The European Young Innovators Forum supports young entrepreneurs, innovators and ecosystem builders across Europe and through our blog we aim to make their voices heard and connect them to our community.
This week we have the honour of interviewing Ms. Sasha Bezuhanova who is a senior executive, angel investor and philanthropist with a 20-years executive business career in HP and a multi-dimensional track record of service to society.
Sasha is the founder of MOVE.BG – non-partisan platform for collaboration in finding sustainable solutions for the state, economy and society via innovation, participation and co-creation and the initiator of EDIT.BG – open network initiative for digital innovation.
Sasha is also Chair of the Boards of Bulgarian Center of Women in Technologies, Technical University, co-founder and board member of the Initiative for Social Empowerment and Honorary Board member of Junior Achievement Bulgaria where she served as Board Chair for 15 years.
In 2013 she founded the yearly Entrepregirl Award for supporting young women to develop their entrepreneurial ideas into business. Sasha was named Digital woman of Europe for 2013 and one of the Top 100 Challengers in New Europe 100 for 2015.
Sasha Bezuhanova holds an Executive Master’s Degree in International Negotiations and Policy Making from the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Master’s Degree in Electronics from the Technical University of Sofia, and Executive qualifications from INSEAD, Stanford and others.
What has inspired you to found SHEleader@digital Conference in Bulgaria?
There are two triggers. We are living in a digitally connected world and every business is digitally empowered today. The leadership needs to be digitally conscious for it to be able to drive the corporations as per the standards of the tomorrow’s world.
The other dimension is that the digital connectedness and the democratization of the access to the information are driving a fundamental transformation of every aspect of our life. Today collaboration leads to a success rather than the competition and the co-creation and sharing are stimulating the development. It is in the women’s nature to address the challenges and opportunities with inclusiveness . There is a need for more feminine attitude in the leadership in this time of transition in order to arrive to a new equilibrium in the world.
What is the main problem you are aiming to address with the SHEleader@digital conference?
We want to have a dialog on the leadership in the digital era. Also – to introduce the female leadership from different perspectives – business executives and emerging female entrepreneurs integrating their feminine style in their professional roles. We want to outline the impact dimension as a driver in the business as well as to reconfirm the authentic women role in the family and society that is not a tradeoff for a career.
The conference will look for answers to the challenges and stigmas of today that the digital industry is rather male territory and there is an unspoken preference for investments in male-led new ventures. We want to send the message that sustainable business and societal development happen in an environment where men and women feel equally empowered to participate as per their talent and ideas.
Bulgaria ranks #1 for female ICT specialists in Europe, which sounds incredible. Why do you think Bulgarian women are more drawn towards tech compared to other countries?
The computer industry has deep roots in the Bulgarian economy. Still in the sixties it has been the main economic sector in the country employing lots of men and women engineers. There are many female role models that are encouraging the next generation of women to choose a career in the computer industry. Today more than 30% of the professionals in the ICT sector in Bulgaria are women compared to 16% European average. Bulgaria is leading the European statistics but there is still more work needed in encouraging more women to develop professionally in the digital economy.
The connectivity allows distant working and gives flexibility for sharing the family duties between partners. This opens new opportunities for men and women to develop without sacrificing their professional careers in the digital era.
How do you see Bulgaria as a location to start a tech company? Which advantages does the country offer? Also, where do you think Bulgaria still needs to grow?
There is a very vibrant and mature startup ecosystem in Bulgaria. There is a collaborative environment that brings together young people with entrepreneurial attitude, engineering talent, participating angel investors with topical experience made available to the community. The culture of sharing allows the knowledge to flow and materialize in new ventures. Advanced business solutions in the field of cloud computing, big data analysis, machine learning, IoT and blockchain are starting from Bulgaria. The strength is in the grassroot thematic self-helping community initiatives and the existence of the co-working spaces in the whole country. Bulgaria is becoming more and more an international hub for the starting businesses and is among the top 10 investment destinations in Europe now. The knowledge for sustainable scaling on a global basis is an area that needs further investment.
As an investor of multiple companies, what advice would you have for women who are interested in funding their own startup?
The advice is the same for women and men – make the step, look for the best co-pilots, experiment, collaborate in the community and integrate the most advanced knowledge in your venture. Follow this approach on every next loop in the development of your enterprise.
What convinces you personally that a startup is ready to get funded?
The uniqueness of the business idea, the commitment of the team, the vision for the end destination and the concept on how it can be reached.
Lastly, what advice would you have for the young innovators out there that are working to make a difference ?
Dear young shapers, think big and feed your creativity with knowledge and emotion. Surround yourself with people from all different backgrounds that think outside of the box and share same values as yourself. Don’t compromise your freedom and give freedom to the others. Stand behind the ideas you believe in and be open to develop them with the power of the collective intellect. Try out and invite in your journey the best co-pilots. Be driven by the impact of your goal, not by the money that you might make. Share your enthusiasm and the success will come – for yourself and for the community.
About SHEleader@digital Conference
The Bulgarian Center of Women in Technology, in partnership with the Ministry for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, are organizing the first SHEleader@digital conference dedicated to women’s role in the digital economy.
It’s mission is to inspire and provoke more women and girls to confidently take on professional and leadership roles across the digital industry. The conference will be the focal point female leaders from all over Europe converge. They will discuss ways to support and encourage the active participation and contribution of women to the digital economy.
Join us on the 12th April 2018 for an extraordinary day at the National Palace of Culture.
Full list of speakers and program are available at ➤ https://www.sheleader.digital/