Dec. 15, 2022

Biodegradable innovation startup Lamon is fighting plastic with Angela Ivanova

Biodegradable innovation startup Lamon is fighting plastic with Angela Ivanova
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit the Lamon website:

Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:

Visit his website:

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at


Past Guests:


Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


Additional episodes you might enjoy:

#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury

#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva

#50 Vidmantas Šiugždinis - Personalized Approach to Employee Benefits with MELP

#49 Markus and Daniel - The Digital Memory Album for You and Your Family

#48 Arvid Kahl - Bootstrap Startup Lessons

#45 Dagobert Renouf - Brand design for your Startup in 5 minutes

#42 Csaba Zajdó - Top Startup in Europe for E-commerce:

Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website:

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at

Past Guests:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury
#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva
#50 V...


I'm here with Angela Enova, co-founder of Bulgarian Startup lamon, which is a biodegradable packaging startup. They are on target to reach 90,000 euro in revenue for 2022. Think of all plastic waste we use in packaging that is polluting our Environenment.

Well, lemon is a safe alternative to this, and as a result of her and her co-founder's work, Angela has won the prestigious international competition for women innovators in biodegradable manufacturing. She's also a photographer who uses her skills to volunteer at the Mpro Foundation, which helps empower domestic violence survivor.

And she also volunteers at Jamba, which connects people with diverse abilities in Bulgaria and their future employers. Angela, and welcome to Innovators Koala. Hi. Thank you. It was super nice. Yeah. Yeah. So Angela, I was doing some research and noticed that you have some really cool looking tattoos on your right arm, so I'm very curious.

What are they drawings of and what do they mean to you? Well, geez, they, they're each different pieces from different like points of my life. This is lemon because our company sounds like it. This is the death of rats because they love Dairy Pratchett. This is Dolly. It is more or less like the first wife of.

This is here to remind me not to neglect myself because of somebody else's ambitions, . So yeah, it is. There are so many, actually, not only on my right arm, but they're more, no, so I didn't know Einstein. In fact, I didn't even know Einstein was Mary. So he had a wife named Dolly, and she felt neglected and they divorced.

What, what's the story? Yeah. Yeah. She was a great scientist as well, but she neglected herself to look after the children and everything, so he got to be more and more famous and well renowned scientist because as you know, you, you don't, you didn't even know his wife. Yeah. So you see, and this is here to remind me not to do that for, to myself, because of course we are here to support each other.

We have to support each other throughout everything, especially when people are together, married couples or whatever, even, I mean, and friends as well. People shouldn't neglect themselves just because for somebody. Okay, but where are you at in your stage of life right now? Because my assumption is you're single, you're young, and you could be devoting 80 plus hours a week to your passion, to your startup.

Is there somebody in your life that's that special that you feel like, Hey, I wanna make sure that I'm spending quality time with them and I'm being, whether it's a good partner, a good friend, is there somebody in your life like that? Right. I have to say that I am super happy to have a lot of good, good friends close by.

This is just today I read an article in The Guardian about how men have less friends than women. So I have to say that I do have a lot of CLO close friends. So maybe they are the only people that I am okay to neglect myself a little in order to make them feel better and, and not to give 90% of my week for the job be in order to have some time to spend with them and have some quality time with them.

Of course, my mother and my sister as well. And not to mention that my co-founder GI, is one of my closest friends, so I managed to balance the, these. Angela, you are so far ahead in the game because most people come get close to retirement and they're lonely, they're depressed. They have no essential purpose.

But one of the biggest factors is that they didn't really, really put a lot of time in investing, in strengthening their friendships and the fact that you know this now at such a young. Hat's off to you. That's very, very spectacular. I'll do my best to keep it this way forever. Okay. Okay. As a kid, did you know that you wanted to be a, an entrepreneur or did you think you were gonna be something else?

Well, actually no. I've always been focused on photography, but when we get to think about it, this is something that is, again, in your control as entrepreneurship is so like seeing things through realities and showing them to people. Like, like you like them to see it? I think it's pretty much the same as in in entrepreneurship.

And when I get to think about it, I've always had an opinion about everything when I was a child . So maybe these were the, like the little signs back in the days that, that were forming my, my entrepreneurial self. Okay. Well let's get into biodegradable packaging and film. So what were some aha moments in your, in your journey, whether it was your career journey or just in.

That makes you think, Hey, this would be something neat, neat to. and I'm the person that that can do that again with having Gana is my great-great friend. We've been talking together, so back in the days I was working with pre-press and printing and photography as well, and Gana was Illustrator and a designer.

So being friends, we've been always talking about environmental issues and things like this because we've always been like, Trying to be as, as, as ethical and as as environmental and friendly as possible. So we've been talking how much it bugs us that we are using plastic in our work because I am putting lamination onto my client's papers and things that they are ordering and GaN herself was like pointing them to, to different types of laminating finish.

What will look better for, for their project and whatnot. So we've been discussing this together with her, and that was the, the first aha moment. It was when we decided to, okay, let's see, and buy something like this and use it in our project. And when we found out that there isn't such thing, That was the first.

Ah-huh. Okay. That's a niche. That's, and this is weird, and why nobody tackled this problem and why nobody. I mean, there's so many big, huge companies that are dealing with plastics and, and they have so many, a lot of money for r and d and everything. Not to mention that we've been talking about single use plastic bands for like 10 years or something like this.

I know that it came just now, but the European Union and the entire world has been talking about it for. Quite a while and microplastics and everything has been in the news for so many years that it was just a, we did, we couldn't actually find a reason why nobody developed this product yet. Yeah, yeah. I should say that maybe the petroleum lobby is so very strong that they didn't actually find a need to fix something that's not broken, let's say, or like make something that Yeah, they, they will try to, Push down on the market.

yes, but that was the first aha moment. The second one was a dear friend of mine, Ellie Elva. She, she was working of in the p representative here in Bulgaria. And she showed me, she told me about a competition here in Bulgaria near a climate launch pad. In 2017 and she said, Hey, you have this idea on a napkin.

Why don't you just apply and see where it goes? And we got to the national finals, second, second winners of the national finals. We went to the, to the grand finale in Cyprus. And throughout the entire time we've seen that nobody is actually talking about the printing business and what it does to, to the environment.

So that was the second aha moment because we. Okay. Nobody's talking about it. This is something we will, this will be our purp. It sounds like it's like 99% invisible, like nobody sees it, but it's it's there. No, just nobody thinks about it. Yes, of course. Well, that's, it's actually, it's purpose is to, to make it more durable and just to make it like, Pop up, let's say let a glitter or a Matt finish this sexy finishes on the business card or the magazines that have this like super shiny, only the, the name of the magazine or something like this.

So it has the purpose to be there, but not be really seen. So it's a marketing trick and, and it, it works good, but unfortunately, One, supply it onto the paper, it makes the paper unrecyclable and the plastic goes to the landfills or incinerators, which is making only problems, problems, problems. So, wow.

Okay. So the market, you've gave us a a few examples, but how big is this market potential, at least, at least in Europe, for, you know, doing something about it, for creating change in it? I mean, what are we talking here and how, what is the metric that you want to use here in terms of describing the market?

Well, maybe I can, we can te, we can talk in tons, in tons of plastic because unfortunately the laminating foil itself isn't included in more, more, or most of those statistics because they are, statistics are including like, say, packaging, like clear packaging, things that, that you can actually see. But while supplied on paper, the lamination disappears and it.

Not in any statistics. So the measurement that we've managed to do was more or less talking with different companies that are making reports on the market, how many print houses are being laminating and things like this. So we ended up with something like 1 million tons of laminated paper ends up in land.

So this is. Each year. So this is really crazy when you get to think about it because yes, it dissolves, but nowadays we are talking about microplastics in our food, in our bodies, and this is getting out out of control. It already got out out of control, I think, but maybe it's not too late to at least give a chance to do.

Future generations as, as cliche as it sounds now, how long did it take to experiment and create something that was biodegradable? Well, three, three to four years, something like this. When we started with the idea and when, when we finished this first program was actually the moment when we met associate Professor Fi Publico and he became part of the core team.

He has expertise like more, more than 10 years of experience in Bio Poly. And polymer extrusion. This is the process of making the, the foil. So when we came up, we went to another program to get some funding. So that was our first grant that we got. Then 15,000, again from the e a t. It was an accelerator that gave us actually the ability to, well clarify our strategy, to segment our clients and everything, and of course, reach to the point of, of the prototype.

It wasn't easy because here in Bulgaria we have. Huge gap actually between the science and industry and we don't have a lot of, well, let's say scientific basis in in the university. So from laboratory prototype, we had to jump to industrial one, and we didn't have this same industrial test process. So that cost us a lot of money because of the raw material back then was really.

It, it still is, but we are adding some of our ad, our own additives, so we are managing to lower the price as much as possible. Absolutely. But yeah, we, it was like a lot of tests that we had to actually pursue a, a company to, to assist us with making the prototype because usually companies that are making plastic, they work 24 7, so their processes don.

Meaning that if we want to find a subcontractor to help us reach to the point of industrial scale prototype, we they have to stop their own process in order to give us their machine and time to, to, to test something that nobody was certain that will happen. But how did you convince them to do this? Did you find somebody obvious?

Obviously did. Yeah, we did. Well, these were the negotiation skills that I tried to, to. Push myself into quite a few times. And it wasn't easy if, I have to be honest, because there are a lot of companies in Bulgaria that are extruding foils making flexible packagings and things like this, and we've managed to reach only one that actually opens their door and their, their production and their How did you, did you get them to open the door?

Was it just, were you phone calling them or were you, did you go meet them in person? How did you. Well, it was, it was first with phone calls a lot. Then one person pointed me to another one, and then I started speaking about all the PO possibilities or for, for the environment and everything and everything.

So at some point she wa she was like, okay, let's meet. So we went there. We traveled to another city here in Bulgaria. We've met. And, and from then on it was more or less like trying. Like, show them how important this will be and how, what big part they can play. Actually, just by giving us the opportunity to use the machine, because of, of the entire development of the recipe and everything was Phillip's ideas and he was the pointing out and, and everything.

But it was super important to, to get the chance to, to make the industrial prototype because otherwise we wouldn't actually, maybe we. We would've went to another country that is nearby because they have these more universities with extruders and things like this that we don't have, unfortunately in Bulgaria because we do have to work more on the, on the.

Okay. This gap that we have. Okay, so you got, you got a, a manufacturer to help with the plastic. Now how did you get the first client, the first testers to work with you? Well, since we are actually coming from the industry, both GaN and I, we already knew a, a lot of the companies from Bulgaria. Okay. And being in these accelerators in all these programs, we've been traveling a lot to different webinar seminars back in.

It wasn't webinars that much. We were going to boot camps, meeting people, and like traveling a lot. And every time we were traveling, even when we were traveling on a vacation, we were going and like literally knocking on doors and going to different offices to speak with people, companies, print houses, packaging companies, food companies and cosmetics, et cetera, to speak with them and get their feedback even before we got the product.

So as an, as a way to approach for a client, this is. Well, it's interesting, not, not to mention that we were bored, both Guana and I, like two young women going to their offices and trying to talk with them and just ask them, would you use something if we make it and if eventually we give you samples and you like it and how much are you using usually and et cetera, etcetera.

So it was really interesting the entire approach of getting this database of, of clients. Pretty much we, this is how we started. Yeah. And apart from that, we started like going to different associations. There is a Facebook association. It is pretty much an worldwide association for printers and people that are into into com.

Yeah. Like advertisement and everything, so, yeah. Yeah. That was the, the first approach. And, and we started just gathering information and gladly because we won the Shiva's venture as well. And we, we got a lot of, yeah, we got to be a aware of, of the entire environment and speaking with a lot of people.

Not to mention that a lot of people heard about us and start uh, looking for this. What, what are these prospects and clients when they, when they learn more about lemon and the product itself, what, what did they like? What do they get excited about in July? Well, at first they didn't actually believe that it is about and compostable, and because it comes at a very nice price, they're like, and it feels the same, and we are making it being used.

We, we make it in a way to be used in on, on the same machines. So it has the same thickness, the same size. So our entire idea was to just swoop in the market and make this, just to make them change what they are using with our product. And not to mention that, yeah, I've been showing them videos of like, we've been testing it for in a home composer and it's completely disappeared for a month and a half, but if you just use it and leave it in your.

It can stay up to five years. So it can depend a lot of, of your usage and of course your responsibility as an end customer. So they got excited about being maybe first on the market to present such things. And not to mention that here, especially in Western Europe, there are a lot of people that are already super involved into picking products that are green.

So of course they got excited about being the first on the market to present thi this to their customers and. Yeah, the entire communication that we've been leading with, with these people and our customers are so like friendly. We've been such a great feedback. We got, and they're excited with us that we are making progress and they've been with us.

A lot of them has been going through this entire process with us. We've been sending samples, they've been giving feedback, they're got excited how great it was, and. It's a good time. It sounds like it's a good time right now, . Well, it is. It is for sure the timing. If I have to be honest, I would've preferred if that was five years ago because yeah, it could've been better because so much plastic wouldn't have gone to the, to soils and underground rivers.

But yeah, we're doing the best we can with the little resources that we got at first because it wasn't easy to, to get funding and to get investment because we are a manufacturing. Okay, so in terms of funding, Have you taken on any sort of investment outside of the accelerators? Yes. Yes. In 2020 we got two Angel, angel investors adjoining the company.

They were the first ones to actually believe in us. Sasha, BEVA and are both very involved in the entire ecosystem. They are founders, they are investors, philanthropics, and it was really nice. We've known each other actually years back. So Sasha especially was mentoring. Even before she knew, because we've been going around her foundation, we are going to different events that they were making and getting inspir inspired by them.

And it was a great for that. They backed us up because they are people that we not only like their companies and what they're doing with their companies as, as experts and as business people, but we like. People. People, they are eco-friendly. Again, they, they're very involved with education and everything.

They're trying to build a lot of, yeah, a great environment here in Bulgaria for the Bulgarian as well, because there are a lot of young people that back in the days were living the country to go and study and now we can see them. Coming back and setting up their companies here and setting them, their families here.

So it was awesome. Not to mention that there was this moment that most of the finances and most of the investments from different piece, et cetera, were focused on softwares and things that are, that have return of investments faster. Yeah. And as a manufacturing company, we weren't very sexy.

Invested again because it is, well, yeah, we have to like buy machines, expand the team with the people. So it is harder to, to, to reach the point of the return of investment. But we are getting their, and with their help, actually we got into the e a C accelerator. This is the European Innovation Console.

Okay, so from May this year, we've been going through this program, which has, the entire program has a grant of 1.3 million. So we are now expanding the team and waiting for our machines to lock everything under our roof so we can control the entire process and give the best product we can. Give and scale the price so it can be used because we don't wanna make something that is boutique and just a few people will use it.

We want to actually fix an issue and we are like romantically driven by the idea of, of fighting plastic Is the headquarters, is it gonna be based in Sophia or somewhere else? Yeah, yeah. Sophia, this is our stubbornest is making us stay here because we, we would like to do something for our country. Of course, we've been quite a few times, we've been invited to our other countries by, by some VCs and things like this, and we see the, the perspective that they are and how differently.

Things would've evolved if we weren't here in Bulgaria. But either ways we're not sorry for anything. And we we're super excited that we're giving something to the economy and to the, to, to the people. And of course, now we are building our factory. I mean, not building, setting it up and giving like work for people and setting our own team here, the, the core team, the great, the greatness that we we'll build now.

So we are very excited. Of course. We'll, we, we have plans to actually. I mean, let's say replicate our factory in the United States and in Southeast Asia as well. Okay. But this will be in 2025 or something. Okay. Okay. Okay. Couple other questions here. So you kind of answered this already, but I wanna hear more about it.

What was the highest stakes negotiation? You have ever been in Angela ? Yeah. Well that, that was the subcontracting part for sure, because that was . Well, here in Bulgarian, most of the manufacturing companies are actually led well. Especially this one, well, more led by men and manufacturing is not a very woman ish sector.

And, and being, being 30 years old back then and with tattoos and everything, it was really actually hard to pos position myself as an super Yeah. Like like, like a person that would actually. Make you money or something like this . So, okay. So for sure that was something that, that was actually hard for me.

And that was the, the point of that I start to learn more and more about body language and how I should position myself towards a person so I can adapt towards them. So I can get what I want. And this is, I don't wanna sound like a hypocritical person. No, I'm saying it in a way that you have to. Towards the situation, like I'm adapting towards you right now.

I mean, of course you're giving me some dynamic and I'm getting it. I'm giving it back to you in, in order to make this conversation the, the best conversation that we can get. So yeah, it was the same with negotiation then, and uh, it was really interesting because I really felt myself like drawing back then.

I mean, I, I, well, um, got a level up. Yeah. Okay. Okay. All right, cool. One more fun question. This is a fill in the blank question along the way of launching your startup Lemon. You learned a lot about blank, a lot about people of, of course, about myself, but let's not speak about myself. I learned a lot about people, about what they need as well and how, how they need it to.

To be received. This is, again, I think I'm, I, I'm again saying about this, about the language thing, but, but no, it's, it's again, about all those soft skills that are so well known right now, but I've learned a lot about people because we are all in this together, and I don't wanna be, again, in the cliches, but we are all in this together.

And I, I've loved how many people are into, into it and trying to give. And we all, we are all afraid of failing because we're building things that we don't actually know where they will end and how well they will they end, but we know they will end . So we are all scared. Um, I think, but okay, when we are together, we are stronger in the, in the fear.

Okay, Angela, thank you so much for being an innovators laugh. For everybody listening, I hope you enjoy the interview. I will include links to li and other things we discuss in the call, in the show notes. And if you love the episode, tell others about it. That's how we grow. And until next week, I have fun out there.

Keep hustling and this is Eric signing off. Cheers.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could give us a review and star rating. Also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks.