You know that magic that happens when you work with awesome people? We think it’s everything, and we love working with folks who bring that kind of chemistry into our days. Every month, we sit down with one of these execs to talk about startups, marketing, the future of their industries, world domination and whatever other topics pop up.
In the hot seat today:
We’re headed to Europe, where we’re speaking with Ivalina Nenova. She’s the founder of Bulgaria’s largest travel site, NasamNatam.com, and CEO of New Web, Ltd. At a young age, Ivalina combined her love for travel and entrepreneurial spirit to carve out her own space in the travel market. She’s also the author behind the book “203 Travel Challenges” and subsequent online hub. She’s most inspired by traveling and managing incredible teams who create meaningful projects.
Who influences you and why?
People who don't stop improving themselves. I love participating in a variety of activities - playback theater, coaching, yoga and meditation retreats, these are the places where I find people with good vibes who inspire me.
When and where did you start out, and how did that experience shape you?
I was a 20-year-old girl who was studying law and working a state job at the court. I love traveling, but at that time I didn't have the money to travel. I decided to create a travel website so that I could do it for free – everything seemed so easy.
I asked my boyfriend, who was a developer, to create a travel website for me, but I wanted to create a better product than the ones that already existed in our market. Many people didn't believe that I could achieve that. I decided that this was a good challenge and I did everything in spite of them. Two years later, we were bought by the biggest independent internet media in Bulgaria, which invited me to be a project manager in their company. One year after that my website became the most visited travel website according to Gemius data. Now, my biggest competitors are gone :).
A funny story I remember about working in that company was when my boss came up to me and told me, “Iva, do you know what an expert is?” I asked him, “What do you mean by that?” and he replied, “An expert is a person who has made every mistake in the world, and you are almost an expert.” I didn't know what to make of that – was it a compliment or an insult? Nevertheless, I chose to accept that as a compliment.
This shaped me in a way that I now accept that I make mistakes and will learn from that my whole life, and if I persevere - I will become an expert.
What’s your main focus right now?
To find the balance between creating successful, meaningful projects and growing the satisfaction of the team. Sometimes I don't believe I can achieve this balance, but I remind myself that my intentions determine the outcome of my actions, so realizing that this balance is achievable brings me back to the right mindset.
As a CEO, what keeps you up at night, and what gets you out of bed in the morning?
The idea that I can create a product that changes people in a good way, helping them to travel and live more mindfully.
Fill in the blank: the most important thing female founders need to remember about entrepreneurialism is…
That they have to act like women - with patience, believing in their intuition and not trying to push, instead to give love and support, to believe in the people they are working with.
If you weren’t working in travel tech and media, what would you be doing?
Managing an event center for personal development or a dance center. I am good at social networking, so I am absolutely sure that I would be working with people. If I had enough money, I would work for charity - trying to teach emotional intelligence to as many people as I can.
What are some differences in starting a company in Bulgaria versus in other countries?
I cannot know for sure because I haven't started a company outside of Bulgaria yet. The biggest advantage is that our government taxes are lower than any other European country.
What’s one business lesson you think startup founders in the U.S. should take from Bulgarian founders?
Think out of the box even if you have to break the rules. If you do things the same way as others, there is no way your product or service will become more visible.
Find out what kind of traveler you are with a quiz from Iva’s latest book, “203 Travel Challenges.”