Ask yourself what you are really good at. Then look around for a problem that you could solve applying your skills.
Lilia Stoyanov is a multi-awarded startup founder and angel investor based in London. She is the CEO of Transformify, a revolutionary HR software and freelance platform. Think Upwork with fintech and AI-powered recruitment solutions.
Prior to joining the tech startup community, she served as CFO to global corporations such as payments provider Skrill. She also worked as Director PTP for Coca-Cola Enterprises and played a key role in a working capital enhancement project which resulted in a massive 600 million USD savings.
As a visionary leader who built a ”hiring one-stop shop”, Lilia received multiple recognitions including the 2018 Female Entrepreneur Enterprise Award, 2017 First Women Award and Top 10 Fintech Innovations.
Transformify’s diversity recruitment and CSR programs enable people in disadvantaged positions to find jobs. By encouraging businesses to open remote positions, parents can work at home while taking care of their young ones. Mothers who left the employment world for a period of time to raise kids can receive support in re-joining the workforce. People with disabilities or with special needs are matched with companies who can provide a supportive working environment.
On top of that, Lilia is building partnerships with educational institutions and businesses to work towards closing the digital skills gap. Transformify provides data about the skills on demand to help develop relevant training modules.
With her strong business acumen, Lilia shares her expertise in fintech and financial strategy to tech startups. One of the companies where she is a board advisor is Foresting, a blockchain-based social media company which gained USD 22mio during its ICO in 2018.
She also works as an expert evaluator for Horizon 2020. It is the European Commission’s SME Instrument which aims to support up 7,500 innovative startups in Europe through its non-dilutive funding grants which offers up to 70% of capitalization.
Although an angel investor herself, she recommends startup founders to look beyond VC funding to secure cash. She encourages SMEs and startups to explore other funding sources such as grants and government-backed loans with comparatively lower interest rates. Applying for grants may come with stringent requirements, but they are almost free because you are not obligated to pay back in a short period of time. It does come with hefty penalty fees in case you default.
Where did the idea for Transformify come from?
I was a director at Coca-Cola and involved in a business transformation process. Lots of people were losing their jobs due to automation and it was clear that everyone would benefit of a solution that provides equal access to jobs and secure payment no matter the location. Transformify started as a Freelance Platform offering remote jobs and soon became the recruiter’s one-stop-shop. From Employer Branding to candidate sourcing to ATS to Diversity Hiring to billing and payments, it’s all a hiring manager may need.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We are an all-remote company. Working from home, a coworking office or a café is the norm. My day starts with reviewing the tasks for the day, preparing for meetings and conference calls and communicating with the team.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Most product enhancements come from something our clients have asked for. We discuss their needs, what a perfect user interface shall look like, etc. and then assign tasks to the team.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More and more companies are open to remote working arrangements. It’s a win-win for everyone as people commute less, have a better work-life balance and are more productive, while the businesses benefit from access to global talent.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Discipline. Years ago, I practiced ballroom dancing professionally and the old habits help a lot. If I need to complete a mundane task today, I will do it no matter how much I dislike it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust yourself more and take more risks. It’s worth it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When we started Transformify, I opted out of raising VC funding. Bootstrapping is the riskiest way to grow a business but you remain independent for a much longer period of time and can execute on your ideas without explaining yourself to investors all the time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read. Every day. It always surprises me when people come asking for advice without doing their research first. There is so much information, interviews with competitors, data analytics tools and more, and still, most people don’t bother to read and interpret the information. Usually, the solution is right there in front of their eyes but it takes some effort.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Transformify expanded to 150+ countries because we were open to partnerships. It was our revenue share model that shares 20% of our revenue with our partners that fuelled our growth. At first glance, 20% may look a lot but when you compare it to inefficient sales efforts and low return on investment marketing campaigns, it is definitely the best way to go.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
After we released public beta, we realized that our clients want a one-stop-shop for recruiters, not just a Freelance Platform. At that point in time, there were two ways to go – to continue with product development to add the features the existing clients were looking for or simply change our marketing and sales strategy to attract only clients who were looking to hire freelancers. Back then, I failed to realize that we could do both in parallel.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Ask yourself what you are really good at. Then look around for a problem that you could solve applying your skills. For example, if you love baking healthy cookies, it may be a good idea to start a delivery business on Instagram. It takes a little investment and it is easy to validate the idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’ve just bought a present for my mom. Since I started Transformify, I had less time for my elderly parents than ever and every little something helps them to feel valued.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love Jira Atlassian and Slack. Assigning tasks to the team, monitoring their progress and communicating with them has never been easier.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘’Contemporary Strategy Analysis’’, Robert M. Grant. I received the book from one of my professors at Oxford University and it helped a lot to develop Transformify’s go-to-market strategy. The book can help any business owner planning to enter a new market.
What is your favorite quote?
Some time ago, I had the pleasure to interview Sid Sijbrandij, the CEO of GitLab. He said: ‘’ Remote work forces you to do the things you have to do anyway, but earlier. Source: Transformify HR Blog
• Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities is key to the success of any business regardless of its size.
• Using the right software can increase team productivity dramatically.
• Managing a remote team requires robust communication channels and regular performance reviews.
• Expanding globally has more to do with a disruptive strategy and execution than with raising funding each year.
• It’s a numbers game. Budgets, KPIs and statistics shall never be overlooked.