Startup Culture 101 of 6 female founders in South East Europe

As our team diversifies we add testosterone weight to our scales, I was curious to know how inclusive other SEE tech startups are. To say that diversity matters is a cliché that I want to stay away from. Instead, I’ll share what’s endless studies have shown. Diversity drives creativity, creates sustainable growth, and helps a company outperform financially in the marketplace, to name a few.

So I chose the brains of six women founders with Romanian and Bulgarian DNA to find out how they built their work environment, what they value within their company, what makes a great culture these days and what that future leaders should know.

Keep reading for insights from Xenia Muntean, co-founder of Planable; Alina Stefan, co-founder of Salarium fintech; Ioana Surdu-Bob, co-founder of Konvi; Lubomila Jordanova, co-founder of Plan A; Gergana Stancheva, co-founder of LAM’ON; and Maya Zlatanova, co-founder of FindMeCure.

Diversity as part of startup culture

Looking at the numbers, although most of them feature diverse teams, the scale slightly favors men over women in the tech workforce – an average of 55% men to 45% women.

However, the six founders are aware of this and make it their duty to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, Plan A’s Lubomila Jordanova revealed that they have a dedicated training program for this and a working group that makes sure they are moving in the right direction.

Then, Ioana Surdu-Bob from Konvi tells me:

“We will always hire the best person for the job and not let bias come into play. I look forward to bringing many more amazing women to the team who will help us grow the business. »

When it comes to nationalities, all companies show an affinity to working with a wide variety of team members who add value to their corporate culture and promote their mission.

And the age? While most employees are Gen Z and Millennials, every company has a few parents and seniors to keep the balance.

“You might wonder who is really the youngest, because age says nothing about energy and spirit,” concludes Maya Zlatanova of FindMeCure.

The challenges and benefits of working in a tech startup

Xenia Muntean, who is building a platform for marketers to connect with customers, shares early on that while they take their jobs seriously, with a focus on ownership, builder mentality and growth – both personally and professionally, they also like to joke around and not take themselves too seriously.

“We have unlimited PTO at Plannablepaid lunches and healthy fruit and snacks in the office, flexible working hours, private medical insurance, a learning allowance that each team member can decide what they spend, an annual pension from the company in a fabulous place to disconnect and reconnect, and even a nap room in the office,” says Xenia Muntean.

startup culture

Alina Stefan, which is developing a fintech product, reveals that salaryThe startup culture allows them to feel safe to develop, even if the creation of a startup is not a walk in the park. They keep an open mind and schedule, with each member of the team showing up and asking for what they need, whether it’s a day off to recharge or to accommodate the kids, especially during the long summer months. been away from school.

She shared that the heart of their business is made up of:

Honesty and authenticity. For me, these two core values ​​are the foundation of virtues such as honor, integrity and loyalty.
It’s not a perfect game. To grow, you must stay curious and try different approaches, which by default will include trial and error – the fundamental method of problem solving.
Make it work, then improve it. It was first mentioned by my colleague, Alina Bancila, when she was summarizing our way of working for a client. It resonated with all of us when we heard it and has made it a motto ever since.
Anticipation is more important than feedback. Feedback is commonly practiced in most companies as a basis for improvement. For us, feedforward is more convenient and easier to give, which makes the learning process easier. »

startup culture

Ioana Surdu-Bob of Convi, a crowdfunding platform that democratizes access to high-yielding alternative assets, like jewelry, says it wants to deliver impactful work as quickly as possible. As a startup team, each person must contribute 10 times the value. That’s why they iterate, learn from their mistakes, and adapt quickly.

“The team is capable of being creative. Each team member owns certain initiatives and is free to test ideas and learn. In terms of stress management, we have strived since day one to create a product that works on autopilot. As we are a young team, we have a fun working environment without unnecessary meetings. Every Friday we have beers and play pool in the office, and we also allow up to 15 days a year of remote work,” the Konvi founder told The Recursive..

startup culture

Lubomila Jordanova of Plan A aims to fight climate change, and that can sometimes be quite a challenge. So, she tells me that the fundamental pillars of their startup culture are a positive, pioneering mindset, empowerment, collaboration, technical knowledge, and integrity.

“We have offered many supports and programs to maintain the mental and physical well-being of our staff, such as mental health coaching, flexible working hours, special leave for parents and sick children, special leave for birth and a sabbatical every 2 years, to name a few. We regularly expand our offerings to ensure that we meet the needs of our employees,” shares the CEO.

startup culture

Gergana Stancheva of LAM’ON, which developed biodegradable packaging from corn, is growing its diverse team with clear communication, mutual respect and care. She wants everyone who works with them to be fulfilled, because it will make them want to evolve. For this, she reveals working with an organizational psychologist to set up a code of conduct as part of the startup culture.

startup culture

Maya Zlatanova of FindMeCure, a project bringing clinical trials closer to patients, says what drives the team is the “give first” mantra, followed by failing fast and learning as you make things happen. possible. They are known for their passion to go the extra mile for each other and for their customers.

“To align the team around common goals, we have a weekly meeting, and we try to ensure that each of us knows how we contribute. Parent or not, we allow you to manage your time, as long as you work on your priorities. Every other Friday we have afternoon beers and board games and we are now going to Greece to strengthen the team. We all trust each other and know that everyone is doing their best in that moment and when they can’t they can be transparent about it and handle the situation together,” Maya describes their process.

Advice for the new technology leaders of tomorrow

  • Xenia reveals that in the beginning you have to dream big, not realistic. Be inspired by your vision, present it to the world with passion, and when in doubt if it’s too big, she says “take it up a notch”.
  • Alina would like more women to be brave to grow a business. She believes that perseverance in hard work and effort, and a dash of resilience will make the mission a reality.
“Talent is great, just like a bright spark, but ideas without structured work and consistency are hard to bring to fruition and even harder to have an impact.” –Alina Stefan
  • by Ioana the advice goes directly to future tech founders and raises important questions they should be asking. Start or fundraise? A VC-backed startup isn’t for everyone. How are you going to manage your burn rate?
“After raising funds, the highs are very high and the lows are very low. You have to navigate the dips without your emotions affecting your decisions or your team. It requires a level of resilience that you cannot build in advance. And, as a woman in particular, it takes a long time to convince the world that you are a strong founder. – Ioana Surdu-Bob
  • Lubomila doesn’t recommend enough the importance of mentorship, of meeting the right people who will help you learn. Then, she encourages young professionals to test themselves in different environments before launching their own – companies, startups, NGOs and foundations.
  • Gergana makes a point of letting future entrepreneurs know that there is a lot of work to be done and little security in the first few years. But she says there’s no other job as rewarding as building your tech startup.
  • And Maya wants the new generations entering the workforce to know that perfection does not exist. This success is not a final destination, but a daily journey with decisions and actions that take you out of your comfort zone, while challenging you to fight for issues that you are passionate about.
“Starting a business is not a competition, there are no winners or losers. It is a process of constant learning and improvement. It’s about how you inspire and empower people even smarter than you to work together towards a common goal. – Maya Zlatanova

Mary I. Bruner