We talked to Alexandr Iscenco of GreenTech Rangers, the pre-acceleration program for startups focused on environment-friendly solutions and sustainable development, and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexandr Iscenco: We are well and healthy, thank you for asking. I have already had SARS-CoV-2 and have stayed in a hospital and then in-home quarantine for a while. My parents are also OK, as they have probably had the asymptomatic flu of the disease. Now we are deep in work and activities, even more than in the B.C. (Before COVID-19) era.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GreenTech Rangers.
Alexandr Iscenco: After experimenting with a number of startups ranging from a platform for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) eco-innovations to 3D printing services and robotics courses and after running my current social entrepreneurial entity for already 7 years, I decided that it is time to share my accumulated knowledge and experience. This is how my co-founders and I established and developed GreenTech Rangers – the pre-acceleration program for startups focused on environment-friendly solutions and sustainable development. Since its creation in 2019, we had already organized two editions of the program and are now running the third one.
How does GreenTech Rangers innovate?
Alexandr Iscenco: At GreenTech Rangers, we try to practice what we preach. For instance, if we train young entrepreneurs on the Lean Startup concept, then we also experiment with this concept in designing our program. Similarly, if we teach our participants to talk to customers and listen to their needs at each product development stage, then we also do these ourselves at each program development phase. For example, before beginning the development of our latest product, the GreenTech Rangers online platform for e-learning and startup-building, we conducted problem-solution-fit research. Within that research, we had interviewed a number of startup accelerators and organizers of startup competitions as potential paying customers and a number of young entrepreneurs as beneficiaries of the platform.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alexandr Iscenco: Well, we had to move all the program events, which were budgeted to happen offline, into the online world. This saved many financial resources, which were allocated for event space, catering, and other offline needs. And when we began working on the GreenTech Rangers platform, we redirected those funds into the new product’s design and development.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Alexandr Iscenco: Not really. Our team is quite small. And we have stayed as a team and kept working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its restrictions. This may be the most important lesson learnt: an excited and proactive team may be formed in good times, but whether this team is loyal and truly committed is tested during a difficult time.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alexandr Iscenco: In the COVID-19 era, we certainly use different digital tools for interacting with our customers and beneficiaries. Furthermore, we have developed our own tool to make our program more efficient and effective in “going online and remote” – the GreenTech Rangers platform. The platform is not fully ready yet, as there is still much to introduce there and many bugs to fix. Nevertheless, we are going to give it the first try at the upcoming online hackathon we are organizing at the end of March.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alexandr Iscenco: Not from government grants. Nevertheless, we have a grant we had obtained specifically to run the GreenTech Rangers program and develop its online platform. That grant, together with additional sponsorships and revenue from our online training and consultancy services, has kept us going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is still helping us finalize and “polish” our product.
Your final thoughts?
Alexandr Iscenco: In the natural environment, we have so much biodiversity because creatures were able to adapt to different challenges and unfavorable conditions. They are still trying to adapt, for example, to anthropogenic activities and pollution happening everywhere. Some species do it quite successfully, while many others crumble under the pollution and destruction sown by Homo sapiens. The same thing can be said about humans and their businesses in the conditions of COVID-19 and associated restrictions. Those who are willing and able to adapt and change have great chances of surviving and succeeding; those who stick to old and conventional behavior instead may not be so lucky in the end. So, use this challenge to learn, adapt, and evolve both your business and yourself.
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