Ana Barjasic, Connectology Founder & CEO, European Innovation Council Board Member.
Ana Barjasic has more than 10 years’ track record in the European startup ecosystem as an entrepreneur, angel investor, policy adviser and ecosystem builder.
Combining her hands-on experience and knowledge of startup and innovation ecosystems and investment communities across EMEA region, Ana founded Connectology, an international agency for access to finance, investment readiness and behavioural science. Previously sector agnostic, Connectology is now focusing on investments in femtech and climate tech.
Ana is also an Executive Committee Member of Global Entrepreneurship Network Europe and the youngest Board Member of the European Innovation Council, largest innovation fund for deep tech in Europe worth over 10 billion euros.
After mentoring hundreds of different startups worldwide, my preference goes to open mindedness. Open-minded entrepreneurs are more likely to be alert to various opportunities and build resilience by trying different options, which leaves less room to fall in love with the business idea and paralyze their mindsets and actions.
Entrepreneurs should also have an independent validation of key ideas, good understanding of the market, and in general have their “homework” done. On the other hand, I only commit to mentor startups I can clearly add value to.
Overall, Techstars “give first” philosophy resonates with me really deeply, especially as a sign of appreciation for all the amazing people, valuable advice and encouragement I have received on my own journey. Such a mentality helps ensure that founders stay humble, no matter how successful they may become.
Risk is the most important variable of a startup journey. Thanks to the loss aversion bias, people in general prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring equivalent gains. For this reason, it is very important to work on reducing the actual risk, but also perception associated with the startup risk. For example, instead of asking for the full investment amount immediately, entrepreneurs can agree on certain milestones with their potential investors and receive funding in instalments, based on startup achievements.
Such a “risk mitigation” approach not only reduces the risk for investors, but it also increases their willingness to invest. Another very important lesson is summarized in the phrase “perfect is the enemy of good”.
Finally, the time has come where impact investing is not considered charity anymore. The number of startups creating fascinating new technologies and driving the sustainability momentum cannot be ignored. SDG and ESG frameworks are accounting for future risks that will be more prominent and increasingly regulated. Meeting growing requirements for sustainability indexes, performance and compliance significantly depends on innovative solutions, making startups tackling sustainability challenges best placed to take advantage of this market opportunity.
I know that I have made a difference for a team when they keep in touch and share updates on their developments, sometimes even years after mentoring sessions. I am happy to say that some mentees became my friends. Most entrepreneurs do not include risk perspective in their decision making by default, so introduction to risk mitigation approach is usually the most interesting concept for them, followed by innovative ways of framing issues startups struggle with, relevant introductions, and especially empowering women entrepreneurs. However, a mentor’s role is to support and enable entrepreneurs to create the biggest possible impact.
Lately we have seen a lot happening on diversity and inclusion, but really it is about decision making. Since we know that, for instance, diverse teams perform better, or that female executives make companies more profitable, it is a matter of an informed decision to build more diverse teams and encourage more women to occupy senior positions. However, such smart decision making depends on numerous cues, including biases that may unconsciously inhibit certain decisions and ultimately outcomes. Very interesting research comes from the field of behavioral science that teaches us how to recognize, acknowledge and calibrate negative biases and not give in to whitewashing, greenwashing, pinkwashing and similar approaches.
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