Three Romanians living in Aalborg Denmark have recently launched a startup, aiming to address the Internet of Moving Things. Cosmin is the founder & CEO of the new company, which will surely have great success, mainly thanks to his already vast experience in entrepreneurship and networking! He further explains what their idea is all about.
Name: Cosmin Pirvu
Hometown: Rimnicu Sarat, Buzau, Romania
Abroad since: 2014
Living in: Aalborg, Denmark
Current position & company: CEO - IntelFlows; Managing Director - Kickstart Aalborg
TGR: Cosmin, the product you are currently working on seems to have everything to change the tech environment. Tell me more about the future benefits of IntelCatcher.
CP: The IntelCatcher is what we call the device that stands at the core of IntelFlows. There is a huge load of data available out there, but still most of it remains unused. There are many reasons for that, but the main ones are the fact that people are not aware of the potential of the data, or it’s just too expensive to get the data that matters to you from all the incoming data. That's why we set to change the way data collection is done in the first place, by creating a Network of Moving Sensors, specifically designed to collect only the relevant data for the customer. We start with installing the IntelCatcher on bikes, but we have in mind other vehicles as well (postal services, rental cars, even public transportation).
How did you come up with this unique idea?
I've been working with my two co-founders, Razvan Suta and Andrei Holban in the past two years, on 2 different startups, but also running a volunteering organization, Kickstart Aalborg, aimed at promoting entrepreneurship through different events, such as Startup Weekend, Pitching Game, etc., and even a physical Startup Café, run in collaboration with the local municipality. Because of our close connection, both professional and personal, we participated in external events as well, and the idea of IntelFlows was born at such an event, a hackathon in Copenhagen.
Is it ready? When do you plan on launching IntelFlows?
The device itself is ready and we will begin the second round of testing in about a week or so. We are currently working with the meteorology Institute in Norway to gather environmental data (pressure, humidity and temperature), which they will use to improve their forecast, but also to display the values on their website. In terms of the actual launch, we are aiming to have both the hardware (which is almost done) and the software side (still some work needed) ready in maximum 3 months.
Who will be your customer?
There are many potential customers, as the device itself is quite versatile. That means we can adjust it to collect different types of data, for different customers. We had a previous test where we looked at the signal strength for TELCOs, but other areas can benefit as well, such as local municipalities (urban planning, traffic infrastructure, pollution levels), but also other businesses.
Three Romanians looking to change the Internet... What else do you need to make sure IntelFlows will be a massive success?
It's quite difficult to change the internet nowadays, but we are definitely committed to address an area of it: the Internet of Thing (or in our case, the Internet of Moving Things). Like most of the startups today, what matters the most is having a good and skilled team, followed by good advisors and network, and finally funding. In that sense, we are going in the right direction, having attracted top talent into the team (we have a strong founding team, an intern from Switzerland, as well as a couple of students working with us). For the other two components, advisors and funding, we are super excited to start an accelerator program from StartupWiseGuys in Estonia. I am actually writing this interview in the airport of Riga, while waiting for my flight to Tallinn, where I will be spending the next 3 months in an intensive working environment, with top quality training and mentoring, as well as some initial funding.
Why Aalborg and not Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca or any other tech hub on Earth?
Well, it all started during the third year of my bachelor, when I decided that I am going to do a Master abroad. Long story short, I ended up graduating from a MSc. in Entrepreneurial Engineering last summer, and Aalborg was where I started to get involved with entrepreneurship (at least as a career path).
And you have found some good reasons to stay...
Yes - Aalborg is a small, cozy city, with an outstanding number of international students and immigrants. Because of its status as a student city, there's always something going on in town, being it a concert, a street festival, an entrepreneurship event, or even the Carnival at the end of May. I usually hang out with friends, play football (during summer times especially), and try to enjoy the limited number of sunny days with nice walks on the shore or just enjoying a cold beer in the park. And I should mention 'Jomfru Ane Gade', the most famous Danish club/bar street, although I must say, after a couple of visits, you will have enough of it. At least I did
OK, thanks for the recommendation, will keep that in mind! Is there anything you don't like in the city?
I wouldn't say that there were any major disappointments for me, but there were a couple of things that surprised me. Like the importance of networking, which becomes almost crucial when you are looking for a job, making your life way easier if you know somebody that can recommend you. Or the fact that, although it’s far from being as present in Romania, there is still quite a lot of bureaucracy sometimes.
Have you learned the language or you actually don't need it?
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to learn the language, except for the basics. The government actually offers free classes, which I attended briefly, before getting a full time job, which together with studying took most of my time. But you definitely can go about without Danish, as 99% of the people speak at least conversational English, with most of the people having a great level of English. I actually was approached by a 70 years old man in my first days in Aalborg, who was kind enough to help me figure out the local transportation system.
You also run Kickstart Aalborg, making yourself a strong voice among Danish students looking to open a business. Which is the most interesting startup that resulted thanks to your networking events?
We have been helping out a lot of young students looking to open their business, at different levels. The most recent team that has won our previous edition of Startup Weekend, is ObiPlus, and they are really moving towards becoming an important player in their field.
Cosmin, let's talk a little bit about Romania now. First, how often do you travel home?
I travel once or twice per year, and I also try to have my family over once a year.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
There are many things I miss about Romania. From the amazing food, to the warm people, the unforgettable landscapes, the awesome barbecues with friends, or the feeling of home. Of course what I miss the most is my family and friends.
Do you see yourself moving back? What could convince you?
I don’t have plans to move back at this point, or in the following years. But I do hope to come back after some time. I mostly want to gain experience in different environments, and eventually bring that back home. I think what could encourage me to come back home is a change in mentality, more openness to new ideas, and to be honest I do think that this is not that far away.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
I think what I come to appreciate the most is the culture. I definitely can say that I identify with the 'Latin spirit', especially after seeing other places that are not that… warm, lively or welcoming. Then of course I like to talk about the beauty of Romania, from the landscapes to the monuments, to the parties and so on.
What is your biggest dream?
I have a lot of dreams, from travelling the world, to building a successful company, or surrounding myself with like-minded, loving people. If I was to take them one by one, I wish very much to visit South America, for IntelFlows to be successful and for me to expand my network, both professionally and personally.
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
I want to reemphasize that I do feel that some things are changing, and for the better, so I can only hope that this will accelerate. If all of us, Romanians become aware and involved, then we'll have sunny days ahead of us.
Cosmin, your optimism is really encouraging, I totally feel the same way, that we are on the right track! I hope we will soon have good enough reason to convince people like you about the prospect of investing in and for Romania! For the time being, I wish you all the best, am really curious about the development of IntelFlows!
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