This interview was contributed by Denes Lenard. He is the co-founder at the web agency Webfoo and passionate about entrepreneurship.
Vlad, let me first introduce you – you are one of those people who support the business environment in Cluj Napoca. You have built different business communities and now you have organized the first Startup Weekend in the city. Can you give an overview of the event?
Thanks for reaching out to me. Let me start with a few words about Startup Weekend. It is a non-profit based in Seattle, Washington that organizes 54-hour events in cities around the world, all of which help educate, support, and empower people to become entrepreneurs. I have brought Startup Weekend to Cluj-Napoca because I know that our community will be strengthened and become more integrated because of this event. At this event we had 90+ participants, 24 ideas pitched and 11 teams formed.
90+ participants is quite a few for Cluj Napoca. People must have been awaiting such an event with a lot of eagerness. How did the participants feel before and after the event?
Quite a few I would say, as well. Honestly, our initial expectations were for 60 participants, but had a good push with meetups and presentations before the event. The people were more than eager to find out more and did so in large numbers, which is why we had to close the registration 3 days before the event.
Also, after the event we had a meetup to find out more about the status of the participating projects. You can find information about the first three teams here.
What do you think are the best things that the participants of an event like this bring to the table and what do you think are their main vulnerable areas?
The best things about the participants were their enthusiasm, ideas, and the energy to create things. In some of the participants you could see the lack of experience and need of guidance, but that is exactly what they received by working together and being guided by mentors.
How did you find the mentors for the program and what were the criteria for selecting them?
Most of the mentors were personal connections of mine and my fellow organizers, and we selected them due to their extensive business and entrepreneurial experience. Combined, we had mentors with companies that have over 1000 people employed and more than 50 million in revenues.
What were the general impresions of the mentors about the proposed projects?
The mentors were impressed with the level of energy shown by the participants and the hard work they’ve put up. They elected the winners based on the project’s business model, customer validation, and execution. Also, the mentors were impressed with the teams because they presented a minimum viable product.
Can you give us an outlook on how this event will impact the startup scene in Cluj in the medium run, and what is next?
I expect several startups that came out of this weekend to continue working and building the products they have started. Similar initiatives have already appeared and we are definitely going to organize another Startup Weekend Cluj edition next year.
What are your hopes for the startups of the region?
I think that a better collaboration and communication should form between startup initiatives in the Central and Eastern Europe, maybe in a platform, contributing this way to everyone’s success.