Olga Kubassova is Founder & CEO of Image Analysis and Winner of the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ category at the 2012 Cisco everywoman in technology awards.
Founded in 2007, Image Analyis allows clinicians a vital window of opportunity to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases in its early stages by turning the abstract concept of algorithms into innovative software.
At just 27 years old, Olga has turned a start up into a team of 25 with a turnover of £1m.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for the business then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
OK: The idea to set up a business came up when I was finishing my PhD research in the University of Leeds. I worked with a lot of clinicians who started using software even when it was in a draft version. When I was about to finish PhD, all collaborators were insistent for me to continue. The only way was to receive some grant funding. So I went to a local development agency to ask for the funding and they said that they are giving grants to SMEs. This is how Image Analysis was born.
TNW: What is your business model? What makes your company different from your competitors?
OK: We sell the best software for computer aided detection in the medical imaging field. Moreover, we work with each our customer to understand how we can make the software satisfy their needs better. It is continuous development and innovation which makes us very different.Dynamika, is the only technology which is truly built with clinicians guiding the development process, from the very start, my PhD to this day through user groups and constant feedback gathering.
TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?
OK: Spark in the eye when I mention that we are changing the world! As we are still as very small company, everyone gets hand picked and before they start we ask them to speak to all current team members. The team of Image Analysis is phenomenal, each individual is a key to our success. We believe in giving people responsibilities and decision making power. We don’t have managers; age and gender don’t matter - all decisions are made by the entire team. Even more, development decisions are guided by sales team and sales team gets weekly lectures from the development team. The whole company functions as a whole with the Board being the most supportive and encouraging bunch of world-renowned business people and entrepreneurs.
TNW: What is next for your company?
OK: Releasing the next version – Dynamika Enterprise, which will revolutionise clinical workflow and allow computer aided detection and automation to be seamlessly integrated into clinical and research workflow. Expanding the team and inviting more people to our clinical advisory board. Engaging real patients and patient charities as well as radiologists and specialists into our software development process
TNW: What are the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?
OK: I believe that women make the best CEOs, even though I might be subjective. Women have that engrained caring nature, which makes us great mothers, nurses, and CEOs. Any project or a business needs someone to really care and to nurture it, especially when it is a start-up. It is difficult to find girls in technology businesses, but we keep trying.
TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?
OK: Never give up and believe in what you are doing!
TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
Like Nike, just do it! It is much more painful to wonder what if I had done it? So just do it, even if you fail! It is always great to have a mentor and to actually listen to what they say as well!
TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?
OK: Yes, my mother, who really inspired me from very early age. Recently, Linda Pollard, OBE. I met her during my university studies – one of the most inspirational women in business. Historically, I always admired Margaret Thatcher, Catherine the Great and a fictional character Scarlett O’Hare from Gone with the Wind. I am very luck that my Board and Investors are the closest advisors and mentors I have and speak to almost daily.
TNW: What does your day look like?
OK: Getting up at 7am, next time looking at my watch around 8pm and wondering where the day went! Travel a lot so no day is similar to the other. I love spending time in the office, but I spent at least 75% of my time with existing or new clients or giving lectures or talks at the conferences.
TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?
The very first year is the most challenging. I was on my own trying to do the coding, science, and understand the business concept at the same time. The biggest lesson I learnt is to have great people around you , who support and encourage you during this difficult time.
TNW: Do you think that attitudes towards female entrepreneurs are changing?
OK: I never experienced difficulties being a female entrepreneur. I am glad to see that more people are starting business. I think females should have a natural inclination to do so.
TNW: What do you think could be done to increase the number of women entrepreneurs?
OK: Mentorship schemes and programmes, which show that it is possible to balance life and business. More business advise – both private and through training courses.
TNW: What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need for sourcing angel investment/raising venture capital?
OK: Passion for business and clear vision. There are always enough men around to execute a good vision!
TNW: Do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so, what are your reasons for this
Yes. the technical minded entrepreneurs in general can present their ideas clearer, they have a natural feel for numbers and can anticipate difficult questions – these is very convincing for VCs