatting doesn’t work. At least it would not work for me and our team.

Two other big mistakes are underestimating the problem you’re trying to solve and overestimating your own skill. Most funders have this second problem, where they might want to take on the world themselves. But as I said, I think the better tactic is surrounding yourself with people who excel at skills you lack. You really need to know yourself well.

An important trait to have no matter what is being able to deal with frustration. There are some constants you will find along the way, and frustration is up there.

And finally, there’s a key mistake that is when you’re not passionate about what you’re doing. If you leave your job and become an entrepreneur because you can’t deal with your boss anymore, you’ll suddenly find yourself with hundreds of new bosses — your clients. Knowing your client, learning with their feedback (even when it’s hard to hear), and braving through all of this, requires you to really love what you do and where you want to go.

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?

Discipline. This is a job, so face it like so. It’s true that you must always absorb the periods of extreme workload, because at the end of the day that’s your responsibility as founder, but you cannot be constantly under extreme workload. You have to have someone that pulls you out to the real world. Otherwise, all your personal life can collapse. Define your hours, your time. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t fool yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of my own values as a person, which is also an internal policy of ours, is that I don’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. If this was a rule in the real world, you would never have bad jobs and good jobs. You wouldn’t have the concept of second-class citizens. You only ask something of someone if that person is better skilled or has more time to do it right now. This mindset would bring balance to the world and would definitely impact our day to day in a very positive way.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Well, I’ll tell you what — I’ve found that insightful conversations could happen with anyone. So, it could be tricky for me to choose someone to have breakfast with. Sure, I could pick some prominent name — but with so many good stories to be found everywhere, I would choose to be surprised to have lunch with someone random . You can never predict which conversation can have a lasting impact on your life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m mostly active on LinkedIn, and you can find me here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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