Mart Nielsen has been serving as a member of the board and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ridango since January 2020. 

Before joining Ridango, Nielsen served as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of RB Rail AS, the company responsible for building Rail Baltica railway infrastructure project. Nielsen has previously also led infrastructure development in Swedbank and worked 12 years in telecommunication company Tele2, where he held Estonian and Baltic level CTIO/Management Board positions. 
 
From this interview with Mart, you’ll find out about similarities and differences between being in the CTO role in a large company and the CEO in a technology company, what has been his most important learning points about our industry so far and a whole lot more.  

“Inside Ridango” is a series of interview segments on the professionals working within different roles at Ridango, focusing on the people who strive to achieve a mutual goal of helping millions of people around the world to use public transport simply and seamlessly.

You started as the CEO of Ridango in January 2020. During your first months, what have been the most important learning points about mass transportation IT solutions? 

Smart ticketing and real-time solutions for mass transport are surprisingly unstandardized – customer requirements, functionality and pricing structures are widely different and require complex tailor-made solutions. I was truly amazed, how well a small company from Estonia (such as Ridango) has been able to establish itself at an international scale. It’s a really good feeling, knowing that our work helps make life easier for millions of commuters. 

Smart ticketing and real-time solutions for mass transport are surprisingly unstandardized – customer requirements, functionality and pricing structures are widely different and require complex tailor-made solutions.

You have worked as a technology executive in several large companies (CTO at Rail Baltic, Head of Transformation at Swedbank, Baltics CTO at Tele2). Now when you’re the CEO of a technology company, could you point out some similarities and differences between these different roles? Have you had any “Wow!” moments? 

Being in a CTO role in larger tech companies includes most of the elements from the CEO role in a smaller company, so no big surprises there. It is rather about where to apply focus – in the CEO role it involves a much broader range of topics, including commercial aspects, meeting with customers etc. which is actually a lot of fun for me! I must confess though, that sometimes I have intentionally held myself back from temptation to deep dive into some technology based topics  


What have you taken with you from previous positions that you carry on with you even today as the CEO of Ridango? 

It’s all about people. It’s all about openness, trust, common goals, teamwork and enjoying the ride! Ridango has a great team of devoted people, who truly care about what they do! This is not something you often see in larger companies. We will need to take the next step in size and geographical reach, while maintaining our passion and personal touch with customers – a tough journey but everything is possible if we follow those simple principles. 

Ridango has a great team of devoted people, who truly care about what they do! This is not something you often see in larger companies.

Let’s talk about the typical daily routine of a CEO. How does your average day look? You start your day by waking up early in the morning, and what happens next? 

I am not a really an early bird – so jogging at 5AM is a no go! For me there is no typical daily routines – every day is different. I usually wake up with my head full of all kind of thoughts, so the first thing is to type them down into Evernote. My prime time is between 8- 13, so I prefer to allocate tough topics and analytical tasks into that slot. Working from home is usually a continuous race, I tend to forget my lunch which is not a healthy practice. 

An important part of the day is my daily workout, so if possible I prefer to wrap things up in time to be able to take my standard 1h 45min biking or cycling ride. Then dinner with my family and usually an hour to wrap up the day – reading mails, signing documents, preparing for the next day. 

PS! Sometimes the best ideas and solutions to complex problems come during long Sunday morning cycle rides when the brain works best, and the mind and body are relaxed!


Many business coaches and leaders say that mental toughness is an essential skill for CEOs. Do you agree and are you willing to share your practices of how do you take care of your mental health and keep it stable? 

Work with your heart but don’t take things to heart – it’s easy to say but harder to follow. I have always taken my job very personally and it is highly unlikely that I am able to change it. A C-level job doesn’t end when leaving the office – it is immensely important to find a healthy balance between work and private life. For me the three magic pillars are (1) my fantastic family (2) a few very close friends and (3) all kind of sports – both practicing and following. 

A C-level job doesn’t end when leaving the office – it is immensely important to find a healthy balance between work and private life.


What are the challenges and opportunities that transportation companies are currently facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Some say that it’s the best time to focus on digital transformation. What are your thoughts on that? 

Ridango is an IT Solutions company – digital life is our reality. I am amazed how smoothly we were able to transfer our operations into home offices without losing the pace. Our customers are mainly from public sectors and they are rather intensifying the investments during crisis periods – it has been a busy 6 weeks for us, lots of work to do. Nevertheless, nobody really knows the true magnitude of the crisis in long-term, therefore certain precautions must be taken. We have meanwhile parked our new bigger office initiative and are more picky when recruiting new staff. 

Our customers are mainly from public sectors and they are rather intensifying the investments during crisis periods – it has been a busy 6 weeks for us, lots of work to do.


In your opinion, what are functionalities and innovative solutions in the public transportation sector that will play an essential role in helping to reduce the spread of viruses like COVID-19 in the future? 

Face masks are likely to become a standard in public places, as it has been in Asia for a long time. 

Nevertheless, this kind of pandemic situation is unique for most of us, so I believe real innovations are still there to come. First thought that comes into my mind is to reduce the need for all kind of physical contacts – all kind of contactless payment and validation methods are there to stay. Industry is also looking towards location-based validation methods based on Bluetooth low energy beacons, which when mature will furthermore reduce the need for proximity. 

Face masks are likely to become a standard in public places, as it has been in Asia for a long time. 

Are you looking to affect millions of people on a daily basis with your work? At Ridango, you can. Take a look at our current vacancies.