Aiga Kalbjonoka, Start-up Partnership Manager
Aiga Kalbjonoka is a whirlwind of energy. “If you were to ask my colleagues how my day to day work looks”, she smiles, “the jokes would come rolling in, and say that it looks as though im at all the parties, having all the drinks with clients and partners” But to an extent it’s not a joke, Aiga travels extensively for her role at Httpool, and attends countless events etc, “networking is a huge part of my job” she comments.
You might be forgiven for thinking that life as Httpool’s Start-up Partnership Manager sounds like non-stop entertainment. But Aiga is accustomed to hard work, thanks to a childhood spent living on her family’s farm in the Latvian countryside, close to the Lithuanian border. “I spent every summer working for my family business, milking cows and helping with the garden, living a super traditional countryside life” she says. During her first year of studying Business Management at the University of Riga, Aiga began working for a business incubator. She later joined the local Business Angels network, where she eventually became a managing director, all still whilst completing her studies. A year and a half in Greece followed, with Aiga helping businesses to relocate to Latvia. Shortly after her return to Riga in 2020, she joined Httpool.
Pleased to Meet You
“The thing that I enjoy most, professionally, is connecting people” comments Aiga, she loves being able to introduce people to one another, and hopefully create value for them both. ‘This is my job’, she explains. ‘To build the collaborations and connections, for us to be represented in this community, for our people to be present during networking events. By being on the stage with presentations, and building collaborations with venture capital funds, and with investors. Because each of them is holding their portfolio of start-ups, and when the start-ups are growing, we are their first choice to come and discuss and create a plan for how they can accelerate their global growth using the platforms we’re representing’.
Unicorn-Spotting in Estonia
Aiga works with start-ups in the Baltics and Nordics, as well as Poland. “In general we are quite fortunate that the Baltics and Nordics are both developed in the startup and venture capital field”, she says. ‘They’re even calling Estonia the ‘Silicon Valley of Europe’, because they have nine unicorn companies already, and a population of only 1.2 million”’. The start-up scene in Poland, however, is dramatically different.
Aiga explains that due to Poland’s sheer size, “it is so diverse”. If you Google ‘Start-ups in Latvia’, or ‘Venture capital funds in Estonia’, you’ll find everything in one place. They have one webpage, there’s information, it’s so available, and you can reach whoever you need through a maximum of two or three handshakes. “In Poland, there’s more than one city which stands out, hosting different events, initiatives, and venture capital funds” she says. Moreover, “some events are still codvcred in the local language and therefore we require a native speaker based locally”. “So it’s really difficult for someone from outside to go in and to create collaborations there. They’re still doing a lot of things in the old school way”.
Httpool: The ‘Start-up’ That Isn’t Really a Start-up
Aiga has a great deal of experience in working with start-ups, so it’s interesting to discover that despite Httpool’s position as the largest global partner of major media platforms, she regards it almost as a start-up itself. Why? “Because we are moving so fast and the team is growing tremendously fast”, she explains, “and [because of] the innovations we have within the company to excel and give the best service”.
Httpool’s biggest asset, she believes, is its multicultural workforce. “They’re so talented and so experienced”, she enthuses. “The knowledge they bring to the company is incredible. One thing that I really value is that you receive people’s energy, especially in this digital environment, when all of the calls are still happening online. After the call, you have the energy and drive to work”.
After speaking to Aiga herself, I know exactly what she means.