Stories 5 Questions

5 Questions with Olga Bartnicki

Feb 29th, 2020

3-min read

Olga Bartnicki is Managing Director of the New York Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars. She is a former investment banker, a C-level operator, and an entrepreneur. Olga earned a Master of Sciences degree from the University of Colorado and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

01. What are the key elements you look for when sourcing startups for the New York Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars?

We work to get to know the cofounders, and the depth, strength, and dynamic of their relationship. We want to see early indications that the problem the team is working to solve is pervasive and persistent.

02. How have learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey helped you be a successful Techstars MD?

I have been in the trenches of the startup battlefield and my successes and failures as an entrepreneur in COO, CEO, CFO, and CRO roles gave me first-hand experience in four verticals (healthcare, entertainment, e-commerce and enterprise SaaS) and across five business models (retail, subscription, 2-sided marketplace, revenue share, and licensing fees). My work as an investment banker at a top-tier investment bank also gives me a deep understanding of the financial sector. The breadth of this experience is what I bring to founders: to help them see clearer, try quicker, prevent problems sooner, and build startups faster.

I have been on both sides of the startup pitch. As a founder, I raised angel and Series A rounds of financing; and as a venture investor at Allen & Company, I evaluated hundreds of startups for potential investments. Those learnings allow me to help founders craft a compelling story to ignite investors’ interest during a capital raising effort. Finally, I have negotiated exits as a C-level executive and as an investment banker, which allows me to share valuable negotiation strategies.

03. What does our partner Barclays bring to the accelerator?

Compared to other banks, Barclays is the most active early-stage investor in FinTech. The Barclays team brings deep operational knowledge and a no-nonsense direct perspective on what it takes to scale a product across a financial institution. Knowing what it takes to be ready for a pilot with a bank is an invaluable insight for any founder. The sooner the founding team understands the complexities of the financial sector, the faster they will be able to craft a clear path to a scalable pilot. Based on the specific goals of each startup in the accelerator, Barclays’ team may be able to offer access to customers, host focus groups, give product feedback, or help build out a product use case.

04. What is your favorite thing about the New York startup scene?

We as New Yorkers are deeply rooted in the city’s long history of entrepreneurship. This fundamental belief drives each one of us to contribute, connect, and mentor other founders—which is sustaining a unique ecosystem for innovation. In NYC, entrepreneurs can access every ingredient necessary to launch their startup, and feel welcome and supported.

05. What does Give First mean to you, and how do you apply it in your work and life?

I left Russia as an 18-year old with nothing more than a tourist visa and a couple hundred dollars, eager to earn a college degree in the U.S. It was during this time that, through a combination of luck and fate, I met an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist who saw part of himself in my passion for entrepreneurship. He offered to support my way through college if I promised to, one day, help someone else down the road.

Give First for me means giving my best to other entrepreneurs—my best insights based on my experience as an entrepreneur, my best hacks, my best shortcuts—all to enable them to build faster.