His experience at web and tech events like LeWeb inspired Bogdan Iordache to create something similar in his home country of Romania – with remarkable success. The How to Web conference has shattered the country’s startup scene during the last three years, as Bogdan tells inventures.eu in an interview.
Four years ago, Romania’s tech and entrepreneurship scene was formed out of a bunch of scattered geeks with ideas, often with very little funding and even less support. A few were successful, and many more decided to leave the country. Tech entrepreneurs were seen as the guys who weren’t good enough to get a real job at a successful company like Microsoft or Adobe.
Then came Bogdan Iordache. By establishing the conference How to Web, he has given the Romanian tech and entrepreneurship scene a voice, a shape and a purpose. For the past four years, Bogdan has untiringly worked to develop and encourage the scene and succeeded beyond expectations.
Trading with chewing gum and programming certificates
When you meet Bogdan, he comes across as the guy who could be your best friend: friendly, modest and funny. It is hard to imagine that you are talking to the founder of two successful companies, the organiser of the most important tech event in Romania and a mentor at four European accelerators.
Talking about his career path, the 32 year-old Romanian jokingly admits that he discovered his passion for entrepreneurship while still at school, where he was trading with chewing gum, sunglasses or programming certificates. As a student, he worked various jobs to support himself, such as selling lottery tickets at a metro station in Bucharest. After studying in France for a year, then 24 year-old Bogdan decided to start his own company in Romania.. “I knew that starting something that works in France would take a long time and would have forced me to spend a few years working for other companies there. In Romania, the market was smaller, but I had more opportunities. When I came back to Bucharest, I wanted to see if my product idea could work,” he explains. “It didn’t. My e-learning company called Interactive People failed.”
Learning from failure and not giving up
Knowing that the secret for success is learning from your own failures, Bogdan didn’t give up there. His next business idea, an internship company for students in IT&C called Stagii pe Bune (Romanian for interships for real) was a success and became the largest internship programme in Romania. Then, he started an e-marketing company called Conectoo and attended international conferences to find new ways to grow his business. “At these conferences, I discovered all of the amazing things that you can learn. So I thought to myself: if we could do the tenth part of one of these conferences in Romania, it would be great for entrepreneurs,” he contends. This is how the idea behind How to Web was born.
The “secret recipe” of the conference was Bogdan’s conviction that techies in Southeastern Europe could innovate the sector on a global scale if only they were given the right tools. Since Romania doesn’t have a big local market in global innovation, he knew that the tech entrepreneurs needed to be connected to the international scene. The efforts behind How to Web paid off: “The evolution of the conference has been pretty spectacular. We started in 2009 with just 150 people, then we grew to 700. Year after year, we manage to create an event that is becoming more and more relevant to what is happening in the tech and innovation space in the Central and Eastern Europe region,” he explains.
Scattered geeks with laptops? Not anymore.A perspective shift on entrepreneurial careers
Four years after the first edition of How to Web, the tech innovation landscape in Romania is visibly changed and the conference has played a significant role in the process. “My greatest satisfaction is that we managed to create a bridge and to empower the local entrepreneurs. I see a shift in how people regard entrepreneurial careers,” says Bogdan. The number of startups grew during the past two years and the global focus of Southeastern Europe has increased. Entrepreneurs are no longer seen as dreamers who cannot find a proper job. The Romanian society and the media are starting to support and encourage them.
This year, Bogdan and his team decided to take the conference one step further by adding another aspect to it. A new programme called Startup Spotlight brings young tech entrepreneurs together with experts, business angels, investors and accelerators.
By introducing this programme, Bogdan intends to reduce the disadvantages experienced by young tech entrepreneurs in CEE through restricting participation to this region. “We think that Startup Spotlight has a very powerful social nature and it aims to help the underdeveloped tech scenes in Europe,”, Bogdan argues. Through the programme, the startups will receive all the necessary tools to make it on the international scene: relevant speakers, exposure, feedback as well as funding.
CEE is the future
After talking to Bogdan, it is easy to understand why How to Web has become so successful. His initial intention of creating “the tenth part” of its French counterpart has definitely been surpassed. How to Web is one of the top European tech events and it is growing year by year. But Bogdan doesn’t intend to stop there. As he rightfullypoints out on his blog, CEE is just starting to show its innovation potential. “We are the future,” he says.
One of Bogdan’s favourite aphorisms is: “There is no final victory, there is no final defeat”. If nothing else, this is exactly the mentality that a person like him needs in order to revolutionise the innovation scene of the region.