Five Burning Questions With Boston-Based Innovators: Elena Beloshapkova
Welcome to a unique series of rapid-fire interviews with some of the leaders of Boston’s innovation economy who are eager to inspire our community. Kicking off this series, we have the Founder and CEO of the Boston-based SaaS, inspace, Elena Beloshapkova.
Elena has a fascinating background and is an excellent example of a true Boston startup success story—she’s both been named Ernst and Young's businesswoman of the year and featured in Forbes. She continues to be a trailblazer in the community. While running her own furniture company and working with top clients striving to give their employees more modern workspaces, Elena noticed the dissatisfaction clients had with the existing innovative office solutions. Simply put, you can't build modern offices without modern-day solutions. She developed the world's first employee-centric UX for finding and booking office workstations.
As we head into the “new normal” and offices transition into more hybrid workplaces, inspace is at the forefront of connecting companies to the tools and skills needed to adopt a flexible workplace. We asked Elena our top five burning questions. Here’s are 5 that she had to say.
What is it about the Boston startup scene that excites you?
I think Boston is an exciting place for so many reasons. Not many people may know this, but Boston has been the hub for startups, even before Silicon Valley. It's a center for innovation, entrepreneurship, and I know I am biased, but I believe Boston is the most beautiful city in the world. I couldn't be happier to grow our startup here, to have access to all the resources that you could dream of and the best institutions on your doorstep. Most of our big corporate clients have offices here, which makes our job a lot easier.
You are a global entrepreneur. What advice would you give to founders striving to build multiple businesses in two different countries?
Having companies in Boston and Moscow, I would say that it's essential for founders to understand that businesses will be run differently. Even though you might have had success in one country, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have the same results in another. You learn and adjust according to the market. You're continuously putting to gain new insights. I would advise founders to talk to mentors, learn from clients, learn from their investors and the community as much as possible.
You weathered the pandemic; what has been your experience, and how has your strategy changed for future unknowns?
Our market was growing at around 30%, pre-pandemic. And when the pandemic hit, it changed everything because our market grew 300% overnight. Our industry has been one of the fastest-growing, just behind virtual communication tools such as Zoom. The pandemic has been challenging for most, but simultaneously, the economy was shifting, and the way people started working changed. Standard offices as we know them are gone, and offices are becoming more like hubs rather than traditional offices with fixed desks. Pre-pandemic, we needed to go out and explain to companies why they should even consider having a flexible space. Why would they even think of a hybrid model? But now, people are starting to implement hybrid models within their offices and realize the importance of having a hybrid model.
You've been picked to go on Shark Tank; what do you pitch?
Our newest solution is called Fresh Zoom, I’d pitch that. It's a booth placed within offices, designed explicitly for zoom calls. You might be familiar with regular phone booths that offices install and use for short phone calls if employees need some privacy. Phone booths are usually uncomfortable and not suited for extended periods; no one wants to be stuck in those booths all day. Our booths are comfortable and have great features that allow employees in the office to step in and take their virtual calls for hours if needed. We've been working very hard on our booths, and we have 115 acoustic plus booths in production, and some have already been delivered to our clients.
Imagine yourself in ten years. What have you achieved? What makes you glad?
Within the next ten years, I see Inspace going through an IPO to become a multi-billion dollar company. I genuinely believe that through hard work, we'll become an indispensable solution for our clients for Fortune 500 companies, changing the way people work and making it easier for future generations to work and have flexible work environments. I also have a little secret, my dream is to be the first company that designs and develops offices in space, hence the name inspace. So I don't know if we'll be there in 10 years, but that's the ultimate goal and I have a great team behind me to help us reach for the stars.
We hope that you enjoyed this rapid-fire interview. We'll have more coming your way soon. In the meantime, don't miss out on your opportunity to network with the startup community. Grab your free ticket for Startup Boston Week 2021 today!