Nov. 24, 2022

How Bulgarian Startup founder Eva Vucheva is empowering producers to reduce their environmental footprint

How Bulgarian Startup founder Eva Vucheva is empowering producers to reduce their environmental footprint

Empowering consumers and producers to reduce through environmental footprint through business intelligence. 

In a world in which we over-produce, over-consume, and dispose of things with ease, how can we empower consumers and producers to reduce their environmental footprint? 

In this episode I chat with Eva Vucheva, founder of Impakt ID – a business intelligence tool that combines material impact research, product data and statistical modeling to turn generic product information into actionable data. Eva, is also the co-founder of – a crowd-based content generation platform that helps businesses grow faster and expand to new markets without the high risk of hiring and managing a dedicated content team. 

Show highlights:

1:38 – you were once fired, but became a friend to the person who fired you. Can you tell us what happened?

3:50 – what else were you doing that made you appear like an asshole?

7:25 – why was getting fired a good thing and where did your career go from there?

13:00 – what industries does serve?

14:25 – what does an ideal customer look like for

15:50 – what does the organization look like?

18:20 – what is Impakt ID?

19:25 – what is the EU packaging regulation that must be in place by 2025?

23:40 – are you currently bootstrapping Impakt ID and do you plan on fundraising?

26:40 – a favorite childhood toy you played with while growing up?

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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!

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Connect with Eric:
Visit his website:

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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...


Hey, you're listening to Innovators Can Laugh, The Fun Startup Podcast. I'm your host, Eric Noer on ico. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom while having a little fun in the process. Now, let's dive. In a world in which we over produce, over consume, and dispose of things with ease, how can we empower consumers and producers to reduce their environmental footprint?

Well, my guest today is Eva Vucheva, founder of Impakt id. A business intelligence tool that combines material impact research, product data, and statistical modeling to turn generic product information into actionable data. Eva is also the co-founder of Content A crowd-based content generation platform that helps businesses grow faster and expand to new markets without the high risk of hiring and managing a dedicated content team.

Eva, welcome to Innovators Col Laugh. Hi. Hi, Eric. Nice to be here. All right. Hey, so the first question I have for you is that I found out that you were once fired, but you later became a friend to the person who fired. You. Can, can you tell, tell me what happened? Sure. I think it's, this story follows me everywhere, but yeah, it was actually, I was, I, I studied in Germany and when I came back to Bulgaria, it was my first job.

It was in a, in a software outsourcing company, and I. Kind of, I felt so underappreciated at some point. I mean now from a perspective of time, I realize all the rookie mistakes I was doing and you know, reaching a burnout and not figuring out that I was in this stage. But at some point I was traveling a lot for work and I was.

Maybe 24, 25 years old. I, I was going to San Francisco and to Germany for different fairs, and I get a little bit, I go a little bit cocky, I guess. I, I started going late to work. I started just being a complete asshole and at some point, you know, my, my then CEO decided it was like he had to end it and he fired me.

So hurt because I felt like I was doing all this amazing work and they didn't appreciate me. And then, you know, now that, you know, 20 years later I , I have a different point of view. And I always tell this story like now with, with Steve. Steve Kyle is a dear friend and a mentor of mine. We're, you know, good friends and we laugh at this and I always make fun of him firing me because, you know, like later on my career developed in a good way and I'm grateful for it.

So I always say, Oh, Steve, Steve fired me. And we joke about it. But yeah, it was the right thing to do and, and now when I talk to people, you know, there are these signs that we need to learn to recognize in our. Employees and entrepreneurs and like whenever you get into this stage where you think you're irreplaceable, you need to kind of catch yourself a little bit and come down to the ground because there really aren't replaceable people.

Yeah, everybody's replaceable. I love the fact that you were saying you were acting like an asshole coming in late to work, getting a little bit cocky, . What else were you doing that was making you appear like you are. Cocky and, and kind of like an asshole . I mean, I was just like an, an awful knowit, you know, Like we would go into a conference in Germany and I'd be like, completely late for the morning opening of the, of the booth, or, it was one time we were in, we were in in Palo Alto and we were meeting a client, a company client, but it was back in 2000.

Four, I think, or five. I was in Bulgaria. There was nothing at that point in time. And I said, Oh, I need to go to a shopping mall and buy a lot of stuff from . So I, that's exactly what I did. First of all, I, I, I was late for that meeting. I came in like 20, 30 minutes late. The Mall of Gap Facts Inn. Oh. Yes. So, you know, like completely unprofessional behavior from any you wanna look at it?

Yeah. Yeah. So there you go. Yeah. Yeah. If I was your boss there, I would, I would've fired you on that trip. on that spot, right? Yeah. It took him a while longer, you know? But ultimately good for him. Yeah. Yeah. I think if he was an American and he would've fired you right there in that, here in Europe, you gotta.

You gotta make a case to fire somebody. It takes a while. There's a whole process involved. But in the states it could be, it'd be done like that. . You know what, It's funny you say that in Europe. It takes a while though because it, it, you know, when I started managing larger teams, I've always. Been able to make quick decisions sometimes on behalf of my employees.

And we hired, at some point we hired head of HR for Google. It was a lady, she was based in Zurich. We hired her to come in and help us a little, just organize our HR department to do it better, and that was the time when I was working for fashion days. She came in and she gave us all this, like, it was strategic processes and people evaluation.

And then it was like this process where you need to evaluate a person every six months. And then if they score low on certain scale, finding a role, which is, you know, 18 months, then you need to work on developing this person. And I'm like thinking, okay, so this person underperforms for 18. I wanna develop council.

I'm glad. Just wanna get him fired. Like, you know, it's ultimately you cannot, if a person doesn't want to grow and develop, There's very people you can do about it. Like, and it doesn't take 18 months. Yeah, I know. I know. I was a part of this board one time and we had a new board member and she came from this corporate background, big company, thousands of employees, and she was like a strategic something on her title.

And she put together this like the strategic roadmap for like five or 10 years for the organization. And it had like, okay, the next, you know, 18 months we're gonna focus on this. And then, you know, two years this and three years this. Meanwhile I'm like, No, we need to act now. You know, we need to do things now.

And it was such a big difference in, in the way of thinking where she was coming from. And I'm coming from, and it, and it's been, and it's, I, I'm more of the, the startup mentality. Like, you have an idea, let's execute. But for a large part of my career, I worked in the corporate environment and it was very difficult to work there because, you know, I wanted to move fast and it's hard to do

We work for a big company. So back to you real quick. So you get. And you said it was a good thing. Why was, why was it a good thing? What happened after that? No, I was, I was very upset at the point of being called, you know, I wasn't happy. Yeah. But what did your career journey go from there? Well, I, I, I went to Italy for a while.

I, I, I did a post-graduate thingy there, and then I came back to Bulgaria. I started working on product development or digital product. I was part of a, of a local digital product in media company called Neto. I was responsible for two of their biggest products, and again, I have to remind you, that's like probably 2008.

And so I was responsible for a company called Vbox seven, which was the Bulgarian YouTube at the time, and at for, at that point of time, it was. Much bigger than YouTube. And obviously now, you know, things have changed and rightfully so, but it, you know, it was just the early days. Yeah. So I went for this company for maybe two or three years, and then I got approached by a company that was looking to launch the Bul, Bulgarian, the it's Bulgarian market, so, I jumped on that opportunity and I'm, I said it, I, I tend to say that it can only happen to you in Eastern Europe because I was, I think I was 27 at that time and I co-founded a market.

It ended up being the best performing market at that company, and then later on I started. I call CEO this company after it's exit to Nasper in 2012. I manage it for another two years. And again, this happens to me at a very early age. I was, you know, 30, 32 at that point of time, which could happen very rarely, and I think it's a great op.

It was a great opportunity for me and a great. Let me see if I understood this correctly. You said in your last position you co called the CEO and you Yeah, I was, so I co-founded the Bulgarian Market of Fashion Days. Then later on I was responsible for all markets and after the company got sold to Naspers at the the 10.

Left the company and me and another colleague of mine, Peter Ron, we coed the company. I was responsible for the markets again and the fraud development and he was responsible for, for fulfillment. And then we led the company into the merger with emac, which happened, I think we finally closed it 2015.

Okay. Wow. Wealth of experience. Now, when was the moment that, that you, you had the idea for Well, Canto happened a little bit out of chance because I was, as I said, I was a bit burned out after leaving fashion days and I didn't really have a plan. I just wanted to do nothing for a while. And then a friend said, Oh, you know what?

We need this, this service and can you do something about it? And it started like that. As a, as a favor to a friend. Yeah. So obviously , a lot of things have haven't since, but at that time I had started with reading some resources on how to grow through organizations and different, you know, different structures and how to grow them.

And I wanted to, to give it a try. So for me, as a personal goal, I, I wanted to experiment if, if we can create a company that doesn't necessarily. HA has to have an office or a working hours for that matter. Uhhuh, it had to be, you know, very fluid. But then we needed to apply also responsibility and people were.

Kind of, we had to figure out a way for people to be autonomous in decision making, which was a struggle. I would say. Now we are very happy with the results. Maybe we could have escaped some mistakes, but you know, you, you live and you learn. But basically this is. Five years? Is it five years? 2016 years.

Five or six years. Yeah, five or six years into, into it now. And I'm very happy. I, I had planned it until 40 people because I, I felt like 40 people would be the manageable amount of people. Now we are 60. It still works, . But, um, you know, we, we had to develop some, some structure ultimately and structure in the sense, In order for people to be autonomous of taking decisions and moving forward in their daily activities, they need to have a framework to allow them to take these decisions to make them, you know, And the other thing that we learned the wrong, the, the hard way was, You know, hiring people that didn't fit this culture.

I would say like it's not for everyone. Not every person can can fit in this type of environment. It's not a bad, bad thing. I'm not saying it as a judgment, I'm just saying that some people prefer to have structured environment. Some people prefer to have a daily feedback from their. Direct manager and that's completely fine.

It's just something that doesn't really work in our specific organization. So we, we had some, we had a moment where we had to hire very quickly, so we hired quickly a lot of people, and then the turnover peaked for a period of time. But then, you know, ultimately, We had to take a step back and reconsider the hiring process and change it completely so that we make sure that we hire based on the specific requirements that would allow people to work and deliver their best within the structure that we are.

What industries does primarily serve? Okay, well, we are focused on the eCommerce industry and, you know, all, all sorts of digital transformation processes, but we started as an eCommerce supplier of services. So we started with data management for descriptions. It's called data stewarding, where we, we would fix titles, product descriptions, metadata, and things like that.

But then we ventured into all sorts of services, including finance, accounting. Generally stay within the Alma eCommerce, but we cover all sorts of vertical services. This is fascinating. How do clients, uh, discover you? How did you get the word out about it? I would say that probably 80% is word of mouth and recommendation from existing customers.

We very often have a case where, A person that was directly working with us would change jobs. They would move to a different company and they would contact us and you know, start working with us again. So we are very fortunate in that regard. Also, for now, we are very mindful about the speed of growth also, because if we want to keep this very fluid, And prework life balance thing.

We need to hire specific people and so the hiring process takes longer. So growth in of itself, we just need to manage the speed of our growth just to make sure that. We are able to keep providing the best service that we can. What does an ideal customer look like for you? Is this like a Shopify store that is doing like, I don't know, half a million or a million dollars in revenue every year?

Can you just expand on that? No, it's more, we work more with enterprise customers. We work with some of the biggest, some of the biggest companies out there, like eCommerce companies. Some of our have multiple online businesses and normally would be the leader in their market. It's interesting now that we see certain industries being disrupted by this digitization.

We tend to joke that in the regions that we work, like the DA region, even though there is a lot of innovation and a lot of understanding about technology, there also isn't. So, yeah, for a while there was this notion that internet was something temporary. It's going to go away. So this was, you know, didn't happen.

Uh, and now like TikTok, right? TikTok is gonna go like TikTok was something temporary gonna go away or didn't happen? Yeah. You know, and so now we see companies as were traditionally very well, they, they still are very regulated and rightfully so, like the pharma industry, but they also are moving in a direction of being closer to the customer and direct to consumer brands and above the count medicine being sold online.

So this is a big portion of our business at the. Okay. Okay. And I wanna get into impact id but just another question or two around Catto cuz I, I find this fascinating. So you were talking about, you got it up to 60 people initially you thought 40 people would be great, but you're still able to manage or co, co-found cuz it co-manage.

I mean, what's your title there right now? Contento, Well, I guess I'm general manager of that company and, uh, yeah. And so a lot people, it seems like need to have the characteristic of self autonomy be, will just be very disciplined and not really expect to have that sort of day to day governance that some people do, do need or do desire.

Right. So how, how do you just kind of just give us a very high level of. The organization of how it works? I mean, do you have like somebody who manages a team of like five people or six people and you have like a few of those people? I mean, I'm just wanna get an idea here. Yeah. Normally you would have a person that manages.

Certain team, we, we build dedicated teams. We rarely use shared resources. So a group of people would work dedicating for customer, and then this group of people will have a project manager. And the job of the project manager would be to, on one hand side, talk to the customer, and you know, Transfer all the information from the customer to the team, distribute work, look at KPIs, deliverables on a daily, weekly, or whatever basis there may be.

Sometimes we have customers that want to talk and have direct light line to every single person on their team that we manage, which is a different approach. It also works. The thing that we, in this case, they care about is really making sure that these people don't feel, feel part of the content family as well, and.

One of the biggest challenges for us is because this, all of these teams that we manage, they work for different companies, so they have completely different daily routines, completely different daily tasks and pains and whatever. So they also work in different areas. So some of them are in finance or in accounting or in data management.

So completely different things. And so it's our job really to. Figure out a way to bring them together and create an infrastructure where they also feel part of the same family and the same team. Okay, so you got 60 people here. You don't seem stressed out, and in fact you seem like you, you even got more energy because now you're working on a new startup called Impact id.

And uh, when was the moment that you decided. To move forward with this and what is impact id and also where did the name come from as well? Sure. Well, Impact ID in essence is a carbon footprint calculator for textiles. And what we want to do, what we want to achieve with it, is we want to create. A framework for textile manufacturers and garment producers to be able to calculate the carbon footprint of their textiles, and also making front making informed decisions about sourcing future product development and.

You know, changing things, bits and pieces in their supply chain. Ultimately our goal would be that impact ID is part even the design software. So in our product roadmap, we have the goal to create, to develop a widget that would be incorporated in design software where the manufacturer of garment. Would know the impact at the point of design, not at the point of production or the point of sale.

Wow, that's amazing. That's amazing. And you mentioned, we were chatting earlier that there's gonna be some re regulation, I think you said EU regulation by 2025. Can you just, what is that regulation? Can you tell? Tell me more. Yeah. It's a very complex set of rules, but essentially what the EU is trying to do is manage the output of this industry because it's very, Polluting and very intense in terms of, you know, environmental impact.

So I don't know if you're familiar with the packaging tax that currently exists across the EU member states, but basically how it works is if you are a shop for a manufacturer and you put out a certain amount of a certain kilograms or tons of packaging on the market, then you need to pay a company to go and collect that for you.

And the. So, and this thing is informally known as packaging tax. So as part of the textile regulation, something similar, similar mechanism will come into force. Each member state will be able to tweak it a little bit, but not too much. So incineration will be allowed for only 10% of the output. So burning not going to work.

And since China stops taking our garbage to three years, maybe four years back now, mm. There really isn't a place for this garbage to go, and it's a lot like the textile garbage is a lot. So now there are, in every comp, in every state, there are a lot of recycling facilities that are. Prepping for this, so they'll be able to recycle textiles.

Also, each company will be forced to report on carbon footprint of the textile that they put out, which is where we aim. So we aim to facilitate that and help companies report on their carbon footprint. Now in France, it's already enforced that uh, labels on the clothing need to carry that information of the carbon footprint and generally environmental impact, and that's going to.

Enforced across all member states by 2025 as well. Fascinating. Fascinating. So will impact, Id give its customers the ability to display that information, the carbon footprint information on an e-commerce site. Yes. So now just as an early stage product testing, we launched the Shopify app and we, we are looking to collect information from early adopters and get back on developing the tool a little bit better, but, What it gives you is on one hand a report on the carbon footprint of each item.

That is, that is part of the product portfolio on shopping, but also it allows companies to list that on the product page, show it to the end consumer if they decide to, to solve. Ultimately, the end consumer has. Very little to do about the carbon footprint of an item, and we have to be aware of that. It's not the end consumer's job to change it.

You know, It's like there is a lot of talk about consumerism and changing customer behavior and Sure. You know, why not? But ultimately, the major drivers behind the footprint of any. Or not the end consumers. So for example, if you go to, and you live in Romania, I assume, similar to Bulgaria, when you go to a grocery store, they tend to put everything in plastic bags.

Like if you buy three tomatoes, you get three plastic bags. That continues to be the case in Bulgaria, unfortunately. And so me as a consumer, I have no really no other choice. Other than accepting these three tomatoes in these three plastic bags, like otherwise, I need to carry a tot, which is, and the environmental impact of a TOT, by the way, is much bigger than a plastic bag.

So we also need to be very cautious about green washing and what we expect from the end consumer ultimately is the big enterprises that drive the impact, and it needs to be on them to change it. So instead of using plastic bags all over the place, we. Dairy vets, like there are alternative materials out there that, that in terms of cost are the same.

Uh, and in terms of quality are the same. So it's just a matter of how to scale that. And the, the job of regulators, I feel, is exactly that, to enforce these new materials to come into user chain, into production. Okay. So for this, for this mvp, for the rollout here, are you currently boots dropping this initiative?

Yeah. Okay. Do you, do you plan on seeking any investment in the near future? Yeah, I think we, as I, as I mentioned earlier, we are, we'll probably start, start for fundraising somewhere in the middle of next year. Before that, we, what we want to do is make sure that we have the right business model in place so that we know what we are fundraising for.

Um, Have long enough experience in the entrepreneurial space. I have some failed startups. I've, you know, consulted a lot of companies and a lot of startups. I'm in board of directors of a lot of companies, and what I see and what I think is the right move for us in impact idea is that we need to know.

What the revenue stream is. Otherwise, at the moment, it's relatively easy in our specific region to fundraise up to two, 300,000 euro. That's an easy, an easy round, simply because there are a lot of money coming from the EU through different vehicles. But this money are not enough where when you are not, not when you don't know what you're doing.

Mm-hmm. , know what I mean? So we, we want to be sure that we know what we are doing and then we'll fund. Yeah. Oh yeah. Rest is assure. There's been times where I've been trying to grow a business and I don't know what I'm doing and I was, You can spend a lot of money very quickly. Yes. You don't know what you're doing.

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. This has been very exciting. A couple of questions about your personality of a, What is a book or article or podcast that you've listened to or read recently that's changed the way you think about growing a startup? Mm. I think it's not that recent, but, Well, I, I really love the base cam output and we work, Oh, I'm sorry.

We work. Rework is a book that really changed my mindset and made me think of, made me think that it actually is possible to build a company that is very unstructured, which is, you know, actually ultimately content and what became, Okay. Awesome, awesome. What's a TV show that you can watch again it again, or a movie?

Oh, wow. Well, I, I really love the big bacteria. I've watched it, I think I watched it maybe five times, Fromen, or if it's, I don't know, 12 Seasons. Amazing has that. I know it's, it's not that deep, but it's relaxes me. It doesn't make me think, so I'm good with it. Yeah, Yeah, yeah. Cool. Very cool. Last question for you.

What was a favorite childhood toy that you enjoyed playing with? Wow, you had to prepare me for these questions. Let me think. I, I think what my favorite was my bike and I, I am from the generation that grew up partially during communist time, so bikes were not readily available. I had this green bike called Boca, It's comes from Vulcans, the name comes from Vulcan, and it has the, it had this thing in the middle where you could dismantle it and.

Make two parts of it. Yeah. So I guess that was my, it was so heavy. I couldn't, I, we didn't have, like, I had to, uh, carry it up the stairs to the apartment. It was so heavy and every time I would, you know, fall down the stairs or cry, but it was like, you know, You had the, so you , it sounds more like a tank than a bike the way you're describing it.

I mean, yeah, it was very heavy. I haven't seen one recently, but yeah, . Okay, Emma. All right. Emma, thank you so much for being on the show. I will include links to ATO Ian Impact ID on the, uh, the show notes, Ian, on the website everyone. Thanks for listening and until next week, this is Eric signing off. Cheer.

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.