“Start a Journal.” With Candice Georgiadis & Victoria Repa

The thing is that the tech industry is pretty flexible and it’s possible to enter it anytime if you are ready to learn and expand your borders. I was ready, and I succeeded. Moreover, my example inspired some of my colleagues to do the same and take a risk of a change. I believe that […]

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The thing is that the tech industry is pretty flexible and it’s possible to enter it anytime if you are ready to learn and expand your borders. I was ready, and I succeeded. Moreover, my example inspired some of my colleagues to do the same and take a risk of a change. I believe that if you are eager to work hard and learn new things you can succeed in any industry.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Repa.

Victoria Repa is CEO and Co-Founder of BetterMe — an ecosystem of Health&Fitness apps, and one of the top iOS publishers in the world. Victoria used to work in a large FMCG company but switched to tech to pursue her mission of making people happy and healthy. When she was only 24 she co-founded BetterMe and after 3 months she released the first app with a team of three. Within three years her company published 8 apps with over 50 million installs in more than 10 countries. She is a Stanford Executive program and Apple Entrepreneur Camp alumna.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story!

My backstory is not very typical. I was raised in a tiny village in the East of Ukraine with no benefits of big city life. There were so few kids in my school that I had only 12 classmates and the lessons lasted 20 minutes. I made my way through self-education and lots of reading: everything that I could reach, from classics to business literature, was read immediately.

Even though there were very few chances to get something better than I had, I took each of them. I had good grades and was proactive in participating in competitions. Due to this, I made my way to the top-notch high school in Ukraine and later I won a grant to get an education in the best Ukrainian business school — Kyiv School of Economics.

Upon graduation, I was hired by a large FMCG company and worked in the logistics department. Things were going well until I decided that optimizing the processes of moving boxes isn’t the limit of my dreams. I decided to switch to the tech industry since it was a more exciting and promising industry to work in. It gave me a feeling of being a part of something bigger and create products that impact people’s lives. After a year in marketing, my co-founder Vitaliy Laptenok and I founded BetterMe. A year later our app hits the TOP of the US AppStore and still keeps the highest positions there.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

In October 2018 I participated at Apple Entrepreneur Camp for women in the app business. The lessons learned there greatly affected BetterMe’s plans and inspired me to implement a bunch of changes and innovations.

We are currently working on implementing AI in our weight loss app. It will help to make our fitness and meal plans much more personalized. This way our users will get an individual suitable weight loss program that will be as good as a personal trainer but also will not cost a fortune. Many of our users turn to fitness apps exactly because they can’t afford a gym membership and a personal trainer. BetterMe’s goal is to make fitness as accessible and as effective as possible.

We are also working on gamification of the app to make an exhausting process of weight loss more entertaining. It will help people with their weight loss journey by making it less tiresome and will motivate them to achieve their goals. By using gamification technique we plan to develop new healthy habits among users smoothly and effectively, and change their overall lifestyle instead of just shake off a couple of pounds.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

The problem of the fitness app industry is that many apps are created for the sake of features, not functions. Developers are concerned with launching the fastest, the coolest the most advanced product, forgetting about the user persona they are serving to. Their user has a painful problem that affects her or his everyday life, is lost in the ocean of different apps, looking for guidance and clear instructions and tired of constant limitations and restrictions.

Many people give up weight loss because most fitness apps don’t meet the requirements of average, not advanced, users. Those products are either too complicated, or not explanatory enough, or provide no tips on nutrition, or require a gym membership and special equipment.

We proudly create apps for fitness newbies, not geeks.

While other weight loss programs are designed for highly motivated people who know what they are doing, we create products to help people who need it the most. 56% of our users are fitness newbies and we are happy to introduce them to healthy nutrition and daily activities and make it more affordable than hiring a couch.

We believe that massive problems, like obesity, require mass-market solutions, and BetterMe is that kind of product. Unlike other fitness apps, we stay away from complicated, tricky diets and exhausting exercises. Instead, we care about being effective and understandable.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

If I got a dollar for every time someone told me “It’s impossible” I would not seek any investments. When I was thinking about switching from FMCG company to tech, people were saying I was ruining my career. I had no tech background or digital marketing experience but I dared to leave a stable job and dive into something new and unknown.

The thing is that the tech industry is pretty flexible and it’s possible to enter it anytime if you are ready to learn and expand your borders. I was ready, and I succeeded. Moreover, my example inspired some of my colleagues to do the same and take a risk of a change. I believe that if you are eager to work hard and learn new things you can succeed in any industry.

Also, before launching BetterMe’s first weight loss app my co-founder and I were told hundreds of times that it was a bad idea. In 2016 there were 71,895 Health&Fitness apps in the iTunes AppStore only. The market was super competitive and kept growing.

Everybody was sure that we would disappear in the pile of those apps and won’t be able to stand out. But before launching the app I conducted thorough research that showed that there was a demand for Health&Fitness content, weight loss solutions and accurate guidance for people who were new to fitness. I still insisted on launching our product and within a year we reached the top of the most popular weight loss apps in the US AppStore. The naysayers are still confused about how we did that and I leave this puzzle for them to solve.

BetterMe took on the market of the US, South America, and Eastern European countries. When I was planning to expand to Asia — China, Japan, South Korea — I was told again that it was too risky since the market is different and we have no experience there. It’s true that the market is different there but leading a business is the same anywhere: you research the market, you run tests, you develop a tailored strategy and you go for it.

I decided to expand our business since it would be a shame to lose such a scaling opportunity. In 2018, the APAC region generated $50.7 billion in app revenues, over half (58.2%) of the global total. China alone generates the most revenue in the fitness app industry. Over 104 million Chinese mobile users have at least one fitness app on their phones. The other large app markets are South Korea and Japan. Our app reached the top of the most popular Health&Fitness apps in those regions and keeps growing.

I hope there will be a day when people will realize that there is nothing impossible for me and will stop telling me not to do something — I am a “to do”, not “to doubt” kind of person. But being a woman makes it harder since a lot of men in business believe they are smarter and have a right to tell me what to do.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

Success tends to prove the naysayers wrong. That’s why it’s so hard to take a hit when things don’t go as planned — people tend to point out that “they told you”. But I want to assure dreamers out there: failure is a part of any success story. The important part of proving the naysayers wrong is to try, no matter what. Because by saying “it’s impossible” people usually mean “you can’t do it”. By doing something you’ll prove negative people that you aren’t afraid to do anything and you are eager for actions, leaving the words to them.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I don’t have one or two people to be grateful for my achievements, I have a team of 80 hard-working employees who made it all possible. I appreciate everyone in my team and every day I realize that due to these people I’m moving the company where it belongs — to the top.

There are two men, though, whom I can point out. CEO of Genesis Vladimir Mnogoletnyi, due to whom I switched to tech, got my first job at Genesis and an opportunity to start my own company. He believed in my managing and entrepreneurial skills. Also, my co-founder Vitaliy Laptenok who dived into this adventure with me and who believed that I could be a real leader and CEO of our rocket ship called BetterMe.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

My background definitely contributed to my resiliency. Growing up I understood pretty soon that nothing in this life is given to you, you have to fight for every opportunity and your place under the sun. In the tiny village where I am from there were zero opportunities and my starting positions were pretty low. But I knew that if I want a change, I have to make it happen. Every subsequent little achievement in my life — getting into a great high school, winning a grant to study at a business school, winning a corporate award at my first job, starting my own company — gave me a feeling that nothing was impossible. That’s why I’m so skeptical when people try to prove me wrong.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

Meditation. To stay confident while being surrounded by a bunch of naysayers, one has to have steady mental health. Meditation helped me to stay calm no matter what, look at things from different angles and not spend my energy on proving anything to anyone but myself. Meditation is a well-known wellness tool for many entrepreneurs: Jack Dorsey, Marc Benioff, Jeff Weiner are just a few entrepreneurs who are publicly known as dedicated meditators. I bet it helps them not only to manage everyday stress but also to build resistance to the negative unproductive comments.

Physical activity. Sports is all about persistence, discipline, self-improvement. It teaches you that nothing comes easy and that persistent efforts always pay off. I tried a bunch of different sports from triathlon to gymnastics. Triathlon taught me to never give up and always strive for more. It’s important to keep yourself motivated when everyone around you tried to discourage you. Flying yoga taught me to stay calm and turn off the rest of the world on demand. This skill helped me to build a personal shield that protects me from naysayers.

Role models. Nothing inspires you more than reading other people’s success stories. For me, it was obvious that anything is possible after I read the stories of Jack Ma, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and other successful people who are an inspiration for many generations of entrepreneurs. So many people proved to the world that dreams come true and that there are no limits to people’s talent that it’s worth to read their stories to remind yourself about it.

Journaling. Your personal journal is an Excel spreadsheet of your thoughts and feelings — the most valuable data imagined. By writing down your opinions and observations throughout the year you, first of all, structure the information in your head and can use it in the future. Second of all, you can come back to a previous self and reflect on how you’ve changed. Usually, it helps you to realize how much you’ve grown. Seeing progress in your own personality is a big boost of confidence that no one can compete with. Every day I write down three things I did great and three things I could be better at, I also make a list of things I appreciate and am grateful for. All this helps me to It helps me to analyze where are my weak spots and whether there is a pattern in my behavior. From there, I manage my actions and decisions more efficiently. Also, this helps me to truly analyze my capabilities and know what I can and can’t do better than anyone else could tell me.

Visualization. Visualizing your final goal sets a desirable outcome for your subconsciousness. It helps you to generate new ideas and accumulate emotional and mental resources to achieve the goal. It’s recommended by all the business gurus and coaches from Tony Robbins who insists on using incantations to J V Crum III who recommends visualizing both short and long term goals.

There are many techniques: vision boards, affirmations, listings. I use them all in different formats. For example, in our office, there are pictures of the AppStore most popular apps on the walls and BetterMe is portrayed in the first place. Being #1 app is a clear, measurable goal for the team and we put all our efforts to achieve it.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

I admire the story of Jack Ma and share a lot of his views. Some of the favorite quotes are:

If you don’t give up, you still have a chance.

If you don’t do it, nothing is possible.

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

If I could, I would head the movement of happy people.

Happy people make other people happy. They don’t lead wars, don’t hate others, don’t follow self-destructing instincts. I hope with my work I inspire other people to pursue happiness.

The principle of the movement would be: “Pursue happiness — spread happiness”. If you care only about your own happiness, it’s easy to become selfish. Helping other people to achieve their goals, follow their dreams and become happy is crucial.

The thing is that there is no one recipe to become happy, it’s very individual. So I decided to start with the most universal method: physical and mental health. I think that a right to be healthy is the most basic right of every person that one should grant to oneself.

I try to make small steps by making sure my team feels happy. This is the group of people I can directly influence and take care of. BetterMe even has a special person in charge of that — a happiness manager. This person keeps track of all our employees, makes sure they are satisfied with their working conditions and get proper care from a company.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Sure! I’m everywhere: TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn.

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

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