Elena Konstantinova

CEO and founder of the startup Aerospace-Agro
"After graduating from college, he’ll be working to further advance the aviation industry and you’ll go on maternity leave."

At the age of 19, Elena Konstantinova launched the AgriTech-SpaceTech startup, held her first pitches for investors in the United States, and is preparing to register her company. By training, she is an environmental safety management engineer in the aerospace industry.

Aerospace-Agro offers help in evaluating the condition of agricultural fields, identifying possible deficiencies and problems, and developing recommendations on how to address the issues at hand.

Elena won the inDriver Award as a young woman who introduces technology to the conservative farming industry.

Elena Konstantinova's Principles

90 percent of the project’s success is due to the team. My task is to create the right conditions for this.

It is important for me to understand why I am experiencing a particular stress and what I wish to accomplish in the future. Ambitions help to develop plans for building a satellite constellation. Together with the team, we are on our way to reaching that goal.

Aerospace-Agro in facts and figures
132
parameters taken into account by the startup model when predicting crop yields
3 million
rubles — the company's profits in 2021
8
the number of deals the startup closed in 12 months

Not everyone realizes how far technology has advanced. Very often I have to explain how effective the data from spacecraft are in assessing agricultural problems.

Multiple times I have been advised to hire a male CEO. "A company led by a man inspires greater trust." I don’t want to hide behind a man’s back. If I go down that road, these stereotypes will persist in society for a long time to come.

The hypotheses we test do not always produce quality results for business. But more often the results are interesting and important — from the perspective of science and technology. Everything we do is important for the further advancement of science in any case. This is what drives me in my business.

About discrimination

There were 116 entries for the Aurora Tech Award. This number is very small even for a huge country like Russia, not to mention all Russian-speaking countries. Young women are afraid to go into business, as they are not confident of themselves because there are too many stereotypes around. Don’t be afraid!

"After graduating from college, he’ll be working to further advance the aviation industry and you’ll go on maternity leave." That’s what one of the instructors at the university where I studied told all the girls. He just ignored the girls who raised their hand to ask a question. He reasoned that his hour of instruction time with a young man should cost 2 rubles 30 kopecks (after all, that young man would later be involved in advancing the aviation industry), whereas that with a young woman — only 30 kopecks, because she would only be giving birth to children. At technical college, both men and women expressed similar views.

"You’re a girl, so this can’t be your business / you don’t know anything / you’d better go on vacation, what crop yields are you talking about? / you need to find a husband / give birth to three kids and settle down," Phrases like these keep ringing in the background on and on throughout my life. It’s hurtful and not nice.

About the future

We have 17 people on our team. Now only one of them is a woman — she’s in charge of our Instagram account. There used to be another woman who was an ML engineer (a machine learning specialist). But she decided to change fields altogether and switched over to product management. We work in a niche dominated by male specialists. Up to 130 applications are received to fill one of our vacancies, none of them being from women. And we’d like applications from girls to come in as often as possible.

The Covid pandemic has changed the valuation of companies in our sector. All the key metrics and development strategies have become different now. We realized this when we were evaluated by different experts before breaking into the U.S. markets: they all gave us different figures, estimates, and metrics citing Covid as the reason. Against this background, our market has grown, and new companies based on science-driven processes, research and technology have emerged. That’s awesome.

My company is entering the U.S. market, and we need a special focus on marketing, sales, and customer development — a survey of users for getting insights. As soon as I found out that I won second place in the Aurora Tech Award, I immediately told the team that the money would be used to develop the new market.