Search for...

Who are the female leaders in the SEE innovation ecosystem

Female leaders in Central and Eastern Europe

When imagining what it is like to be successful in the world of entrepreneurship and technology, what usually comes to mind are hard-working men in sweatshirts and sneakers who are coding day and night. Even though this image corresponds to the reality quite accurately as data from the latest GEM Women’s Report highlights that the total entrepreneurial activity of women is about three-quarters of that of men, globally younger females at the age 25-44 are reported to have the highest entrepreneurial participation activity. Fempreneurship is on the rise! 

For International Women’s Day, The Recursive team meets you with some of the most inspirational female leaders, community builders, networking masters, tech-savvy professionals, and successful founders from the regional ecosystem. 


  • Boryana Uzunova is a fashion tech entrepreneur on a mission to reduce the environmental and moral footprint of the fast fashion industry. She is the founder of multiple successful startups including the mobile 3D body scanner MorphX, the world’s largest marketplace for ethical and sustainable fashion Kool & Konscious, and her latest venture Impakt_ID that develops a sustainability measuring algorithm to help fashion brands assess the impact of their production practices. 
  • Diana Stefanova is a supporter of the regional startup ecosystem and is currently VMware’s Vice President of Global Sites Strategy after occupying the position of the Managing Director of VMware R&D centers in Europe and the Middle East for 13 years. Besides corporate experience, she possesses great know-how and knowledge in small tech startups and is a Venture Partner in the Sofia-based VC BrightCap Ventures.
  • Elina Halatcheva is one of the three Managing Partners that have established BrighCap Ventures and has international experience in investment banking, private equity ventures, and startups. She has started her career as an investment banker at Citigroup on Wall Street and has been part of the early managing team of the B2B procurement platform Auxionize.
  • Gergana Stoichkova is a fintech professional and a shaper of the Bulgarian startup and fintech ecosystem. She has been the Director of the Bulgarian Fintech Association for two years and is currently holding the position of an Advisor of the Board of the Association. Right now she is the Program Manager of the Visa Innovation Program at Eleven Ventures.   
  • Iva Gumnishka is the founder and CEO of Humans in the Loop – a social tech startup that offers human input and training data for the ML industry and supports refugees to find their place in the digital labor market at the same time. Iva is part of the MIT 2020 Solver Class while Humans in the Loop has been recognized as one of the 75 Global Innovators by the Dubai Expo 2020. 


“Don’t be afraid to call yourself a feminist and to push for women-oriented policies in your company. One of the first policies I created was our Gender inclusion plan and I’m really proud that more than 50% of our workers are women, as well as 3 out of 4 people in our management team.”

– Iva Gumnishka

  • Lubomila Jordanova is the founder and CEO of Plan A – a startup that develops an end-to-end platform to allow businesses to measure and reduce their negative environmental impact. Lubomila is also the co-founder of the Greentech Alliance community which connects international green startups with advisors from VCs. She has been recently recognized as a Marshall Fund Fellow for 2021 and as one of the Top 100 women in Germany. 
  • Maria Stefanova Marinova is the Director of the Bulgarian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) and the co-founder of the RE:TURN project that has a mission to connect Bulgarian and US-based entrepreneurs, and community and business leaders.
  • Mariya Rashkovska is the co-founder of ProductTank Sofia which is the Bulgarian branch of the largest international community for product managers and the Head of Product Management of the publishing monetization platform PubGalaxy. She is also the co-founder of Questups which helps service tech companies build better products and has previously occupied product management positions at Progress, Financial Times, and Telerik. 
  • Maya Zlatanova is the co-founder and CEO of FindMeCure, a clinical trials search engine startup that is dubbed as the “Google for clinical trials”. Maya not only has a professional background in clinical research and digital health entrepreneurship but is also a regular pharma industry speaker and has been recognized by Forbes 30 under 30 and as the 2018 Female role model of Bulgaria.
Read more:  American blockchain company R3 chose Sofia for its first Eastern European R&D hub in partnership with INDUSTRIA


“Each entrepreneur is defined by 2 words-Vision and Persistence, no matter the gender. As women what we need to do is learn to give up on perfectionism and focus on everyday progress. Forget about your doubts, forget who you are, what you can or can not if you have a dream just follow your passion!”

Maya Zlatanova

  • Natalia Karayaneva is a serial entrepreneur, real estate developer, and software engineer who is the co-founder and CEO of the proptech Silicon Valley startup Propy. She has extensive experience in both international real estate and crypto-economics which has helped her find innovative solutions to revolutionize the way people purchase homes through decentralization. 
  • Pavlina Yanakieva is the CEO of the Bulgarian Innovation Hub and supports the growth of the local ecosystem by creating more know-how exchange and cultural collaboration between Bulgarian and US startup communities. She is an Endeavor Mentor, a Community Manager, and a Co-Chair of the community of professional female business owners Women in Consulting and a Global Ambassador and an Advisory Board Member for the social initiative Teach for Bulgaria. 
  • Raya Yunakova is an experienced VC investor who is currently part of the LAUNCHub Ventures team and who has previously worked for the London-based VC focused on early-stage proptech startups Pi Labs. Before that Raya has also been part of the team of Microsoft as their Senior Program Manager for Startups and the co-founder of the edtech startup Nimero.


  • Alexandra Anghel is the Director of AI Engineering at the international search-as-a-service platform for tech and development teams in Algolia. Her experience as an entrepreneur started when she was still in college and since then she has founded several tech ventures including the AI-optimization startup for e-commerce companies MorphL and the multi-channel mobile publishing platform Appticles. 
  • Ana Maria Udriste is a tech-savvy legal professional and the co-founder of Avocatoo which is the first Romanian legal platform that translates legalese into simple and understandable language by using gamification and visuals to explain key legal notions. She is also a Mentor at Techcelerator.Ro and Innovation Labs Romania where she helps startup teams with legal advice. 
  • Carmen Sebe is a technology industry executive with experience with new products and markets, business partnerships, transition planning and execution, organizational development, product development. She is the CEO of the crowdfunding platform Seedblink.
  • Evelina Necula is the co-founder and CMO of Kinderpedia – a platform that uses digital tools to transform education, optimize administrative processes, and keep parents, teachers, and students connected and engaged.
  • Ioana Hasan is the co-founder and Product Manager of the fintech startup SmartBill that offers billing solutions and SaaS-based services to help businesses with their invoicing and inventory management. 
  • Ioana Teleanu is the Senior UX Designer at UiPath and has solid know-how in RPA, healthcare, financial services, and banking industries. She has previously worked at ING HomeBank, a Boston-based health-tech startup, and a design agency in Switzerland called MindNow 
  • Laura Stefan (Enache) is a finance and lean processes professional with years-long experience in banking. She is currently the Director of Commercial and Nontraditional Business Development at Mastercard and before that she has been the Lean Processes Expert at Raiffeisen Bank Romania. 
  • Monica Obogeanu is the Startup Programs Manager at the corporate accelerator Orange Fab Labs that supports the creation of partnerships between innovative Romanian startups and the international telecommunication company Orange. Monica has also worked as the Product Manager at the product developing startup MozaicLabs and the Innovations Program Manager at How to Web. 
  • Raluca-Andreea Pantiru is a software and hardware product manager and has both corporate and startup experience in the wellness, consumer health, and wearables industries. She is currently Google’s Product Manager of Devices and has previously worked at Fitbit where she was in charge of devices and consumer services and content, as well as at the Romanian startup Vector Watch before it got acquired by Fitbit. 
  • Viorica Gheorghita is a product management, user experience, and digital strategy master and is currently the Senior Product Manager at Spotify. She has extensive experience working for notable international brands such as LEGO where she was in charge of LEGO’s European digital campaigns. 
  • Xenia Muntean is the co-founder and CEO of the content review and marketing collaboration platform Planable which is used by international brands such as Hyundai, Viber, and United Nations. Xenia has been recognized as one of Forbes’ 100 Women Founders to Follow and has been a speaker at the Innovation Stage at Cannes Lions in 2018.
Read more:  Preventing water losses: Bulgarian SatGeo wins Innovation Starter Accelerator


  • Christina Karapataki is an Investor at Breakthrough Energy Ventures which invests in companies creating tech solutions addressing climate change. She is recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 and has a Global Corporate Venturing (GCV) Rising Stars award in corporate venturing.
  • Elena Pantazi is the Talent and Portfolio Development at the UK technology venture capital fund Northzone and prior to that she was the Director of Operations and Head of Marketing & Communications at Bain Capital Private Equity Europe. Having a diverse background in venture capital, private equity, and early-stage startups, Elena has also been an Investment Manager at venture philanthropy fund Impetus. 
  • Fay Christodoulou is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the Miroculus platform which develops innovative software for life sciences to allow scientists, engineers, hospitals, and lab operators to share, create and run complex protocols. 
  • Ioanna Angelidaki is the co-founder and CMO of the mobile app and e-shop for groceries InstaShop that operates in the whole MENA region. Prior to that, she was the co-founder and CMO of Voundapp – a voice social network that allowed users to create and share voice and video snippets.
  • Maria-Christina Tsitsopoulos is Techstars’ Startup Programs Regional Manager of Southern and Western Europe and a mentor in the international Girlz program that matches high school and college girls with female leaders. She is interested in Psychology, Learning & Development, and has a passion for startups and technology and supporting entrepreneurs in their journey from testing the initial idea to the IPO.  
  • Marily Nika is the AR Product Manager at Google where she supports the development of speech technologies used all around the world. She is also an advocate for women in tech and is the co-founder of the global organization supporting female innovators in learning and networking Geekettes, the founder of the Women in Tech Greece Lean In organization as well as the Technical Programs Director of Wonder Women Tech Foundation. 
  • Myrto Papathanou Myrto is a Founding Partner at Metavallon VC – the early-stage venture capital fund focused on Greek and European tech companies that takes pride in the fact that one-third of their portfolio companies include a woman in the founding team. Being part of the founding team of several tech startups herself she is now a Board Member of Greek startup stars such as Better Origin and FerryHopper.
Read more:  Tailent, another Romanian startup that offers scalable Robotic Process Automation, expands to South America


“There is renewed external investor interest in the regional startup ecosystem, while the participation of women as founders, executives, investors, and members of the overall ecosystem (from tech mentors to professional services providers) has never been bigger. I advise women entrepreneurs to grab the opportunity to start up – there have never been more exciting times and a stronger network to support them!”

– Myrto Papathanou

  • Thaleia Misailidou is the Principal at Marathon Venture Capital and the co-founder of the collaborative community for finance professionals working with startups Greek Tech Finance Network. She has a background in mechanical engineering and financial engineering and has a passion for Robotics, AI, and gaming. 


Do you know of more inspiring female leaders in the SEE innovation ecosystem? Feel encouraged to share them with us.

Help us grow the emerging innovation hubs in Central and Eastern Europe

Every single contribution of yours helps us guarantee our independence and sustainable future. With your financial support, we can keep on providing constructive reporting on the developments in the region, give even more global visibility to our ecosystem, and educate the next generation of innovation journalists and content creators.

Find out more about how your donation could help us shape the story of the CEE entrepreneurial ecosystem!

One-time donation

You can also support The Recursive’s mission with a pick-any-amount, one-time donation. 👍

Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.