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Maria Tanjala and Irina Albita are the co-founders of FilmChain, the fintech platform that pays professionals in the film and TV industries.

Five questions with FilmChain

08 December 2020

4 minute read

Maria Tanjala and Irina Albita are the Co-founders of FilmChain, the FinTech platform that pays professionals in the film and TV industries.

Maria Tanjala and Irina Albita are the Co-founders of FilmChain, the FinTech platform that pays professionals in the film and TV industries. FilmChain helps producers, investors, public financiers, sales agents and actors access their money and data in automatic, transparent processes.

Named Start-up of the Year at the London Business Awards 2020 and a SXSW Pitch 2020 finalist, FilmChain leverages blockchain technology and machine learning to save industry professionals millions of pounds previously lost due to mismanaged funds, human errors and poor data. The platform is used end-to-end by HBO, Council of Europe Eurimages, Film Fund Hamburg, German Producers Association, Screen Australia and clients in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and Israel.

Maria is a UK-based entrepreneur passionate about tech solutions that bring transparency and automation to creative industries. Prior to FilmChain, Maria worked in the film industry, mainly as a producer, for 12 years—creating and managing budgets, assembling and managing crews, and creating marketing and distribution strategies. She was a Rising Star Screen International 2018 nominee and has a master's degree in filmmaking.

Irina is a technologist with a background in mathematics and computer science. She has more than 12 years of experience in tech, having founded and managed several tech startups and large development teams. Irina has a master's degree in management, organisations and governance from the London School of Economics.

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

Irina: With first-hand knowledge of the challenges screen professionals face, we co-founded Big Couch, a FinTech startup in the entertainment industry that enabled independent filmmakers and video content creators to invest in projects they work on through a funding mechanism we named ‘crewfunding.’ We recognised that the opportunity of payments and reporting is much bigger across the industry, which led us to pivot to what is right now FilmChain. FilmChain's mission is to transform traditionally slow and opaque recoupments by empowering the industry with transparency and data.

02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?

Maria: Great reports and statistics have been published on the discrimination that female founders are facing, particularly in regards to raising investment. I believe there's a benefit to working with ambassadors and champions who are aware of this historic lack of representation in the founders landscape. These people are generally great business minds who we can learn from, who also back innovation and progress, which aligns with our values at FilmChain and the disruption we are causing in the screen industries.

Irina: As female founders, we have been successful in identifying top talent regardless of gender or background across all areas of the company—technical roles, business development roles etc. Besides true grit and perseverance, we believe we bring empathy to the way we manage and grow the team that allows for meaningful company interaction particularly in such difficult times.

03. What is the most important lesson you've learned since first developing and launching your startup?

Maria: I have learned that everything can take perhaps double the time that I initially planned. On some sprints, we were able to develop the technology at a faster pace, but I have learned to have more patience.

Irina: I learned that it is important to put the team first. The agility and growth of a company, particularly during the scale-up phase, is only determined by the time invested in each individual that contributes and each department head. I also learned as a Co-founder, that whenever in doubt, it is best to over communicate decisions, your vision and plans particularly as the team grows fast and may be decentralised.

04. Some female founders report experiencing problems accessing capital, mentors, and networking opportunities. Tell us about some of the barriers you've faced.

Maria: After transitioning from my career as a producer to being an entrepreneur back in 2014, I learned that some men in positions of power are not willing to back female founders based on the prejudice that they are too young, too friendly and have other attributes assigned to women. While the tech community was incredibly supportive of our application of blockchain technology, the business world was not. More than once, in business environments, I was made to feel unfit to be an expert. Imposter syndrome is extremely prevalent in the female founders community.

05. Tell us about a role model or mentor who has helped you along your journey.

Irina: If you want something done, ask the busiest woman you know. This has been a personal mantra and I believe if you want to start a company, start it now. As women we have limitless reserves of perseverance and grit that can shine in an entrepreneurial setup.

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