Kafkadesk is a proud partner of the USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit, organised by Polish-American Women Entrepreneurs and Cultural Vistas, that will take place on October 17 in New York City. By bringing together 350 business leaders, innovators, changemakers and entrepreneurs from across the USA, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, the exciting new initiative promises to be the largest and most important summit of its kind.
We spoke to Slovak entrepreneur and featured speaker Eva Baskova, CEO and Co-Founder of Event Advisor, a start-up that offers a complete list of available events, reviews, and ticketing options, and of Trust Women, an organization that aims at supporting cooperation and trust among women.
You are the CEO and Co-Founder of Event Advisor, a start-up that offers a complete list of available events, reviews, and ticketing options in one place. Can you tell us a bit about motivated you to launch your own business and how you got started?
When I worked in the marketing of the global conference organizer I remember I was sitting at the meeting with the CEO discussing the marketing strategies and reading the testimonials of our attendees and I said something like “I wish there was some place wjere we can really shout to the world how good our conferences are. There exist reviews on anything but conferences…” And then the idea started to grow in my head. Took a little bit of time to find partners, money and help to launch it, but here we are today.
In New York! So, what would you say were the first challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them?
The first challenges were the once really typical for any startup. But for me personally, it was very hard to get rid of all the brilliant ideas we all had and decide what is actually the priority when it comes to building a working MVP. I am still learning not to overcomplicate the process or the product, to stay focused and to keep things simple. To overcome it I had to find more experienced advisors, colleagues and team members.
Having grown used to being the only woman in the room at meetings and start-up competitions, you also co-founded Trust Women, an organization that aims at supporting cooperation and trust among women. Can you tell us more about that?
Many, many things led right to the moment I realized it is not ok being the only women in the room. The first motivation was actually the fact that I wanted to network with other female founders or managers to have the women perspective of business. I needed a role model, a mentor. But everywhere I looked there were only men. I just realized it shouldn’t be so difficult to find it. And why did I need that? Because there are definitely some areas in business where we can say for sure it is very different for men and women. Work life balance, communication, support and managing styles… And I wanted to discuss these things also with my female peers. Nowdays, the main point of Trust Women is to put together women who want to support and inspire each other, who are ready to start working on themselves when it comes to using the opportunities that are there in business or in personal life.
Figures show that, still today, discrimination poses a major hurdle to women who seek business funding. What are according to you the main challenges women entrepreneurs face? Could you give us a first-hand example that happened to you?
In my opinion, the key of success in business and especially in the startup world is self-confidence and the right mixture of ego and the competitiveness. And thanks to the history and other factors, we have objectively less self confidence in compared to men. When I observe the pitchs or negotiations lead by men, I find them very different than those lead by women. There exists also a very nice Ted talk by Dana Kanze about why female founders get only 2% of venture funds. Long story short, female funders are much less trustworthy at the positions of the founder, which leads to questioning the whole idea of the business and the strategy.
How would you compare the start-up ecosystems in the USA and in your native Slovakia? In what ways can the two countries learn from one another?
I am super shocked how the topic of women in business and especially female founders is addressed. There exist many supporting organizations, communities and incubators focused specifically on the female founders. I saw that diversity became important in the conference world and honestly everywhere I go, I feel a huge difference. The “women in business challenges” topic is still not a thing in Slovakia. When you speak up, you are considered to be a feminist who hates men and wants to fight them. The phrases “how cute” are absolutely ok during meetings with potential investors which automatically puts you to the very difficult position. I don’t want to be too critical because historically there is no way it could be different. Today, I see many initiatives by women and men too with the goal to support and encourage women in Slovakia to reach society free from the gender bias. But compared with other regions, it could be more.
You say you are passionate believer in the power of face-to-face gatherings and networking. Do you think this vision is still compatible with today’s globalised and over-digitalised society? Do you not think that the human element will inevitably become less and less relevant?
No, I don’t think so and I am glad it is not happening even when you look on numbers. Meeting industry has been constantly growing since the last economic crisis, specifically those smaller events with 150 attendees became an important part of the conference industry. People can find much more opportunities for more quality business contacts there. We all know that we need to stay in touch with the industry and the most effective way so far is meeting your peers. And it’s not going to change soon. Event technologies like VR cannot replace the whole “shaking hands chemistry” which is irreplaceable in making business. On the other hand, I think new technologies allow us to be more effective in choosing who to meet and where to meet. Matchmaking applications, technologies allowing to change contacts super quickly, social media with profiles and analysis of the profiles are able to advise how to communicate with this and that type of the person… It is only the way how to make face to face gathering more valuable, how to engage people more even you are not salesperson with expressive type of personality and allow you not to waste time anymore. And I am proud Event Advisor can be the part of it.
What are your next steps for you? How do you envision taking Event Advisor to the next level?
Our next steps are become stable players in the US market. Opening the official entity and become the part of the biggest conference industry in the world. With the great local ecosystem, we entered New York and we are also continuing with the tech development of our algorithms and data analysis to become the first platform where you can find the top-rated conferences in the world.
What advice would you give aspiring women entrepreneurs from Slovakia and Central Europe? What warnings?
I would say, start with yourself. Work on your self-confidence and do whatever your passion is, just do it. Don’t be sorry for yourself, that’s the start of the anger which doesn’t help anyone. We are happy that we live in the age we can address these topics openly and we can change it. For us and for the future generation of women. I don’t think we can change minds of other people or their behaviour. We can change us and the others will go along.
Eva Baskova will be speaking about starting and scaling up a business at the USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit on October 17 in New York. Tickets are on sale here. Don’t forget to check out Event Advisor and Trust Women for more information about Eva Baskova’s various initatives.
You can also learn more about the Summit by reading our interviews with: