Adelina Peltea is a player and supporter of European entrepreneurship. Romanian by origin, she worked, lived in and travelled to many European cities in search of entrepreneurship inspiration. The network she developed starting with age of 21, when she was Head of Communications for a multinational organization fostering entrepreneurship and her blog on tech entrepreneurship opened many doors to big European conferences and important players. At the moment she is also doing a research on startups that will be presented in a book, Customer Seduction, that will hit digital shelves by the end of 2012. But she is not just an observer: she launched her first startup at the age of 23 and she is now preparing for a better second one. We have talked with Adelina before the official launch of Girls in Tech in order to find out more about what it takes to be a successful woman in tech.
Tell us more about yourself and your projects. Why have you chosen an entrepreneurial career and why technology?
I guess my father played an important role into this. He is an electronic engineer and early adopter of tech. So I grew up with many gadgets and tech components around. Also because of him I was one of the first people in Romania to have a computer, internet connection and game consoles. I liked to discover, to build, to code, to hack.
My first demo of my entrepreneurial and tech spirit was a program I made (when I was in highschool) that was replacing human work for different inputs with an automatic program to write complex projects for students at the University of Constructions. But don’t tell the teachers.
Later on I decided I don’t want to be the one behind the computer, but that I would like to hack the real world. So I switched to business, psychology and marketing, and kept my passion for tech. The first business I wanted to have (but still didn’t see daylight) was a hi-tech coworking space and café. Think multitouch tables and walls, kinect etc. The first business I actually had was Internshipin.ro, a platform for headhunting students for internships. Was not really tech because I used it as my MVP to learn how to do what I am actually building now: a platform to do matchmaking between jobs and young talents. I work on it with a tech co-founder from Egypt and soon more info will be public.
Meanwhile, I wanted to learn from the best how to do entrepreneurship. And to share the knowledge with others. So I work on a blog and a book for tech startups, where I present many interviews and insights from founders and investors all over the world. I consider it my own startup school. Why attend one when you can make a tailor-fit one for yourself?
You started your career by working in a company. What was the motivation behind your decision to start on your own?
I don’t like entrepreneurs motivated by being their own boss or people who consider working for others to be bad. It’s just a matter of working on what you like. Initially I liked to do what I was doing on that job where I was a Qualitative Researcher. Well, I actually used a bit my entrepreneurial spirit there as well and I created new products for the company. It is called intrapreneurship and I actually organized a conference on this last summer. Now I just want to do something nobody is doing yet and I think recruitment nowadays is really done badly. So I want to fix that. I am motivated by putting people in the right place where they fit.
You are now writing a book called “Customer Seduction”? What will it talk about and why have you taken the decision to write it?
Tech entrepreneurs tend to be too much focused on the product, and they need help on understanding customers and getting to their hearts. There is a great concept lately, embraced by many founders: lean startup methodology, customer development. There are a few books on it but there is much more to dig in, and they lack non-USA examples. So I decided to do a research all over the world on it and make the new generation of entrepreneurs learn from the current generation’s successes and failures.
Basically the book is about how to nail the stages a startup goes through: concept definition, problem-solution fit, MVP, product-market fit and growth. Giving really practical info and case studies. So far I made 35 interviews on 6 continents. I aim for 100.
You are a woman in a field of men. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a “Girl in Tech”?
I take it as an unfair advantage. There are not many women in this field, so media and investors really want to support women in tech entrepreneurship. This offers certain entry tickets. But you still have to be damn good to compete with all the men there once you are in.
I don’t think there are real differences if you are a man or woman in doing this. Is just that women don’t have YET role models of powerful women founders. Au contraire, we actually grow up with all those stories where women are saved by a hero or price charming. So we dream to be taken by the hand and be “saved”. While men grow up with the dream to become those heroes. Maybe we should raise our children with different stories. Meanwhile, let’s offer the world examples that women are in this tech entrepreneurship world too. Girls in Tech is a great initiative.
What are the major challenges of an entrepreneur? How can they be overcome?
There is a lot to say on this. I will talk only about one: Focus on the purpose, not on the tools. If you start for the wrong reason or with no reason most probably you will fail. Then be flexible on the way to get there.
How does a normal day in your life look like?
Mails, Skype, blog, Facebook startup groups, angel list, mind maps, airline bookings. Oh and a lot of sleep, I wake up with great ideas and puzzle solvers.
How do you solve the “work/life balance” problem?
Well, this world of tech entrepreneurship is really fun. Really cool people. And I have a boyfriend from the same field as me, hence it is good that he understands me and supports me. I would say the secret for this balance is freedom to choose. You have it when you can work on what you want, when you want and from where you want.
You have been living and working in different cities in the world. What is your favourite city and why?
None specifically, I just like the international life.
What are your plans for the future?
From next year on I will be all in for my startup. I want to take it to high level. Until now I was more in experimenting and learning stage. Now is time for growth.
What recommendations would you give to the women that would like to build a career in tech?
Tech has become beautiful and sexy, so we can be better than men in it from now on. Just stay curious, ask google and ask people – it is easy to learn. And wish to be your own hero.