Valeriya Merkulova, founder of IQBUZZ, ex-CEO of Aikumen IBS, IRONMAN participant, marathoner, Executive MBA SKOLKOVO graduate.

The most important thing in sport and business is self-confidence, aspiration to achieve your goals. Valeriya Merkulova knows that well. She is the MBA SKOLKOVO graduate, successful businesswoman, marathoner, and triathlete who finished in IRONMAN 2016, one of the most challenging competitions in the world. On business breakfast organised by SKOLKOVO Women Association she told about her achievements in sport gave advice to the graduates and students of SKOLKOVO Moscow School of Management. 


Valeriya has been working in IT sphere for 15 years. Despite the fact that this sphere is usually considered ‘non-female’ she achieved great results there. In 2009, she founded IT project IQBUZZ that is used for monitoring of social media by many organisations. They do it to estimate the quality of products and services, run marketing and advertising campaigns, and promote image and reputation. In 2015, Valeriya sold the controlling interest of Aikumen-IBS, third biggest telecom firm in Russia. She has been successfully running this company as the CEO for the past 7 years. The businesswoman is always ready to help entrepreneuses who have just come into this sphere. She consults them on creating and promotion of their business projects not only in the sphere of IT but also on issues concerning strategy planning and administration. 

It is interesting that Valeriya went into sport only 3 years ago. It was unexpected even for her. “I rarely attended PE classes in school for my health reasons. For the whole my life there were only shoes in my clothes. I could never imagine that I would want and be able to go in for sport”. However, Valeriya has learned to look at many things in a completely different way while studying in SKOLKOVO. After graduation she passed a training that taught to break the comfort zone and improve skills of obtainment. As part of a task, every participant should set an obviously unachievable goal and reach it. “Everything connected with the sport seemed impossible to me at that moment. I promised that I would run my first 10 km in 4 weeks. This goal seemed impossible and scary to me. However, I worked so hard that I ran 10 km in 2 weeks. In 4 weeks I gained my first medal as a finisher in a semi-marathon on Lake Garda in November 2013”, said Valeriya. 


The trainings and competitions were not easy for Valeriya. “On my first run for a long distance I had no powers by the middle of the track. However, I didn’t give up and tried to dispel the doubts and nerves: I scared the ducks away, sang my heart out. If the goal is set, you must take a grip on yourself and move to that goal”. The next challenge for Valeriya was the 42 km marathon in November 2014. She was running for more than 4 hours! However, that wasn’t her last sports success. All inspired, she firmly decided to go in for triathlon. There are three stages in this sport: swimming, cycle-race, and running. She started trainings in January 2015. The distances seemed unbelievable. 


“The matter is that I couldn’t ride a bicycle and swim at that moment. The trainings were in a hard mode. I learned everything from the ground up. I finished the last but one in my first triathlon four months after I started my trainings. Nevertheless, I managed to do it! Valeriya participated in many triathlon competitions in 2015. She finished twice at halfironman distance – IRONMAN 10.3 (1.9 km swimming, 90 km cycle-race, and 21 km run). Her trainer beguiled her out of participating in IRONMAN (3.86 km swimming, 180.25 km cycle-race, 42 km run). She firmly decided to prepare for the most important run in a year. She had to train 10 times a week. Sometimes one training lasted for 7 hours. Valeriya did everything she could, improved her results and heard the sacred phrase “Valeriya, you are an IRONMAN!” in October 2016. 


“The sport inspires to set new goals. It gives me energy. Moreover, the trainings went outdoors. That is useful for health and increases the level of vitamin D. However, most importantly, sport exercises boost self-esteem. You not only become more enduring, beautiful and strong with every training and start but also know that you really can be proud of yourself even if you don’t take the first place. For example, I am not a champion but I can do more than an average man. Although, I am still fragile, careful, and gentle”. 

Today Valeriya continues her trainings preparing for the next start (IRONMAN 70.3 Vichy). The next goal is to conquer Tukuche Peak, mountain peak in the Himalayas. When Valeriya achieves one goal, she immediately moves to the next one. This time it is the realisation of a new business project. Soon we will learn more about it.

Valeriya Merkulova is sure that it is important not to give up in both sport and business. ‘If you have a desire or a dream, don’t think much how to reach it. Just act. Even if you don’t succeed you would become more experienced. It is better to move on, make mistakes and gain experience than make no headway and fear to do something wrong and watch the life passing by.” 

Viktoria Yezhova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community 

Translated by Yan Zarubin