Olga Balakina used to head global expansion for Slush for several years. For the last nine months, she has been helping us to create a brand, launch and build operations at Voima Ventures. We asked Olga to share her view on why deep tech matters:
After spending a few years in fast-paced and hectic startup ecosystems around the globe, I remember the days when I actually wanted to stop for a moment and be in the shoes of a VC or a founder. Rarely would there be an intriguing innovation that could affect us on a fundamental level. I wasn’t sure why there was such a scarcity of those ideas. Those innovators were hard to spot at Slush or similar events.
Now I clearly understand why. So-called “real stuff” takes years to research, takes the best scientists to be merged with business professionals and takes way more funding to scale. Everything starts not from the customers’ needs, rather everything starts from the fundamental, unique idea which has all the reasons to exist but the only problem is that it needs the first customer who believes in it and the possibility to enter the market.
Deep tech companies have all the same ingredients as a “normal” tech company would. Ingredients like building teams, creating a brand and business relationships. The difference being is that this hardcore combination of science and tech community requires a deeper focus: be it recruiting where the needed engineer might not even be available in the region or be it the production side which needs millions of euros to build.
I was brought to this team to bridge the gap between science and entrepreneurship communities. I love that our team is pioneering and we are the first ones to bring the deep tech agenda to a broader public here in the New Nordics and Europe. Finally, we can put our full focus only on the most pressing world issues and build a powerful global network of experts who can support the teams to expose. This opportunity to join a great team to go through the first investments, lead the awareness and form a new experts’ community was a definite yes for me.
At the first glimpse, a VC’s job is very straight forward. Obviously, fast victory is desired. The lifespan of funds is often limited to 10 years or a little more, and because of that, most of other VCs focus less on research-based companies and more on startups that already have their simpler product on the market.
The deep tech sphere adds its rules to the game. This place is for risk-takers and futurists. Thanks to the Voima Ventures team, in the last 9 months alone I have had to get an understanding of quantum physics, life science, medtech, optics, VR and robotics. I’ve analyzed and ran due diligence on cases where not only the current market situation was irrelevant, but I’ve had to predict the way a break-through innovation could completely change the normality or even create an entirely new market.
This has been an eye-opener experience. The world is all of a sudden way more interesting, there are still trillions of problems to be solved, hundreds of scientists and entrepreneurs are in need to scale the research innovations to the customers and there are only few funds like Voima Ventures who might be able to help those world-changing ideas to fly.
Like many of our portfolio companies, impact is important for me. Next generation of game changing growth companies combine science and entrepreneurship, and work with the next generation of investors, sharing the same values. Clearly, the next step for me is to join the deep tech growth company to have that impact!
LinkedIn: Olga Balakina