For our latest specialist interview in our series speaking to technology leaders from around the world, we’ve welcomed Iskren Vankov, the co-founder and CTO of 3veta.com. Iskren is a top-of-class graduate from Edinburgh, Caltech, and Oxford and is also a published researcher in the field of Quantum Physics.
Before he became a CTO, he had worked in several startups, as well as in a leading derivatives-trading company, and consulted on the creation of online courses on deep neural networks which had over 400,000 students.
Tell us about the business you represent?
Like many new businesses, the idea for 3veta was prompted by the pandemic of 2020.
We noticed that many professionals were struggling to digitalize their professions. Especially those who needed an online meeting to get paid. Certainly, there were some tools already available but none of them was as seamless as they should be. By and large, there were (and still are) complicated integrations of several different software to be able to meet online and get paid.
That’s what we changed.
We created an end-to-end solution that allows you to create a website, get booked online, host video meetings, and get paid, all on your own platform (with your own branding). No code, no installation, 10 minutes overall.
__You said that your business was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. How did that work exactly? __
Indeed. 3veta has been a fully remote company since day one. This has allowed us to scale quickly without the restrictions of a physical office. We have people working on the project from several countries, some of whom I have never seen in person!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of living the digital nomad life. Secretly, I have been longing for it all my life. With 3veta it wasn’t much of a choice actually. As Bane would phrase it: ‘We didn’t just adopt remote work – we were born in it, moulded by it.’
I would continue the quote by also adding that we, in turn, are moulding remote work. Work from wherever, flexible times, asynchronous communication – not because you have to, but because you can. Starting our business completely remotely is a living example of what we strive to enable here at 3veta.
Being the CTO, what does your day-to-day responsibilities look like?
I would say they involve a lot less coding and a lot more meetings than I would have expected.
An important aspect of my job is to always know what is going on in the other departments - marketing, sales, design, etc. In this way, I can efficiently build the pipeline for the dev and QA teams. After all, the dev team serves high-level business needs.
Having said that, it is fairly obvious that a CTO’s main responsibility is to manage this downstream communication: from the C-level management to the dev team.
Logically, there is also the opposite stream. A CTO must also communicate upstream. This involves all tech announcements, potential issues, and milestones on the product side that the C-level management must learn about.
In a way, as a CTO, I am playing for both teams – the management team and the dev team. I have to justify all tech problems and delays in front of the management team. On the other hand, I must also justify the ever-changing business requirements in front of the dev team.
What are your favourite things about being a CTO?
First and foremost, it is the excitement of building a product and knowing it inside-out.
Most CTOs have started as eager developers, myself included. In fact, it still brings me great satisfaction to write code and create new modules. However, as a developer, this satisfaction is constrained to the modules you are working on.
Being a CTO, I can now look at the whole product and get satisfaction from each bit of it. Of course, I have only coded certain modules, but all the modules are my responsibility.
I want to also add that my role is not limited to being CTO. I am also a co-founder and product manager. This makes my job a whole lot more exciting and makes me think outside the ‘dev’ box.
One of my favourite examples is the modularity of the product we are building.
As a co-founder and CTO, one must realize that each complex system should have a modular structure. It starts simple and gets more sophisticated each day. All new features are added as modules, hence – the modularity.
Modularity implies that different parts of the system can be added or removed, without impacting the overall system. A very intuitive example is language localization. We are currently supporting English, German, Italian, and Bulgarian as languages. At any point, I can turn off German as a language or add Spanish as a new one. All of this is managed in its own module, far away from any functions.
We have taken this idea to the extreme, having built each feature as its own module.
In this way, we’ve got perfect control over each feature, being able to turn it on or off. This allows us to drastically change the product in a relatively short amount of time.
A positive side-effect is that this can even lead us to extract a module and selling it to a 3rd party. In fact, if you look at the market for tech right now, you will start seeing more and more API products. These are likely to have been modules in larger systems, but most importantly – they are sold to become modules in a potentially infinite number of new systems.
Thinking about development, product ownership, concepts like modularity, and where all these fit together, especially in a business context, is what makes this role so exciting for me.
How do you think the role of CTO has evolved in the last five, ten, fifteen years?
Technology has been improving at an ever-faster pace. Оn the one hand, we’ve got а great increase in the number of developers. On the other - agile development has led to much shorter dev cycles. Overall, what used to take years to come to the market, now takes just a couple of months.
This is true for products like ours, but also for programming libraries and frameworks, which accelerates things even further.
In one of my past positions, the CTO, who was my manager, would always complain about developers who were ‘too progressive’. They wanted to add all the shiny gems of the hottest JS library of the season to our system. This made the CTO absolutely furious every time someone even mentioned a new technology.
These days, I am a CTO myself. And I understand him completely. Technology is moving too fast. It is too volatile, too untested. I cannot afford to introduce this volatility to the systems I am overseeing.
So I believe the role of a CTO has been steadily becoming more conservative. A modern CTO must refrain from using the latest cutting-edge technology. Instead, it is important to promote the usage of well-established and more stable solutions.
I think the important takeaway from a CTO perspective is that stability no longer implies losing the edge. On the contrary, it may be beneficial for your organization to be less aggressive with tech adoption.
What can we hope to see from your business in the future?
We have a range of exciting modules coming - all aimed at making life easier for online creators. Individual payment links, tracking payment statuses, automated emails, Zapier integration as a catch-all integrations builder, and so many more. You can follow them on the 3veta blog!