Project "Who are we at InnoVentum?"

The InnoVentum Team with the Giraffe 2.0 (Ala is first from the right)

This is another interview in a series "Who are we at InnoVentum?" of informal conversations with the InnoVentum Team members. Check out the other interviews with Julien Daligault, Lucas Gabrys and Tino Sperk

 

Today we will have the chance to learn more about one of the InnoVentum co-founders – Ala Kazlova. Ala has taken active part in the development of InnoVentum from a deck of PowerPoint slides in 2010 to the international company supplying renewable energy solutions to the UN and ADB today. Ala is responsible for the intellectual property portfolio and impersonates InnoVentum’s marketing – hence, nearly everything you read on this website, in our leaflets and on our social media is written by her (if you have any complaints – feel free to get in touch :).

 

Below I provide my answers to the questionnaire we use for this series of interviews.


Introduction: Ala Kazlova

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what is your background, family history, education, travels, interests in life – please make a small introduction.

Ala Kazlova (AK): Originally from Belarus, I came to Sweden to study for my master’s degree in 2009, thanks to the Visby scholarship by the Swedish Institute. During my studies I’ve got an offer from then future CEO of InnoVentum Sigvald Harryson to join the founding team of a renewable energy company and I couldn’t turn down this fantastic opportunity. Especially since one of my best friends and my master thesis partner – Bettina Ullmann – was on the team as well! This is how my journey in the Swedish start-up world has begun.

My parents and sister live in Minsk and I miss them very much – I make sure to visit them as often as I can. Recently I’ve been learning more about our family history (mainly through my cousin’s extensive genealogical research) and was baffled to learn that my ancestors held important military and administrative posts in the 15th century Poland and had their own coat of arms until the beginning of the 20th century. After the October Revolution in 1917 this information was very dangerous (many people in the Soviet Union were arrested and executed on the basis of their non-proletarian origin), so it was hidden even from the family members for many decades. Still, even with all the precautions, my grandfather’s brother was arrested and killed during one of the most severe Stalin’s bloody terror waves in 1937. I can’t believe that today some people approve of Stalin and do not see the sheer horror of that time. For everyone who’d like to see the true face of this regime I can recommend watching an Oscar-winning film from 1994 Burnt by the Sun.

Returning to the more light-hearted and cheerful topics: my boyfriend Jonathan and I use every opportunity to travel as we both enjoy it very much. We seem to spend a lot of our holiday time in Italy and have visited Florence, Milan, Naples, Capri, Assisi and other towns in Umbria - and now planning to go to Rome.

Among my key interests I can mention art, antiques, opera and ballet - things that elevate us above the routine and make our life more festive and beautiful. I really enjoy painting and drawing but have little time for it these days. Moreover, I love cooking, gardening and foraging in the forest - I am an expert mushroom picker!

Genealogical tree - Family - Florence - Mushroom picking


Working at InnoVentum

Ala and Bettina in Västra Hamnen in April 2010 - InnoVentum will be registered in less than a month's time!

When did you first think about co-founding a company like InnoVentum?

AK: In our master’s thesis, together with my friend and colleague Bettina, we have analysed the possibility for a start-up wind energy company to become a successful born global, so we felt very inspired to think about the creation of an actual company, that eventually emerged in 2010 and after a few early name changes (Carpe Ventus, iWin-Wind etc.) took shape of InnoVentum.

 

What is it that you like about your job at InnoVentum?

AK: I love the flexibility and the exceptional level of freedom – I’ve had the chance to work on most aspects of the company development from IP to marketing to finance to IT to legal aspects to investor relations and business development.

 

What would you like to improve in the future?

AK: More focus and better communication and co-ordination are key for future success of InnoVentum.

 

A couple of words about the team at InnoVentum - please share your thoughts.

AK: This is one of my favourite things about InnoVentum – our team is brilliant. All my colleagues now - and those who joined us for some time over the past seven years - have been exceptionally devoted, inspirational and talented.

 

What are your top 3 biggest achievements at InnoVentum?

AK: #1 - Our IP portfolio with international patents, designs and trademarks. It’s the most valuable asset we’ve had to attract investment

#2 - Our biggest deals to date with the UN and ADB – of course, all of them are a team effort, but when it comes to public procurement, I feel I’ve been in the driver's seat.

#3 - The result of our marketing efforts: 90+ international publications, exciting events - some of them in collaboration with the UN and earlier with Tesla, great social media following (49k+ followers on Facebook alone, plus Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram), participation in the two Guinness Records – and all of this achieved with almost zero marketing budget.

Ala at UNIDO Headquarters in Vienna


Proust Questionnaire

Now we’ve learnt about your role at InnoVentum, it is time to reveal some aspects of your personality (in a playful light-hearted way, of course)! Please answer some questions of the Proust Questionnaire:

(The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlour game popularised (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.)

Ala and Jonathan at the Royal Ascot Racecourse

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

AK: Very simple: my dearest and nearest around me and we’re enjoying a wonderful day with lots of good food, wine, great conversations, art and opera – preferably, somewhere sunny and warm!

 

2. What is your greatest fear?

AK: To lose the people I love

 

3. Which living person do you most admire?

AK: I admire Stephen Hawking for demonstrating what a fantastic power an exceptional human brain has – even when the rest of the body is failing.

 

4. What is your greatest extravagance?

AK: Extravagance is like spice to a dish – too much of it is unpalatable, but too little of it makes it taste bland. I love visiting places like Glyndebourne, Ascot Racecourse, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera – places of great extravagance and opulence, places where magic happens.

 

5. When and where were you happiest?

AK: In my childhood, when we were on holidays with my family I felt absolutely happy. To tell the truth, I think we lose this capacity when we grow up.

 

6. Which talent would you most like to have?

AK: I would love to acquire the talent of great public speaking. And I mean the level of Seneca and, say, Winston Churchill!

 

7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

AK: I’d love to come across in a more powerful, assertive way. I am working on it!

 

8. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

AK: I hope it’s still ahead of me!

Ala as a child on holidays in Crimea

Vladimir Nabokov with his wife Vera

9. What is your favourite occupation?

AK: To have meaningful conversations with interesting people

 

10. What is your most marked characteristic?

AK: People say I come across as a gentle, soft-spoken person

 

11. What do you most value in your friends?

AK: Being intelligent without being arrogant and great sense of humour

 

12. Who are your favourite writers?

AK: Leo Tolstoy - for the scale, seriousness and complexity of his work which paradoxically do not damage the perceived simplicity, liveliness and beauty of it, Vladimir Nabokov - for the perfection of his language and elegance of his style, for how close and recognisable a lot of his texts are for me personally; Mikhail Bulgakov - for the great novel that makes you forget everything around you for days, Fyodor Dostoevsky - for his understanding of the deepest and darkest secrets of human nature, Nikolai Gogol - for his mind-blowing imagination, outstanding language skills and sense of humour, Oscar Wilde - for the glamour, decadence and wittiness, Umberto Eco - for the sophistication and elegance of the mental constructions he creates, Yuri Lotman - for the intellectual joy one gets when reading his work, Marshall McLuhan - for his perceptiveness and visionary qualities.

 

13. Who is your hero of fiction?

AK: Hercule Poirot

 

14. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

AK: Catherine the Great, but only in one thing: she enthusiastically supported the ideals of The Enlightenment, promoted art and philosophy and created the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe - the Smolny Institute. I have no such power, but if I had and lived in the 18th century, I’d do the same ☺

 

15. What is your motto?

AK: Talleyrand once said that everything that is exaggerated is insignificant. I tend to agree!

Portrait of Empress Catherine II (1763) in the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow