I was invited to be a mentor on a local entrepreneurship event called Arena Ursilor. The idea for the event was to put 10 promising entrepreneurs and their projects in front of the best mentors and business angels Romania has to offer and help them push their projects forward by advice and possibly financing.
The level of the projects was surprisingly high as the vast majority of the entrepreneurs pitched project with some level of technical implementation, at least at proof of concept stage. The others were domain experts, having worked in their line of expertise for many years and having the necessary experience to move to stating a business on their own.
The projects with the greatest potential to make a difference in the near future from the ones pitched at the event, in my opinion, are (in no particular order):
- VideoGuide.ro is a built to order video tour platform. Emanoil Serban, the project’s founder and CEO came to the event to raise money to develop the project further. He was asking for 60.000€ for 20%, giving the project a 300.000€ valuation. Currently they have 150 clients for their video tour filming and publishing service at a revenue of 300-600€ / client / year. The company is operational for around 2 years now and Emanoil plans to raise money to expand the sales effort to more cities in Romania.
- Tjobs.ro is a job platform with a twist. The twist comes from the fact its co-founders are domain experts in recruiting romanian employees for foreign employers and they formed a union of local recruiting companies. Those over 300 companies then submit their open job positions to Tjobs, while Tjobs makes sure that the end-users submit CVs only to verified companies that have a proven track record. This makes for a great win-win relationship for both the end-user and the employment agencies, with Tjobs being more like a trust partner for both than a usual recruiting platform. The Tjobs founders came to the event to raise money, asking for 150.000€ for 5% at a 3.000.000€ valuation.
- Fantasy Accelerator is an animated comic project. The project, in the idea state at the moment, is started by a young ambitious romanian guy who studied in the UK for all his university years. He came back with an idea of how to make online comics more interactive. Guy’s name is Claudiu Revnic and you can find him on Facebook.
The event went really well, with both the investors and mentors getting to know about new projects and the mentees and participants getting to interact with a group of experienced and successful local technology people.
I’ve just received a very interesting email in my Inbox. Will attach it to this blog post and would like to know your oppinions on the subject in the comment section. Personally, I am very happy Google has taken this decisions.
Dear Google Apps admin,
We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010. After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.
Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.
Starting next week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser. We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.
In 2009, the Google Apps team delivered more than 100 improvements to enhance your product experience. We are aiming to beat that in 2010 and continue to deliver the best and most innovative collaboration products for businesses.
Thank you for your continued support!
The Google Apps team
Just a short review of the amazing things I had the opportunity to do in 2009.
First of all thanks for everyone that’s been around. It’s next to impossible to make anything worthy on your own so everyone that sees a connection to things on the following list should know that I am very grateful.
- Started year with some rather important foreign clients for management consulting and local business representation. High-level meetings with local IT&C people took place. Great way to start the year.
- Been attending regularly the weekly OpenCoffee Bucharest meetings. There’s a bunch of great people meeting there every week discussing all kinds of geeky topics.
- On the management consulting front things were really intense. Got three active clients plus a couple more on queue.
- Finally gave up hosting my websites on GoDaddy after a dozen major issues and hundreds of support emails. Moved everything to HostGator to a much better level of service & support. Kind of important decision when you receive tens of thousands of daily hits spread across tens of websites.
- Romanian economy has really slowed down at this point. Getting any deal done is next to impossible as companies lost any expansion appetite while struggling to survive. Major local IT companies become extinct. Things are not looking too good.
- Co-founded TwiMarket.com, a startup meant to become the place for classifieds on social networks.
- Start blogging at Mafteianu.com. Still on of my better decisions regarding personal branding. It’s great to have a place to post your ideas and thoughts. Find it rather interesting that I owned a blogging network for about 5 years but did not start a personal blog for myself in the meantime. Think urgent vs important.
- The need for external aid got me to buy an iRobot Roomba. Things became really busy for me at this point so any help was highly welcome…
- Start discussing the selling of some of the more important news blogs from BloggerWork. One month later I stopped worrying about traffic spikes, keyword density and daily articles as a deal is reached and the blogs get sold.
- Pitch TwiMarket.com at some local events to warm up for the event to come. Also we get featured in a local startup news website among other Internet buzz.
- Started the eWiki.ro project meant at becoming the ‘Online Wiki of the Romanian Internet Market‘. It has got some traction from the community and got some cool projects and people featured there.
- Started discussing about getting seed funding for TwiMarket.com though some connections obtained from the participation at Seedcamp. Happily the deals felt through.
- Upgraded from the original iPhone to the new 3G one. Gave up the Blackberry soon after as I got tired of carrying three cellphones with me everywhere.
- Start attending Startup School at the recommendation of a Seedcamp advisor. Soon afterwards I accept the invitation to become their Romanian ambassador as I was amazed at the number of great entrepreneurs they managed to bring to the community.
- Consider starting a local (mostly) online lead generation business. Test the concept with some people but do not find the right partner and delay starting this business indefinitely.
- Organize OpenGrill #2, a road trip to the ‘best road in the world‘ attended by some of the best Romanian entrepreneurs.
- Start an IT hardware/services business. I’ve been reminded this way of the joys of the Romanian employee and what great culture inheritance we got from the communist regime regarding how employees see work and deliver results. There used to be an communist blue-collar worker saying ‘We pretend to work and they pretend to pay up”. Go figure…
- Become a co-founder in iCartApp.com. The desired outcome of this project is to create an easy entry point for anyone wanting to extend their ecommerce store to the new mobile commerce market. Along with a very focused development team project lead by a visionary co-founder we manage to get a private beta in just one month.
- I turn 22 years old. Feel really old as something is now fundamentally changed. I am not longer the youngest guy in the room at every meeting.
- Graduate from Dragos Roua‘s mentorship program of. Been reminded that doing things your way it part of what makes doing business great.
- Visited Budapest and Vienna. Both are really beautiful cities.
- Start thinking more seriously of starting an iPhone apps development business as augmented reality gets more and more hype.
- Request one of those new biometric passports as they are required to travel to the place where Silicon Valley is located.
Disclaimer: The list is not meant to be complete, but rather on overview of why I think this year was great for me and what I learnt from it.