Eva-Maria Dimitriadis is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of C5 Accelerate, working closely to manage the programmes and bring its cohorts to London and other areas to pitch to investors.
C5 Accelerate is based in London, but operates an accelerator programme in Bahrain and Washington D.C. In Bahrain, they are looking to help set up an independent tech industry, which will help the nation move away from its traditional, oil-based economy.
C5A focuses on companies working within the cloud, in a range of sectors. In Washington, they focus on tech for social impact, whether it’s providing apps to protect women in danger of sexual assault, or on improving child literacy around the world.
What does a typical day as COO of C5A look like?
There aren’t many typical days, but on a great day, I work through anything from 25 to 75 emails on my way to work, flagging the ones that require follow up. About five of the emails will inevitably be press articles about C5 or its portfolio companies which have been shared by other members of the team.
Once a week, my day gets underway with our C5 Partners Breakfast, where about ten of us gather over coffee and croissants to talk about the market conditions, current deal opportunities, new innovations, and exciting areas of impact. After this I check in with our CFO to review our cash flow report. I’ll then spend a couple of hours working on my strategic priorities for the week. Sometimes this might involve meeting up with an energetic entrepreneur that wants to join our accelerator or having lunch with a new corporate innovation partner.
At 2pm my attention turns to America. I have a team meeting with my colleagues in Washington D.C. who are busy planning events, welcoming high-level mentors and solving big problems for our entrepreneurs. I’ve never counted but if I had to guess I’d say I make around 80 decisions a day (not including the ones that relate to food). The afternoon is also the time for reviewing contracts, signing off invoices and working with our finance team.
Towards the end of the day I write. I try to write debrief notes for every important meeting. These are a great way to keep records and keeping on top of your to-do list. They’re also an essential part of managing upwards and keeping the team on board with developments.
Finally, before I leave the office I send a report to the founder and file as many emails as possible so that I can leave my inbox fresh (ready to be attacked again overnight!). If I can escape the office by 6 then I head to the gym before meeting friends for dinner. I’ll check my inbox periodically throughout the evening but make a point of ignoring all digital devices for an hour before bed.
Can you tell us a bit more about the kinds of companies that have been through C5A?
Our accelerators are designed for early stage companies that use cloud technology to solve big problems. To qualify for a place, a start-up needs to have a strong founding team, be incorporated, have some seed funding, and demonstrate a compelling and impactful business model.
In 2016, C5A launched The PeaceTech Accelerator in Washington D.C., which is geared towards sustainable impact companies tackling issues from resource scarcity and gender violence to national security and refugee assistance. Some of the great companies that have come through the accelerator include Annona, Primo Wind and Mark Labs. We really feel that companies that come through the accelerator have been given all the tools they need for success and we keep close relations with all our graduates.
42% of our cohort members to date have been women. We’re really proud of this statistic and are building on it by launching a global Women in Tech programme. In the Middle East we also ran a cohort exclusively focused on FinTech. We’d like to see more women in that space too.
Accelerator programmes are becoming a popular way to grow companies – what do you think the accelerator ‘scene’ will look like in the next ten years?
The accelerator model has shifted somewhat since the early days of Y Combinator and I think there are a few key trends on the rise:
- More funds: Going forward I expect we will see more accelerators backed by venture capital funds, running early stage venture capital portfolios.
- More impact: I say more funds, but I think there will also be more impact funds. People are more and more interested in doing well and doing good at the same time.
- More specificity: We are seeing more accelerators honing on a specific problem or sector. This allows more targeted mentoring, validation, and fundraising efforts. We just launched a Fintech programme in Bahrain which was a great way to respond to local demand and opportunity.
- More corporate partners: Backing a best in class accelerator is a fantastic and cheap way for a large corporation to get their arms around talented entrepreneurs and cutting-edge innovation right at the very beginning. C5A always has its doors open to discuss how we can partner with corporates who have thought leadership, diversity, and innovation at the heart of their strategy.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders?
I think there are four key things to bear in mind and they’ve really helped me throughout my career so far:
- Opportunity is asexual: In my career I try almost to put my gender to one side. If I’m the best person for the job then I should be the best person regardless of my age, my gender, or the clothes that I choose to wear. About ten years ago a recruiter told me that when a man is applying for jobs, he will reach for a role that he can grow into. If the job description requires five years’ work experience in a management position, and he’s had three years as an associate, he’ll apply anyway. However, a woman may look at this list, see a gap, and move on to the next post until she can tick every box. At the end of the day personality and character are such crucial components to leadership and you can’t quantify those on a résumé. So go for the job you can grow into.
- Never stop learning: It’s important to invest in your professional development. A friend of mine recently launched a company called Sharp Alice, which provides one hour ‘workouts’ for women in leadership. They are designed to amount to the same time and money investment as a spin class, or a yoga session. As leaders, just like as wives, and as mothers, we are always learning.
- Practise self-awareness: I used to work with a very talented CEO who meditated every morning and would prepare what he called his ‘posture’ for key meetings. He would visualize and almost rehearse the conversations he would have that day. I found this very humbling. Some leaders think that they can just stride into a room and ride on experience and intuition, but it really pays off to be prepared.
- Lead with (the right amount of) emotion: Women are credited with having greater emotional intelligence than men. I hate to generalize, but it’s true that we can be more observant and empathetic towards our colleagues. To ignore this data would be a mistake, but it’s also important to know when to park emotion and bring reason and logic to bear.
And finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Honestly, I hope that one day equality will have reached a point where even having International Women’s Day seems odd! On the other hand, I think it’s a day to be proud of who we are.
For women to stand a little taller, smile brighter, be bolder, and to do something kind for someone who needs it. And to celebrate the achievements of women in all aspects of life!