July 6, 2022

Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva

Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva

I chatted with Tzvete Doncheva, International Investor Relations for VC firm PropTech1. PropTech1 targets founders who are building innovative businesses in the real estate industry. Tzvete’s path to VC is a little different than most. Her career first started in media before breaking into VC. During our chat, we discuss barriers one has to overcome to get into a VC and why female founders historically get less funding than males.

If you’re interested in learning more about VCs, this episode is for you. Let’s dive in!

Show highlights:

-   1:00 – London vs Berlin

-   2:40 – career path began in media

-   4:10 – overcoming barriers to get into VC

-   7:10 – role and interesting projects at VC firm

-   9:15 – prop tech in the European sector

-   10:50 – female founders getting less funding than male founders

-   13:10 – “the pay gap starts in school”

-   16:00 – don’t underestimate how young a child can form an opinion about the world

-   19:30 – being a role model

-   22:05 – a funny reason why a founder would ask for $50M in addt funding

-   23:25 – Tzvete’s headline for her own VC firm


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Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include 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:

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

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

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

#30 Andrius Rimkunas - The smart, wireless, GPS-powered alarm system

#28 Monika Paule, PhD - Trailblazing discoveries in Gene Editing Solutions

#23 Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė - Mindletic: a mental gym for your emotional balance

#18 - Irina Constantin - Vaunt - the Complete Solution for Real-estate Business Management

#4 - Julija Jegorova - Creating exposure for global startups



Hey, you're listening to innovators can laugh. The fun startup podcast. I'm your host, Eric Melchor on ICO. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene. Every week. My goal is to have my guest share their wisdom or having a little fun in the process. Now let's dive in. Hey, ICO fans today, we're chatting with Tzvete Doncheva international investor relations for the VC firm.


PropTech1 one Tzvete’s path to VC is a little different than most. Her career first started in media before breaking into VC. And during our chat, we discussed barriers. One has to overcome to get into a V. And why female founders historically get less funding than males. If you're interested in learning more about VCs, this is the episode for you.

Let's dive INE. Good morning. You look fantastic. How you doing today? I'm good, Eric. Thanks a lot for having me and your podcast. I'm excited. Our conversation. Absolutely absolutely. For the audience. Can you tell us very quickly about yourself? Yes. My name is . I lead investor relations at PropTech one, which is a venture capital fund focused on real estate innovation across Europe.

We aim to be the first to check institutional investors pro for founders who are building innovative businesses, targeting the entire real estate value chain and my background. For going into BC and tech. I used to work in media, so I was a journalist and yeah, have lived in a couple of international cities across Europe spent seven years in London and now dialing in from Berlin.

All right. I heard Berlin is an amazing city. In fact, I was chatting with this uh, professional basketball player. He's an American, but he lived all over Europe and I said, what, what city. Would you go back and live again? And he said, hands down, Berlin. So how do you compare Berlin to London? What if you had to choose between the two, which would you rather live.

Yeah. And I actually didn't mention that I'm originally from the capital of Bulgaria, which is also becoming very international. There is a lot of development in the tech system there, but I think how do I compare Berlin and London? I think London is it's very difficult to find a city that is this international as London is, and it's of course over eight, over 8 million people living there.

So it's very big. Everything is Fast pace. There is I feel, I feel like there is this area in London called shortage. And I feel like Berlin is very much like shortage. , it's very it's very quirky. There is I think a lot of there are different activities that. People could, could find in both cities, but I would say Berlin is alternative.

There is a lot of I think that it's also a big portion of there is a lot of history in Berlin as well as very visible as you walk down the streets. How do I, I'm not sure if I could say how do I compare them or which one would I prefer? But having spent so much time in London, I would always have a very kinda soft place in my heart for London.

Okay. Okay. Like, like you, I spent a lot of time in New York city, so there's a place in my heart for New York city too, as well. But let's talk about venture cap. You, you, you obviously came from media, but was it before media that you had an interest in working in venture cap? No, not really. Actually. I think uh, I.

Knew very little about venture capital before working in medium. And that was my first role after university. I did international relations in London and even my career path in media, I cannot say that it was entirely planned. It was as much as serendipitous, I guess, opportunity and moment as as it.

I guess a more natural path having studied international relations to find interest in what is happening in the world in global politics. But for for tech first, I think if it was a step by step process or approach first, it was a tech might. The way that I got to know about venture capital and got to know the industry was from the operator perspective.

So was a first employee at this PropTech startup and why I became interested in tech. As my role in in my journalist days, there were a couple of stories that I did, let's say startups or adventures that were with the tech angle. And I think perhaps this is how it started, but but I wouldn't say it was a very straightforward approach for a very planned okay.

I guess career move. Yeah. When I think of VC, I always think of there's some barriers to break into the VC world. And were there any, I, I. It's its sort of like a startup, but did you have to overcome any traditional barriers to, to, to get into that VC firm? So getting into BC, I think one of the, one of the reasons why perhaps the industry looks as it quite close to outsiders and there is a, a lot of, of course it's a network driven approach.

I feel like, but not I wouldn't. Only in VC, but perhaps there are industries that are a little bit more difficult to break into than others because the demand for roles is more than the supply. So for VC, I think one of, one of the barriers than perhaps how the industry could become more open is the awareness piece.

So I think when I was in uh, school or when I was in university, I had very little awareness and I had very little knowledge that, you know, companies that I was using on. Day basis or Instagram, they were venture backed businesses. And they started from, you know, as a lot of startups do from S but I didn't know that this was the type of financing that was used to those companies and that could make those type of high growth unicorn businesses scale.

So I think that is one that is one reason why the, why the industry is a little bit more difficult to break into and it's more network. Hence, if you are family, or if you are I don't know, peers or have, have experience or have exposure to venture, you are perhaps more likely to also have that experience and that exposure early on in this level of knowledge about how the industry functions, but but how I got into how I got into VC was.

Having like operator role in this startup that I mentioned there were those events, that events. Yeah. It's perhaps it's funny because, you know, how do, how do events relate to BC? But there were those type of events with we started with the entrepreneurs network, actually, it's a UK based the think tank bridging the gap between governments and business.

And we started those founder breakfasts that I guess. A little bit or more popular in the startup VC tech scene in London. And this is how I, I think got to understand more about the VC ecosystem. I started attending a lot of events and I think though, as you start broadening up your network, you are of course you maximize on your chances to be in those communities in those crowds.

And ultimately if you, if your desire, perhaps change sciences over the table to entering this system in this approach essentially make the. And I gave a very, I gave a very long response.

That's your question? No, that's okay. Yeah, I did. What's one of the most interesting projects that you're working on right now at, at the firm. So in my that I think that was also a learning process for me entering NBC, understanding how the different roles. In VCR are structured and perhaps that, what are the, what is the different coverage of roles?

I, if if the team is quite small, there is a little bit or more of an overlap. But I had I have experienced working in different sides in different sides of the, kind of the VC I guess the visit. Tasks or roles that are within a firm? So I had been before in actually my entry, my entry point in DC was as an intern.

So I was doing a little, a little bit of everything, but Mo mostly focused, I would say, on this existing building kind of building building connections, building Partnerships, maybe within the firm, but more from a communications perspective, then I had done a little bit of time on the investment side of things and moving on to now, which is what I currently do at PropTech.

One is focused on investor relations and fundraising. So we recently closed our first fund at 50 million Euro oversubscribed. And that was of course a, a big project, but it was a team. It. Collaborative efforts in in getting the funds together. And right now I think there is a constant, I think there, there is constant things happening in ex systems that are being followed.

For us, it's very important on spending sufficient amount of time in the different regions that we are targeting in Europe. So for example, last week I was in Denmark. We did a round table with local investors. So those kind of things, they, they happen. Quite they quite regularly and quite naturally, and there is always a lot of exciting things going on.

I think it's a very, it's one of those roles that no the two days are alike and that really what I manage when I say it now, are there many competitors, I guess you would say other VC firms that specifically focus on PropTech here, the European in the European market, there are of course I think PropTech is a upcoming sector and The reason why PropTech is interesting and early stage PropTech SpecialEd is interesting is because the real estate and construction industries have traditionally been.

On the slow side of adopting digitalization and adopting with technology. So of course there is a big opportunity in starting new ventures for those venture back of startups entering in them early and essentially being part of this high growth journey from the, from the very beginning. I would say that just as Capital to VC to the VC space has increased.

And I think 20 at 2021 broke over for, for funding in the venture space. It's it's a increase the, the curve the curve is increasing and there are Firms that are, there are more firms that are focused on kind of the digitalization of sector specific, an niches in in Europe.

There are, I would say there are a couple of players that's focus on the urban tech scene on the perhaps climate tech clean tech. So I wouldn't necessarily say that there are competitors, but I would say it's very positive that they are more players who are able to support innovations from the early stage.

And we're happy to be one. Okay. I wanna talk about a hot topic right now and, and it's, it's around the funding that female founders are getting and based on different studies or articles that I've read. FEMA founders get substantially less funding than, than, than Mel startup founders. Why do you think that is the case spec day?

Yes. I think I think it's a question that we, we get asked and of course it's, it's important to raise it's important to raise that this is a point and it's important to. To talk about it, but I think it's a it is a, it is a change that needs to happen top down, bottom up in the industry.

So why why do for example, why the stats? I think we all know that there are statistics, it's about super sense of a venture funding that is going to women led businesses. I think it's it's as much part as for example, the access to the network that we spoke about before as to I don't think that.

Of course there has to be also the increase of who, of women perhaps starting tech businesses. But I think also from the point of you know, if we, if we look at it as kind of as the funnel chart once those female led businesses reach the, the very first stage of the VC funnel, how how is it possible for, of course, the venture backup of startups to go down and to go up up the stream.

So I think. Having more women investors certainly would help it's. Stats also do show that women, investors are twice as likely to back female founders. But I think it's also the, also the, what we, what we said, what we said before. It's the increase perhaps of niche funds the increase about.

The awareness and their understanding of uh, specific verticals. So for example, FEC has also been upcoming from not, not too long ago, but I think the, the the route to having more women led businesses would definitely pass through having more women investors and having more women starting funds.

Okay. All right. All right. I wanna switch over to something that I, I read that you said sort of, sort of and, and similar here is the paid gap. You made a comment that the pay gap actually starts in school and in school, not me in college or university, but even even in like elementary school or junior high school, you said that girls and guys get a different amount of pocket money.

I'm curious. Is this something that you read or is this something that you just experienced in your childhood? No, I, I don't think that I had the level of awareness in my childhood and that is of course the, the stats and information that I cannot take credit for. It's actually a research piece that was done by Dr.

Mara Harvey. She was at UBS before she is she has spent a little bit of time or actually a lift time on understanding the reason why there is a gap in. For example, the amount of savings that women and men had back at her time at QBs. And how is it possible to get this data, to track this data?

Where does it, where does the pickup actually start and has found that it child is, is exactly the childhood at pocket money level and that women, for example, girls are more prompts to, to spend and guys would be more prompt to save. And this is. As much as I don't think that it is something that parents perhaps even realize I'm not a parent myself.

So I wouldn't know. But there, the way that she has channeled the research and the way that she has shared her finding shared her findings and made them available to a larger audience is actually through books that rhyme. So it's called a, a smart way to start actually. And we can put the the link to the website below, because I think it would be interesting for.

A lot of the, a lot of the listeners to to perhaps take, read those adverse books and maybe educate themselves, but also educate the younger generation. Yeah, no, no, that's fascinating. I never thought my kids are not owed enough to get any sort of allowance, but it never occurred to me to give one or the other more or less.

But when that time comes, I'll be sure that they get equal. that's how I look at them. Equal everything equal. Yeah. Another comment you said is that. One should an underestimate how early your children can form opinions about the world. I'm curious. Why, why did you say that? SHA that, where did that come from?

I love, I love how well prepared you are. for our interview with, with specific quote, I think can you remind me exactly exactly the, the lines you like me to comment off? Yeah. You said that one shouldn't underestimate how early. Your children can form opinions about the world. Yeah. Was there something that in your, is something that, in your experience that, that maybe you got to experience differently than other kids that maybe in your childhood was a little bit different based on your, you know, how you were, I cannot I cannot compare my childhood with or what I have experienced with what other kids have experienced because I think that would be a bit of generalization as I, I wouldn't.

What their childhood, what their childhoods were like. But I would say that having my the gap, the age gap with me and my sister is quite big, so it's 13 years. So when she was growing up and when she was uh, I guess going through not actually growing through school, because when she entered.

School age I was already in London. So I, I was not around for all this time you know, at a regular pace, but I do. But of course you you can appreciate, and you can understand how quickly a child is forming an opinion and how I think the, the environment that they grow up in will impact their more or less.

I think the, their understanding of the world, perhaps their, the choices of their world. And I think if you uh, if you are able to open up the horizon At a child at a young age, I think that would be of course, very beneficial in terms of the level of opportunity that they can see for themselves.

So I don't know if it was not having an open view of the world, but for example, my, my grandma is an entrepreneur herself. She has an accountancy firm. I don't know why, but it was not something that I appreciated as much. And, and I appreciated the level of effort that she has put, for example, to raise a family and to have and to have this business up until much later.

So I would, I would say that it's just, it's just different level awareness. If I would say if you, as a parent, for example, were as the, as the, as the family. Perhaps spend, spend more time on those topics on let's say career paths things like that, and understanding the understanding the broad opportunity that there is.

For for a career journey or for for choosing uh, your your route when it comes to work experience when it comes to I guess even even, even life and citys, location based whatever you wanna call it. But I think that's that's very helpful. And from life side, I think I think I, I wouldn't say that the.

The career in tech, for example, I wouldn't say was top of my considerations when I was in school or when I was on, when I was a child. I don't think that when I was in school, there were those type of, let's say sessions of I dunno, successful parents coming and talking about what they do at work or those type of things.

It's much. It was much more based on theory. And I think that is something that you know, If I could have the the opportunity to change that at all over that definitely something that I would spend more time on and try to try to have the positive impact on what are you telling your sister because of there's a 13 year age gap.

Are you exposing her to the VC world? Are you telling her about your day to day, what you do on a day to day basis and trying to give her any sort of advice in regards to, you know, the career path that maybe she should consider. As she grows up, of course. And I think this is, this is exactly.

Yeah, this is exactly, exactly. What I mean, I, I try to, I, of course I try to expose her to what is happening. One more digestible in a more digestible way, but. Where, some of the interesting perhaps trend developments that are happening around my work. But I remember that there was this specific occasion it was the IPO of Bumbo, which is a all business uh, by Whitney Wolf.

And she, I remember that I had written about this and I had put a picture with Whitney and her baby and how they ring the bell at the New York stock exchange. And after that, my sister had remembered that she had to. She had to write a project about a tech entrepreneur later on. And yeah, of course she she called me, she asked me for, she asked me for my opinion feedback based on who who should she choose and who should she uh, and I.

I started to I started to give suggestions. So for example, we could do about day to day OBS you are using, she is very, of course there's every, every teenager, one of the apps that she's most active on is Instagram. But then in our conversations, we actually, I think it was, I'm not sure whether it was an idea that came from my side or from her side, but we ended up writing about Whitney.

And that was the I think that is a very good way for her to understand that this, of course, when you are when you're writing on the on the project base level, it's she understands more about the journey Of the founder and the different experiences that she has had and also that it is possible for a completely, a self-made woman billionaire to she, she sees that she's exposed to that.

So I think it will have definitely a positive, a positive impact in her career decisions in her in just in, in her level of openness to the world of what is possible for her. Yeah. Yeah. No, it's, it's such an amazing that she's. This big sister, who's doing all these, you know, amazing things and able to share this knowledge and experiences with her.

I'd like to switch over to some questions about your personalities, beta. So the audience can kind of get to know you a little bit better, some quirky questions for you. The first one, can you give a reason why a founder would be asking a VC for 50 million of additional funding? Without indicating that they're going to increase revenue or profits, like what is a hilarious reason?

They may, they may be asking for 50 million in additional funding. They, they have heard from one of their peers that their, the peers starting uh, I was gonna say starting a tech business, but maybe it's starting, starting a fund to invest in something very niche or having a. Proprietary access to deal flow.

So yeah, essentially he has found an additional opportunity or additional stream for making VC V level returns. Okay. Okay. Second question question for you. Let's say in the, is I wouldn't say there are very of, or as kinda off of the charts, but yeah, that's what I could come up. Okay. Let's say you created your own BC firm SPE.

Okay, your very own VC firm. What would be the headline for your VC firm? How would you market it? What do I, wow, that's a difficult question. I would, I would definitely need more time to to think about a catchy catch name. I did this series Than giants a while a while back still, still continuing, but in a more limited scope, of course, I think you can appreciate that with having a, with having a side hustle that there is definitely a lot of it's, it's difficult to, to combine too, and it's difficult to spend an equal amount of extreme, impossible to spend the, the, the necessary amount of potential.

I think, to at. That's what I have experienced to, to this site site project, which is why it hasn't been going in a very slow in a slow earth pace. But it was called system giant. So I would say something like. Like that or giants? Yeah. Existing giants ventures. As of course, it's very it's very popular to just add adventures on the back of the day and then it becomes

obviously sounding very sounding day. Okay. Okay. Third question for you. What do you like. Reward yourself with, what do you like to splurge on if you're gonna treat yourself? Well, kind of give yourself a little reward. What would that be? So I think uh, I, I, really enjoy travel, but because I have been very frequently traveling for work it's actually, if I have a couple of days off, for example, I'm not sure that I would that I would choose the traveling uh, every word or the traveling route.

Again, something that actually it was brought up by by a contact we've had in a conversation and. Saying that she rewards herself with with a daily spa, with a massage. And I think this is something that I had done very recently. It just and relaxing. My father is one of I think one of the best ways to recharge.

All right. Okay. That don't Chava, thank you so much for joining us and innovators can laugh. Where can people learn more about you? I think Paul LinkedIn is. It is a good way. It's set the on LinkedIn. You can find me on Twitter as well. I'm not as active, I would say, but and of course, if you are on the, on the VC side as the, as we said, my role focuses on my investor relations and fundraising.

So for, for me, of course, it would be relevant on the on the. Investors who are looking to better understand the way that they could innovate more efficiently in the real estate construction space. So by of course you can reach out to me via email as well. My name at, from take one, the ventures.

Fantastic. Thanks. You Sheta everybody listening. Hey, tell others about this show. Feel free to refer to others and give us a. And I will be here next week. That said everybody have a great weekend. Cheers. Thanks alone. Thanks a lot, Eric. What a nice conversation with Veta. What I really like about our chat was her understanding of how VCs and startup funding works.

Not only that her keen understanding of how a person's outlook of the world. Starts at a very young age. I've included links from this show on the ICO website and newsletter. It's number 53, if you forgot. And if you enjoy this topic, feel free to give us a review instar rating at Spotify or apple podcast as our ways.

Thanks for listening. Tell other that there's tell others about the shows so we can help us grow. And keep puling out there. This is Eric signing off. 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 newsletter@innovatorscollapse.com, where you can get the bio and details of each guest.