Eva Liparova is one cool kid. With a job to die for (which she threw out of the window) and a a theatre company she co-founded (see you all the her next show) she tells us about the art of quitting, dead startups, Kickstarter success, life in San Francisco and how to laugh at depression.
At university, I cofounded Parrot in the Tank, a theatre company dedicated to making theatre that resembled stepping into a film. We made shows that had a dreamlike feel to it with a lot of ridiculous humour, like Jean-Pierre Jeunet meets Monty Python. Soon after I became the producer of the company. As a team of eight mates, we managed to travel to places like Montenegro, Prague, Slovakia while doing our final show on a West End stage.
After graduating I had little idea of what it would take to turn this side project into a business. I completed an MA in Enterprise and Management with an exchange at London Business School and soon ventured into working at an advertising and design agency. I then co-wrote an MA in Creative Producing back at my old uni and then started my own business, a small agency that created experiential campaigns - events, launches and sales pitches for brands. Amongst the clients, the greatest joy was working with startups until I eventually gave in and joined one in London as a cofounder. I was so convinced of the product that I wanted to be part of it from its humble beginnings. We set off on a life of flying between London and San Francisco and struck some great results with Apple Stores, Thomson Reuters and the Launch Festival. After six months, the cofounder team fell apart. I don’t know if you could call it depression after I’d left.
But my first startup baby died.
San Francisco enchanted me. It electrified me with its positivity, celebration of new ideas and fuck-ups, its breathtaking views and landscapes, friendly faces and the best of tech talent in the world. I wanted to go back and join the next startup.
There’s something about startups - assuming you fall in love with the team, the product and you like working hard - that’s simply magnetic. The break things and move fast attitude, the blank canvas as you look for your product market fit and strategies to scale. The sense of us against the big fish is very potent and inspiring. Every day becomes an invitation to cross your limits.
It didn’t take long and I joined Knotch in San Francisco as the head of marketing. This is when the real ride began. When I first spoke to our CEO Anda Gansca I was converted. She was and to this day is the smartest and most forward-thinking person I’d ever met, while also being a great human.
At the time, Knotch was in a very different spot than where it is now. The challenge was to find its product market fit. As a team of nine, we decided to focus all our efforts on becoming the best way to analyse the impact of branded content. Over time, my role became more and more focused on product until eventually I became our product manager.
I learned that if you want to succeed, you need a CEO who can focus their team on one goal. You need an incredibly able and experienced business development person who has a concrete sales strategy and pricing structure. You need to be focused on what your product does for your growing market in a long run, and not become steered by client requests and too many opinions.
Eventually, we launched at Advertising Week New York in October 2015 with some of the best brands and publishers out there: General Electric, VICE, Economist, Heineken and Bank of America. It was an incredible success and a sure sign we should do a Series A round.
The biggest passion project however (the remains of my social life) was still my theatre company Parrot in the Tank. In 2014, our cofounder Sam wrote a comedy. It was called Black Dog Gold Fish, and it was his personal confession of living with clinical depression. It was hilarious, heart-breaking and hopeful. While with Knotch, I ran a Kickstarter campaign to get it off the ground. It was too important not to pursue. We met the target within seven days and signed it up to the Vault Festival in 2015 - the biggest festival of new theatre in London. We enjoyed a sold out run and a five star festival review. Just as we were about to launch Knotch in New York, I learned that the Arts Council funding I requested for it was successful.
I guess it was around this time that I started to have doubts. Though Knotch was the best and smartest startup team I could hope for, with a kickass product in a massively growing market in media, I felt like I was taking a detour from my path. But a Series A round meant a plan of me growing as a product manager in NYC. I needed to say something.
In November, I quit Knotch. We parted on really good terms and as great friends. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. In January, Anda raised $14 million to scale the operation and Knotch is on a brilliant path.
Parrot in the Tank is now presenting Black Dog Gold Fish at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in Islington in March. We're transforming the theatre into an immersive aquarium as we tell the story of a troubled employee who dedicates his life to releasing the captive fish back into the sea. Until one day, he accidentally finds himself plummeting towards the rock bottom of his very own aquarium. We can't wait for people to come and see it. I’ve also observed a lot of anxiety and depression issues within tech. Later this year, I want to run a London-wide event for the tech community to talk exactly about that - and the show will feature too of course. If you’re interested in being involved, I’d love you to get in touch. I guess I’ve finally confessed to being a freelance theatre and events producer. And I’ve never been happier.
evaliparova.com (check out Eva's blog. She once co-wrote a book while sitting with strangers on a plane)
parrotinthetank.co.uk (honestly, we're not kidding, we'll see you there)