Gergana Gruncharova is the Co-Founder and CEO of Incineration Productions. For her, there has never been a path different from entrepreneurship. Gergana strongly believes that every person has the need to find his or her calling and if appropriate to grow professionally with it.

Gergana Gruncharova is the Co-Founder and CEO of Incineration Productions. She has graduated with two bachelor’s degrees as well as a master’s degree and started working at the age of 14 dealing mainly with marketing and sales. At the age of 21, she founded LeadersPlay – a company that offers digital and physical products and offline training for children ages 7 and 19 in the sphere of entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and the development of personal skills. Gergana does not divide people based on their gender. She strongly believes that every person has the need to find his or her calling and if appropriate to grow professionally with it. Gergana thinks that even if we manage to attain our short-term goals alone, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our long term goals without the help of the right people. She admits that it took her seven years to understand who she is outside of work and to learn how to balance the roles in her life. Gergana shares that she doesn’t have a strict schedule- if she feels like working on the weekends, she does so. She follows her inner instincts and always does her best in every situation. Right now Gerana believes she understands herself very well and knows that if we want to succeed in life we don’t have to put any arbitrary rules on the things that make us truly happy.

Even if we manage to attain our short-term goals alone, I don’t think we would be able to achieve our long-term goals without the help of the right people.

Favourite clothes?

Mid-length girly dresses in soft colours.

High heels or flat shoes? 

Sneakers.

Which typical female quality or household responsibility does not apply to you? 

Actually, I don’t think there are any.

What is THE thing that you must have in your bag when going out? 

Money.

Favourite lipstick colour? 

999 with a Velvet Finish for special occasions and nourishing pink / Daisy Plum with a matte finish for everyday use.

Can you share something specific about you that we can’t find on LinkedIn?

The truth is that for me there has never been a path that is different from entrepreneurship. I started working at the age of 14 dealing mainly with marketing and sales. In the very beginning, I was capable of promoting different types of products. When I look back at these memories, it immediately puts a smile on my face and makes me feel happy and grateful for those job opportunities. Even back then I knew that if you want to be a successful entrepreneur it’s crucial to be able to sell both your ideas and yourself well. And I learned a lot. I graduated with two bachelor’s degrees as well as a master’s degree. During my studies at university, I met professors who taught me management and finance through the method of gamification. This style of teaching differed greatly from standard lectures and what impressed me was the high engagement of all the students during the sessions and the excellent results we achieved on exams. This experience greatly contrasted with the way my previous schooling took place, and so I came up with the idea that I wanted to propose a new way of learning that is fun and motivating for the kids so they can easily learn more with less effort.

At the age of 21, I founded LeadersPlay – a company that now offers digital and physical products and offline training for children ages 7 and 19 in the sphere of entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and the development of personal skills. No matter the strong cause behind LeadersPlay and everything we achieved, together with my team, I somehow felt empty. All I knew back then is that I wanted to keep creating games, but I needed to find my true passion. This is why in November 2018 I decided to start offering LeadersPlay’s intellectual property as a worldwide franchise and focus my whole attention on the creation and development of Incineration Productions – a game production company, working on both our own video games and high-tech virtual reality software projects. I have never been happier as I am right now because I truly believe that I have finally found the right place for me. Now I am on a pursuit of putting Incineration Productions on the worldwide map, showing that even a young girl from a small country in Eastern Europe, can succeed in the games business when she believes in her dreams and has the right team behind her back.

Read More Inspiring Stories for Women in Tech in WRTech here.

Have you encountered any challenges in your career in connection to being a woman?

I don’t like to divide people based on their gender. I strongly believe, however, that every person has the need to find his or her calling and if appropriate to grow professionally with it. Every single one of us has strengths and weaknesses and if we manage to swallow our ego and accept ourselves for who we are, it would be much easier to follow the right path for us. If a woman has good communication skills, is honest, goal-driven and responsible, and people think that she has leadership qualities, then why, if it makes her happy, should she not have an executive role or start her own business? Then there is the opposite. If a woman is happier having a less stressful job and thus having more time for her family or household responsibilities, nobody should judge her for that. I strongly believe that many people share the same (or similar to mine) opinion. Of course, we can’t always expect to meet and work with such like-minded people. I’ve had men try to manipulate me, telling me that my business “is worthless” in order to get a bigger share for it in a potential investment. I’ve had men ask me out “to coffee” so that they can give me a better business offer. I have been asked directly when I am planning on giving birth, so they can know for how long I can work to the fullest. I’ve had many other similar situations. However, I don’t think it is due to the fact they were men, rather the lack of proper moral values and manners. I choose to react to such events with a smile. It’s funny when the other person is thinking he is manipulating you and you just look at him with your pretty eyes and nod.

Do you know how many women work in your position? 

Gaming has long been a male-dominated hobby. According to research by Statista, females made up 38% of all video gamers in the United States in 2006. In 2020, it is calculated that the percentage has increased to 41%. If we look at the numbers on a global scale, women now make up almost half of the gamers worldwide. This trend is particularly noticeable in Asia, where the female gaming community grew by 19% last year alone. Things are different when we take a look at women who are part of the development of video games. The employment rate for women in the industry is about 15%. Less than 5% are women who are in managing positions or have co-founded a game production company.

Do you think that the problem of gender inequality is still relevant in Bulgaria and globally? 

My personal opinion doesn’t count when the statistics speak. The gender pay gap is well documented – women make about 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. However, less well known is the gender investment gap. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group and in collaboration with Mass Challenge found that when women go for funding rounds, they receive less funding, but produce more revenue per dollar funded. Investments in companies founded or co-founded by women averaged $935,000, which is less than half the average $2.1 million invested in companies founded by male entrepreneurs. Despite this disparity, startups founded and cofounded by women actually performed better over time, generating 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five year period: $730,000 compared with $662,000, or for every dollar of funding, these startups generated 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated less than half, just 31 cents. Furthermore, female-founded startups received a fraction of the capital available in central and eastern Europe in 2020, and gender disparity is increasing — according to a report from community platform European Women in VC, growth-stage fund Experior VC and early-stage VC Unconventional Ventures. Despite a year that saw the European tech sector raise a record amount of funding ($43.6 BN according to calculations by NGP Capital), the amount of funding going to all-female founding teams in CEE dropped from a high of 4.1% in 2018 to just 1% in 2020, the report found. To put that figure in context, roughly 13% of the region’s startups are founded by women. And I don’t even want to speak about the number of game development studios founded by women worldwide and the available investment capital for such businesses.

Which policies does your company encourage regarding gender diversity? 

We don’t have such policies. When we hire new people we only care about their personal skill set and professional skills and how fast they can adapt to our existing office environment. From there on out, it does not matter what their age, gender or nationality is.

Do your male colleagues treat you differently? 

I don’t think so, but it might be mainly because I am their boss, not a proper colleague. However, very often, when some of my colleagues travel somewhere, they bring me small gifts. For example, they go to the sea and bring me cute seashells, or a conch, some sand or a magnet. I do believe, however, that these kind gestures are not due to the fact that I am a woman or that I am their boss. I think it is because of the everyday care I put in to make them feel good at the company and help them grow professionally, as well as the honest happiness and gratitude in my eyes when they make such a gesture towards me. I often bring them some things too, like themed chocolate eggs, socks or small figurines. I talk to my team constantly and know what would make each one of them happy – so if I spot it in the street, I just get it for them.

Every single one of us has strengths and weaknesses and if we manage to swallow our ego and accept ourselves for who we are, it would be much easier to follow the right path for us.

Do you think that a woman’s appearance and charm affect her professional success? (example: does it make communication easier?) 

It depends on her full set of personal and professional skills and what type of person is sitting in front of her at that moment. Very often we hear the phrase “I don’t care what other people think about me”. I, however, believe that this is an incredibly wrong way of thinking. If people think that we are unreliable and can’t be trusted, or to put it simply, they don’t like our personality, then the chance of them helping or doing something for us is minuscule. Even if we manage to attain our short-term goals alone, I don’t think we would be able to achieve our long-term goals without the help of the right people. So, yes, I do think that charm might help us in getting to the next stages of a business’s negotiation, however, charm alone will not close the deal and will not establish a long-term partnership between both parties.

How do you combine personal and professional life? Do you have any rules that you follow?

Seven years. That is how long it took me to understand who I am outside of work and to manage to balance the roles in my life. Of course, this time is nothing in comparison to the decline in my physical and mental health, failed relationships and most importantly the feeling of wasted time for that period. I guess everybody has the lessons that they need to learn soon – er or later. Now that I understand myself better and I know what are the things that make me truly happy I don’t make any arbitrary rules to follow. I only ask myself what I need at the current moment and I do it. If I had a tough work week, during the weekend I do things that recharge me – family time, long walks, night driving, baking, going out with friends, book reading, acrylic painting, different craft arts, etc. If I feel like working on the weekend I work. I don’t have a strict schedule, just following my inner instincts and doing my best in every situation.

Which sources do you follow and can you recommend some of them to our audience?

At the moment I am interested in Tom Bilyeu’s Youtube channel. Everything else is strongly connected with the game industry, financial markets, investments, psychology and/or related to my hobbies.

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