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Tina Ruseva: I Have Studied Computer Science Which Is Still Rather the Exception Among Female Founders

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Tina Ruseva

Tina Ruseva of Mentessa.

Tell us about yourself.

I am the founder and CEO of Mentessa, a social learning platform that empowers everyone in the workplace to learn and collaborate in an ever-changing environment.

As an entrepreneur and author, I have been actively engaging in entrepreneurship, empowerment, and equality in the workplace since 2009.

Mentessa and many of my initiatives have been awarded and featured numerous times by press and media, such as NASDAQ, Die Zeit, The Financial Times, Deutsche Welle, Forbes, Startup Valley, Bits & Pretzels, The Recursive, and many more.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

Startups are about becoming successful or independent.

Entrepreneurship is an act of service. It requires extreme discipline, love, and commitment to the change you want to make in the world. It is the opposite of becoming independent.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

“It’s not you!” As a woman in tech and an immigrant, I often found myself in teams where I was considered optional; not the first choice for a job, and not compliant with the requirements.

In an effort to change this, I continued to study, graduated three times from university, learned to code, completed a coaching course, and studied nine languages.

Only a few years ago, I learned that it had nothing to do with me. It was the way organisations work today that created barriers to learning and collaboration for most people in the workplace. I want to change that!

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What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I have studied computer science, which is still rather rare among female founders. I wish more women would open up to the opportunities of technology, as tomorrow’s leaders will be the ones who code.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

Frequent exchange with others, even without a specific purpose, blocking time for long-term projects independent of the current workload. And I also regularly write in my gratitude journal; I love the three good reasons approach.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company.

Work is not about checking boxes, running processes, or climbing the career ladder. The purpose of organisations is to bring people together so they can learn from each other, grow, innovate, and solve meaningful problems.

Together, we can grow faster and better. With Mentessa, we make purpose work—for equal opportunities for everyone in the workplace. — In 2019, I had already spent years as both a mentor and a mentee, and it was an experience in my last job that gave birth to the idea of Mentessa. Being faced with the challenge of connecting entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and changing needs in a mentoring program, I realised the need for a solution.

I quit my job and joined Wayra Germany, the innovation hub of Telefonica. Mentessa graduated from the Founder Institute in Munich and won its first customers and awards. Our first birthday party was cancelled because of the pandemic.

The new world of work makes it clear that knowledge exchange and meaningful connection are not just for mentoring programs.

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Mentessa was selected by NASDAQ Milestone Makers as one of 10 impact startups that strive to create equal opportunities for everyone in the workplace (SDGs 8, 9, 10, and 11).

Where do you see your business in five years?

A global leader in the transformation of work, the platform of choice for decentralised organizations, and a top employer with 500 employees worldwide

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

Creating a culture of learning and collaboration is a challenge for any distributed organization.

The world of work is becoming increasingly complex, and the skills to learn fast and learn together have become critical capabilities for any organisation in the workplace, including Mentessa.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far.

I consider my biggest success to be my children. Despite becoming a mom at 26, I continued everything—my education, my work, and my civil engagement for entrepreneurship and empowerment in the workplace.

Looking at my 13-year-old daughter, I am so proud that all of this happened, as it was not easy becoming a mother and having such entrepreneurial drive. Specific stories, however, are our funding earlier this year (“From 0 to funded in less than three years”), running the company with both of my best friends (my husband and my schoolmate Andreana), as well as our feature on the NASDAQ Tower.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Sure, I am, as every entrepreneur should be. But I consider myself and Mentessa as a company a lot more than a community builder.

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We are here to change the way we work and help others make a difference. Amplifying the voice of transformation advocates and not only gives us enough visibility, but also creates a compelling mission for champions to help us.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Stay true! We build companies just in case they succeed. When we get there, we have to still be whole to enjoy them.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings, both personally and for your business?

More opportunity for diverse talent in the workplace, more courage for change in society, and more leaders in every organization, every community, and every family—as we all are

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