Guest: Eveline Buchatskiy, Managing Partner at Eastlabs, former CEO of leading media company Ekonomika, delo.ua
Photo: Lena Popova photography
Eveline is a slim pretty lady, with wide and warm smile, that makes you believe her whatever she says. Her history is pretty amazing — she was an engineering associate on several multi-million dollar projects for top industrial gas company Praxair, Inc for 10 years, then she moved to Ukraine with her husband. At the moment she is engaged in one of the most quickly developing business areas — internet startups. She is a common guest at various conferences, crash tests, etc. She has a lot of experience in business and in life, I should say. Her mature outlook is interesting with its variety. Eveline is a sports-lover. She is a famous runner as she takes part in marathons and is well known in the runner community.
I decided to book one morning with Eveline to find out, what is it like to be CEO of a big company, why did she drop engineering and what is the deal with people running.
Eveline, tell us please at first, what time do you wake up?
I wake up very early. Sometimes at 5:30 or even earlier. I get my kids ready to go to school – get their backpacks together and then I go running. I either run 10-15 kilometers or I swim 3000 meters. If it’s not snowing, I run in my neighborhood. Then I take a quick shower, no breakfast, and heading to work. My breakfast is usually a banana in a car or an apple in front of my computer.
I believe that in life you have to compromise somehow. You can’t have it all: run 10 kilometers, have quality time with kids and get breakfast. My priority is running and make sure that I have time with my two kids. But I’m very multitask in the car: I can be driving, having my banana, talking on the phone and listening to news or podcasts.
What do you listen to?
I usually listen to crunchweek – technology news, Wall Street Journal technology podcast and TED talks.
How did you manage to do it all today?
Today I didn’t run, because I had to come here a little earlier but I brought my stuff with me and I’ll run at lunch. I’ll skip my meal – it’s no big deal.
Eveline. How did you get used to wake up so early?
Like I said – you can’t have it all! That’s why I pick and choose what to do. I typically get 6, not 8 hours of sleep. That’s my choice. And I’m a better person in the morning!
This running thing – it has become rather popular in Ukraine, but in American films they’ve been running forever. How did you start to run? I believe that those, who run every morning – are extremely disciplined, aren’t they?
You know what – I’m a chemical engineer. And I know a little bit about chemistry. And in chemistry if you want a reaction to take place – you need to overcome activation energy. It’s much like that with running. In the beginning it’s very hard. But once you overcome that – it becomes your pleasant habit.
What I like about running – is that it’s free, very independent and very effective.
Why did you start doing it? Trend?
Because before I became an engineer – I was a professional ballerina. And after have been doing ballet for 10 years, I simply had to replace it with something as soon as possible.
Running is a lot about setting goals and achieving them. And moreover – when you get into this community – you find a lot of people who are similar to you! It’s all about communication.
The problem is that there is not much awareness. People think that marathons are those things you can run on high heels and so on. But every year it’s getting better and better here in Ukraine. If you compare marathons 3 years ago and now – they are very different. Every big city has a marathon and Kiev deserves it too.
Eveline, you were CEO of “Ekonomika” publishing house. How did you get into start-up industry?
I can’t say that I planned it all. And you know what – engineering is what I highly recommend to start any career with. Because it gives you a lot of analytical qualities, an ability to see things pragmatically. But from the very beginning I knew that I’d grow into some business area. As a matter of fact when I was studying for the first year – I was doing double education – engineering and business. But after a year I understood that it’s almost impossible and I had to give up one. So I gave up business.
I had some real experience as an engineer. But after that I went to get an MBA. It was amazing and I highly recommend it, too. After graduating from my MBA school, I felt like I have crossed the line… Life is unpredictable so soon I met an investor here in Ukraine, who offered me to manage a very technical startup. After a while he decided that my knowledge would be more useful to manage his media project — Ekonomika publishing house.
It was a little bit scary, challenging and very interesting. And I’m glad I did it – because it changed so much in me.
Can you share some thoughts about media market here in Ukraine?
First of all rules that work in the world, don’t work here in Ukraine! Typically if you manage your company well – you’ll get better than competitors. But here it’s not a matter of a quality of management. It’s a matter of how much sponsorship you’ll get from your investor. That’s why media here is not a business at all.
What advices do you usually give to those people, who come to Eastlabs? How to be a good manager?
There is no common or universal approach.The portfolio companies of Eastlabs are all startups at a pre-seed stage. Those people work under a lot of question marks. That’s why it’s a different type of management than for example for a bank or a retail. They have their own set of mechanisms and ways to manage. And it’s very important that people who work in venture companies have their own experience of problems, failures and successes, otherwise they have nothing to advise.
What are the essential rules to get successful?
Work really hard, don’t give up and do a lot of customer development. For example, you are sitting at aroma, drinking your coffee and you see a person at the next table. You come up to him or her and say: “Hi! Do you have a minute? Can you please help me with this damn Iphone – it’s not working. And by the way if you need a service in social media … and so on”. I always say that you have to be a little bit of a maniac about your service at this stage.
You should be weird if you gonna do this business. If you are standard – forget about of it.
Is it a pressure to be responsible for those young and ambitious people who have very high expectations and hopes?
Pressure is everywhere. I believe that you are under pressure too. Our guys are under even bigger pressure because when they get money they have to work even harder. Because idea — is only the first step. I believe that execution is what matters.
You know when I was starting my agency I hoped to get investment. I dreamed that when I get this money, I’d be able to improve so many things and get to the much higher level. But as the time went on I realized that it’s not the money you get, but it’s the hard work you invest to succeed.
Yes, of course. That’s why I always stress the fact that in order to get result you have to have zillion of energy to move on and overcome difficulties!
You know when I came to Ukraine my husband told me that I did not have to work if I didn’t want to. But I remembered when I spent the year in Luxembourg when I studied French, sit near the lake and enjoy doing nothing… It was terrible! I got bored. I’m calmer when I get an intense life.
Eveline, can you share your secret what to do if you get more stress than you can handle?
You get wiser with time, of course. You understand how to say no, how not to overcommit, how to compromise and set priorities.
You know if you look at it from the outside you’ll realize, that it’s not what really matters. Now I understand that each stress in my life is a lesson I learn. You should know that we tend to overestimate bad things.
So, be in a good mood, don’t worry and be happy =)