Meet our team
Impact & Innovation, Co-founder & Managing Partner
Bistra Kumbaroska, North Macedonia
A community innovator, entrepreneur and a poet, Bistra spends her time witnessing and supporting courageous steps made by humans, combining innovative tools for business and impact. In 2008, she became one of the core drivers of a movement in Macedonia that resulted with today's most popular youth portal in CEE Region, Mladi Info. Her passion for entrepreneurship took her on a journey through Europe, Sub-Sahara Africa, and South-East Asia, supporting the creation of meaningful jobs. At the moment she lives in Vienna, Austria. She has been involved in the creation and scaling of more than 5 networks and entities across different industries in CEE and has organized, facilitated and shared her experience at more than 117 international events and conferences so far. Currently, Bistra is based in Vienna.
& Content, Co-founder
Christina Forster, Austria
Christina believes that every business, brand or product has a story to tell. And a good one, too. Her own story started in the field of journalism but already in 2005 she moved from print to online. However, it was only during her 8 years in London when she discovered how Content Marketing, Storytelling and Responsible Communication can enable sustainable success for a business - something that became her biggest passion. Since then Christina is helping clients - ranging from big corporations to small social enterprises - to tell their impact by creating human-centred communication strategies for internal and external use. Throughout her career Christina has worked in the fashion, sports, music but also media and IT industry with companies such as Red Bull, Nivea, Labello, Boden or Cisco Austria. She acts as a cofounder to Heartbeats Innovation & Communication and is also an expert for Digital Marketing in the Impact Hub Vienna. Christina is currently based in Vienna.
Gabriela Buenfil, Mexico
Gabriela is originally a translator and language teacher from the Caribbean region of Mexico who is currently based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her curiosity for intercultural communication and diversity embarked her on a two-year adventure around the world, including countries like Canada, Western and Central Europe. Whilst exploring the world, her perspective of life and purpose changed completely – and also inspired her to cherish diversity, sustainability and responsibility from a professional perspective.
At Heartbeats Innovation & Communication, she is currently functioning as Junior Coordinator and works on the implementation of international projects connected to sustainability, impact and social businesses.
Meet our experts
Expert in Strategy & Leadership, Design Thinking
Shawn Ardaiz, California
Shawn looks back on 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley but today his heart beats for leaders and helping them create the conditions for their team to thrive during these uncertain complex and ambiguous times. An expert in design thinking and human-centric design processes, Shawn is convinced that innovation centred in the intelligence of the heart taps into key data we've been ignoring for too long. Taping this data drives new insights, engages employees, creates opportunities, delivers new revenue streams and more. Shawn has worked with the likes of Intel, Carhartt, Aetana and Cisco Systems on various projects to propel their business into the 21st century, using design thinking techniques. Currently, Sean is based in Vienna and a mentor to various startup programs, such as the UN's Entrepreneur for Social Change; an entrepreneur launching his fourth company, focused on measuring the emotional intelligence of teams; and he is acting as Managing Director for an innovation hub that focuses on bringing deep tech startup to solving the world's most challenging problems.
Expert in Business Development
Vida Jakovljevic, Serbia
Vida is based in Belgrade and a results-driven professional with 10+ years of experience in implementation of cutting-edge strategic solutions that result in a revenue increase for clients. She has been working in the management consulting and security printing business where she developed the ability to retain strong client relationship by understanding the business needs within various industries, governmental and non-governmental sectors. Adept at business analysis and planning, organizational development and team management. Vida has also a strong background in project development and writing as well as expertise in new business development in the Balkans and the North Africa region.
Expert in Research & Innovation
Vesna Kuzmanovic, North Macedonia
Vesna is based in Skopje Macedonia and an experienced consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the market research, marketing and advertising industry. She is skilled in Innovation Management, in both explicit and implicit market research tools and techniques (Quantitative and Qualitative explicit and EyeTracking and Facial Coding) Marketing Management, Negotiation, Business Planning, and Sales Management. Vesna also owns an MBA title from Sheffield University and PhD from UN University and is a passionate ambassador for making innovation accessible for everyone.
Expert in innovation & capacity building
Jose Antonio Morales, Slovenia
Jose is originally from Peru but has been living in Slovenia with his family for over 15 years. His professional career kicked off in IT but already for the past 20+ years Jose has been working with corporate teams, SMEs and young entrepreneurs always bringing new perspectives, challenging the status quo and sparking innovation. Back in the day, he co-founded one of the first international Web communities in Latin America, Exchange Latino, in partnership with Microsoft Peru. While in Slovenia Jose was recognised by Microsoft Corp as one of the 18 Global Partner Area Leads. The US Patent and Trademark Office granted him his first invention and today he is founder of multiple initiatives such as Fear & Fail Global, Aurora Co-working, Lincoln Island Initiatives, Vision of Present and The Glue.
Expert in partnership building and facilitation.
Hayley Lapalme, Canada
Hayley is a dynamic facilitator and systems thinker based in Toronto. Coming from a broad interdisciplinary background, Hayley is a reflexive leader who sees connections and builds strong partnerships. Her talents in writing, community development, and intercultural communication have lead her to produce the “100 Mile Dinner Party” radio documentary for the CBC, support the development of an urban farming business in Toronto and deliver a TEDx Talk entitled “How I Fell in Love with Hospital Food” in Slovenia. In 2010, Hayley joined the team at My Sustainable Canada and developed a methodology to assess and expand institutional procurement of local food in Ontario. She has facilitated a multitude of workshops across Ontario and British Columbia to build capacity in local food systems. Hayley is a dedicated mentor with the Challenge: Future community of global youth social entrepreneurs and an avid canoeist. She has an Honours Bachelor of Arts from McGill University and expects to complete a Masters in Adult Education at the University of Toronto in the fall of 2014.
Fund for Innovations
Fund for Innovation and Technological Development encourages and supports innovation activities in order to achieve more dynamic development in Macedonia. Check them out here.