The new CEO of Hostinger, Daugirdas Jankus on 10 work principles, global business plans, and what he expects from all company employees
“To be fair, I wanted to become a classical music singer,” says Daugirdas Jankus, the new CEO of the Hostinger group, when asked about what it means to lead such a business at the age of 31.
Almost 1,000 employees, 2 million customers from over 150 countries, and revenue growing by 60-70% annually – these are just a few facts about Hostinger, the fastest-growing hosting service company in the world. This Lithuanian IT company creates products and services to enable clients to succeed online: create eCommerce stores, blogs, or portfolio websites. After he officially became the CEO in October, Daugirdas Jankus was responsible for the company’s marketing for the past 6 years.
“It’s important to be ambitious, believe in what you do, work hard, and take a break when you’re tired. You also have to choose your battles wisely. Eventually, success becomes inevitable,” – Daugirdas reveals his perspective on growing a successful business today, reflecting on the backstage of startup creation and the 10 essential work principles that guide him.
– You officially became the CEO of Hostinger a couple of months ago. How did the first months of work go? What does it mean to be the leader of such a large company?
– While I have never aimed for the chief executive officer position, I always try to be where I can create the most value. Moreover, Hostinger needs someone who can dedicate all their time to being the chairman of the board – that’s why we agreed to share responsibilities with Arnas (Arnas Stuopelis was the CEO at Hostinger for 12 years). I started taking over the responsibilities in January and became an acting CEO in June. Today, I can still fall asleep quickly, but I don’t have much time for it.
Jokes aside, I believe in radical candor, so I’ll be honest. The truth is, as a leader, you never have the full context – so, if you are at least 50% sure that the decision is good, you make it, and move forward. Of course, mistakes are inevitable. However, the more mistakes you make, the faster you learn. If you want to achieve progress, you have to experience discomfort – it will be unpleasant, but you’ll take the time to reflect and be smarter next time.
– Before becoming the CEO of Hostinger, you worked for 6 years as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Could you elaborate on the similarities and differences between these roles?
– I was one of the first members of the Hostinger marketing team. Later, it grew into a team of 200 talents. We had big goals, large budgets, and a lot of uncertainty. Besides handling many daily operational tasks, I also had to make some crucial decisions that shaped the company. As we continued to grow, the importance of these decisions continued to grow as well.
Now, I feel that the part of daily tasks is much smaller, but the significance of the ones I make is even greater.
I believe that a good marketing leader and a good company leader must be able to understand a lot of context quickly, have quick orientation, and communicate clearly with the team and customers. What differs is the context’s breadth and depth. As a leader, I have to delve into many fields, from finance to law. Meanwhile, as a CMO, I could look at certain things more freely or trust my colleagues more. It’s not that I personally love rules and processes very much, but I understand their value and strive to ensure that others don’t have to deal with them – it’s my responsibility now.
– Is it a common practice worldwide for a startup’s CMO to become a CEO?
– Based on my research, CEOs most commonly come from the ranks of COOs (Chief Operating Officers) or CFOs (Chief Financial Officers). According to some studies, their numbers would reach or even exceed 50%. Marketing leaders don’t usually become CEOs. Since I represent the marketing industry, I’m a bit biased, but I believe the proportion will change. In this period and in this economy, in the dynamics of the world and generations, soft skills, quick actions, and new perspectives become increasingly important. Therefore, I believe that this role will become more attractive for professionals from diverse backgrounds.
– How did you discover marketing and startups? You studied economics and politics, had an internship at a bank, and worked in the Lithuanian Parliament. How did you end up at Hostinger?
– Honestly, I dreamed of becoming a classical music singer. I still love art, especially music. I was good in other subjects at school as well, from mathematics and physics to English and history, so I had many options. However, after some discussions with my family and friends, I was convinced that a career in art only seemed glamorous. I realized that I was not able to climb onto the stage and perform, regardless of how I felt that day. Also, I didn’t realize what I could do after an active singing career, so singing remained a hobby.
As fate would have it, I eventually chose to study economics and politics. When I started studying, the natural direction seemed to be either banking or politics – I tried both. I started working at a bank at the age of 18, and it seemed like I was chasing a dream. That dream was working in customer service, solving more interesting issues, and then moving to the central bank headquarters. It’s funny to remember, but there was a period when I just wanted an office card with my name on it and a cabinet with a good view.
I wanted more responsibilities, but they didn’t like the fact that I was too young and still a student. And I didn’t like their established organizational processes. Besides that, I also worked in a real estate agency, a direct marketing company, even in the Lithuanian Parliament, where I had an internship, until I did one test that brought me closer to the marketing field – I realized that I wanted to dive into the internet, innovate, and see real changes. So, I joined a Lithuanian startup with global and a bit exotic ambitions – we started our international expansion in Iran. I learned a lot from my mentors – we experimented, grew, and made mistakes. After some time, I wanted even more global influence. That’s when I found Hostinger.
– So, what was your first impression when you first came to Hostinger?
– We initially planned to have a brief coffee meeting and chat, but from the very first moment, our vibes matched, and we ended up spending 3 to 4 hours discussing potential collaboration and quickly sealed the deal with a handshake.
When I entered the office for the first time, I was impressed by the presence of many young people and books everywhere. While waiting for the meeting, I started chatting with them and quickly realized how much I missed being surrounded by ambitious people and the spark of excitement when significant things were happening around me.
– And how did everything look in reality once you started working? Do you have any advice for marketers who are taking their first steps in startups?
– First, you have to understand your customer’s needs. It is crucial for everyone, but especially for marketers. Nowadays, with plenty of easily accessible data and various channels, entering marketing is relatively easy. However, doing it well and understanding it deeply is very challenging. The first step toward that is understanding customer needs.
Once I realized this, many things became clearer, and my work seemed more meaningful. If I had realized this earlier, maybe I would have become a CEO at the age of 25 instead of 31 (laughs – editor’s note). On a more serious note, I remember one comprehensive discussion during the pandemic about our brand strategy. I read books, talked to smart people working in successful companies, and gathered information from all possible channels. I found that good brand strategists talk a lot with customers, and they do it purposefully and professionally. For example, if you ask a person what they want without suggesting a solution, they won’t be able to tell you. I realized the need to dive deeper – we understand hosting, we understand the challenges our customers face, but we also need to understand why they choose us. With this in mind, I contacted a few customers and asked to have a conversation. It was very valuable.
This personal initiative turned into the Client Interview project, involving all company employees. We created the necessary tools, automated the process, making it very convenient for both employees and customers, and now we conduct hundreds of such interviews every year.
I want every member of our team to understand why they do what they do. There are real people behind the number, so it is crucial not to lose empathy for them. That’s why our most important work principle is personally getting to know customers and constantly caring about their needs (Customer Obsession). That’s what I expect from all company employees today.
– What do you hear during these conversations – what new trends do you see, and where do you think customer habits and expectations are heading?
– To exaggerate a bit, the further we go, the more people want to do nothing and earn a lot of money. The remote work trend has created many opportunities for people to generate income. In turn, our job is to provide good tools so that they can achieve their goals and dreams, creating their own services in a way that requires as little technical work as possible. People should engage in business activities rather than dealing with hosting, websites, and the like. If I were to compare the process with the music scene, it’s like our customers are singing while we adjusting the sound or lights behind the scenes.
– How do you grow a team of highly qualified professionals? What kind of people are you looking for?
– Hostinger follows 10 principles that guide every step. Among them are freedom and responsibility, learning and being curious, striving for the highest standards, and others. When hiring, we expect that future colleagues will also be able to rely on these principles, and it will not be uncomfortable for them. In the selection process, we always look very responsibly at cultural fit, which is equal to professional skills. The second expectation is suitable personal qualities, among which we particularly value humility, ambition, and ingenuity. Regarding team growth, we do not limit ourselves geographically – talent is talent, no matter where it is.
– Once asked about the secret of success, you mentioned that the biggest secret in success is that there are no secrets. What really works in achieving results?
– I’ll risk repeating myself, but the most important thing is empathy. It includes understanding the customer, sincerely wanting to help, and finding a working solution. If you solve the problem, the customer will surely choose you. I always try to go back to basic principles because the environment, tools, and algorithms change very quickly. However, if I understand the principle itself, I will be able to implement it.
For me, this is art and beauty. It’s nice to help others – whether a colleague or a client, I see meaning in that. If sometimes my motivation fades, I talk to people around me. People inspire me – it’s good to see what and how we do, and what value we create. Clients achieve their goals with our products, turn their dreams into reality, trust us, and finally, entrust us with their money – that’s a huge responsibility. It’s also good to see that our employees live well – they pursue their dreams, earn good salaries, and have stock options. Together, it’s nice that we contribute to the country’s budget and well-being. This complexity creates meaning in life, and then results and success follow.
– You mentioned that people around you inspire you. What else? How do you relax from work or recharge for it? For example, do you still sing? What other hobbies do you have?
– Yes, I sing. For a while, I sang in an amateur choir, and now I sing in a group with friends. Once or twice a year, we perform for friends or at celebrations, usually covering rock songs. For me, it’s like meditation, a chance to change the environment.
I also love traveling, and I am constantly interested in various things, from biology and evolution to quantum mechanics. In general, I am curious to understand how we, people, and the world around us function.
– What do you think about artificial intelligence at Hostinger? What future do you see here?
– We are AI optimists and believe that it will help both us and humanity. I like the insights of Mark Anderson, who talks a lot about this topic. He says that you can’t deny it, you have to go with it – our task is to catch this wave and work with it.
For example, launching a website used to be a boring and time-consuming task. With AI, we managed to simplify, optimize, and reduce this process to minutes. AI can now write blog posts and manage SEO tasks. Customers appreciate these services and choose them confidently. Since May, AI has been serving our customers by answering some of their queries. We implement AI in internal processes, strive to provide employees with maximum access to the latest AI tools and technologies, so that monotonous tasks are minimized and the focus is on what creates real value.
– What are the most important goals for you and Hostinger in the near future?
– I’ve been in the organization for almost seven years now. We are rapidly growing every year, and the pace of growth is only increasing. Our goal is to sustain this growth and become the number-one hosting provider in the world. I’m not planning to make more major changes because I believe that this ambition itself requires a lot of experimentation and highly effective work. We will aim to increase the pace – learn faster, innovate, and continue to grow rapidly. In Lithuania, we might seem like a large business, but on the global stage, there is much more for us to accomplish.
– What would be your advice to Lithuania? What do you think is needed for more startups and unicorns to emerge in Lithuania? What would it take for Lithuania to become the best country for unicorns in the world?
– I admire the Hebrew concept of chutzpah. It refers to creative audacity and an aggressive approach to maneuvering out of a situation, even when it seems there is no hope. So, for Lithuania, I would wish for more chutzpah.
More specifically, there’s a lack of attention to education. I believe the situation is dire and needs to be addressed. We at Hostinger are growing because we allocate a significant amount of time to efficient learning. The more efficiently we address this at the national level, the better it will be for everyone.
Secondly, there’s a lack of ambition. If we are not afraid to dream and nurture global goals, we will be strong and challenging to stop. We are a small country, so if we want to live well, we must find ways to become part of the global economy and create high-value products. I believe we have all the necessary conditions for that.
This interview was prepared by Vilnius TechFusion partner Unicorns.lt. Find the full story in Lithuanian here: Naujasis „Hostinger“ vadovas Daugirdas Jankus – apie 10 darbo principų, globalius verslo planus ir tai, ko tikisi iš visų įmonės darbuotojų | Unicorns