Startarium: overnight success for ‘Bootcamp baby’
28 December 2016
Startarium is ING Romania’s own platform for starting entrepreneurs and one of the first ING Innovation Bootcamp finalists. It took Catalin Vasile and his team more than two years to make their idea work. But once they did, it was an overnight success.
Only 24 hours after its ‘unofficial’ launch in October, Startarium had already reached this year’s target: getting 2,000 people with dreams of starting a business to sign up and create an account.
Since then, the team have been pushing ahead to make Startarium a lasting success, including its official launch at a big pitching event this past November.
Putting a business together
A 2014 ING Innovation Bootcamp finalist called ‘Growing Forward’ at the time, Startarium is an online platform for starting entrepreneurs in Romania. It helps them on their often difficult journey, paving the way with tips, connections and business resources.
Turning a business dream into reality isn’t so much a question of financing as knowing what do to and how to do it. That’s where Startarium comes in. The online learning platform guides users through each step, from testing their idea, to how to run a business, to financing. On the way, users encounter mentors and a whole community of entrepreneurs. They might even meet a ‘business angel’. The website has loads of video content and – best of all – it’s fun to use.
“Whether you have an idea for a company or are looking to scale up, we help you get through the terrifying experience of putting a business together. We sort out the technical stuff so you can get on with pursuing your dream – that’s your added value,” says Catalin Vasile, head of Advisory Channels Management for ING Retail Banking in Romania.
A slow start
A start-up itself, Startarium can certainly tell a thing or two about the hardships of starting entrepreneurs as well. When Vasile got the idea for the platform several years ago, he struggled at first to find resources for his project.
“For almost a year, we tried to make it a reality internally. But ING had other projects in the pipeline, and with something this complex and uncertain, we were getting nowhere—even though we had such a great idea.”
That’s when Vasile heard about Innovation Bootcamp. It was the perfect opportunity to develop his idea into a minimum viable product: an online platform in this case. But he still lacked the means to test it.
A breakthrough came when Vasile and his team hooked up with Impact Hub, the biggest non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the field of start-ups in Romania. The NGO matched start-ups to Startarium for beta testing, which was done from June to November 2016. The soft launch in October proved to be a big hit, with 2,000 aspiring entrepreneurs coming on board in just one day.
That same vibe could be felt at Startarium’s official launch in November, where around EUR 100,000 in seed money was at stake. The pitching event attracted 80 companies and 700 visitors and was followed live by hundreds more on Facebook, making it probably the biggest of its kind in Romania to date.
“I think it’s safe to say it exceeded all expectations,” adds Vasile.
“It may have taken us just one day to reach this year’s target, but our work has only begun. We need to transform Startarium.ro into a more active online community with even more resources that brings real value to start-ups in Romania. That’s our dream.”
Since its launch, Startarium now has more than 6,700 subscribers and eight start-ups have found funding so far.