Recently we had an insightful conversation with Regina Overchyk, Incubation Program Manager at Next Big Thing AG and active Community Builder for an infinite period of time. We talked about her experience in the startup field, the current venture builder she works for, what is needed to be a successful founder, event organization, life in Berlin, and more. Find out the entire conversation below, and enjoy.
Please tell me more about your career path, it is quite impressive!
I have been in the startup ecosystem since 2012. Firstly, as a part of one of the first Ukrainian accelerators Eastlabs, and then – UANGEL. Later I joined Seedstars, a Swiss-based company that is doing a bunch of activities for impact-focused tech startups in emerging markets.
I was sort of the product owner of the acceleration there. We did programs in such places like Cambodia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, and Peru. But also some events like Seedstars Summit CEE (in Kyiv) and part of the Global Investment Forum (in Geneva).
Besides that, I’ve always been engaged in some sort of community building and working with startups for a long time. I was doing all kinds of events with different focus and stages, like hackathons, bootcamps, conferences, and workshops.
I’m a co-organizer of a Silicon Drinkabout Kyiv, which took place in different Kyiv bars every Friday for around 5 years. It was like a side activity/hobby for all of us, the organizers, who had our own full-time roles somewhere else. But we saw it as a significant benefit to the ecosystem, other separate players, and ourselves as well.
And now, I’ve been living in Berlin for the last 4 years. We started to have small reunions here again. There’s been one in November, another one in December, and two others are planned for January & February.Participate in the next event on January 20th in one of the Berlin bars. Click here to find out more and register.
Lately, I joined Next Big Thing AG (which is a venture builder) as an Incubation Program Manager. So I’m putting together a program along with a great team. All to support founders focused on Machine Economy and IoT with deep industry expertise. We’re focused on impact as well. Thus, all solutions should be around one of the SDGs of a few of them at the same time.
Can you elaborate on the NBT’s activity as a venture builder?
Venture builder is a bit different in focus and offer compared to an accelerator program or a VC firm. We serve as a co-founder and come in at the very early stage – at researched idea phase and solo founder, which is very risky. It means that contribution and engagement are very high, as well as interest in overall success.
We support founders who’ve researched ideas but don’t have a team/a CTO, and who want to validate their idea in Machine Economy and IoT safely and quickly. Besides, expertise in the sector allows tremendously to speed up the process.
This is the last week of an open application to our Visionaries program. The deadline is January 15th, and the program kick-off is February 1st.
For NBT, the focus is on Machine Economy and IoT. It serves at the very beginning as a CTO or a CPO. We already have immense experience and experts who help validate ideas fast, then invest in them, support to incorporate, scale, grow, and get more customers.
What qualities do you value in founders?
Sales/business development zeal if we talk about a CEO role. Also, power, resilience, and inspiration. It’s crucial to have the motivation and the ability to overcome difficulties.
Receptivity to feedback: to hear, accept, analyze it and make decisions. A founder is a driving force that leads a product but is able to consider the expertise of their partner. It’s essential not to take feedback as a negative but be ready to test suggestions and make changes if needed.
What is a firm “no” if we talk about startups that pitch their product?
Simply, if there is no technical alignment, it’s not focused on a product, or there’s something wrong with an idea or logic from an expert point of view. And after prescreening, there are several stages of the interview. During the first stage, we look into a personality fit and alignment with our focus.
What questions give out that a person doesn’t quite understand where they are?
I can’t tell if there are any specific questions. Usually, during the second stage, we talk about a product and not about a founder’s persona. At this point, product experts ask operational or functional questions and conclude whether a person is realistic about an idea or not.
Make sense. Well, let’s switch to a more casual topic for a while. Why did you decide to move to Berlin?
It just happened :)
I tell this story, and every time people laugh. A long time ago, my husband and I went on a European trip. And Berlin was one of the points on the way. We spent a few days there and walked around with friends through neighborhoods that don’t represent the city at all (like where embassies are). We liked it and thought: “ Wow, it would be nice to live here for a while”. Then we moved and saw a completely different Berlin! But still, considering all factors, we like it.
You have vast experience in organizing events. What is your focus on while doing it to be sure an event will be successful?
I would say events are 30% about content and 70% – about networking. So creating a favorable space for networking is vital. But content is also important. The more specific, the more value. ‘Cause, a specified topic attracts a narrower audience that will more likely match and create a more considerable amount of future collaborations.
If we talk about more focused formats, like when preparing a program, I pay a lot of attention to the feedback of particular attendees. Before coming up with an event idea or format, I ask these potential attendees what they are most interested in.
After an event, it is good to ask what people liked and didn’t, what to do more/less/the same. And based on the answers, adjust future activities.
But, for example, with Silicon Drinkabout, we don’t have a permanent questionnaire, but people keep attending it, word of mouth works. This is the criteria for us that the event is successful.
What do you follow to be up to date?
Social networks have long turned into media. So I receive a lot of information and updates from LinkedIn.
But if I have the specific topic I want to dive into, just research all professional sources. Recently I became more interested in sustainable development, not trends, but new regulations and updates. Regarding this, I like Climate Tech VC.
Also, follow yearly reviews and publications. And some news media like TechCrunch. Yeah, such a compilation :)
Great! Thank you, Regina, for sharing your experience and thoughts today. Click here to find Regina on LinkedIn.