“For me, teamwork means finding the right people. I believe that even if you have a good idea, you won’t achieve anything on your own, and a cohesive team can make it a reality,” says Victoria Betoeski, executive director of The Connecting Architects, an international entrepreneurial firm, and one of the four main speakers of the Women in Biotech 2021. Women in Biotech 2021 event will take place on the September 29 3pm (EEST). This year’s theme of the event is Women Empower Teams.
Victoria Betoeski in this interview shared her insights of her versatile experience, her antrepreneurial background, what motivates her most, and her role as a woman in the team and society in general.
What is the role of a team in your job, as well as in your daily routine?
I can have different roles depending on the project I’m working on. I can be an advisor, investor, or when we are involved with building a company from scratch. My job can be different every day and that’s why I love entrepreneurship. You never know what’s next!
As an advisor, we can be asked to help with negotiations, advising on term sheet conditions for our partners who are fundraising, or helping them with their pitch deck. As an investor, one of the companies I’m helping might ask me for advice on their strategy and as a founder or co-founder, it can mean writing a business plan, in order to get funding, for instance.
This question also reminds me of a quote by John Maxwell,
“Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”
Teamwork, to me, means finding the right people you want to build an empire with. I firmly believe that having an idea alone is nothing, but having a great team that works together to convert an idea into reality is what makes a ‘company’.
As we also work with scaleups, I advise my clients on team composition and the point I focus on is that a leader is as good as their team. When a CEO sees himself on an equal level in comparison to his team, and works together with the team towards a shared goal or dream, the team stays focused on serving the goal instead of serving the Boss!
As a leader and as an entrepreneur, I make sure that the whole team is clear and aligned on their goal and working together to achieve it. I do not believe in the age old concept of hierarchy where the CEO enjoys the topmost position. Instead, our values are flat hierarchy, mutual trust and understanding, and passion for work. In short, my advice would be: Empower people, let them discover and explore their own strengths.
Moreover, at TCA, we believe in creating meaningful relationships, not only amongst team members within the company but also with our clients who we see as our partners. We have zero tolerance for drama, blaming, negativity, destructive criticism, and distrust. We work with entrepreneurs, freelancers, and independents that are motivated, passionate, and committed. We also look for these virtues in our partners or the companies we invest in.
The topic of this year’s “Women in Biotech” platform is “Women Empower Teams”. In your opinion, what is the best way to do it?
Like many others, I believe in the power of diversity. Diversity can be in terms of gender but also social or cultural background. The more diverse a team is, the variety of ideas it brings to the table. Building diversity starts with being aware of certain biases because of our perception, how we were brought up, our role models, and the environment we are in.
Women can empower not only teams but also societies in general. Although sometimes women can have slightly different communication and leadership styles, they have the inborn power to take lead when room is given. No matter what gender box we tick, all we should emphasize on is Empathy, Collaboration, and Communication. Most importantly, women should lift each other up.
Being mindful and critical of our perception and seeing people for who they really are irrespective of their gender, what value they can bring, what they are passionate about, what drives them, what their strengths are, are all factors that help in innovating and finding solutions. Rising above gender bias is the need of the hour.
Furthermore, being open and learning from each other is the secret behind a successful team. It is therefore crucial to avoid the subconscious bias of hiring or working with people that are like you.
Could you tell us more about your team members in “The Connecting Architects”?
“The Connecting Architects” was founded when my business partner John Tchelingerian and I noticed our shared passion for creativity, and building new businesses. Both of us felt the urge to build a business that helps others succeed, improves our health, and solves the problems we might face today or in the future.
The interesting part is that we both come from diverse backgrounds and possess a global mindset. I have a Dutch and Bulgarian nationality, have lived for 8 years in France and just moved to Spain. My co-founder is French with Armenian origin and has lived in Lebanon and the US. To both of us, respect holds the utmost importance, not only in business context but also in how we deal with people in our everyday lives. We believe in being non-judgmental, sharing values, and making it happen- together!
Hence, we decided that TCA should become a platform to facilitate companies’ growth, development, and scale up, without any limitations. What we were missing in the current advisory solutions out there was a tailored and entrepreneurial approach, TCA is filling that gap.
TCA has a network of great and experienced minds that we work with, depending on the projects. We have partners and affiliates from all over the world, from the West Coast, (Europe, of course) to Japan. You can find more information on our website: www.theconnectingarchitects.com
How did you come to the idea of having your own company?
Great question! I would have started it sooner but it turns out that all my experiences in my personal and working life contributed to becoming an entrepreneur.
Initially, I completely overlooked this possibility. While I was growing up in the Netherlands, in foster families, all I wanted to do was become independent as soon as possible, give back to society, and help others. I have always been interested in health and wellbeing and due to life circumstances, I first studied physical therapy and then attended law school. I did all kinds of jobs to fund my studies, ranging from cleaning jobs, and modeling gigs to working in call centers. After obtaining my law degree, I first worked for a big corporation, followed by the public sector, and small fast-moving startups. I kept developing myself, followed trainings and worked with coaches.
After all these experiences and finally meeting the right people, I got inspired to start my own consulting company Satori Partners. I started small, with consulting and advising startups on their scale up, fundraising, and international expansion.
This past year, we co-founded TCA as a global firm to scale up companies internationally, with a focus on life sciences, biotech, and other innovative sectors. We also coach CEOs and founders on a regular basis, maximize their potential and that of their company. As I’ve always been passionate about health, prevention and cure of diseases, I consider myself lucky to work on groundbreaking innovations and with passionate founders and inventors.
What motivates you most as being the CEO of international entrepreneurial advisory firm “The Connecting Architects” you have co-founded?
To me personally, Entrepreneurship is a vector for creative passion, limitless learning, opportunities, and meeting new and great people, like yourself and the other brilliant minds behind Women in Biotech. Most of all, it is the vector for change, and bringing solutions into the world- to people that need it.
Three motivating factors that are very significant for me are Growth, Freedom, and Contribution. I find all of these in Entrepreneurship and the projects I work on, for example in the areas of health, life sciences, foodtech, and sustainability.
Apart from that, what motivates me every day is the idea that we can make a difference, the fact that we are able to bring in tools and expertise to help founders achieve their goals and dreams, and bring innovative solutions to patients and humanity.
What skills are needed for entrepreneurship?
In my viewpoint, the following traits and skills tend to make successful entrepreneurs. I’ll briefly describe them:
- Vision and Mindset:
Having a clear vision, purpose, and being able to articulate well and inspire others. Others will be inspired by your passion, drive, commitment, and positive mindset. Try being realistic, optimistic, trustworthy, creative, street smart, and agile. Clear sense of purpose will pull you through in challenging times and will give you energy.
- Persistence and Resilience:
Entrepreneurship is a marathon, you need to be willing to go the distance. Know yourself and your values. Set boundaries and don’t deplete yourself. Stay energized and take care of yourself, for me, that is, healthy life, nutrition, yoga and meditation. Find your own path, own truths, and answers. Be open, be curious, be persistent, and work every day towards your goals. It’s the small incremental changes that make the difference. Also, be patient, keep going and trust your work will pay off.
- Curiosity and Fearlessness:
Be willing to learn, and be curious. Realize that you don’t and can’t know everything; get the right people on board: advisors and experts that you can trust. Find out what you’re good at and do that, other things you can outsource but make sure to stay involved as it’s your company, and you are responsible. Get different viewpoints from different people. Don’t overthink, be fearless and just do it! Go for progress, not perfection.
Entrepreneurship requires one to be proactive and take initiatives. Ben Horowitz describes in ‘The Hard Things about Hard Things’ that with a corporate mindset, work comes to you while you’re checking off tasks. When building or running a company, we are fully responsible. Our choices and decisions decide the future of the company. Act and choose wisely.
- Skills and Expertise
Being an expert in your field can give you an edge. But let’s keep in mind that some of the best entrepreneurs were dropouts. They went very far with an open mind and positive thinking. Skills such as negotiations, and financial engineering, you can learn while starting or building a company.
Also, train yourself on how to make well informed decisions. In the startup world, there is no time to research everything perfectly. That’s also what is exciting about it. We learn and adapt. We have to take a leap of faith.
My co-founder John Tchelingerian is a scientist and a serial entrepreneur. The combination sets TCA apart. TCA understands science and knows how to turn them into a viable business.
Before co-founding “The Connecting Architects”, you worked with a number of life sciences companies. What’s specific to them? Is there a big difference from other sections of business?
What is interesting in working in the life sciences and biotech space is the considerable amount of passionate and motivated people. Often, they share a common drive and goal to improve people’s health and lives. Also, there is a certain excitement in exploring the unknown. It’s innovative, it’s risky, it often has a long horizon for the founder, and investors. Simply put, it’s not for everybody.
You’ve successfully negotiated international strategic partnerships, fundraising, and collaboration deals. Could you share your thoughts on how to be successful?
Listen and find out what is best for the company, your partner, or the client. Find pragmatic and creative solutions. Also, always try to understand the other side of the table. What motivates them, what do they want or need? Look for patterns, analyze them, and come up with creative solutions that work for both. Strive for win/win situations that work for everyone and long-term relationships. Short term wins are borrowed wins and will need to be paid back over time.
Be proactive and strategic; think about how it would look like in the future, and map risks. Try to anticipate and where possible, de-risk or mitigate risks. Simple tools such as SWOTs can be very useful.
Be mindful of trends and developments in the market. The past does not decide what our future holds. Try to anticipate what opportunities the future can bring and be ready. That’s what we do at TCA with our companies and our partners.
There is this Holstee Manifesto Poster I like that says:
‘This is your life, do what you love, and do it often. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them, so go out and start creating. Life is short, live your dream and wear your passion.’