The passion for entrepreneurship came later on in my career” said Marina as she built first a successful career by large multinationals, Procter & Gamble, Philips, Sara Lee, The Boston Consulting Group and eBay; and got an MBA from INSEAD. Marina Tognetti a tech entrepreneur, who is the founder and CEO of mYngle.com, a global language training platform. She asserts “It was when working as consultant on a project on internet strategy that I first saw the potential of internet to disrupt entire industries and change forever the way we buy/sell/interact. I had to be part of that! That was the driver to start an innovative company as mYngle.”
Combining Excellence and Advancement
According to Marina, in mYngle, the company nurture an obsession for customer satisfaction, and this is also one of its key strengths. It looks to continuously improve its service. The company does so by constantly listening to users’ feedback and improving accordingly, as well as leveraging new technologies at its advantage.
This is also reflected in mYngle’s internal evaluation systems and how it assess job. It constantly monitor its users’ reactions and try to adjust accordingly, using adapted versions of NPS (Net Promoter Score), which defines that only excellence counts. The organization’s average lessons’ scores are 4.9/5.0. Results speak for themselves!
Understanding User’s Needs
Marina strongly believes that the key to success is not constantly comparing with competition, but aligning with what customers want. Constant focus on customers and their needs is one of mYngle’s pillars and key strengths. This is particularly important when one is in an industry like online education, is in a transition or evolution phase, where the main challenge is not competition but the unawareness or inexperience of customers.
Education was (and in large part still is) operating in the old traditional way, offering learners what is available, not what they need. But “One size does not fit all.” Marina says “By understanding the customer and diversifying our offer in terms of teacher- content- frequency, we can match each specific need.”
Vital Traits for a Business Woman
“We are living in an era of fast and drastic changestechnology, volatility of the market, talent development,” says Marina. This affects the role of a leader, man or woman, which must be able not only to adapt but also to ride the positive trends.
For Marina, a business woman must have a strong ’Vision’ to set the direction and anticipate and navigate challengeswhich also means being able to ’Think out of the box’, adapt and change to keep the business successful. Marina further said “she must not be afraid of taking (calculated) risks in order to anticipate trends and steer the company also in turbulent waters. Last, but not least, she must be able to build an organization that is also agile. That requires developing people that think and not only do “jobs’’, employees that are entrepreneurs, fostering a culture of experimentation.”
Learning through Experience
The main challenges were when the company had to ’pivot’ from the initial business model to a completely different one. Marina says “We had launched mYngle as a marketplace, something I knew very well from my previous eBay experience. We thought we got it all: funding, lots of Awards and PR, a very motivated team. But something in the business model was not functioning as we expected. We listened to our customers and they gave us the new direction, and they gave us the new direction, from an open marketplace to a quality global online school, from B2C to B2B. That is the mYngle that you see now.”
Marina opines “The tech world is still particularly male dominated: only 5% of tech start-ups are owned by women. That is why I aim to be a role model for other women in tech, but an accessible one, trying to give a genuine picture of what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the ups and downs that we all have but few want to share”. She added “A strong leader is not the one without faults, as we all have faults, but that which is so self-confident to be able to show her vulnerabilities without being scared that it would impact her strength.”
Marina regularly presents at international conferences on the topics of female leadership and entrepreneurship, and won numerous awards for her role of woman in technology such as 50 most inspiring women tech leaders in Europe, 50 most inspiring women in Dutch technology sector, Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All and many others.
Truth and Myth of Meritocracy
Although the tech world might seem to perfectly fit the meritocracy idea, it is actually not the case when one compares chances for men and women. For jobs at leading tech start-ups, most outreach and recruitment take place through word-of-mouth, alumni referrals and personal networks, which are predominantly composed of males. Also, women entrepreneurs are not getting venture-capital funding at the same rate as men. This despite the fact that data on returns show venture-backed tech start-ups with women at the helm outperforms those led by men.
Technology should be seen as an opportunity, as it opens directions that only a few decades ago seemed unattainable. It allows new businesses that can disrupt entire industries. ’CHANGE is GOOD’ as it forces improvements and continuous developments. “I am a business person,” Marina says “so do not need to be an expert in its implementation, but I must understand its implication for a business: how it impacts a company, the customers, the value chain.”
On Future Endeavours
The future challenge for mYngle will be in keeping innovating and being ahead while the market moves from early stage to more mature.
For Marina personally, it will also be time for the idealistic voice inside to speak, the voice that believes in giving something back for a better world. She walked this path and learned a lot. That brought her in a privileged position, where she can act and implement new ideas that can make a difference. She can now use her skills to make the world just a little bit better.