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Looking Back on 2021 – A Year in Review at Rubik Hub

We’re looking back on 2021 and we can barely believe that what was just a dream in 2017 has become a tangible, impactful community of startup enthusiasts who share the same values!

We’ve started our journey of creating communities together with whom we inspire, educate and accelerate startups in Piatra Neamt, Romania. Shortly after, we became relevant for the entire startup ecosystem in Romania, and now our impact is slowly spreading at an international level.

Here’s a snapshot of the key milestones from last year:

# The Rubikigai Program

Startups built from passion create a huge positive impact. Sometimes, we don’t make ourselves a priority and we don’t give ourselves time for introspection, for exploring what it is that we really, truly want. For closing this gap, we launched the self-discovery program Rubikigai, which creates the right context for exploring our values and discovering our passions. Why? Because we believe that being aware of our personal mission can help us build a startup or an impactful business. 

We launched the program in 2020, and last year we integrated it better within our mission. In 2021, we had 3 batches with 52 participants eager to discover what makes them tick, each batch lasting 3 weeks. 

Rubikigai is the first step towards a fulfilled life, aligned to your own values and to the things that matter the most to you. But who can describe the whole experience better than someone who lived it to the fullest? Here is one testimonial from Vlad, one of our participants: 

One of the best time investments I’ve done lately. It forces you to stop finding excuses for inaction and to start acting on your passion.

Our colleagues Ioana Cerescu and Georgiana Vieru talked about Rubikigai in IQads, here. Moreover, Georgiana was invited to the local radio station Impact FM to talk about what it means to live a creative life and how can we start a business from our values and passions. The live interview is here.

# The RubikEDU Program

What is next when you have a business idea? Well, you start building on it. There is no doubt that with the right context, resources, and guidance, the chances of your idea succeeding are considerably higher. We wanted to create the right context for all those people willing to embark on the startup journey. This is why we created RubikEDU in 2018, an entrepreneurship education program in which the participants work on their startup idea together with national and international mentors from our community.

In 2021, we had 3 batches with a total of 95 participants. We’re very proud that our program has contributed to the journey of startups that succeeded to secure funding from private investments. Synaptiq, a Romanian healthcare startup that develops AI-based solutions for delineating tumors and organs at risk, is one example of many.

You can watch here and here two video testimonials from our participants: Roxana Sabău – Synaptiq, Alex Chiriță – Mooshee.

# Supporting  Startups throughout the Fundraising Process 

The fundraising process can be overwhelming for startup founders without previous experience in raising investments. We are here to support founders throughout all this process, by connecting them with the relevant investors and helping them to form sustainable relationships.

Our wish is to connect startups with investors from early stages. Why? We believe that this relationship is not just a one-time business, but a long-term partnership of a minimum of 5-7 years. Mutual trust is the foundation for any relationship, and when this foundation is solid, the whole fundraising process is smoother.

In 2021, we discussed with 30+ early-stage and advanced startups about a possible investment round, we connected with 50+ international and national investors, we organized 5 webinars on related topics, we connected over 10 startups with investors, and contributed to attracting a 1 million euro investment for a startup in our community – an important milestone for us that we are very proud of. Find out details in the next section.  

# Together with a Romanian Startup in Attracting a € 1 Million Investment 

One of the most important milestones is the € 1 million investment raised by XVision, the MedTech Romanian startup that we supported throughout the whole fundraising process. 

At the beginning of this year, XVision secured a round of seed funding. This is an extremely important strategic achievement, consolidating the team’s plan to expand to Western Europe. This amazing success came after a long consulting process with our team, mainly with Robert Cotună, our investment expert. For us, this is the greatest validation that our actions bring real impact in the Romanian startup ecosystem. 

“From the moment I have connected with them, the Rubik Hub team has provided a large, qualitative amount in our fundraising process. Throughout the process, they have been assisting us not only with feedback on how our pitch and materials were structured, but also with much-needed operational help, by getting in contact with investors both from their network and outside of it. Fundraising can be a draining and eroding task for the founders – I feel like Rubik Hub’s assistance can definitely make the process easier, both mentally and operationally”, said Ștefan Iarca, co-founder and CEO of XVision.

XVision is a medical platform based on artificial intelligence algorithms that develop products to support radiologists in the analysis and interpretation of medical images. This is XVision’s second round of investment, attracting a total of 1.5 million euros so far. Congrats to all the team! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for XVision!

# Consolidating the RO Startup Initiative

From 2020, we have started to contribute to the launch of RO Startup, a joint public-private initiative whose goal is to support the development of the first strategy for the Romanian Startup Ecosystem. It’s a daring and ambitious project supported by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the European Commission, aiming to build a sustainable startup infrastructure with the involvement of all main stakeholders representing all regions at a national level.

Last year, we consolidated this initiative. Furthermore, we launched the first Romanian Startup Ecosystem White Paper, the result of over one year of extensive effort and work done mostly by the community. You can access the white paper here.

# Participating at Slush, one of the Biggest Startup Events in Europe

After such a long break from offline events, we were extremely happy to physically experience the great energy from Slush, Europe’s leading event for startup founders and investors, held in Helsinki, Finland. How we missed connecting to people face to face, getting inspired, and learning from a global network of startup enthusiasts! 

And good things always come in pairs. Right from Slush, Vlad Gliga, our CEO, had a live appearance on the Romanian TV channel Digi24. Talking about the startup ecosystem is like second nature for us. 

# We Celebrated 4 years of Rubik Hub with 4 live Talks with Startup Professionals from our Community

How else to celebrate our anniversary than together with our community? To mark our fourth year, we organized a series of four open sessions with guests from the startup ecosystem. 

We started with an ”Ask me Anythingsession, together with Sebastian Gabor and Ruxandra Pui, co-founders of Digitail. In March 2021, the veterinary startup raised $2.5 million in a seed round from Google’s AI fund. Watch here the recorded session.

We continued with two fireside chats. The first one was about scaling and growth. Mihai Cepoi (Jobful), Andrei Vasile (SanoPass), Florin Stoian (Milluu), Ștefan Iarca (XVision) were invited as guests, and Sebastian Gabor was the moderator. Some of the topics we’ve tackled were finding the right moment to start looking for an investor, how to approach a VC, and what are investors expecting from startup founders. Watch the video here.

Investors with national and international experience joined us for another open fireside chat: Dragos Nicolaescu (Angel Investor), Liina Laas (The Better Fund), Alexandru Bogdan (RocaX), and Rumen Iliev (LAUNCHub Ventures). We explored the role of investors in the process of scaling and development and how to build a relationship with investors before having access to their financial resources. You can find the recording here.

The last session focused on the scaling process. Our guest was Guatam Kumar, investment manager at SeedBlink and co-founder at Inbond Tech. Guatam thoroughly discussed the structure and characteristics of a VC, the types of VCs, the investment process, and the criteria VCs keep an eye on. Watch the webinar here.

# Launching Rubik Hub Retreat 

We have to admit that we are incredibly lucky to be living in such a beautiful area, surrounded by mountains, and working in a hub that inspires us every day. We would love it if more people would get the chance to have the experience we do. With this in mind, we launched the Rubik Hub Retreat concept: an open invitation for teams all over the world to spend a couple of wonderful days in Piatra Neamț. The first one to experience this concept was Digitail, a startup team very dear to us that’s been here right from the beginning of our journey. 

After such a long period of online interactions, Rubik Hub Retreat is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with your team and live an unforgettable experience. Find out details about Rubik Hub Retreat here.

How did we get inspired for creating this concept? Smaranda for one got hers from Silversquare, a co-working space in Bruxelles. 

# Live Sessions of Founder’s Stories

One of the perks of being in a startup community is the chance to get inspired and learn from your peers. In 2021, we organized live discussions with startup founders eager to talk about their entrepreneurial journey, discussions that we integrated into our programs.

Two batches of Rubikigai created the perfect context to organize two sessions of Founder’s Story. Rowena Marin, EMEA Go to Market Lead at Google, and Iulian Vacarean, the founder of Beneva NGO and Femei pe Mătăsări festival, helped us understand how to decide if entrepreneurship is the right path for each of us, how to discover the right path in your life, and how to get the courage to follow it, especially when it involves dramatic changes. You can find the recording here.

What are the challenges founders or any other people starting a new project face? How small the first steps can be and how to find the courage of putting them into action? All these topics were tackled by Elisa-Letiția Ștefan, co-founder and CEO Nifty Learning and one of the valuable mentors from our community, in an open talk with Roger Osorio, founder of the Reinvention School from New York. See the video here.

In RubikEDU, we organized two sessions of Founder’s Story as well. Petruța Tuliga, founder of Parentool, and Ana-Maria Drăgănuță Briard, founder of Avoteca, talked about their startup journey in a discussion moderated by Patricia Bertea, CEO Brandweb. Watch the talk here.

We got inspired by two other successful co-founders from our community – Ruxandra Pui (Digitail) and Roxana Mărgan (OncoChain and the winner of the grand prize of Startup Spinner Makeathon 2019). Șerban Vornicu was the moderator of the discussion (watch it here).

# Together with a Startup in Their Scaling Process 

We’ve already mentioned that the Digitail team is very dear to us. The two co-founders, Sebastian Gabor and Ruxandra Pui, have been in our community as mentors since the beginning, when Rubik Hub was just becoming a tangible dream.

We’ve evolved together, so imagine how happy we were to be there throughout their scaling process in the US! Vlad Gliga, our CEO, attended VMX, a landmark event for the veterinary industry, together with their team.

# Organizing a Workshop with a VC from Silicon Valley

Max Menke, the founding partner of GrowthX, a Silicon Valley VC fund run by operators with extensive go-to-market experience, held a Product-Market Fit workshop for our startup community. We discussed topics such as how to maximize sales productivity by finding prospects through smart targeting and disqualifying poor prospects quickly, how to stop selling and start seeking fit, and how to avoid the scale trap.

Max runs the Market Acceleration Program (MXP), a private accelerator that gives GrowthX portfolio founders an unfair advantage. He has extensive experience developing and executing data-driven, scalable, and repeatable go-to-market strategies at the early-stage product across various industries. Max’s expertise is centered on building systems, tools, and processes for teams to accelerate the path to product-market fit and exponentially grow revenue.

# Spreading our Vision and Mission on National Television 

Each chance we get, we like to talk about our ambitious mission of inspiring as many Romanians as possible to build solutions that people around the world need. When you are truly passionate about what you do, you want the whole world to know about it.

We’re so honored to have had the chance of spreading our vision and mission on the national channel Digi24. Details here.

# Live Talks on Clubhouse

Do you remember the time when Clubhouse was the fastest-growing social media app? We decided to hop on the trend as well, and organized four live talks with members from our startup ecosystem:

  • We talked about GDPR and IP with Sonia-Denisa Fedorovici (ROCAX), Tudor Andrei Stanciu (Digital 2 Law), and Andrei Hancu (SeedBlink).
  • Elisa-Letiția Ștefan (Nifty Learning), Diana Lefter (Agilero), Cristina Toncu (ROTSA & Techcelerator) had an insightful discussion about startups and investments.
  • In another talk, we invited Mihai Cepoi (Jobful).
  • Sebastian Gabor (Digitail) gave us insightful tips about what to do for getting an investment.

# Hosts for a Medical Team

Our hub is open to any purpose-driven team. We’re happy to have hosted the annual meeting of The Medical Doctors’ Caravan (Caravana cu Medici), a dedicated team of healthcare providers whose mission is to provide health care in disadvantaged areas and educate people in rural areas on health issues. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey!

# Webinars for College Students

How we love getting inspired by the young spirits! Last year, we held several webinars on entrepreneurship subjects for students from several Romanian universities.

Here’s the feedback from one of the students:

“The topics were interesting, they made me consider the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur in the future.”

# Mentors and Jurors at EduHack 2021

One of our guiding values is #GiveBeforeYouGet. We like to offer our unconditional support to the startup ecosystem every chance we get. When our friends from ROTSA – Romanian Tech Startups Association organized EduHack, the largest formal and non-formal education hackathon in Romania, Ionuț Amariei, our colleague who coordinates the RubikEDU program, was happy to join them as mentor and juror.

# Hosting a Financial Education Course

… and not any kind of financial education course, but one for children! It’s never too early to learn how to be financially responsible, isn’t it? Congrats to Școala de bani for their great initiative!

# Startup Stories

Learning about the stories behind successful startups inspires us and the people from our community. Therefore, we published three new Startup Stories of Romanian founders willing to share their experience:

Petruța Țuliga – founder Parentool, the first science-based parenting tool from Romania

Claudiu Petria – founder Questo App, an urban entertainment platform for city games

Dragoș Nicolaescu – Management Consultant, Executive Coach, Startup Advisor

# Inspiration for a University Lab

Patricia Bertea, CEO at Brandweb, lecturer at a university from Iasi, and a big supporter of our community, was inspired by the vibe from our co-working space. Aware of the lack of modern spaces dedicated to students, Patricia renovated a classroom from the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Iași with the help of private partnerships. The new Creative Business Lab aims to facilitate the integration of creative activities in the educational process, consolidating the collaboration between academia and the private sector.

There’s nothing better than being surrounded by a community of people who take concrete steps to a better tomorrow! 

We’re so grateful for such a wonderful and fruitful year, that brought us one step closer to our mission of developing and connecting communities, together with whom we inspire, educate and accelerate startups from 0 to 1 and create global successful businesses.

We’re sending a big THANK YOU to all those supporting us unconditionally throughout our journey: mentors, investors, programs participants, the extended team from the North-East Regional Development Agency. #WeAreInThisTogether

What are our plans for 2022? Well, we’re designing our agenda for this year and we’ll soon reveal it… So keep an eye on us!

May we all have a year of sustainable, positive impact