Digitail’s Ruxandra Pui: “Scaling to the US Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint”

Are you cut out for the fast-paced world of tech entrepreneurship? If you’re not sure yet, read on, as we follow Ruxandra Pui’s journey of co-founding and scaling Romanian pet tech startup Digitail.

Ruxandra first dipped her toes into IT management in an internship at a leading FMCG company, after graduating with a Computer Science degree from the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi. She also specialized in UX design, which fit her like a glove given her passion for problem-solving. When the opportunity arose to solve a challenge in the veterinary system and close a gap in pet health care, she dared into the entrepreneurship world and soon found out it fit her like a glove, too.

Quickly, Digitail evolved from two co-founders with a dream, working in a co-working space and with no funding, to a team of almost 40 people, spread across the globe. After raising a seed round they shifted focus to the promising markets of the US and Canada. Recently, they closed the first Series A of 2023 in Romania with the goal to become the market share leader of the veterinary cloud practice management system market.

In our interview today, Ruxandra reflects on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the opportunities and challenges she faced as a woman in tech, what role the Endeavor network has played in her development, and what success factors helped Digitail fundraise and scale to the US.

What career did you aspire to growing up and how has this vision changed over the years?

Growing up, I was always a curious person with a focus on problem-solving. As a result, I thought I would pursue a traditional corporate career where I could apply those skills in a structured environment. However, as I gained more experience and exposure to different industries (and after a 3-month corporate job), I realized that the fast-paced, innovative world of entrepreneurship was more aligned with my problem-solving and solution-oriented mindset. The ability to build something from scratch, iterate quickly, and have a direct impact on the success of a business was incredibly appealing to me.

That’s what led me to start Digitail, where we’re leveraging technology to solve real problems for vets, pet parents, and their furry friends. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow and scale our business.

As a woman entrepreneur in tech, what opportunities, as well as challenges have you encountered along the way, and how did you make the best of it?

As a woman entrepreneur in tech, I have encountered both opportunities and challenges along the way. On the one hand, being a woman in a male-dominated industry has given me a unique perspective and allowed me to bring diverse ideas and approaches to the table. It has also presented me with opportunities to network with other female founders and leaders in the industry who are paving the way for the next generation of women in tech.

On the other hand, there have certainly been challenges. I have sometimes felt like I needed to work harder to prove myself and my expertise to potential investors and customers. I have also faced subtle biases and assumptions about what female founders should look like or how they should behave, which can be frustrating and demotivating.

That being said, I have found that the opportunities outweigh the challenges. I am fortunate to be part of a supportive community of fellow founders and investors who are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive tech industry. And, while there is still much work to be done, I am optimistic that we will see fewer of these challenges in the future as more and more women enter and succeed in tech.

How did you define success for yourself?

My goal is to have a real and positive impact on people’s lives. Success is also about continuous learning and growth. Being an entrepreneur is a constant learning journey, and I feel successful when I push myself to learn and try new things every day.

Additionally, I believe that success is not just about work, but also about being a balanced individual. I value taking care of myself, spending time with loved ones, and pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work. While work-life balance can be challenging, I always strive to improve and find ways to manage my time and energy more effectively.

Ultimately, success is a personal definition, and it can change over time. For me, it’s about making a positive impact, continuously learning, and finding balance in all aspects of my life.

Introduce us to your journey of co-founding Digitail. Where were you in your career at that point and what convinced you to get behind the steering wheel of Digitail next to Sebastian?

I co-founded Digitail two years after finishing university, at a point where I was still exploring how to leverage my interests and passion. I had a problem-solving mindset and was always eager to learn and explore new challenges. The idea for Digitail came from our own experience as pet parents, as we wanted a simple app to manage our pet’s health. We felt there was a gap in the market for a solution that provided real value. As someone with a background in computer science and a passion for understanding user needs, I began building the website and sketching prototypes, gradually finding my role in product management.

What convinced me to co-found Digitail alongside Sebastian was the opportunity to tackle a problem that was personal to us, as well as the challenge of building a successful business in a competitive market. I was excited about taking on the challenges of coding, UX, UI, marketing, and all the other aspects of building a startup. Ultimately, it was the chance to have a real impact on people’s lives that convinced me to get behind the steering wheel of Digitail.

What advice would you give to Romanian and CEE founders looking to scale to the US?

Scaling a business to the US market can be a challenging but exciting process. As a founder who has navigated this path, my advice to Romanian and CEE founders is to first really understand the market. This means not only studying the competitors and understanding the needs of the ideal customers, but also immersing yourself in the culture and style of doing business in the US. It’s important to be physically and mentally present and to build relationships with other US potential partners.

Additionally, I would recommend checking if the US market has the same problem that your local market has. Just because a solution works in one market, it doesn’t mean it will work in another. Do your research and make sure your solution is relevant and solves a real problem in the US market.

Networking and building partnerships are also crucial when entering the US market. As a foreign founder, you may not have the same connections or understanding of the local business landscape as US-based founders. So, it’s important to network as much as possible and build relationships with people who can help you navigate the market, and provide insights and introductions.

Lastly, remember that scaling to the US market is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and patience to establish your business and build a strong foundation for growth. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks or challenges – instead, stay focused on your vision and keep working hard towards achieving it.

You have given the start to Series A rounds in Romania this year. What has helped you reach this stage? What would you advise founders looking to fundraise in the current climate?

Reaching Series A funding is a significant milestone for any startup, and our success has been the result of several key factors. One of the most important aspects has been building a strong team that is united by a shared vision and a problem-solving mentality. As a founder, I believe having the right people next to you on this journey is crucial for success. Startups can be challenging and unpredictable and having a team of people who believe in the mission and are willing to work hard to achieve it is invaluable.

Another crucial element has been the support of our investors and the broader community. Their endorsements, introductions, and advice have been tremendously helpful in getting us to where we are today. We have been fortunate to have investors who share our vision and are committed to helping us succeed. The community of founders and entrepreneurs has also been a valuable source of support, advice, and inspiration.

Finally, I would say that hard work has been critical to our success. We have a team that is willing to put in more than 100% effort to achieve our goals, and this dedication has been instrumental in reaching this stage.

As for advice to founders looking to fundraise in the current climate, I would say that a good business with solid metrics and a strong team will always stand out. While the current climate is challenging, investors are still looking for promising opportunities to support. It’s important to stay focused on the core mission, work hard, and maintain a positive attitude.

As a member of the Endeavor Romania network, what do you enjoy most about organizations such as Endeavor?

Being part of this type of network has been an incredibly valuable experience for me as a founder. I enjoy the sense of community and the opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs who are facing similar challenges in their own journeys. The network provides a great source of advice, inspiration, and connections that can be incredibly helpful in scaling a business. I believe that being part of a community and finding “your tribe” is essential for any entrepreneur who wants to succeed in today’s competitive business environment. I feel that I still have a lot to discover about what Endeavor has to offer, and I’m excited to continue exploring the network’s resources and learning from other members.

What comes next for you, as well as Digitail?

For me, the focus this year is on optimizing my workflow and becoming more efficient with my time. With the limited number of hours in a day, I want to ensure that I prioritize my tasks and activities better to achieve the same level of quality while having a greater impact and reach. Additionally, I aim to transition from a founder to a leader mentality, empowering my team to succeed and take more ownership of their roles.

Although this year will be just as demanding as previous years, Digitail remains my top priority, and I am excited to continue shaping the future of pet care. We plan to expand our team while preserving our strong company culture and implementing better processes to ensure scalable growth.

By Antoanela Ionita