Irina Obushtarova, co-founder & CEO The Recursive, believes that “The most effective way to manage change is to create it.”. She has extensive experience in sales and marketing and has collaborated with multiple Austria-based tech companies.

After more than 10 years spent in Vienna, seeing how the startup ecosystem is perceived and how it grows there, she decided to return to Sofia and create a digital media platform to support SEE businesses. The Recursive was launched in February 2021 and it already has a wide audience and vibrant, personalized content that helps boost the regional startup stakeholders.

Main takeaways:

  • The SEE startup ecosystem has a great potential and can contribute to economic growth
  • We can expect an increase of solutions for customizable curation of content, omnipresent content delivery, further growth of niche media platforms and influencers
  • We need domestic real estate business but also banks and insurers to work more closely with proptech startups – so that they can provide good products.
  • In the future, office spaces will be serving as a place for collaboration, co-creation, co-innovation within an organization, on one side, but also between organizations and their external stakeholders

Irina Obushtarova co-founded The Recursive to help the SEE startup ecosystem grow. She did this because she and her co-founder truly believe in the potential existing here in the region, potential that can contribute to economic growth.

Local ecosystems once started as an outsourcing destination. But over years we accumulated knowledge, skills and confidence in our ability for innovation and product development. And these trends are more and more being recognized by international stakeholders. So, creating a regional news media in English just made sense.

What will keep The Recursive in the game? Its independence, constructive reporting and high-quality content, Irina says.

We will grow as fast as the innovation ecosystems will grow. And this is where I see so many opportunities – if we can prove that we can help local businesses scale, then they will trust our services like content marketing, but not only.

The challenges? Well, there’s no room for compromise when building value-based content – and this can become a struggle. Especially as they want to provide this content for free. As a true entrepreneur, Irina and her team came with a solution through – a crowdfunding campaign running on the website (that you can support here).

Good surprises vs unexpected challenges

The road hasn’t been missing all kinds of surprises for The Recursive. Especially now, when the preference for sensationalism and negativism grows in journalism and on social media, Irina thinks.

What surprises me in our region is the great performance of positive news in the public space parallel. I can only guess that people and especially the venture community are so fed up with all that reporting on corruption, scandals, and crime that over time they became hungry for good news and constructive journalism.

The startup ecosystem in SEE is on a growth curve, which, combined with their own mission, makes The Recursive’s job a bit easier.

We are lucky to report in a sector which is currently on its growth curve. We are an independent news platform, but most of our content is positive – about the success of innovation leaders and entrepreneurs in tech. Our mission is to give them the international visibility they deserve.

Media as a supporting partner

Media features can help entrepreneurs gain awareness, connect with their target audiences, build new client bases, spread news and even build towards their end business goals.

Media channels can definitely be an enabler for startups, as long as they address the same audiences and interests.

Irina’s aim was to build a platform for premium audiences that are tech-savvy, well-educated, and hard to reach, who have “bullshit detectors” as she says, but who are also optimistic about the future. 

Creating relevant content for such – e.g. articles, interviews, videos, reports, etc. – is what our editors do every day. So, over time they have developed some amazing expertise, skills and insights – which our customers can benefit from when they promote their products or raise funds or hire talent or source for startups.

We work with organizations which are part of the new economy that adds value, and which need support in their communication – both via The Recursive and their owned channels.

The future of media

As any other industry, media has to evolve, adapt and sometimes innovate in order to survive and thrive. Given the impact of technology and the digitization of many processes of our lives, the media has seen critical transformations in the past years.

Furthermore, the pandemic hasn’t avoided media, but accelerated its disruption, Irina adds.

Digital media is growing along with media consumption, rather in favor of entertainment. In this ever-busier digital space, the competition of user’s attention becomes ever fiercer.

Given the abundance of news and the online noise, if they want to receive relevant information, users should be able to filter them and get personalized content. This means custom, tech solutions enter the stage:

I should get exactly what I want, where I want it, whenever I want it. So, I would expect an increase of solutions for customizable curation of content, omnipresent content delivery, further growth of niche media platforms and influencers. I would also expect an increase in the diversity of formats leaning more towards visual and beyond reality (AR, VR).

The future of journalism is exciting for Irina and her team, but it comes with a condition: ethical standards and quality.

For this, we need working business models for journalism – who is going to pay for this costly, but important endeavor for our society. For now, I see one thing for sure – agile cost structure of media producers shapes the winners.

The SEE PropTech ecosystem

Irina wanted to build a media platform that supports and celebrates the startup ecosystem in the region. This includes PropTech startups, an industry that has seen a growing development lately – in part, due to the real estate boom. But for these businesses to actually scale sustainably, Irina thinks that we need more early adopters.

In my opinion, I believe we need domestic real estate business but also banks and insurers to work more closely with proptech startups – so that they can test, iterate, and optimize and eventually build good products.

Now, such cooperation is naturally challenged by the differences in the culture of startups versus established organizations. So, I really hope that we will be seeing more and more professionals and mediators in acceleration and incubation programs who know both worlds and can “translate” between them. 

The present and future role of office spaces

The Recursive team works remotely, as many other companies. But for Irina, this doesn’t mean that the office will cease to exist. It will change their role, for sure, but continue to exist, as organizations start adapting to a new way of working.

It’s not easy to change your style of working, but the pandemic showed us that it is possible. Furthermore, challenges often nurture innovation.

Transitions force us to rethink processes, platforms and methods for collaboration and communication.

Now, specifically the tech sector I am working in is marked by its constant effort to innovate – and innovation happens in a more fluid environment. As a result, I see organizations that focus on innovation becoming also fluid – not only just distributed, but also more open to the outside world.

Physically, I see this trend manifesting in office spaces serving as a place for collaboration, co-creation, co-innovation within an organization, on one side, but also between organizations and their external stakeholders – customers, vendors, freelance workforce, etc., on the other.

And there is something more, Irina adds. A company office isn’t just a place to network, but a place to celebrate values and culture. It helps people feel like they are part of something like they stand for certain principles and share the same objectives.

In a way, physical offices have always been in a way a kind of a “sanctuary” for these values and culture. See e.g. Googleplex. I believe this function of office spaces will remain in the future – a place where employees, but also their visitors will have the chance to connect with the culture of an organization, feel part of it, identify with it.

Future plans for The Recursive

To conclude our material, we asked Irina to share a bit about their plans and future projects:

Currently, I am very happy we managed to build a team of motivated mavericks who believe in the mission of The Recursive. They are creative, tireless thinking of innovative approaches and most of all enjoying being part of this project. We launched The Recursive in February, and we are still in our infancy, but already receiving so much validation that what we do is relevant, important and valued by the innovation communities in Southeast Europe.

We will continue working on providing tech leaders in the region with international visibility, but also facilitating the relationship between them even better. Our goal is to create an integrated platform that opens up more opportunities for growth for the whole ecosystem. But to achieve this, first we need to structure our data and understand well the business needs of the users. Based on this, we want to experiment with new business, more scalable models, new products, and revenue sources.

In short, we want The Recursive to become the go-to-place for tech innovators and entrepreneurs, but also relevant service providers, along with investors and ecosystem builders in the region.

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