Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Marina is an entrepreneur and mentor working with early stage tech companies and having three main areas of expertise: marketing, strategy and equity investment. As a partner in several projects, Marina has been involved in running marketing campaigns and created a network of startup leaders around the globe. She runs a series of workshops for tech founders and is a mentor and presenter in main European startup conferences and accelerators. Marina also runs a tech angel investment club and has helped to raise capital for several upcoming tech stars.
What is the idea behind your projects and how did you come up with it? Tell us a bit more about it!
I started my first business Dreamstake 5 years ago. When I moved to London, I had a dream to have my own online business. I soon realised how hard it was. There were not so much support here in London - no educational or networking events. It was really difficult to find mentors for any kind of advice (even legal or accountancy). To find investors was even more complicated. How would you explain a banker, that you need thousands of pounds of investment to grow a business, that is not going to generate any profit within the next few years?! Gradually my efforts shifted to helping fashion technology businesses. This is now a big part of my work and my main interest.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
We started with a small team of co-founders, we all had complementary professional skills needed for the business.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I am a partner at Dreamstake for 5 years. I have started the fashion tech network, called #FashHack about 3 years ago and managed to build great brand name and relationships within London Tech startup community. I now have a consultancy firm for fashion tech entrepreneurs, called FaBuTec (standing for Fashion Business and Technology) and run #Fashhack bootcamps to help grow fashion tech businesses in London.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle for us was to find the right business model. We wanted to generate enough revenue, without overcharging the startup founders. We knew from very beginning how hard it is to be an early stage founder and wanted to provide as much value as we could.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My personal goal was never just about money, so one of my biggest achievements is my experience of working with tech businesses. I always wanted to be flexible in my work, to be able to choose the time, people, intensity and even income. I really enjoy working with founders, advising them on strategy and investment. I also work with investors or established companies on building accelerators and support programmes.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
There are a lot of challenges of being a tech entrepreneur. The biggest one right now is to stand out from all the competition by achieving the highest possible growth rate. it is also really hard to get to Series A in UK. I think the ‘death rate’ for early stage startups in Europe is more than 90%.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
I believe it is important to support women in business in general, particularly in technology sector, which is highly dominated by male founders. As a female entrepreneur, you can feel quite lonely, so it is a great initiative to get women founders to collaborate and help each other.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
I always say that in your early stage it comes a lot to learning and networking. Our days, one can find a lot of resources to help women entrepreneurs out there.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I believe that all tech including fashion tech will move to the direction of much more innovative technology (i.e. AI or Virtual Reality). It is happening already, there is a lot of ‘deeptech' out there, but the goal is to implement this innovation to help building profitable businesses.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech?
Nathalie Massenet, Rebecca Minkoff and Katrina Lake (StitchFix).
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.