Meet the CxO


Meet the CxO – Codruț CHERESTEȘ, CEO at DosiTracker

Meet the CxO – Codruț CHERESTEȘ, CEO at DosiTracker

Codruţ Cheresteş is a physicist-entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the field of ionizing radiation, founder of one of the companies of reference in Romania. Acknowledging that the value of a business is given by the quality of the people working for it, Codruț promotes competence and integrity, trust and respect, as principles underlying any action, raising the quality standard in individual dosimetry and gaining recognition at the level European. In 2015, Codruţ sold the leading market company he built to an international corporation and made the exit in 2017 to meet new challenges. His new “challenge” is called radon and is related to the health level of the population and employees as a result of their exposure to indoor radon at home or in the workplace. Although the impact of radon on health is in the attention of the European Commission since the early 1990s, monitoring of radon in Romania is a new field, with specific legislation being adopted only this summer. Thus, in a market that is only in the making and where the level of information about radon oscillate between ”shocking”news and ignorance, this new project calls for involvement, passion and responsibility, that is, those values that Codruţ has always been building on. He is also a member of the European Radiation Dosimetry Group and the European Radon Association, actively involved in the harmonization of procedures specific to the field of radiation dosimetry.

 

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

Being an entrepreneurial doctor in physics, after the exit from the company that I built into market leader in the regulated business of dosimetry, I embarked on a new journey called radon, the no. 1 cause of pulmonary cancer among non-smokers according to the American Cancer Society. Radon is a worldwide important topic for decades and starting 2013 it’s being standardized and regulated by the European Commission into the EURATOM Basic Safety Standards (BSS) Directive 59 that has to be applied to all European Union (EU) Member States. The health risks of long-term radon exposure are not widely known in Romania and even less the necessary steps towards radon mitigation. So, in a way we are the Evangelists of the matter, concentrating our efforts into increasing the public awareness, especially the one of the authorities and local decision makers.

What drives you each day?

The passion for science, but most of all for the way we can translate it into the benefit of professionals and general public.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

There are three values that are guiding both my life and the way I do business: passion, involvement and responsibility.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

My academic evolution was quite sinuous and it was hard to find my way, at some point made me feel like I was in caught in a vicious circle from which I strongly felt the need to get out. I had the feeling that I was stuck in the mud or that I was missing the boat, all of which made me more determined about what I had to do. This engine kept me going to this day.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

I do, quite often I would say. I like to discover and enjoy remote places that are  not on every tourist wish-list, preferably where there’s no GSM signal.

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

Dune, Frank Herbert

 Education – classic or alternative? Both?

Both.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)

DosiTracker is a Romanian start-up that offers top integrated solutions for monitoring the radiation exposure of the health and industry professionals in their work environments, for both domestic and international clients. Currently, the core business of DosiTracker is represented by RadonAir, the brand that encompasses the intelligent solutions we offer for radon monitoring in samples of air, water and soil.

At RadonAir we developed a smart solution for indoor radon monitoring that is currently testing in a pilot conducted in some selected locations in different cities. RadonAir is the  proud partner of Alba Iulia City Hall in the Alba Iulia Smart City project, our solution being one of the +100 smart solutions implemented in which we are actively monitoring the indoor levels of radon in three different public buildings.

We are now concentrating to extend our pilot in few other cities apart from Alba Iulia and Bucharest (where we are currently present) so that we have a compelling and reliable showcase for all local authorities and private businesses that need to comply with the new set of regulations set in place this spring (Law no. 63/12.04.2018).

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

Since we are at the beginning, everything we do in relation to our latest passion, radon, is as exciting and beloved.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)

Our smart solution for indoor radon monitoring that is aggregating in real-time the data gathered from our radon detectors and sends it to the building administrator, manager or employer to improve wellbeing and increase productivity by easily monitoring serious indoor air pollutants. Everything via RadonAir Dashboard, mobile app and an API option available for corporate use. This way, you are able to have a constant remote control of the radon levels in your building or workplace by getting automated alarms each time the average level of radon set to 300 Bq/m3 is breached.

What was the biggest struggle?

To detach myself from my previous business.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise?

As far as we know, RadonAir is the first private company offering integrated solutions for indoor radon monitoring in Romania along with being the exclusive provider of top detection and measurement equipments offered by renowned European companies.

Who is the biggest innovator for you?

Nikola Tesla

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

To not allow people who say ‘it’s not possible’ to influence their business decisions.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

To become profitable and include at least 5 big clients in our portfolio.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Our vision is to become the reference company in raising the standard of protection against indoor exposure to radon both in the private and business environments with a company value of minimum 5 M euro.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

With our RadonAir App solution we use a variety of devices from the IoT area to collect data, being capable of communicating with the full range of smart radon detectors in our portfolio. By joining Smart Alliance we can only add our knowledge and expertise in a rather niche business to the assets of the other members, having in the same time the benefit of the synergies that can spring from other businesses that are at the beginning of the road like us.

How does it benefit you?

In this centennial year, I would quote few verses from ‘Hora Unirii’

Unde-i unul nu-i putere…

Unde-s doi, puterea crește…

(Where is one there is no strength…

Where is two the strength grows…)

Smart Alliance is the glue that binds different gems together into the most valuable piece of jewelry and, in the same time, it is the centerpiece that presents the jewelry to the world.

In other words, together, we are stronger!

How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

As active ‘sharers’ of our particular expertise among members of the cluster and ‘gainers’ of more experience and credibility in the innovation technology area that is fundamental to our business positioning.

 


People of Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster – Dana BUTUC

People of Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster – Dana BUTUC

When you picture Dana, you picture the energy of observation, of taking notice, of experiencing life. Dana is consciously making attention the first and foremost important gift from her to you and everything else comes after.

Why did you choose this company to work?

I choose this company because it presented the opportunity to work on various challenging projects and within an young and professional team.

Who’s the biggest innovator for you?

In my opinion, Elon Musk is the biggest innovator of our time. As a young child he always dreamed of going into space and following that dream resulted into SpaceX, a company that revolutionized the space industry.

What project made you proud of your work?

My favorite project was the implementation of AvanDoc for the City Hall District 5. It was a big challenge for me and my team because we had to teach 250 employees to use the platform.

If an outsider were to look at your team, what would they say?

Commitment for delivering quality.

What was the biggest struggle your team had to overcome?

Conflict between users of different departments is always a big struggle to work with. By trying to facilitate a healthy discussion in wich all the parties are heard  and make each user feel that he or she has been given a fair chance to present his or her oppinion is the approach that worked.

If God would ask you to build an app, what do you think it would be?

A CRM, because God has a lot to work with.


Meet the CxO – Mihai “Mike” Drăghici, CEO Techsource

Meet the CxO – Mihai “Mike” Drăghici, CEO Techsource

Mihai ”Mike” Drăghici is a serial entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience turning ideas into products and launching startups in several countries including USA, Canada, Romania, Mexico, and India. He has founded over 15 companies that range from sole proprietorship in smaller local markets to several limited liability partnerships and corporations doing business across the United States. He has two provisional patents on proprietary technology for a mobile dispatching terminal used in taxis, a lottery gaming system for non-banked markets and a non-provisional application submitted for a luggage tracking device. He also has filed a US trademark on “PayByFace” (a face recognition payment processing platform). He is also a full stack senior software engineer and system architect with many years of experience working on enterprise cloud platforms, mobile apps, databases, web services, front office applications, business intelligence systems, ML/AI & data science, scalability and performance frameworks.

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

I recently returned to Bucharest in February 2018 after living in the USA for the past 35 years. I’ve been working in the technology sector as a software engineer and serial entrepreneur for over 18 years and it was very logical to start my first company in Bucharest as a technology service provider. Tech Source Consulting SRL will be the technology base and IT consulting for all the other incubator companies I have already started building here in Bucharest which focuses on disruptive fintech solutions, legal system software, enterprise risk management, entertainment networks, advertising networks, robotics & automation, B2C and B2B marketplace applications.

What drives you each day?

I love turning ideas into real products and services that solve problems, are disruptive and innovative. I’ve launched startups in several countries including Mexico, Canada, USA, India and now Romania. I enjoy all the innovation challenges and process inefficiencies that a new market presents when legacy systems can’t keep up with trends in society, human resource demand and infrastructure scalability problems. There will always be problems to solve and as an engineer this keeps me going every day.

What do you believe are the three main accomplishments that brought you here today?

In winter of 2017 I decided to sell all my property in Seattle, Washington and find a new investment venture for 2018. I closed the deal on my 40-acre property in western Washington and sold my sailboat and three cars. I also quit my job as senior engineer for Vertafore and was at a point where I could do anything I want next. I decided to buy a plane ticket to Bucharest and the rest is history…

What do you believe are the three main failures that brought you here today?

Going back to the situation in Seattle, the primary failure that guided me to come to Bucharest was that Vertafore decided to move their headquarters to Denver, Colorado and so over 80% of the Seattle headquarter staff was laid off, asked to relocate, or be part of the elite few who got to remain there. I was part of the elite few who was asked to stay behind but I wasn’t ok with the situation and therefore I decided to resign. The second failure which guided me to choose a new adventure in Europe was that my investment property to build an off-grid resort and vineyard in western Washington was becoming too challenging and too expensive to keep building and I decided to list it for sale and it sold right in time. The third failure which motivated me to fly to Romania was a strategic partnership with a VC firm that didn’t have sales traction in the initial phases while I was advising them on their enterprise technology solutions and architecture strategy for their portfolio companies and product offerings, so I decided to end that joint venture and look for something new.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

Yes, absolutely. I like watching movies with my girlfriend and going on road trips on the weekends. We travel every chance we get, and we’ve already been to Italy this summer and she has shown me many places throughout Romania including the mountainside and the coastline and several castles and lots of sightseeing. But because I love what I do and have so many different projects and startups even work is not really work. There is a saying that when you love what you do it’s not work anymore, and it becomes fun!

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

I actually don’t read very much surprisingly. Since I write code as a programmer I try to stay away from “words” when I close my laptop at the end of the day. I prefer to be outdoors and gain knowledge purely from real experiences and from deep conversations with other smart people.

Education – classic or alternative? Both?

I didn’t obtain a degree and dropped out of school because my career took off at an early age and I was already learning more at my job than they were teaching in school and I was getting paid for it. So, it was an easy choice to choose “work experience” over school and I’m grateful I made this choice, especially because I’ve followed a serial entrepreneurship path in life and I believe having the freedom to explore ideas without judgments or direction and learning from multiple failures is perhaps a more advantageous and a more robust “educational system” in the long run.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on.

I’ve had many clients in the past 18+ years since I’ve been doing business in the tech space in several countries around the world.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for.

My most noteworthy client here in Bucharest right now is Société General – European Business Services and I was selected to be part of their Catalyst 3.0 Accelerator program this year.

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.

I’d like to start with the most beloved project – PaybyFace. Its meant to make electronic payments with biometric means, in this case using facial recognition through a simple selfie. Although worldwide technology has allowed this for several years, such projects have not been outlined in Romania for the time being. From the start, PaybyFace was an application designed to scale and be deployed in many industries. For example, in retail,  I even started testing in beta, how a customer enters the supermarket, makes his purchases and then stays at a home where he can pay for himself, only through a selfie, then at that special house to receive discounts for making the payment in this way.

Another project ARTFIRST, which made me be creative and innovative in the same time. The purpose is to build a community of highly creative people and sets the stage for everyone to experience an art exhibit of original paintings, sculptures, photography and poetry alongside the artists who created them. ARTFIRST events happen in the capital city of Bucharest, Romania renown for its European and International art museums and art galleries that attract visitors from across the country and tourists from around the World. The appetite for art in the city is prevalent all the way from the endless graffiti in the streets to the National Art Museum’s one-of-a-kind collections and famous masterpieces. ARTFIRST gives artists a unique opportunity to shine in the spotlight at our art exhibits in different locations around town on the first Saturday of every month. Artists get a chance to stand by their creations, meet the audience face to face and talk to potential buyers during the silent auction events.

What was the biggest struggle?

Selling off my majority shares in a digital marketing company I built over three years back in 2011 in Seattle to my business partners.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise?

I have several companies and each one is unique with the solution, services and product offerings. I typically launch incubator startups in the disruptive tech space and I try to provide cutting-edge innovation to solve real problems. This strategy and vision usually put me ahead of my competition and sometimes I have no competition at all depending on the market I choose to launch in.

How are your products innovative?

I solve complex problems using a combination of existing, well-defined solutions from other sub-problems in order to achieve real innovation with a simple and easy to understand methodological process for the consumer/client.

Who is the biggest innovator for you?

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

Don’t be afraid to fail, learn to negotiate and get what you want, hire a good accountant and a good attorney.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

Raise seed funding for any one of my Bucharest incubator startups.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Build a unicorn company in Romania. (billion valuation)

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

The people in the group I met with are in the same business mindset as me and their openness and willingness to help you succeed is priceless. Choosing your partners in business is critical to the level of success that you can achieve and my choice with Smart Alliance aligns with my company goals and my vision & culture.

How does it benefit you?

To gain more exposure in the local and global marketplace and to build my network of influence to achieve the goals I’ve set for my company growth trajectory into 2019 and beyond.

How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

A mutual beneficial relationship.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

This group of smart individuals and the intellectual property they all bring creates a true potential for future growth and builds a force to break our limiting barriers, expedite solutions for all our customers, and deliver the highest quality products and services in the marketplace with the constant changing landscape from technology impacting our society year after year.

 


Meet the CxO – Șerban CONSTANTINESCU, Managing Partner QWERTY Solutions

Meet the CxO – Șerban CONSTANTINESCU, Managing Partner QWERTY Solutions

Serban is a man of few words that likes action more than talking. He doesn’t seem to be the reincarnation of the true leader’s definition either. What he really is good at is to delegate tasks and thus helping his employees develop. Staying at the same U-shaped desk with his team, he is the kind of managing partner that most of the time talks on the phone with clients or potential clients, but is always there if someone needs help. This is how he managed to gather around him people that want to develop and are passionate about that they do. He built a bustling organizational culture around the idea of being yourself. The employees are laughing, slacking, hard and devoted workers, and geeks (that destroyed a printer to take its parts and reassemble it in something else).

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

QWERTY Solutions was born in 2006 based on the idea that outsourcing will become the next big thing in the Romanian IT market. Inside QWERTY we do what we learned – administration of IT infrastructure, design, consultancy, among others. It took us around 5 years to understand the market and see what it needs, thus only in 2011 we started to develop the business lines that we are working on till this day. We walked an extra mile and developed an e-mail marketing platform because we saw what the Romanian market needed it and for which we received great feedback. As we have operational expertise and an ITIL education we started to implement full systems of ITIL management and we have special customers for it.

What drives you each day?
The sheer pleasure of doing something new each day. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is true. We’re lucky that we managed to enter a market that is challenging. In the same time, we learn new things almost daily. We all know that the IT market’s patron saint is Hermes, but that adds up to something invaluable – experience. Thus, we are constantly improving, coming up with solutions that will benefit our clients and in the same time to our employees.

Which are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you where are today?
There are three that come to mind, in no particular order, as all helped me develop, improve, and made my team to grow.
The first one is the fact that I’ve managed to do what I love and surprisingly I’m very good at (laughs). Becoming an entrepreneur was hard bit. Like many, I started in an apartment and only the fact that I am truly passionate about what I do kept me afloat when things were rough.
The second one is the fact that I successfully earned the trust of the people with whom I worked, clients or employees alike. My clients trust my decisions and they know that all what we do is meant to work without a hitch. If by misfortune there is a hitch, thanks to our monitoring systems, we can spot it making their business to run smoothly 24/7. On the other hand, my team is certain I am always acting for their benefit, even when I’m pushing them, as I’m just trying to get them to become a better programmer. We may argue, but at the end of the day they know I do it for them and for the team. Which, ultimately, is the same thing. Perhaps the fact that I’m a human being and not a boss (laughs) made them stick around for so long. When we have a not-so-busy-day we like to play, taking different hardware apart just to put it back again. Honestly, I believe that this is actually what makes them come here, each morning, with a big smile on their faces – and that is the most important thing for me.
The third and the most important – my family. I have 2 little boys that inherited my love for crafting things. After work or in weekends we spend time together building things. Or crashing them.

Which are the 3 main failures that brought you where are today?

The lack of courage to move faster. I’m the type of person that has to do everything perfect. I hesitated when it was to launch certain IT solutions because I thought they were not good enough and it didn’t seem fair to put them on the market before I was 101% sure satisfied with the result. It drives me nuts when I see similar ideas coming on the market but in a more precarious state than what we’ve thought about. That was the point where I realized the need for feedback.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?
Yes, I do. You have to disconnect from your work and routine otherwise you can’t step back in order to observe things from a distance. How do I do it? Weekends are weekends. I am not to be bothered with office problems. I go to the mountains, I walk, I chop woods for winter and in my basement, I have a turning machine. Now I am in the process of building my own 3D printer.

Education – classic or alternative? Both?
I’m an advocate for classic education, with a touch of self-education. The basis to build upon is given by what you’ve learned in school, but the wings are built solely by you. You cannot expect the school to give you anything but the foundation, so you have to put some hard work into it. The most important thing is to start doing this on your initiative.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)
What we do is to deliver services – server administration or website, software implementation and more. We have over 30 clients, all happy clients, and you have to understand that for us there is no such a thing as a big or a small client. We see our services as something that has to work, regardless of the size of the contract. Each and every client is important.

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.
Not the projects, but the operational services made us famous on the market. The reliability and quality of our services proved to our customers that they can count on what we deliver. ITC has to function smoothly, once it is implemented and it shouldn’t be patched once every week. That’s why most of our turnover is on services, rather than projects.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)
Each client is different. Creativity comes when measuring personalized services against controllable and guaranteed quality standards and the solution you put forward is the most beneficial cost vs performance.
10. What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise
QWERTY Solutions offers services that are quality-verifiable. Our clients will never have to worry and you get what you paid for. Regardless if it’s basic or complex, what you’ve asked for or what you needed is delivered to you and it is guaranteed to work.

How are your services innovative?
In our line of work the innovation is to anticipate the needs of the client and to offer him a solution in a certain standard of controllable and measurable quality that you can guarantee. Our services are standard and the way we deliver them it is the same. Our innovation comes by something more basic – proactivity. We are careful when analyzing the needs and the expectations of the customer. Needs and expectations are not necessarily the same. This is where the innovation is born and where we manage to make that big difference even though we are a small company.

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?
First of all – do your homework. Study what you want to do and see what is the market for it. Once you know what is your thing, be determined. Don’t give up at the first hurdle and do not listen to each and every opinion preached to you. Always be determined on what you want.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
I want to grow my business, there is nothing else (laughs)

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
I want that QWERTY’s achievements to receive the recognition they deserve on the Romanian market.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?
It is an opportunity to grow our businesses together. It is a small cooperative of small companies that have much more to gain together than each one by oneself.
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How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?
Until the cluster will have a product of its own, I do not believe that me or my company, or others for that matter, will bring something to the cluster. Until this happens, we are strictly a bunch of managing partners that run a cluster.
How do you see the evolution of the cluster?
I believe it can prove, if it didn’t do it already, that people can work together for a higher purpose.


Meet the CxO – Marius PANĂ, CEO Spearhead

Meet the CxO – Marius PANĂ, CEO Spearhead

A nerd by definition, an american by philosophy, a Romanian by heart, Marius is a  multicultural blend of ideas and values, partly because he lived in USA for half of his life. He sees opportunity where there is not, and has an relentless source of energy when it comes to successfully accomplishing an idea. He identifies himself with the concept of high-performance and lives by it. A gamer with a desire to change the face of the Romanian IT industry, he never actually passed over the line of being a soldier in the front lines. Even though he leads his own company, he still gets his ”hands dirty” every time he has the possibility, that’s how he created a feedback loop, a technology that made employees from Amazon and Google struck with awe.

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

In 2001 I came back to Romania from the United States and in 2004 I started my own IT company. My parents moved right after the fall of the communism and I spent my childhood in the USA. When I came back I had a sudden realization that IT services we’re not yet a professional service here.  Back then the mentality was something like,” everyone has a neighbor that knows computers”. There wasn’t this proficiency that we like to brag about. So, I entered in this game because I realized my knowledge could mean something – infrastructure administration with more complex technologies that despite the fact that these technologies were being used, they didn’t have so much impact. So, in 2004 I started like many other IT firms – with a desire to do things as they should be, but with no straight direction.

Without any strategy but with a drive that made us feel we could accomplish everything, I managed to land some clients that could almost touch this energy. The biggest downside to this is that we did lots of things from a bunch of different fields and that soon became a difficult to manage. I soon came to the conclusion that it did not represent me anymore because over the years I started to develop as well, to become better on a certain type of technology, with more clearer concepts, methodologies and so on.

So we started fresh. In 2010 we took the decision, in 2011 we implemented the strategy. The company I had shut down, we made a screening over the clients and we reduced from 7-8 business lines to only 3 but very, very focused and we started to build. The concept was Spearhead, as the name of the actual company, and we wanted and we still do, to be on the front line with modern, advanced and open technologies.

  • The most important thing is to be modern. Nowadays you have to be able to shift with ease from one technology to another, and the legacy ones do not allow you to have this mobility. At the same time, I’m extremely interested in how the methodology is applied and how it brings you the results you wanted.
  • Advanced because the concepts are pretty complex. What is easy is already done by others. There is no place for us. We have to do the hard stuff.
  • Last but not least, open source. Somewhere inside myself is a hippie that is very keen on things to be open source. I am very convinced about a single thing – in IT we managed to be where we are because of open source. How you see me right now and everything that is around you I managed to learn and do these things because some other fellows said “no, what I write, what I think, belongs to the community”. If they wouldn’t have been like that, I wouldn’t have been able to be here. So, I truly believe in this and I hope we can make some good with it.

What drives you each day?

The concept of high-performance. If you do a search on Google you will find a ton of materials on marketing, self-motivating, habits and what not. Some are very sad because you can see they are made only to make you feel better and to sell. I believe in another type of high performance that doesn’t have all this blabber – the one that I apply has ups and downs, it’s the real life as you feel it and how it actually is as a matter of fact. Its not like in the American movies where everything is going to be pretty in the end. There are days where you just watch the clock waiting to go home, and there are others when you do not know how to make the time stop. The whole concept of high performance means to know that life gives you lemons and honey and you must be prepared to manage everything, in one way or another but to always focus on getting things done.

This is especially something I learned while I was in the USA. While I lived there, we were fairly poor. All of us had to work hard to survive. That’s because their system is very well built –if you work, you are rewarded, if you work harder, you get bigger rewards, regardless if it means physical or intellectual work. I came back with this mind-set and this ambition to do things, to always get things done and we can feel it, as a company, that if we work hard results will come.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

Probably, when we get older we remember more about our childhood and what formed us.

I remember my first job, as a newspaper delivery boy. At 5AM the pile of newspapers would come, I had to pack them up, put them in a bag and I started to deliver. I remember that I would get quite consistent tips. Let’s be straight – my salary was next to nothing, but there were some pensionaries that were very nice and they would tip me. I remember that each one of them had some special method of how they wanted their newspaper delivered. Thanks to this experience, I could figure out that if I take into consideration the personal needs of those to whom I deliver the newspapers I will have that human  touch and appreciation of the client and this is a universal truth applicable even now with all the technology and a much higher scale of doing business.

Persistence – you must be persistent and always have to work hard. I always wanted a business that will explode and I would be a billionaire overnight. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but who knows. What we are now doing is applying ideas we had in 2005-2006, we are only now able to put them into practice. I’m not a superstitious person, but it seems that everything happens at its time, there is an element of luck to this as well.

I have a huge thirst and I like to believe that the company has it as well, for technologies, methodologies and the concepts of high performance. We are a company that delivers services in IT – this means that if I don’t know the latest technologies, I can’t serve your needs. And if you don’t have a methodology that can be efficient, you can’t scale the business. And this became a huge passion. I’m always up to date with ideas, models, agile and non-agile ways, you name it. Im trying to be part of those conversations so I could find what can be more appropriate for our clients.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

As you can imagine, there are a lot. There are so many different failures from which you can learn. Some force you to learn faster, others you need to be repeated. I can’t put my finger on something specific. I know that I can learn better from a mistake than from a win, and when I have a failure I put myself under scrutiny – what went wrong, what not, why did it come to this etc. Thomas Edison said – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

Like a real nerd – I’m playing. I am gamer; thus, I play on my PlayStation and some on PC.  I also like to drive a lot. There are many times I jump in my car and start driving through Bucharest while listening to Bob Dylan. Traveling is also fun but only for short periods, I get home sick quite easily.

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

I wouldn’t say this, because I never want to forget. But I have books that I would like to read every time I am reminded of them. “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkings, “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim,  Henry Mintzberg about managing and last but not least “The Grand Design” by Steven Hawking and Leonard Mlodinaw.

I also read the user’s guide – systems manuals, apps and others.

Questions about the company you are running

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)

We are a IT services supplier. My number 1 product is my know-how and the methodology to implement it.

We love technology and we put it at the basis of our business activity. We are permanently updated with industry innovations and we consider IT as the essential tool for any modern company. Our main focus is to help organizations understand and use technology in order to raise efficiency and the quality of their activities.

We have 2 distinct lines of business:

  1. IT systems and applications monitoring. We are that company that gives you unprecedented visibility into your whole infrastructure. You want to know what happens with your server, with a certain app, some metrics inside an app, name it. We take all the data, chew it, prepare it, and present it in a single pane so the client can see from one dashboard the whole infrastructure’s status. If you know how to read it and you pay attention, you can see where there will be problems, where you have problems now and so on.
  2. The Cloud. We cover many big projects regarding public and private clouds and we have a fairly advanced understanding of these hyperscale type of solutions. We have to either draw an architecture, or to offer consultancy on projects. With them we work especially for building private clouds. We work with Joyent, Microsoft, Google to name a few, but with the last Joyent we have constant projects. In this area of cloud, you need maximum agility because there aren’t 2 identical clouds. We automate and we have a work metholody with tools from the open source community. Through automation we can save time which is by far one of the most important things nowadays. I can install an application in 5 minutes versus others that do it in 3 hours. Our biggest accomplishment in 2017 is building our own cloud that we are launching in the first quarter of 2018 which delivers high performance and a simplified experience. We want to get out of your way and let you run your business, not become an expert in cloud technologies.

All of our services are tightly coupled with our professional services.

We have somewhere around 60 permanent clients. Many of our projects are based on a subscription model. The number fluctuates from one month to another, but one thing is clear – their number is growing. The total number of clients for which we delivered projects is somewhere around 1,000, since 2011, from all around the globe and now with our public cloud taking shape, we are growing a bit more quickly.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for (if possible)

Heineken Romania, Orange Romania, Orkla Foods, Ericsson to name a few. Depends on what you see as big.

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

There are plenty, but one took us over the seas. In 2015 I decided to show the world a small part of our methodology and we created something that we in the industry call a feedback loop. Inside the loop, each component output becomes the entry for the next component and so on.  It is a methodology we created for our monitoring software and some automation tools we use. We basically built self-installing, self-configuring and self-healing architectures, that can heal, repair and scale themselves according to some specific needs and it was very well received by the international community. Some employees from Amazon and some architects from Google wrote to us and told us they are quite impressed. And this touched a nerve that made us realize we need to invest more time. Since then we are working to make it better. There are plenty of people that still write to me after all these years because they find me on social media or read some article about what we built, but there are very few people that actually manage to implement it and especially to keep it alive. We only have three clients in Romania that use this particular concept.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)

Each and every one. Most of the clients come to us because they have no other solution on the market or the solutions are vendor lock-in and expensive. And when something comes to me it is because it needs a powerful dose of creativity and innovation – and has something extra – it had to be done yesterday.

What was the biggest struggle?

There is not one but many. I can’t put my finger on something and say – this is it. As a personal philosophy, for me to be high performant, I need to be able to move past things quickly. If I stay and dwell on a failure I enter a very damaging and negative loop. But instead, I do an analysis, see where it went wrong and afterwards I say ‘’okay, move on’’. Now my struggle is because we try to be unique on something very specific and is very hard because you ask yourself – if your idea was so good, why didn’t the others do it? While you implement it, you overthink and second guess your every step.

What I can say is the biggest struggle is that I try to convince my clients of our value, because I never liked the idea to regurgitate another company’s solution without adding something of our own.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise

We have advanced knowledge, experience and methodologies built around IT service delivery. We are specialized in certain key technologies and this helps us be real allies to those who utilize IT as a tool. At the same time we are almost entirely dedicated to open technologies by design and this opens many opportunities for us.

We are also well positioned in regards to modern technologies and methodologies for service delivery. The cloud is one such area where our IT automation skills, tools and methodologies have proven extremely useful to a large portion of our clients and partners.

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

Be patient and dedicated. Be prepared to lose some sleep.

What do you want to accomplish this year?

We are considering expanding to Eastern Europe and Africa with our IT monitoring solution. And there it is a different approach in almost everything, thus we need a lot of strength.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

We are launching a public cloud. We will present it in detail during this year, but is quite a unique thing in Romania. In our country we don’t have something that is as easy to use like in other countries. We hope that in the next 5 years this will be our core business. We want to become one of the main supplier for cloud services in Romania.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

When I understood the vision Gabi (Gabriel Munteanu, president of Smart Alliance -Innovation Technology Cluster) and what he wants to accomplish through this cluster, especially because we cannot compare ourselves with the giants, I felt that it can come naturally. If we can bring companies that can add value. That ‘’if’’ is very important. There are a lots of companies in Romania that do the same thing. You can change the provider anytime and you really won’t feel the difference. I pointed out that we need to bring in companies that bring a change, not do what 50 other companies can do, that have unique methodologies for their service delivery and are generally modern and great at what they indifferent of their size. I believe we need to bring in companies that can create synergies within the existing ranks and minimalize the cannibalization.

How does it benefit you?

For the moment I can’t really say, it may be too early. In the idea of networking and how we can meet for business opportunities it is OK and we still have room to grow. Long term however we need to champion someHow do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

I have some ideas for Smart Alliance Academy. Specifically we can build a platform to empower the next generation of systems engineers that are so sorely needed at the moment.


Meet the CxO – George TUDOR, Managing Partner IT TEAMS

Meet the CxO – George TUDOR, Managing Partner IT TEAMS

A Pink Floyd fan, a math geek and a tech enthusiast, George TUDOR is a man of few words but with a high level of understanding regarding of what his employees need. Without his knowledge, he applies the maieutics of Socrates everyday to help his staff become better and reach a higher level of truthfulness to themselves. Because of this, he can make sure that each project has the right people working on it and vice-versa, thus hitting two birds with one stone – keeping his employees happy, while delivering amazing projects.

Tell us a few words about how your company started

The core team of IT Teams has been established 7 years ago, so we know each other and have worked together for quite a while. With my previous company we have built a SaaS for the US market and several years later we made a spin-off and decided to continue the outsourcing services under a new brand – IT Teams. IT Teams has been created out of the need to offer software solutions to both startups and established companies. To a certain extent, this vision combines our appetite for helping startups take off and our expertise in building and operating remote development teams.

What drives you each day?

I am starting each day thinking about how I can find the right opportunities for people I work with, regardless if they are employees, clients or partners.

Equally important is my desire to do technology related experiments. I always stayed close to technology so whenever I can afford the time, I read software development articles or watch my developers as they work in a specific development environment.

Yet the most important driver is to inspire my colleagues to learn, to become better at what they do. Coaching gives me the best satisfaction at the end of the day. I had the chance to meet incredible people that inspired me to challenge myself, to aim higher and to do my best to help others. It was funny (he smiles) that none of these people intended to help me in this direction, they were actually guiding me to become more efficient. I was lucky to meet them, right at the moment when I decided to start IT Teams, so coaching is an essential ingredient of my definition for success. I believe that a day without a take away of how to become better is a lost day.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

I will mention several achievements that are not providing immediate value and yet are tremendously important in the long run.

The first one is my ability to on board valuable team members. I think that nurtured our ability as a team to on board engineers on the right projects for them. This is how we differentiate from our competition.

The second accomplishment is based on honesty and trust, some of the core values of IT Teams, pillars of our relationship with clients and employees. Most of our clients are key partners for us, we have been working together for a long time and we understand their business quite well.

The third one is perseverance. Perhaps years ago we would have given up facing some of the challenges we now overcome. This is combination of maintaining focus, being determined and willing to work hard.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

Partnerships that didn’t work out. Would events have lined up differently, IT Teams would not have been born, so obviously things turned out for the best for everybody, including my current team.

Second, since I mentioned hard work previously, there’s also a downside to it. Too much work kept us away from innovation. But I believe this is a constant challenge for the outsourcing industry in general, where no consistent innovation has been noticed for quite a while.

And the third one? (Tudor pauses and gazes through the window of his office) I could have realized the importance of personal development earlier. That might have helped me to make important business related decisions sooner.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

There’s a secret island of pleasure and comfort I visit each day – my family. It recharges my batteries and gives me purpose for what I do. The noisy evenings with my family give me a sense of peace and tranquility after a day of work.

I play guitar or play with my kids. I was a Pink Floyd fan but now, between playing Pink Floyd tunes on my guitar and rattling Melc Melc Codobelc, my big fans at home, urge for the latter. (he laughs)

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

Simon Sinek “Start with why” which helped me understand the importance of core values and beliefs behind our actions, behind how we speak and what we sell. I got many insights from this book and I think it helped me better understand why I started IT Teams and how we can continue to attract talent and grow our team.

Education – classic or alternative? Both?

I am a product of the classic approach and I feel I was not taught but rather let free to learn, to behave as I wish and to be part of various competitions. I participated in Math Olympics Contests, I came up with my own schedule for studying, I was rather independent.

So to respond to your question, I would say both; classic because it brings pure knowledge and nurtures our basic abilities to follow rules and patterns, and alternative to ensure we are able to break patterns and think out-the-box when needed.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the clients you currently work on

There are four services delivered under the umbrella of IT Teams, each designed to respond to specific client needs.

Our main model is building and managing teams of IT engineers for our clients. Usually, these companies are IT companies maintaining or improving their web and mobile products. We create dedicated teams that ensure the development and QA capacity for our clients in Europe, USA and Australia.

We also provide software services for Startups. Even though this is not our largest revenue stream, it is definitely an attractive direction for us. We meet entrepreneurs that have a business idea and we commit to be fully responsible for all technical aspects of their business. We provide guidance about technology to be employed, innovation trends, we help them develop their budget estimations so we really help them in various stages of their business. We advise them on how to reach the maximum business result in the shortest term possible with reasonable budgets. Last year we helped two Amsterdam-based startups creating their web and mobile platforms. They were targeting in fashion / e-commerce and recruitment industries.

IT Teams is able to provide tailor-made solutions and on a needed basis maintenance services to its clients. A few examples of applications we have built lately are an enterprise solution for manufacturing plants, an HR solution, a Point Of Sale software. Such solutions are used by SME’s in Romania, Europe and USA from various industries such as manufacturing and retail.

Last but not least, there is onsite or remote maintenance. We have both short and long-term commitments with employees that go over to the client and work at their premises in an integrated manner. Again, the typical clients here are large IT providers in Romania and Europe.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for (if possible)

To respect the confidentiality clauses I will mention only some of our clients such as Tandarts, Baloonr, Robosoft, KiTS. In addition, 6 Romanian mid-large IT providers have been helped by our engineers to deliver their projects on time. We have completed various projects for end clients, represented by well known Romanian banks and one of the big four consultancy houses.

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market

I learned a lot from developing UnifiedPractice, it was really challenging at both technical and business level, and I got a lot of satisfaction seeing the platform going live. It was a huge opportunity to see how hard it is to attract users on a web & mobile platform, and even more difficult to keep them satisfied. It was once again an opportunity to build and retain strong engineering teams inspired by an innovative idea, committed to transform it into a software that ultimately improves the lives of end-users.

Such experience has been used lately to build a platform that connects individuals from different locations around the world to resolve problems by communicating in various languages.

We have also built and maintained the biggest Netherlands dentists portal.

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

My most beloved project is a recent web solution we have developed for a world class manufacturing company using Microsoft and Oracle technologies. We helped the client increase its production efficiency through a continuous data collection process supported by our solution to gather information and provide statistics related to production failures and scraps.

A consistent part of the system revolves around providing a diverse set of statistics and data reporting, both drill down as well as graphical, that help provide an in depth analysis of quality and stability of the production cycle. Not only have we been able to provide the counting of scraps but have also integrated legacy data (SAP) to clearly indicate the financial cost of the occurring defects.

Why is this project particularly relevant to me?  Because of the combination of technologies we have employed – from complex enterprise platforms like SAP to latest approaches like Single Page JavaScript App – Angular, Material design, rich & powerful statistics and graphics over Oracle RDBMS running behind a Microsoft IIS .Net application. The project was well received not only by the local subsidiary of our client but has the potential of being deployed company wide by the head office of the company.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative?

UnifiedPractice definitely required us to be creative and innovative – together with my US business partners we put tremendous efforts to create a slick product for Chinese medicine practitioners that need to take notes on a mobile device while consulting the patient.

What was the biggest struggle?

Understanding the psychology and behaviour of end users was the biggest struggle. This is a constant challenge in all projects. To create a perfect solution, you have to know not only how the user tends to use a software or hardware artefact but also to learn about, if not directly experience the environment in which the end-user uses the solution.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise?

What makes us unique is our ability to provide the right engineers for the right project. This is what guides us in what we do. It is the reason for which we are not looking for growth at all costs overlooking the quality of the collaboration between our employees and our clients. We aim to have 100% matching between IT talent and the opportunities brought by our clients.

How are your products innovative?

We are quite close to deliver a platform to support our services. This tool will be used by our clients to get better visibility over the results offered by our teams. Right now our internal tool features recruitment capabilities, project management and activity tracking. Invoicing and objective tracking will be soon implemented before going live, so we will be able to ensure 100% transparency for our clients over the results provided by an outsourced team.

Who is the biggest innovator for you?

I like Google as a company and how they are able to transform the ideas they focus on.

I also like them because they have knowledge and use the technology at its top level combining network hardware, devices, data and services to provide a unique user experience. I also like that they are able to get value out of open source offerings.

I closely followed the evolution of the Google Drive platform and its related cloud space development tools. And whenever we got the chance, we experimented by integrating google drive in our applications to create outstanding features that can be replicated in real life products. One such feature, for instance, is extracting pieces of data (like the phone number or email address) from various types of documents stored in the cloud where various people can collaborate to edit and maintain the information. We used this feature for our internal tool I mentioned earlier. Imagine the money you saved using current tools compared to how you would have solved this request 5 years ago or even more.

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

To have the courage to speak about his or her own ideas and discover the people that are able to help him or her along their entrepreneurial journey. And never overlook the fact that technology is only a part of the solution and most of the time, the actual execution is 10 times more important. So get a mentor, and validate your business plan before spending crazy money and time on original ideas.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

Our main goal is sustainable growth. We did big steps towards this goal, we got 4 new clients in the last month and the year ahead of us will definitely bring more projects and more opportunities.

The key is going to be the ability to deliver talent in a challenging market where big IT companies will continue to create more and more opportunities for Romanian IT engineers.

There are several new directions we are looking to expand into such as a new creative & online division, a recruitment service, perhaps some collaboration for GDPR compliance.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Since I started IT Teams I always imagined our services being provided from multiple locations across Europe. So opening offices in additional cities in Romania as well as other countries is one goal.

The second goal is to provide higher value for our customers, so offering domain or industry expertise and technology as a packages is a must for coming years.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

Valentin, Managing Partner Digi Soft introduced us to the concept of Smart Alliance at the right time, when we needed to discover innovative techniques that we can adopt in what we do and how we do it.

Though it may be difficult, there is always room for innovation and I believe we can learn from other cluster members, from their experiences and what went well for them. Innovation comes with risks and changes, it’s like crossing the same river in a way no one has tried before. So having partners help you along the way really makes sense.

How does it benefit you?

In several ways. Firstly, we would like to integrate our cluster presence with our marketing activities to sustain our development. Secondly, it’s very useful to have a discussion group that includes executives that know your business as well as share similar challenges with you.

And of course, I cannot overlook the social part of this experience, our regular meetings outside office, without business or cluster objectives, all being replaced by a dinner with enjoyable people.

How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

Definitely we can help to deliver large, complex projects together with other members.

And since my goal is to integrate innovation with our services, I will share the progress with others so they can learn and suggest in return what we can do better.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

I see the cluster growing and we need better funding for this.The next level for Smart Alliance would be to have one or more ambassadors to promote the cluster across Europe. At that point we would be able to access and deliver considerably large & complex solutions that none of the members can deliver individually.

Until then, I believe we can improve the collaboration between cluster members by identifying additional interests that can be transformed into micro-projects, where small groups can sustain these projects and share results or progress within the cluster.

 


Meet the CxO – Valentin Negroiu, CEO Digi-Soft

Meet the CxO – Valentin Negroiu, CEO Digi-Soft

Valentin Negroiu is one of the youngest CEO’s of our cluster. Having only 35 years, his company delivers project for some of the biggest players in retail, among other industries and has a very positive and calm attitude. He is a man in a continuous search of balance and has a powerful vision that helps him to keep his cool in the most dire times. This specific type of vision helped his team and company to become better and, in time, to outlive his competitors through innovation and word of mouth.

 

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

The company started prior to 2007 based on identified and specific business need for a local cutting-edge supply chain solution that would cover the demands of large retailers for their sizable distribution centers supplying nation-wide.

The startup of the company was focused on the demands and alignment with our customers on customized business processes for receiving, storing, distributing and monitoring food and ambient produce and later evolved in software business solutions which at that time were the most technologically advanced solutions in Eastern Europe (according to the newspapers).

What drives you each day?

A BMW 5 series. 🙂

Achievement of goals. The feeling of having a custom solution built from scratch which is used by client for improving their operational processes, business reporting and ultimately improving their bottom-line financial results. We are extremely proud every time when we see another of our solutions implemented and accepted 100% by the users, and that gives us the hunger and energy drive to move forward to the next challenge. Is a very powerful reward system for all people in our organization.

In the same time our team sells itself, as we do not have any salesman in our company. Our biggest marketing strategy is the way our products interact with the specifics of every company and we are recommended by those for which we managed to develop a real solution for a real need.

What do you believe is the main personal characteristic that brought you here today?

First of all, I’ve always had this urge for personal development. It is this feeling that I need to do or obtain more. One would say that I’m more of a materialistic person, but that is not it what made me who I am. Working in a multinational from a young age I soon discovered what organizations means and how Management is performed.

I come from a modest family and there were plenty of times when I couldn’t have what I desired. This was at first the main reason that pushed me to become better. Growing and become more mature made me realize that there is more to life than money – for example, one of my dreams is to retreat on an island and go fishing every day, apart from crowdie towns & noise generators. Maybe this is the main learning in life – to be able to understand the ecosystem you work and live in, and in the same time cover the need of having equilibrium over all the ‘bubbles’.vThis equilibrium is what actually helped me to be in business after or challenges we had.

What do you believe is the main failure that brought you here today?

I always wanted to have a career in sport. I even went in the high school’s basketball team but I realized sport was not for me. I shifted for IT&C because it was (and it still is) the direction for our future. Therefore, I ended up doing 5 and a half years at The Bucharest University Of Economic Studies, with a major in Cybernetics.

I doubled my studies from first year when I got a job. That’s how I got to be an “operator help” – is that job when you help the guy who knows nothing in IT. You were being sent to press the power button because it was hidden in plain sight, helping with cables, peripherals, stuff like that. This is how I managed to meet with the GM of the corporation at that time who earned at that time some unimaginable salary. When I was in his office I honestly felt I was sitting next to God. After 15 years of experience and learning, my confidence made me acknowledge myself as a person who has a very good know-how in its field of work. I can stay in the same room with the president of the United States and I wouldn’t be baffled. Bear in mind that I am not comparing our titles nor responsibilities, but state the fact that we are humans and we should start from an equal position.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

Sleep late and don’t give a shit.

We self-learned that high performance in the business environment has to be balanced with a strong disconnect from time to time in the form of a break or holiday, and even for a few hours in a day.

It is hard to disconnect, even though we know it has to be done. Emails are still running through my mind late at night, even when I am at home.

However, we learned and everyone in the team learned, that having a balanced mind will always create the right foundation from where life and work challenges can be met.

Personally, I prefer to go out in nature, having an active life mountain biking or even kite surfing (a new challenge I took this year) or just relax and do nothing on a beach or at the mountain side. I also ensure that everybody, in time, takes these breaks and have the space when they need to step out and rebalance after a tumultuous project development or implementation or managing a difficult business situation.

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

I wouldn’t like to forget some of the amazing books I have read so far. Their meaning sits at the core of my philosophy and approach I take in life. Some of the books are so intense that every time I re-read them they convey another message, subtler from last time I read them. Is like they adapt their message as I grow and evolve my understanding of life.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on

We provide services and solutions both nationally and internationally. We cover quite a diverse range of industries; however, the coverage is very much dependent on the type of service offered.

Our core focus and expertise are in providing tailor-made business solutions that provide our customers with competitive strategic advantage in the industries they operate and a cutting edge in the technology employed and business processes used. Some of our customers are leaders in retail and wholesale, end-to-end supply chain, logistic and transport providers. We also provide customized business solutions to HORECA customers and even for ecological management companies.

We also offer standard IT services e.g. Oracle management, hosting to several other industries such as financial institutions, marketing companies and even for telecom companies.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for

As mentioned above we work in partnership with some of the leading retailers and end-to-end supply chain companies in Romania and in the region. We work in partnership with them to create the best fit processes and software solutions that will give them a competitive edge in efficiency and optimization of resources, which in turn allows them to adapt to their market needs and thus enable further growth/ expansion and exposure within the industries they operate. Some of our solutions and part of our clients may be found in our website ( www.digi-soft.ro ).

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.

I would start with how we understand the market dynamic. We found that the Romanian market is not as stable as in other more developed countries such as UK, France, Germany, thus allowing a progression of certain solutions to evolve in time and be reckoned with by other competitors, thus achieving a recognition in the long run of being the best in class.

Truth is that we have seen in almost every industry we operate that even the most powerful, leading companies have unfolded. Ideally, each software and IT company will chase for the strongest companies in their fields, as the opportunity to have a long-term relationship and contract with them will minimize the risk of losing services and thus revenue.

We went out and we provided services and solutions to top companies, which in those times were leaders in their industries, each expanding tremendously and providing us with the right mix of services and resources for us to expand, to learn more, to improve our solutions.

To our dismay, some of these large companies in time have imploded. Due to different reasons, could be strategies were not effective any longer, the financial crisis created contraction, and so on.

So we came to realize that the market is dynamic and we cannot rely on one outstanding solution, even if that solution was a force to be reckon at that time, as the players in an industry have changed and continue to shift all the time.

However, we learned one of the thoughest business lessons I think all companies in Romania are faced with (at one stage or another). Adapt or you will not survive. I say this having in mind that some of our strongest and biggest competitors from 10 years ago are no longer on the market. Today we have other competitors, as the market for IT solutions divided into fractions.

So, I would say, from our perspective and experience, it is adaptability which is the vital business capability a company needs to grow and have in Romania – and not the projects that become a force to be reckon with – these projects, even the best in the region at a certain moment in time, have a short life cycle and thus you have to start again.

We had to adapt our solutions to several other industries, we have dealt with large customers disappearing and working our way (and thus services) to the new players, in such a way that our company will continue to provide the cutting-edge solutions and technologies to the new market leaders in their industries.

I think all our solutions and specifically supply chain and retail are the best customized solutions on the Romanian market. I know is a bold statement… but why do I say this?

First, because at different moments since we have started our business in Romania, we won several times projects against renown French, German and British solutions. We are cost effective, solutions more flexible and more adaptable to local conditions, with a strong local user support.

Secondly, because in Romanian we have pioneered solutions in retail and supply chain. For the past 10-12 years our teams have provided the best in class services and solutions to retailers and supply chain companies and we have gathered a lengthy experience witnessing and servicing the growth of these industries in Romania (from inception to now) which no other consulting company can offer.

As always, the challenge remains to make this experience and cutting edge solution known to the new, ever changing players.

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

I will always consider my first project of rolling out a very complex integrated solution for the massive logistic warehouses of a large leading retailer as one of the most exciting and exhilarating professional experiences I had. Seeing daily hundreds of logistic personnel, hundreds of trucks loaded going to multiple stores receiving the goods (national and regional), all done on a technological platform and business processes which were built by us (our teams) is amazing. Even though we knew what we wanted our platform to deliver, seeing it made us so proud that created an insatiable hunger to do more and more projects like this. To see the changes you bring in such large-scale organizations is an unique experience and its different for every client you deliver.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative

All projects require creativity and innovation. Every challenge requires a fresh look at the business context and environment in which your customer operates and the possible competition you face. So, we are constantly forced to be creative and innovative with every solution and every deployment.

A major challenge we faced was in the area of mobile technology. Hardware and software capabilities have evolved at a fast pace and we faced at one stage the challenge of moving into completely new technology such as mobile devices for all our operational solutions – we had to adapt or in time face a slow demise. We gathered all our strengths, gathered all our teams and together we learned and deployed the new project technologies virtually overnight. The pace to which we made the change from the older versions/ technologies was tremendous, even now I am amazed how well and how effective we have done the shift.

What was the biggest struggle?

The biggest struggle is that we continuously face the economic instability. I don’t mean Romanian economy as a whole, but the rate of change of major players in the industries we operate and offer solutions. The retail landscape today is different from 10 years ago, major companies have folded or have been bought. Same in banking sector and also in logistic and transport. Big players come and go. Our customers grow exponentially, we grow with them and one day they found themselves unable to sustain their businesses.

We, then, are left to find new customers in a shifting market. Solutions which we have built over the years and have provided good streams of revenues can overnight be closed.

Afterwards the only solutions are to start fresh again, armed with only our experience and the possibility of re-using some of the solutions which until then were successful. Is very hard to find these days a long-term partner and build a pool of customers who you can rely for many years to come.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise

We are the fucking best.

Our experience spans several years from the beginning of supply chain, retail and logistics industries in Romania. Romanian economy is a young economy and we were there since the beginning of these industries’ modernization offering pioneering solutions to the largest and most successful companies. So, in time, we have accumulated a tremendous expertise and specialization in understanding the complex needs of our customers, with a strong business analysis and business process optimization acumen across all our consultants. That allows us to move in a project swiftly, have a fast-paced deployment and provide a high level of training and support to our customers.

How are your products innovative?

Our products are best in class because are used and have been built together with the top companies in their fields. Not only our solutions offer a wide range of process and technological support, but also our consultants together with the customer teams work continuously to improve and optimize operations, thus constantly evolving the solutions and the know-how of our customers and ours.

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

Believe in yourself. Know that not all roads are smooth and be ready to encounter failure from to time to time and most importantly… learn from failure! Don’t get failure get the better of you – get up and continue walking. If you have success, celebrate! Always look after your teams as you would look after you.

Patience. Perseverance. Passion, even if not rewarded.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

We need to capitalize in some of the areas we have been developing such as e-commerce and mobile technology.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

It is hard to plan 5 years in a shifting economic environment. However, for us the business and company fundamentals remain: you always aim as shareholder and executive manager that your company will continue to grow the pool of clients, increase revenue, have solid foundation with our partners to sustain growth and ensure the best interests of your teams are met. If all these are met in the next 5 years I think we will continue to be in a very good position.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

I think is a necessity in the current business environment in Romania. There has been too much fragmentation in the IT services market with providers coming, going, breaking up into smaller parts. As such Romanian IT doesn’t have a solid shape similar to the ones you see in developed countries such as UK, France and Germany. Their IT companies have grown from strength to strength and have become recognized as best practices in the respective countries.

I think the IT market in Romania is still young when it comes to technologies offered and penetration. Too many players are easy prey for larger foreign IT companies.

So, it makes sense to unite the Romanian IT companies in clusters. A cluster can provide more services, can provide stronger exposure in marketing campaigns and events for its members, participation with a high chance of success in large bids with large companies and thus providing the power to compete against some of the larger foreign IT companies.

United we can be stronger. A cluster can provide the synergies which the individual companies cannot achieve.

How does it benefit you?

Sharing of information and networking are the most important advantages we have experienced so far. Also bidding together with cluster partners in our projects increase the competitiveness of our service offer.

How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

We are best in our fields and expertise. Our partners are also the top performing solution providers in their fields. Putting together complimentary resources increases the potential and confidence to tackle more difficult projects and creates the collaborative environment for win-win situations.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

We have plans to grow and increase marketing coverage. This will benefit the members with brand management and further exposure of their solutions and service. We believe this a winning strategy for the long term.

 

 


Meet the CxO – Florian Simionescu, CEO Integrisoft

Meet the CxO – Florian Simionescu, CEO Integrisoft

Florian Simionescu is a visionary man. Ever since he started to craft his software, he built around one idea that is now coming to life. A simple yet extremely intelligent man, that cares more about his employees than anything else. Is one of the few people that never talks with “I”, but “we”. A team player by nature, Florian and his team at Integrisoft managed to become one the most powerful companies in its business area – delivering software for the Romanian Public Administration.

 

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

How did it start? (laughs) in an apartment, with a small loan and a full market. At that time, we developed a solution that tackled local rates and taxes for city halls and at least 80-90% of the market was taken. In other words, we entered a full market and started to replace weaker products. All we accomplished since before 2005 is because we had a better product and a more innovative solution. Before 2005, we had a partnership with a firm that had the biggest market share at that time. They were leaders in the market but that didn’t stop them to fall and declare bankruptcy. When that happened, we felt it was our duty to come and replace them, to take care of our customers. Now we are proud to say we are the market leaders on all the big counties in Romania and that wouldn’t have been possible without three ingredients: great employees, hard work and software products that solved real needs.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

The most important and real accomplishment is the fact that I had the luck and intuition to bring close to me a real team. They helped me build what Integrisoft is today. Every product, every solution (16 to be more precise) is better and cover more needs of our end users thanks to them. Each and every one is truly important to me and I can’t stress this enough.

Another accomplishment, a business one this time, is that we developed a very powerful product that allowed us to develop other 12 solutions and thus we became a fierce competitor. When we launched the product for local rates and taxes we didn’t just stop there. We made continuous improvements – in the product, in ourselves and we managed to build a great a tree trunk that was the foundation for the other 12 branches – and this combined is one of the ingredients that brought us the success we have even now.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

I showed too much kindness to some people and that had a great negative impact into our business, because I was too naive to see that they will harm us in a certain way.

Another one is the fact that I did not had any management skills when I got the bull by the horns and I had to learn on the hard way what it means to truly manage. The lack of management knowledge, of hard and soft skills you need to possess in this position, had a great deal of negative impact. As a result, I failed a lot. One of the fails is the fact that I didn’t see the dire need of a sales team, mainly because I was mesmerized by the idea that if you are going to have a chicken that gives you golden eggs, people will come running. But that wasn’t the case and I soon came to realize that without a sales team, regardless of how good your software or solution is, you can’t reach your real potential.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

To be honest – hardly.

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

You are going to forget them anyway so this is a tricky question (laughs). I really enjoyed ”The journal of happiness” by Steinhard. It marked an important period of my life. Another book is one that Robert (Robert Gologan, PR & Marketing@Integrisoft) knows it too, about business strategy. And it was another one, that helped me to better understand people around me.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)

We have over 200 clients that are keep coming back. What Integrisoft creates in this moment is software for the public administration and we are the best. Right now we can cover over 80% of everything that happens in a city hall, every software instrument that can be used. We can cover a very high grade of needs, in an integrated system, that ties everything together, helps departments to connect and use information between them. This was the vision when we started and everything we build is catalyzed by this. The whole architecture on which we develop is made so that we can keep this road and it begins to show. After lots of years of hard work, this objective, this ideal, is becoming more and more real. We can cover a big deal of software and we are building it to be integrated with others. From the budget elaboration, to releasing certificates, records, to step validation, if you have all the papers needed etc. Everything that a city hall does to be more precise.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for.

We work with four sectors out of six in Bucharest, in quite a big proportion. Different activities we delivered for all of them. We cover a roughly 30% of all the counties in Romania, for which we deliver one or multiple solutions. Like 20% of all the public expense are managed by our software. The money and/or properties of 1 out of 5 Romanians are managed by our products.

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.

Our first client and one of the big ones that clearly made a difference was the Direction of Local Rates and Taxes, 3rd Sector, the City Hall of 3rd sector. It is the place where our product of rates and taxes developed. This has to be seen as followed – we knew nothing and we went to the biggest client possible on the market and we built him a software. It was an unique experience, that happened around 2001. Practically, that was a disruptive moment. Another disruptive moment was when we started our new integral web solution. In 2005 we started the development and in 2006 we had it on the market.

One very important project was on financial-accounting and we delivered it to the Penitentiary Administration of Romania. A project of a great complexity, in 48 different locations. This is the project where this solution was forged. The last that I remember is the fact that we adopted the GIS technology that managed to put forward our system. I am sure there were other projects like these, but I cant remember them all.

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

To be honest, everything we do is a huge project, because from the start, the whole architecture was designed to cover the whole spectrum of needs of a city hall.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)

To rewrite the product of rates and taxes in a very short term – we had like 4 or 5 months. In the same time we had to create a framework that didn’t exist at that time. I can say it was the critical moment that each entrepreneur has. There were others, but the magnitude of this specific one beats the rest.

What was the biggest struggle?

Creating a sales team. Even now is a struggle. It was the hardest thing to do for me. What we managed to accomplish, here, as a team, is fantastic if you take in consideration the technology, the vision, the hard work, the innovation, but having a great sales team is something that took us many years.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise

Is a more palpable culture when it comes to innovative products and business inspiration. When I look at my competitors I see them as more static. They made a product and they sticked to it or maybe they made a few others but they didn’t evolved. Think about it like this – we started from nothing, a few years before them, and we managed to have more products and a better technology. From the business point of view, we innovated a lot, through unicity and by thinking the integrated system that is a clear differentiator. I would called it vision that made great people work harder.

How are your products innovative?

In a few words – the fact that they can be integrated between them. Besides that, we cover needs that weren’t taken in consideration until now. We managed to be the firsts on virgin land. Most of our competitors went on classic paths, like taxes, accounting, document management, but other segments they did not had the curiosity to see what is there. One of the most hard to see is the integration part. For example, you can search for a person and find out everything there is to it about him or her. Theoretically, you have access to all the information, because you have them, but practically, to gather them in one screen and see them as a bigger picture, is much harder. And this is what our products aim to do which is quite innovative for Romania from my point of view.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

We must adopt a new technology and we are almost finished. We want to move all our products on a new technology made in 2017, that would ease our work and give more to our end users. In the same time, we want a better cover of the market through our sales team.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

It is quite a big period of time. What can I say is that in the next three years I wish to help our integrated system become more mature. He is quite well done, we are much closer to the whole idea from where we started, more than 15 years ago, but we cannot slack on this idea. I want us to become the main supplier when it comes to quality of services and products. And by this I mean I want to develop new business, like entering the private market. Im thinking European and global market as well. What can I say for now is that we have ideas. We just need to do research to see what is feasible and what is not. One thing that I was taught in these years is that enthusiasm helps you to start, but won’t help you finish.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

Im a team player and i believe this is a great idea – to unite people to really do things together. It was all natural to me, nobody had to convince me.

How does it benefit you?

I found business partners that can help me on niches that we don’t cover. From this point of view, I believe this is main benefit. I enjoy being part of this project and I love the fact I can be a part of the people that build it.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

We had a more stormy period, but from now on after the sky got cleared, we can see the foundation being built. We can really do beautiful things together. Most importantly, we all understood that we need to invest in order for something to grow, and from now on that’s what we will do.

 


Meet the CxO – The Three Musketeers, Andrei, Matei & Alexandru, MPs at Adcentric

Meet the CxO – The Three Musketeers, Andrei, Matei & Alexandru, MPs at Adcentric

How can three young entrepreneurs born in Bucharest can upgrade the game in helping a company building its image? We didn’t know the answer so we asked The Fantasy Fan (Andrei Popovici, 28 years old), The Philosophical One (Alexandru Cristian Verdeș, 28 years old) and The Science One (Matei Popa, 31 years old), managing partners at Adcentric what it means. Foolish and hungry, failures in classical education, and extremely creative, this trio managed to land important clients with their outstanding view of the world. Their vision is carefully carved by encompassing their personalities. Complementary and different, the three of them found the perfect chemical formula that allows them to function as a whole, while being their themselves.

 

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

M.P. – Everything started in the summer of 2010 when we saw a niche of Google AdWords freelancers being more and more overwhelmed by demand and unable to single handedly cope with their customer’s requests. In the very beginnings, Adcentric was meant to develop and manage Google AdWords campaigns for local businesses. The brand is built around this idea – ‘ad’vertising ‘centric’ – focused on advertising, filling a gap in 2010’s Romanian advertising market. Everything we did back then revolved around advertising through AdWords.

What drives you each day?

A.P. – Facing new challenges and overcoming them. The feelings after each triumph are worth it for me.

A.C.V. – I find that some of the most successful people are not always the most talented, but they are the most driven, the most inquisitive. The “where” isn’t all that important to me as long as the journey there is full of wonders. To that extent, I guess you could say that to a point I’m driven by a certain sense of adventure and by the desire to enjoy it every step of the way to the finish line.

M.P. – It’s a form of competition. Not with others or other companies, but with myself – trying to be better every day and better at what I do.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

A.P. – I’d like to summarize this answer:

  1. a) First and most importantly was taking the risk to become an entrepreneur.
  2. b) Finding the right people to start a business with.
  3. c) Entering this field of work and keeping up with innovations.

A.C.V. – What brought me here today? Luck, fortune and a game of cosmic dice. You get to a point in life (and mind you I’m not that old) where you’re not that sure what your accomplishments are. I studied, I worked hard, I played hard and I had the planets align and steer me towards what I am today. I have a family, a great kid and another little guy (or girl) on the way – so there’s one major achievement in life. I’ve managed to put together a successful business mostly thanks to my two awesome partners ‘in crime’ – Andrei & Matei – and I enjoy being a part of it every step of the way – so there’s your second major achievement. I’d like to say the third is still to come and I’d like it to have a bigger impact – maybe even change the world – but let’s keep that a secret for now.

M.P. – I’m going to be short – Always being accountable for the work I’ve done, learning from my mistakes and always being fair to people around me.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

A.P. – (laughs) Quitting all my previous jobs, it all led to this point.

A.C.V. – Failures? Don’t have any. I’ve been through a few business opportunities but I wouldn’t regard them as failures, rather as opportunities to learn, to grow. My first major opportunity was working with a very driven guy who proposed we partner up and build something grand together – working mostly for the Dutch market. He was brimming with energy and had enough business connections to keep the whole thing going but I soon found out that the partnership was incredibly one-sided as all the work and management fell on me and my other partner at that time and all the ‘laurels’ and most of the business benefits went the other way. So, I decided to start over, one thing led to another and I soon found myself in another business venture where the experience I gained in the past was going to play a major role in how I wanted the business to be managed. Things were improving until they broke down again – this time it was a failure of vision – how we wanted things to function and I promised myself I was going to keep things fair for everyone. That’s how I eventually found myself where I am today – with these wonderfully like-minded individuals who want to build something based on the pillars of trust, respect and responsibility.

M.P. – I believe these are the most important – Failing at University (I quit the Electronics faculty at PUB in my second year), failing with an advertising job right before founding Adcentric in 2010 and failing to get a job at Enel a little later

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

A.P. – Finding time to rest, relax and enjoy life is one of the main requirements to be in business today. I kept my clients aware of my business hours and always tried to get my colleagues to be efficient in their tasks so that we can all go home and recharge our batteries for tomorrow.

A.C.V. – I used to. Now that I enjoy the environment as much as I do I guess you could say I disconnect at the office. There’s really nothing to disconnect from as work isn’t work to any of us.

M.P. – Not really, I usually only take city breaks which always means a laptop is lying around and we’re never short on requests or issues.

Do you have any books you wish you could forget just so you can read it again?

A.P. – I have a soft spot for Tolkien’s work J. We should all be able to read his books for the first time, every time.

A.C.V. – ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde. Just thinking about it made me go back and search for a quote I loved: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.”

M.P. – It is not a book, but a series that really stayed with me throughout the years – Frank Herbert’s Dune

Education – classic or alternative? Both?

A.P. – Alternative all the way, I honestly do not consider that any of my accomplishments or any success that I may have achieved has anything to do with classic education.

A.C.V. – This is a tricky matter when you really stop to think about it. The question here is if the classical system can still function in the modern world. Alternatively, are any of the other, more modern systems up to par? I’m inclined to say ‘no’ to both of them. What we now have is a fast-track, fast-minded generation used to gadgets and the benefits therefrom with a totally different set of standards, wants and needs than we, our generation, had growing up. The problem here is that when we – the governing party – try and impose our vision upon our youth and it is often times antiquated when paired with their actual needs. The problem is that given the rapid expansion of technology I don’t think we’re adequately prepared (mentally) to cope with the ever-growing speed of everything that’s going on around us.

M.P. – Alternative, I’ve always been self-taught since I can remember and traditional education didn’t work out so well in my area of expertise

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on.

A.P. –  We try to bring a certain standard for our clients online presence. We have very strong opinions about the importance of branding and presenting a message the right way. For these reasons brands like: Thermegroup, Etno TV, Money.ro, Casa Doina, Zexe, Juventus Bucuresti chose to partner with us.

Name a few of the biggest clients you work for.

A.P. – Therme Group, Etno TV, Money.ro, Casa Doina, Zexe, Juventus Bucuresti

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.

A.P. – The media platform for Money.ro really was a step up for us, proving (to ourselves and others) we can handle big clients and deliver to their standard. After this project we become an option for clients who were associated with great quality.

What is your most beloved project you worked on? What project forced you to be creative and innovative.

A.P. – Optimacall. It was one of our first project as a digital agency and we had the opportunity to have full creative freedom from the client, and it was awesome 😀

What project forced you to be creative and innovative?

A.P. – I would say Therme Group. They expected excellence from their project and for that we had to be all-in. Big amounts of research, bold ideas, new coding languages, you name it. But as always, we delivered.

What was the biggest struggle?

A.P. – Convincing international clients that working with a small Romanian digital agency is a win win for them.

  1. What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise.

A.P. – Our focus on design. We start all our custom project with great designs that we later bring to life.

How are your products innovative?

A.P. – We always keep the user in mind, and because of that we are able to deliver experiences with our websites. No detail is overlooked and as a result all aspects come together for a truly complete experience.

Who is the biggest innovator for you?

A.P. – Steve Jobs, with the first Iphone 🙂

A.C.V. – Right now, I’d say Elon Musk. From PayPal to Tesla and finally SpaceX – I find that Musk is an inspiration for any and all aspiring tech agencies. Not so much for the technical solutions but, more importantly, for the scope of the solutions and the problems they tackle. I’ve read somewhere that since we landed on the Moon we haven’t really dared to dream big, to have bigger goals. We’re too focused on the necessities of today, maybe even tomorrow – are we’re far to grounded, looking to satisfy only our own needs. J.F.K said “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win (…)”. I feel that Musk has adhered to the same philosophy and it is something I both admire and aspire to myself.

M.P. – Alex surely is, he tackles a (very) broad range of coding issues every day, always keen on learning new things and solving problems more efficiently, which actually means doing things differently from what is expected or traditional

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur?

A.C.V. – I believe it was Steve Jobs that said “Stay hungry. Stay foolish” – and mind you those are words to live by. You have to keep your mind sharp and hungry for more, be it for knowledge, challenges and/or beauty. Always strive for the best version of yourself.

M.P. – Do what you think is right and have it your way as long as you possibly can – in the end, it always works out, you just have to get there.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?

M.P. – Next year we want to outgrow our current offices and to double our team in size. By mid july 2018 we plan on having a new location in sight for relocation.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

M.P. – In 5 years we would like to have established Adcentric as a respected international brand in our industry, encompassing and promoting the same values we strive for since the beginning: morality, responsibility, innovation and respect, not only for our customers, but also for our work and for everything we build together.

 

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

A.P. – It made sense to be part of a bigger team who can tackle bigger challenges.

How does it benefit you?

A.P. – It is a platform to expand our business and find partners for more complex projects.

How do you see your company as being part of the cluster?

A.P. – We can provide a different perspective on how to make things look as good as they work.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

A.P. – I see the cluster as a trend setter of sorts, where smaller companies with more creative freedom engage tasks in different ways then the market is used but with just as much success as the bigger players in the game.

You can find more about their work and services on their website and Facebook page

Interview by Răzvan Dincă, PR Specialist@Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster


Meet the CxO – Elena Unciuleanu, CEO Reporting Center

Meet the CxO – Elena Unciuleanu, CEO Reporting Center

When you think of our field of work, you rarely see women, especially women that are CEO’s. Elena Unciuleanu has over 10 years of working in programming. Having only 35 years old and with her company being born only 2 years ago, Elena is by far one of most promising young female entrepreneurs in Romania. After she built a team around her vision, she managed to create a product that was very quickly adopted by the Romanian banks. Despite the challenges a woman has to face in this business, Elena never gave up and she always kept her head held up high.

Tell us a few words about how your company started.

It all goes back to when I was an employee. I started as a database programmer, working for one of my university teachers. Then, one of my former university classmates insisted on introducing me to his manager, thus to a brand-new industry, banking solutions. I was mesmerized by this exquisite field on the spot! I got specialized on Banking Reporting and here I am, after 12 years, still loyal to this domain.
My company came to life 2 years ago, as a natural evolution of myself. After gaining relevant experience in this field, first as employee, then as team leader and freelancer, I felt it was the time to find a way to share the knowledge I’ve got. Especially since my customers gradually increased their expectations, I had to extend in an organized way. Thus, I founded this Business Intelligence Excellence Center in Bucharest, where we create reporting software solutions for the European banking market. I named it Reporting Center and here I build a team around my principles – hard working, prone to details, to be reliable and the most important thing – have common sense. When you have a small team, even the little discrepancies can disrupt the whole chemistry, so I tend to be very careful when I choose my colleagues.

What drives you each day?

I am a professional dreamer! I invest a lot of energy in designing for me and my colleagues a lifestyle that we love, so that the time we spend together working is, in fact, the exciting part of our life.
I deeply care about Reporting Center team, both professionally and personally. This year, my #elitesquad as a I call them, got me a present saying: Creating from the heart generates love, creating from the soul generates Joy. They managed to synthetize our mindset, our relationship and values and I believe this is the most important thing.
What I love most about my job is that I have plenty of interactions with many different people! In my projects, I work side by side with my clients, with their technicians, business people, consultants, auditors, you name it. I do not have only one team, but I am part of dozens of teams in the same time, each having its own dynamic. It’s refreshing and some may think it is exhausting. But it is fascinating. The multitude of experiences that I have each day is awe-inspiringly and makes me wonder what will happen tomorrow.
The best is that I do not have a routine – same desk, same faces. I have my own corner arranged at almost every client and that is why each morning when I’m heading to work my heart beats a little bit faster. The enthusiasm gets the best of me when I know this day will be uniquely different from yesterday and less amazing than tomorrow. Before I say anything else let me be clear on something – I do have my own office separate from any other entity, but when you work with important banks you are not allowed to bring your own laptop and connect it to their network. Their data do not and will not leave the premises of the bank. So, for that matter they give you a so-called “station” (high-end computers). For example, during our implementation projects we need around 4 fully equipped stations.

What do you believe are the 3 main accomplishments that brought you here today?

It’s the people that I’ve met. For instance, I did not have many employers… only 2, but they become over time my professional mentors, having a great impact when it comes to defining my values and my career.
It was at college where I found my first mentor – my database teacher, who later became my first employer, Associate Professor Dr. Christian Mancaş. Each year he recruited his best students to come and work at his software company he had in Bucharest. This is how I managed to work alongside the best young IT enthusiasts. From him I borrowed the way I create my team, as I chose my first employees at his recommendation. Considering where Reporting Center is today, I am so grateful for his precious advice.
Another key moment, was the shadowing period with the most talented entrepreneur I know – Olimpiu Bălaş (business angel, nowadays). He is the one that helped me find this passion for banking reporting being inspired by his own example, and he is the one that taught me this field and, afterwards, how to build and run a business. I was told the importance of acting now, not when you’re ready, as you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneous.
Of course, all of these are in addition to the coaching I received in high school – the seaside “Mircea cel Bătrân” National College, in Constanta. For instance, in the first day of school our head teacher said: “When you have high grades, no one will ever give you any problems for boys having long hair or for red painted nails at girls”. This followed me until today: I would rather work harder just to have this advantage.

What do you believe are the 3 main failures that brought you here today?

When I think back it comes to me something that Michelangelo Buonarroti said: “The problem that people have is not that they aim too high and fail, but that they aim too low and succeed”. So, I don’t see a problem in failing short when you’re on the right path.
A turning point in my career, was the period between freelancing and entrepreneurship, to be more precise, when I accepted to run a huge department of Business Intelligence inside a corporation. I was 33 years old at that time. I saw it as a great opportunity, a chance to observe a corporation from the inside. I had to change perspective, from running a profit center, to running a cost center. But, my biggest struggle became the fact that I did not have any time to initiate or create something, just because my calendar was already booked by prescheduled recurrent meetings. Then and only then I understood my calling: that was the moment when I realized that I have to become an entrepreneur.

Do you ever disconnect from the office? How?

I go to the sea. I own a beach house: big windows and a magnificent view to the beach volleyball and soccer fields. I can sit there watching for hours. However, I don’t really believe in disconnecting, as I am never truly disconnected. Is still me, just that I am in a different environment, where I don’t feel like I am working. I am always available for my team and clients, we communicate even when I am on the beach. After years of working in this field, short interventions no matter the time, seem natural to me. For me, there is no line between the personal and the professional life, because when you put passion in what you do everything gets personal.

Now tells us more about the business you are running. Let’s start with the number of clients you currently work on (name them if possible)

We develop Business Intelligence Solutions, with a focus on Regulatory Banking Reporting. Most of our clients are banks from Romania and Moldova, but we started to implement BI also in other industries. Our main advantage is that we manage to always meet our customers’ deadlines, no matter what! You cannot postpone a Regulatory decision, so acting on time it’s crucial for them. We perform well under pressure and our customers appreciate that we never let them down.

Name a few of the projects that made you a force to be reckon on the market.

Due to the fact that we activate in this field for so long, we can offer our clients a complete portfolio: we develop the reporting required by the National Bank, both on individual and consolidated bases; we cover the consolidation in case of bank merger, prior or post-merger; we calculate the banking profitability for local banks and for international headquarters.

What is your most beloved project you worked on?

Our product – Elite Reporting Platform – the third generation of banking reporting, was made to be so intuitive so that you won’t need a training to use it. Until now we had to teach the users how to use our apps, now we want our app to know the user profile, to follow his natural workflow and to guide him in resolving his current tasks. Just like Facebook, you don’t need training for Facebook! Everybody, at any age, knows how to use it!
This application, Elite Reporting Platform, was a real success, as we managed to get it up and running in 5 different banks, 3 months after its launch.

What project forced you to be creative and innovative (if possible)

A real challenge happened when we implemented the statutory reporting for a bank in Bulgaria.
We received from the client the Bulgarian legislation in its mother tongue and of course we sent it to translation to a Romanian translator. The legislation was vast, and the translator said that it will be done in approximately 2 months. Considering the fact that the project had to be Live in 3 months, we couldn’t wait for so long… so we improvised. Using Google Translate (applied on Cyrillic characters), and afterwards, exactly as the children from Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, we cumulated the translation with our experience in Romanian legislation, and we rebuilt the meaning of the articles that needed to be implemented.

What makes your company different from others in your field of expertise

We introduced in Romania the concept of Purple Expertise in Business Intelligence. Thus, we train in our BI Center of Excellence, 2in1 Purple experts: a person that can be both a business analyst and a developer in the same time. Purple combine 2 independent perspectives – business (blue) and IT&C (red). He takes the information that resides in business and it translates it in IT, unifying 2 sides that in general do not collaborate, as they are not compelled by the same factors.
A Purple owns a solid reputation in both departments and can easily swap sides. His versatility generates an immediate impact because he is used with parallel implementations, he embraces the changes in on-going projects and allows the beneficiaries to change their mind and rephrase their requests accordingly as the project advances.

How are your products innovative?

Our products are innovative through precision. When it comes to reporting to the National Bank you need extremely high accuracy, 100% to be exactly. Our advantage is that we don’t give up until we reach the required quality standards. In our field of work, being a hard worker is more important than talent, because the legislation keeps changing and you have to continually adapt.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Taking in consideration that the banking legislation was unified across the European Union according to the standards imposed by the European Banking Authority, and the reporting solutions developed in Elite Reporting Platform – FINREP, COREP, Basel III and IFRS – have the same format in all of these countries, we intend to implement our application in other countries from EU.

What were your struggles you faced as a woman in this industry, in Romania?

I have never taken something for granted. With every new customer, I have to prove I can handle that task from zero. Even if I’ve done that several times before with other customers. The customer does not care about your past experience, awards or diploma, but the value you can bring to him today.
Of course, I faced all the clichés: I am a woman, I am blonde, I am too young for my industry etc. But my vision is far too high from all these minor realities, so I just ignore them and move on.

Why did you join Smart Alliance – Innovation Technology Cluster?

We joined this cluster alongside other complementary firms with the sole purpose to support each other and to offer integrated services to our clients. Together we are stronger! In the same time, I used this opportunity to know other entrepreneurs, to talk about their experiences and about how they approach different markets.

How does it benefit you?

I collaborated with multiple companies inside Smart Alliance, on projects and with their employees that I only had to “borrow” for a few days. This is a great prospect, because when I need extra hands for my projects I can talk with different friends from the cluster and help the project go live, other than hiring a person. Obviously, the service is mutual.

How do you see the evolution of the cluster?

I truly wish that our cluster will be visible enough so that will become a strategic partner for Romania when it comes to implementing projects in IT. We all know the cases where the money was redirected to companies that did nothing. I believe we can accomplish so much more, if we had the right people handling their specific projects.



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