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Meet the Team – Katya (Co-founder & CEO)

9 min read
From graduating with flying colors from Bocconi through big pharma to being a devoted mother and CEO at 3veta. This is Katya Vaptsarova.
Katya Vaptsarova - Meet the Team – Katya (Co-founder & CEO

Coming from a strong corporate background but carrying entrepreneurship in her blood, Katya confidently steers the 3veta finances.

She graduated the maximum grade from Bocconi but is also known to have a Master’s degree in getting things done. So at only 33, this absolute go-getter is putting her heart and soul into 3veta, while raising her beautiful 2-year old daughter Reni together with her husband Ivo (yes, that’s another one of 3veta’s co-founders, but more on him in the next chapter of Meet the Team).

Katya, welcome to the hot chair of 3veta’s blog! It’s been a challenge to get hold of you – you are so busy all the time!

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. You are a working mum and that is always a challenge. How do you make it work?

Katya: Hi, Deni. I am very happy to be here. It is finally my turn 😊  

If I have to be honest, there are no working hours when you have a child and a start-up – you work wherever and whenever your kid allows you to. My girl is a very active one – she wants to go out, play games with me, solve puzzles. Or she is sick (like now). I try to organize my day so that I can have time both for her and for work. Being able to work from home is a massive convenience. I am lucky to have super supportive colleagues – they often reschedule our calls last minute, so the time is convenient for me and I can join.

You really have to be clever about how you use your time. I usually take all my con calls from the phone – God bless the wireless headphones! As soon as my daughter starts playing with her toys or goes down for a nap, I will do some work on the laptop. I’ve got to work after she goes to bed for the night too, which is after 8 pm. My day used to finish pretty early before, but it’s no longer an option.

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I bet it isn’t! You are a mom, a wife, and an entrepreneur, and I can imagine it’s never easy to organize everything seamlessly. Yet you make it look so easy. How do you do that?

Katya: Maybe I just make it look easy by turning off my camera during the meetings, haha!

It’s not easy at all.

You need to be very organized – I have dozens of tasks on my to-do lists for the day. And even when you have the best plan for the day or for the week, it can be ruined. And you just have to adapt, to change your plans, to reorganize. You must realize that no plan is the final one – you have to be agile, just like in any start-up. You commit to something but then the circumstances change, and you have to adapt. 

2 years ago I would do anything to follow my initial plan. Now I have a different motto – keep calm and be agile 😊 .

Yes, 2 years ago must have been a very different time for you. No 3veta, and no baby yet! So tell us about the start of it all. How did the idea about 3veta come to being? How was this all-star team assembled?

Katya: It was during the first lock-down in Bulgaria – in April 2020. Ivo and I hadn’t seen Iliya and Masha for 2 months. We just had regular family video calls so they can see us… well, see Reni, actually! She was 10 months old back then and starting to take her first baby steps. One day they told us that they have a business idea. They said think about it for 1 week and if you still think it is a good idea, let’s do it. It all started afterward and went really quickly!

I really believe in the importance of dates and numbers, so we decided to share the news with our family on May 2nd, which is an important date in our family. Towards the end of May, we met with Iliya and Masha in person. It was a strange experience given the COVID situation. We basically hadn’t seen any people in person for about 3 months. We then decided to pitch Iskren to become the fifth co-founder and CTO at 3veta.

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So there you have it – 4 Bocconians and 1 Oxford guy decided the time has come for them to create something and present it to the world. 3veta was officially established in July 2020, and it’s been a lot of work ever since. But it’s been a really rewarding time because everyone on the team is truly dedicated. Everyone has a unique role and we fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

I would be forever grateful for the opportunity to work with so many smart and capable people.

Well, you are being too humble now. I know you are famous for being super-efficient and organized. Were you always like that?

Katya: Haha, yes, it’s in my blood really. And it’s really helped me get to where I am now. I graduated from a Maths High School, which is still the toughest one in Varna. But I was also always involved in extracurricular activities – youth clubs, extra courses, language classes. If there was ever anything that needed organizing, I was involved. It was a really precious experience because it helped me develop a large network of contacts.

This expanded even more during my time in Bocconi and I still enjoy meeting new people all the time. If I ever need to find out about anything, I always know who to go to.

So I am really lucky to know you then! And what are the new skills that you have learned since you started your own business?

Katya: It is to be patient.

When I was younger, I wanted to have everything here and now. When you build something from scratch, you have to be patient, otherwise, you will go crazy.

During our first boot camp with the team in June 2020, we were talking about 3veta, what it will look like, what problems it will solve, what features we are going to add.

But those were only words and dreams.

The product was not there yet, we had nothing to show to our friends when we pitched them. And then I realized I have to be patient because I can’t get 3veta for 1 day or 1 month. Then, when it was already there, we had to find our first client, then the first 10, then the first 100 clients. You just need to learn to take small steps all the time.

Another favorite skill I learned since I started my own business is to listen.

We are five co-founders and all five of us have our own opinion. People say that if you have 5 different people means there could be 5 different opinions. Actually, sometimes we could have 10 opinions!

So, you need to listen to what the other person has to say – not only because you may not be right, but sometimes they have more experience – no matter the age. Iliya has a lot of experience in the online business, Iskren is the tech person, Masha is so creative that you just don’t interfere in the design process, and Ivo is perfect at leading all kinds of projects. You can learn a lot from all of them, you just have to listen.

These are the words of a true leader! Now tell me, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your source of motivation?

Katya: It’s the slice of bread with butter and jam that is waiting for me for breakfast!

I’m joking, of course. 😊

My source of motivation is life. I get out of bed to live a meaningful life – nothing happens when you sleep and stay in bed. I go to bed to charge my batteries, so I have the power to create and add value to my family, friends, and 3veta. Life is so beautiful and so vivid – that’s the best motivation you may have to get up in the morning.

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That’s very inspirational! Sounds like you really have a lot to look forward to. What is the most exciting thing in 3veta’s horizon in your eyes?

Katya: We are always working on a lot of new things. Recently, we’ve realized 3veta can be a valuable tool not only for individuals but also for teams. So we are developing a special team plan (agencies call it ‘agency’ plan). This is something our clients want, they are asking for it – and it’s fantastic that we are able to develop it for them!

Let me explain in more detail.

If you are providing services on your own, like an entrepreneur, sole proprietor, freelancer, the existing 3veta plans would be perfect for you. However, if you have grown and you have a group of professionals who are providing services on behalf of your company, you will certainly need to be able to coordinate and oversee their work.

This new Team plan satisfies the needs of exactly such organizations, by enabling each member of your team to have their own account, calendar, booking page, but at the same time grant an admin account to the owner or team leader. This admin account permits them to oversee all team members’ calendars, to be able to add/remove team members, etc.

Team plan feature

Furthermore, through this option, the owner or team leader would also be able to centrally manage the payments, by connecting all user accounts to the main bank account of the company.

And that’s just one example of an exciting feature that is on its way! And 3veta is just at the beginning of its journey.

What’s really unique about us is that we listen carefully to the feedback of our customers, and we adapt our product very fast. Many other cool features are on their way to the world. Be ready for them!

So, yes, I see a bright future on 3veta’s horizon.

You come from a background in big-scale pharma corporate operations. How does this experience translate in the context of 3veta?

Katya: You learn how to deal with big numbers – they don’t scare you, but instead, you look forward to crunching them 😊

Jokes aside, established companies have a lot to teach you, especially at the beginning of one’s career. In such an environment you learn how to structure work in the most efficient manner and how to follow processes, which are proven. Such large companies cannot afford to organize their operations in an inefficient manner. Things are not always fast, but they are always efficient for the bottom line.

To think about it, they have tens of thousands of employees. There are many layers dividing the highest and the lowest levels in the organization. On such a scale, if you make a small exception about the processes and practices on a basic level of the operation it can have tremendous consequences.

I have seen this happen while moving through different levels and have understood the importance of establishing the basics of any operation in an efficient way. This is also one thing I have tried to bring into 3veta’s processes. Strong fundamentals give more time and space to the team to focus on strategic topics.

So what was it like to transition from the pharma industry to the SaaS (software as a service) industry?

Katya: Those are two completely different industries.

The pharma industry, on one hand, is an established one, with heavy regulations, forcing it to follow precise processes. Deviations in such big-scale operations and projects are extremely expensive. Therefore, the way of working is dominated by adherence to strictly predefined corporate guidelines and procedures.

The SaaS industry, and especially B2C products, on the other hand, require the ability to shift and adapt constantly to market requirements and customer feedback. That means that at the beginning, you can have a specific idea about your product and what features the users might find appealing but later on it can be completely transformed into something else, given customers’ feedback.

So, dear customers, please give us feedback! Let us know what is most important for you.

Luckily, we are not in the pharma industry, so you could be able to receive your feature within a few weeks of requesting them!

You manage the financial side of the business. What tips can you give to your clients who manage their own finances?

Katya: There are few things that I think are very important and I always try to follow those best practices.

First, try to work with a realistic budget. We all tend to underestimate the resources we need, so try to build a more comprehensive budget, think harder if you are missing something, and if you are wondering between two numbers, choose the higher one to budget for. And of course, always use the good old buffers at the end.

Another critical thing is to be on top of your cash flows. Especially when you are tight on cash, it is all about the cash flows. In the beginning, forget about financial management ratios, profit-loss analysis, etc. It’s all about the cash flows.

You need to have a good grip when money goes out of your bank account and when you expect to have money coming in to ensure your business has enough fuel to go forward. This is exactly why we have included a payments solution in our product.

And the best tip I can give you is to use your finances to invest in yourself to become a better professional and always seek opportunities to learn.

So if you are contemplating whether to start a side hustle or not, just go for it.

This is so true! How do you see 3veta in a year, and in 5 years from now?

Katya: We are offering an outstanding product, and this is only the beginning for 3veta.

3veta is a simple to use all-in-one-place platform. It is a platform that unifies your client bookings, video calls, payments, and much more.

Next year is all about growing the number of our customers all around the world. We’ve already added so many new features in our product map for the near future that you just would not be able to resist signing up to it 😊 Being online, or at least in a hybrid work environment, is the future!

In one, five, or ten years 3veta will be always there because the 3 V-s will be there working hard to fulfill their dreams. And help professionals fulfill theirs, too!

And finally, one personal question. Most people relax by spending time with their family and friends. But in your case, your colleagues are your family and friends, too. Do you try to avoid work conversations in your spare time or is there no such thing as spare time for you?

Katya: When we started 3veta we decided to use only one channel for work conversations – Slack. All other channels are for our personal/family communication. So, they know that when I write them on WhatsApp it is not work-related.

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As per our spare time together – it is inevitable to talk about 3veta but we try not to go too far. Or if we go for a family weekend somewhere we plan some time in advance for work talks. In fact, I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and I am sure neither I nor my brother Iliya could think of a family dinner or holiday without work-related topics. That’s the life of an entrepreneur – you don’t have well-defined working days or hours.

But you know what, I like it. And most of it I like working with my family. Because it is good when you have colleagues like family, but it is better when your family is your colleagues.

Read interviews with other team members!