Daniel Nicolescu on Product Management at Venture Mentoring

Daniel Nicolescu, Country Manager PayU Romania will attend this year’s fifth Venture Mentoring: “Product Management, from idea to launch”, held on April 25, starting at 15:00 at the Foundation Post Privatization.

During 2012, the Venture Connect Foundation launched new programs of interest to entrepreneurs and to investors: Venture Mentoring and AngelConnect.ro, a digital community of business angels in Romania and South East Europe.

 Venture Mentoring consists in bi-monthly sessions lead by a mentor brought by Venture Connect Foundation, in order to meet with entrepreneurs in search of answers and solutions to business problems they encounter.

The Venture Mentoring session led by Daniel Nicolescu aims to debate with the participants the concept of Product Managementby proposing to discuss topics such as the definition and role of product management, product life cycle (evaluation of ideas, building a business case, product definition, development and launching, maintenance and optimization) and also aims to achieve a potential future strategic business partnership or to establish concrete ways for business development.

In 2002, Daniel Nicolescu began his work at GECAD, a company started by Radu Georgescu (serial entrepreneur and member of Venture Connect Foundation Board). Since 2005 he served as CTO (Chief Technical Officer) within Avangate. During his arrival at Avangate, many projects were still in an early stage, which allowed him to be actively involved in their development, propose solutions and understand the functionality of the company’s e-commerce platform.

In 2008, Daniel was promoted to Business Development Manager within the Avangate branch from the United States. In this new role, he focused on creating new opportunities for business expansion and on defining close ties with major customers of the company.

In November 2011, Daniel Nicolescu became Chief Product Officer at PayU Group, where he led various projects to increase the PayU activity into new verticals industry. By mid-2012, Daniel works within the Department of Strategic Partnerships and Development for the PayU Group. Since February 2013, Daniel holds the position of Country Manager PayU Romania.

During my work experience within the technology industry, product management played a radical role. I am happy to share my experience and knowledge with those who will attend the meeting: entrepreneurs, managers or young people who want to improve their knowledge. ” mentioned Daniel Nicolescu, Country Manager PayU Romania.

To register for the event, please visit our event page: www.ventureconnect.ro/events/venture-mentoring

UseTogether: Rely on vision, adrenaline and effort!

Romania is filled with pure talent. And the entrepreneurial community does not lack such gifted businessmen either. Very proud to present UseTogether : a digital community of trusting people who share the same vision and values (collaborative consumption, reliability and contribution to the community). The company is founded by Victor and Mircea, two Romanian entrepreneurs based in Cluj-Napoca showing an immense ambition to create a truly original and successful business.

We are more than happy to have Use Together selected for LAUHCHub, an Eastern-European start-up accelerator. The funding is not bad, to that we add the mentoring sessions and the possibility of engaging with important decision makers in Europe. Since we are curious by nature and appreciate the persistance of UseTogether in structuring a balanced business, we asked Mircea, Co-Founder UseTogether a couple of questions. As always, enjoy! :-)

VC: What does UseTogether do and how did you come up with the idea?

UseTogether is a startup which creates an online community where people borrow, lend and swap various items or services without having to buy them. This concept is part of the growing trend called sharing economy. Our project was born at Startup Weekend Cluj, in February 2012, where we won the competition. We received support in mentoring and office space afterwards from Philipp Kandal (CTO at Skobbler), we managed to launch the beta version in August 2012 and now we have 1000 members in Romania.


VC: UseTogether is based in Cluj-Napoca. Did it inconvenience you in any way? 

It might have been an inconvenient as the startups ecosystem was not that developed last year (2012), so some more support probably would have speeded up our growth. In autumn, a few other Cluj-based startups have been accelerated or got investors, so we had some advice from them and somehow we went on supporting each other. Looking back, I see it like a brotherhood of startups. At this moment, the ecosystem is more developed and we can contribute back with our knowledge gained so far. On the other side, the fact that we were working in our hometown made it easy for us because we had fewer expenses and we were more comfortable. Practically we managed to bootstrap for one year (besides our effort and time invested, the money we’ve taken from our pockets was in low amount).


VC: UseTogether just announced an investment from Bulgarian accelerator LAUNCHub? What do you plan to do next?

On short term we will move to Sofia for a few weeks and enter LAUNCHub’s mentoring system. As far as development goes, we want to grow the community in Romania and the CEE countries, improve the product with all the safety and communication features and clarify the monetization plan. On a longer term, we seek a seed investment which will be needed probably in Autumn 2013 (LAUNCHub’s 200k sum seems promising).


VC: For this session of LAUNCHub, over 200 start-ups from the region applied. What made UseTogether different and better than all other competitors?

First it was the team, we are really committed and motivated and the selection committee saw that. Second, we also had traction and a working platform, so it was a proof of concept. Besides these, we were prepared as we have been in other pitching events. Really important was also the idea and the trend behind it as sharing economy is growing really fast, there is a lot of buzz around and investors saw potential in this trend as a game shifter.


VC: The market UseTogether activates in: shared use of resources and reduce consumerism is fairly new. What’s your secret sauce in comparison to your competition?

The vision! We don’t just want a website which serves the process. We want a community of like-minded people, joining in the principles of sharing for a better world. It’s a connector for these people, where new ties between members can be created (it’s already happening in Cluj) and it’s far better and inspiring than we expected. 


VC: What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

The adventure and the adrenaline, the vision and the causes in which I believe, the stress and the struggle, taking something from scratch, designing it and make it a succeed, the dream of better life in a better world. “Startups aren’t here to change the world, they’re here to save the world


VC: Looking back on your start, what’s one thing you wish you understood about entrepreneurship before you ever got started?

At the beginning we were on shaky grounds, we didn’t know how to grasp it. As a team we were still hesitating and it took a while to get us on track, but I think this also contributed to our current decisiveness and energy. I wish we had these from the beginning. Lesson learned!


VC: If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Have a strong motivation and vision! When [entrepreneur]ship will be shaken by the high waves and storms, you will ask yourself why are you doing this. And if you can’t relate to that strong vision, the first waves will blow you away.


VC: And to end the interview with a smile, how much money do you think I could make if I started a business like yours?

I don’t know how your business would go as it depends on your motivation, mindset and effort. Being an entrepreneur is not about making money as first objective, but it’s to create value and usefulness and then the money will come as a result. I’m not saying that money doesn’t count, it does, a lot. I’m saying that creating a good and valued product has to be stronger than the financial rewards in order to make it a sustainable business on long term.

Venture Connect Foundation announces the launch of AngelConnect community

Venture Connect Foundation launches AngelConnect, the business-angels community that brings together members from Romania and South-East Europe. The initiative launching the community emerged in February 2012, AngelConnect being one of the most important projects for Venture Connect Foundation in 2012.

VentureConnect Foundation, one of the most important initiative from the Romanian entrepreneur environment, announces the launching of AngelConnect, a digital community created for business-angels from Romania and the regions nearby. AngelConnect community represents an extension of the activities developed around VentureConnect events and VentureMentoring mentoring sessions, providing continuity, on a medium and long term, for the direct interactions between entrepreneurs and potential local and nearby investors.

AngelConnect aims to become a platform for connection and communication between the two communities: entrepreneurs and investors and also a growing pylon for IT investments.

“Two years after launching VentureConnect, the first pitching initiative in the IT industry in Romania, we mark another milestone: AngelConnect. Through this project, VentureConnect Foundation addresses entrepreneurs looking for the right investors depending on the development of their business structure and the target audience, being also a community created to educate the Romanian entrepreneur environment and shaping a community of local investors. In the next period, VentureConnect Foundation will develop and expand more the functionality of AngelConnect platform and more functionality and based on community membership criteria the platform will bring together business angels with a real active interest for the support and finance the projects in the region” stated Ana Maria Andronic, founding member of VentureConnect Foundation and Senior Associate in the law firm Biriş Goran.

The network already counted 15 members; some investors are expected to join the initiative in the near future: Andreas Cser – Business Angel, Alexandre Almajeanu – Business Angel, Ciprian Ghețău – Business Angel and  Founder of Black Sea Capital, Maxim Gurvits – Business Angel and co-founder Eleven Accelerator, Gwidon Humeniuk – Business Angel and member in the investment board of Xevin Investments, Eleven Accelerator – Investment fund seed and accelerator, LAUNCHub – Investment fund seed and accelerator, Radu Georgescu – Founding Partner & Chairman GECAD Group, Marius Ghenea – Business Angels and FIT Distribution president, Péter Barta – Business Angel and director of Post Privatizare Foundation, Orlando Nicoară – Business Angel and General Manager Mediafax Group, Mihai Seceleanu – Founderof InternetCorp și Business-angel or Vlad Stan – Co-Founder Geekcelerator and Business-Angel.

“The benefits of the AngelConnect community membershipare numerous, ranging from a depth knowledge of companies needing investment and various investment opportunities with other potential investors, the knowledge of new ways of development in different segments of the IT industry” says Marius Ghenea, Business Angel and member of the  VentureConnect board.”

More information about AngelConnect and how an investor becomes a member of the community on the website: www.angelconnect.ro.

Venture Connect scheduled for 27 November

One of the most notable initiatives in Romania and Eastern Europe, Venture Connect reached its sixth edition, being organized on 27th November for the first time in the heart of the Romanian entrepreneurial community, the HUB Bucharest. Venture Connect is the first Romanian initiative that periodically brings together a number of pre-screened entrepreneurial teams from the IT/Internet/Technology sector with potential investors in order to maximize and ensure direct business interactions.

Entrepreneurs who want to present their businesses in front of some of the most important investors in Romania and SEE can submit their projects until Friday, November 16th by filling in the Application Form.

VentureConnect is a project in which we had confidence from the get go, and after two years from its official launch, through the efforts of my colleagues in the VentureConnect Foundation, we intend to surpass ourselves with each edition. So far, VentureConnect facilitated two venture investments and also paved the way for over 70 Romanian businesses to the investor’s community,” mentioned Orlando Nicoară, General Manager Mediafax Group and VentureConnect Board Member.

VentureConnect, the first initiative in Romania that brings together entrepreneurs and potential investors from the IT / Online / Technology sector, has evolved over the past year from a match-making event type to an entire platform of support for entrepreneurs, helping in identifying new funding, business and mentoring opportunities. In 2012, together with VentureConnect, the Foundation organized four Venture Mentoring sessions, other eight meetings being scheduled for the rest of the year. Venture Mentoring is a program of monthly sessions between entrepreneurs who need mentoring and business counseling and VentureConect Board members or other guests, who use their experience and knowledge to guide and advise the entrepreneurial community.

“Unlike other VentureConnect editions, for this autumn event we already have two entries which demonstrates that the platform we have built is a very effective investment in a Romanian entrepreneurial community that is becoming stronger and even more active”, mentions Dragoș Rouă, online entrepreneur and member of the VentureConnect Board.

Apart from VentureConnect and the Venture Mentoring sessions, in October this year the VentureConnect Foundation will launch Angel Connect, a digital community targeting business-angels and VCs, the first of its kind in Romania and South-Eastern Europe, focusing on the education and growth of the local investment branch.

In the five VentureConnect meetings so far, 60 companies pitched their business plan in front of over 200 potential investors; with close to 1000 participants involved in the entrepreneurial community.

“In May 2012, VentureConnect attracted 37 companies with rapid growth from Romania, Bulgaria and Silicon Valley, with over 40 potential investors interested in the Technology, IT and Online sector. This autumn, projecting on the high interest for VentureConnect and relying on the strong positive feedback received for the last meeting, we built the concept of the event around entrepreneurs, so that those who deliver presentations can find their originality and free spirit in front of an audience that is usually extremely demanding” adds Alexandra Dumitru, Project Manager VentureConnect.

Good Momming: Or how tech can bring the best parenting in you!

Two weeks ago we were announcing that a promising Romanian startup: Good Momming! is looking for new colleagues. Although being a good mommy is not part of my next 5 years marketing plan, I loved the idea so much that I asked Cristian — Founder & CEO Good Momming! — a couple of questions. As always, enjoy! :-)

1. What is Good Momming! and how did you come up with the idea?

Good Momming! is an personal app that assists parents with their baby’s development, in the first years of life. Starting with the feeding process, Good Momming! analyses the baby’s characteristics and gives parents specific recommendations, based on their little one’s specific needs and preferences. We know that every child behaves differently. So everything from healthy choices and new foods to get inspired with, to a daily lactation schedule or the ability to plan perfectly balanced menus is adapted to the baby’s preferences and behaviour.  And we’ll do it all both mobile and in real time.

The idea started to emerge about one and a half years ago. I was working with Bogdan, one of my co-founders on his parenting project and part of our work was in talking to moms and understanding the challenges they face during the first 3 years of their baby’s life. We then discovered the main issue was that each child behaves differently and all the information available must be adapted to his/her specific behavior. New parents lack the know how and experience and moms have trouble in trusting their decisions based on the maternal gut feeling.

So we started to do research and data analysis, talked with a lot of moms, scouted forums, did tests, partnered with nutritionists and pediatricians, discovered that the problem is global and now here we are, trying to pursue the solutions. We still have a lot to learn and we’re eager to do that.

2. Like the concept, so we need to know the team. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your colleagues?

The core team is awesome. We’re about 10 and we cover the main areas that we’re interested on. Customer and product development, medical, research and algorithms. We work on several verticals and we measure progress on each one. The main focus is on learning. And with previous experience in parenting and business from the founding team( the two Bogdans and Dan) we’re constantly adapting the things we learn to our incremental progress.

About me, there’s not much to tell. I’m constantly adapting to be able to pursue innovation on big global markets. A huge believer in great teams and scalability. In the past, I’ve tried to disrupt the Romanian travel space. Great lessons learned from there. Also co-founded an agency on brand research, based in Bucharest and backed by the EU.

3. What’s Good Momming’s business model?

We consider two options regarding our business model.

The main revenue stream would be charging customers for access to the platform and its features based on a subscription based model. When analyzing the market and calculating the ROI for a single family that uses the product for a single year we discovered that we have an efficiency boost of up to 80% when it comes to saving money. Liberating parents from the hassle process of adapting the information to their particular needs is a great thing.

We also consider to offer the product for free to the end users (parents). This way the adoption would be faster and at a larger scale. We would generate revenue from other verticals, such as big data analysis and interpretation. There is a big opportunity to do so, because when talking to other organizations serving the same market, especially the governmental ones, we saw that the need for tangible and actionable data is enormous.

4. At the moment, you’re looking for new team members. Have you found them?

We’re looking to expand the development team and accelerate the development process. We’re still searching, we found some people but we’re not in the point in which we can say stop. So if you know anyone who’s willing to work in a start up, feel free to recommend.

5. Any competition out there? If so, what makes Good Momming! unique?

The way we see it right now, competition is a bit mixed up. Our competitors are actually an array of niches: (1) all major parenting sites that currently do their job very well; (2) all experienced mom blogs/guest blogs that have a huge power over

The soon-to-be-mommies and last but not least is (3) each mom in particular. You can never compete with the maternal gut feeling that each woman has over protecting their little one. We’re overcoming this with a structured plan to educate newer moms on how important is to leverage and educate that feeling. This is why we’re trying to have as many pediatricians, nutritionists and experienced moms on board and involved. We differentiate by positioning our product as an AI system. And we’re also trying to make Good Momming! as a complementary tool for every expert out there. It is very important for create a symbiosis between parents, children and healthcare professionals.

6. Good luck at TechCrunch Disrupt. How have you prepared and what do you expect from this event?

You can only think you’re prepared, you never know the reality until you experience it. We’ll be demoing all day and pitching everyone. The main purpose is to get out there and get feedback. There’s a lot of start ups there, some with general consumer markets bigger than ours, but I think we have a chance to be the public choice award and get on stage. Even if we like it or not, Good Momming! has and needs a lot of research behind. We need to accelerate that process before running our of money so we’ll probably need external capital to do that. If ever in need of money, there’s “smart money” that we’re looking for. Silicon Valley is a great place to get feedback on that too and see how investors value your strategy alongside with your team and product.

7. Considering pitching your business at Venture Connect? What do you expect from such a business interaction?

We’re thinking about it. We just saw that the registration process opened. Venture Connect is a good experience for every young entrepreneur. And the opportunity is on both sides. I think that through events like this one, investors could better understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Romania and develop new ways to act and improve on that. I think Romanian entrepreneurs need guidance and something to validate that their “big thinking” is correct.

8. We always like to end the session by giving the entrepreneur the floor. Any other detail you wish to mention and we have not asked?

There’s a long way ahead. We’ve just peeled the surface. Wish us good luck. That’s important.


StartUp vs. Corporate

It is not the first time that you hear of amazing managers leaving the quiet, steady life of the corporate world and joining the hectic, dynamic and highly active startup life. Most likely, all entrepreneurs start off as skilled employees. And for Romania, choosing an entrepreneur mindset it has become very probable: according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, in 2010 the number of entrepreneurs with ages between 18 and 24 grew by 5 percents in comparison to 2007. The same entrepreneurship desire is noticed in the age group of 25-44.

Entrepreneurship is about creating a new business and, as such, delivering new value to customers. The journey from the corporate world to the startup one might seem simple to some, but applying what one learned in the corporate environment to the startup scene may not bring the same results a startup manager expects. Then, what makes entrepreneurship so appealing?

1. Create a market / niche / need

Entrepreneurs must create a new business that delivers new customer value. In other words, an entrepreneur must create a new business model. So, instead of maintaining an already recognized product or market, entrepreneurs should focus on innovation, creation and the desire to inoculate a new need in the dedicated market. The mindset of creating something truly innovative in a market that is blooming or that one has created brings entrepreneurs that willing drive to deliver. In the same tone, entrepreneurs take pride and joy in creating new solutions to problems they have not experienced before.

2. The 3 Rs: Responsibility, Risk, Recognition

In a startup, one has to charge and answer to oneself: product ideas, write code, test and plan product launches. This implies tremendous business and managing responsibility. Taking on the lead of a self-sustained business will put the entrepreneur in a position of higher impact, value and business credibility. In the ideal case, if one does an amazing job, the entire business, the company, be it large or small, and customers will benefit from it all. On the flip side, if an entrepreneur lacks business genius, the entire company suffers. Working in a startup is a risk, but if the written plan goes full proof in real life as well, so do the merits and recognition of an entrepreneur.

3. No tie, black suit or HR long meetings

They do not call it a “lean” startup for nothing – working in a startup is more flexible, fun and creative than any other type of job, be it corporate or not. Let’s face it: one does not have to wear a suit unless a meeting with a high-end VC is scheduled. Of course, there are no late meetings with the HR department to test that your business interests are with the company, nor the monthly gift pack. Just as in any environment, a startup office has the same level or organization as a larger company, with people carrying on certain responsibilities and making sure there is always coffee in the cabinet. But in the end, the atmosphere is not that pretentious and the entire team is driven by one goal: making it big!

4. Diversity

Working in a startup brings a new set of business and living conditions. When running your own business, one has to make ends meet and adjust wisely. Being diverse with expenses and learning to adapt to doing it all, from dishes to code, is part of the entrepreneurial way of life. In time, one might learn to discover the joy of creating and doing than consuming.

It is not effortless to be an entrepreneur, as most definitely working in a corporate structure is not at an easy rate. What makes one more appealing than the other? To me, it is clearly a question of choice and responsibility. In both cases, corporate and startup, the job is demanding, results are expected and innovation is commended upon.

More than 40 investors interested in Romanian start-ups

VentureConnect, one of the notable programs in the Romanian business environoment, targeting entrepreneurs of the IT, Online, Technology areas, will be bringing them together with 40 confirmed investors for the Venture Connect event, on 31st of May, at Intercontinental Hotel, Bucharest. Entrepreneurs can submit thier projects until the end of this week, on 20th of May.

VentureConnect, the initiative that started in 2010, reached its fifth edition. The entrepreneurs interested to present thier business in front of over 40 investors from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary or Poland can submit thier projects until 20th of May. Along with the traditional pitching event, the second part of the day will host a conference dedicated to Romanian investors, interested in supporting entreprenorial start-ups in the IT, Online, Technology areas: Angel Connect.

Among the confirmed investors who will attend the event, we mention: Andreas Cser (Director of Fraser Finance), Alexis Bonte (CEO eRepublik Labs Limited), Ondrej Bartos (Partner & Chairman of the Board at Credo Ventures), Gwidon Humeniuk (Member of the Board at Xevin Investments), Maxim Gurvits (New Europe Corporate Advisory) along with other Romanian business-angels.

“A company’s success is based on its project development, its business objectives, as well as fully understanding the targeted market. As technology or business planning can be learned, mentored or even bought, the project developed by entrepreneurs has the experimental value: it involves several try-outs, failures or multiple repositioning strategies. But, in order to shape a scalable business that’s locally and internationally appreciated, the entrepreneurs need a mature business environment. I am happy to be seeing a stable and growing market in South-East Europe, especially in Bucharest and also in Bulgaria” says Maxim Gurvits, Investment Banking Associate la New Europe Corporate Advisory.

Until now, two major investments were granted:  in 2011, TJOBS.ro project. an online recruiting platform that was supported by Andreas Cser (business-angel Frasier Finance), Alexis Bonte and Post-Privatization Foundation and BITTNET Systems, a leading project in the Network Training market in Romania,  who announced in the beginning of 2011 the investment of Răzvan Căpăţînă, Romanian business-angel.

“We are very happy with all the start-up projects that were submitted, from the first Venture Connect event in 2010 to the most recent ones for the event on 31st of May. Together with the Venture Connect Board members, we’re doing our best to bring to Bucharest investors interested in the local entrepreneurial market and to facilitate the development of local business to become internationally recognized” declared Ana-Maria Andronic, Senior Associate at Biriş Goran, co- founder member of VentureConnect Foundation.

The Venture Connect spring edition is supported by Allegro Group Romania, part of the international media group Naspers and the Post-Privatization Foundation (FPP).