[Startup story] In-Crowd | RubikEDU Incubator, Batch 7

[Startup story] In-Crowd | RubikEDU Incubator, Batch 7

August 17, 2023

In-Crowd was one of the startups selected in the 2023 spring cohort of our RubikEDU incubator, and the winner of Most Promising Award at Demo Day. Discover its story below. 

First of all, we would like to know who’s behind the keyboard.

Hello, my name is Felix and I am one of the co-founders and CEO of In-Crowd. My journey into entrepreneurship began approximately two years ago when I participated in the Romanian incubation program called ASMA, during my final year of bachelor’s studies. While my academic background is in computer science, having studied at the “Babes-Bolyai” University in Cluj Napoca, Romania, I discovered a stronger passion for business. This realization led me to take on this role in our startup.

Since my first experience in the incubation program, I’ve learned immensely and connected with remarkable individuals, fueling my desire to solve problems and bring my visions to life through startups. From that pivotal moment onwards, I’ve been actively engaging in entrepreneurial events and relentlessly striving for self-improvement. Incubation programs like RubikEDU and EIT Jumpstarter have also played a vital role in facilitating this personal and professional growth.

Tell us more about your startup. 

The seed of the “Day 0” idea blossomed from my co-founder, Corina, who encountered challenges in finding like-minded friends. She envisioned an app that would facilitate making connections in a unique way, using personalized forms, shared interests, and location as the basis. Initially, we hadn’t precisely defined our target audience, but we believed the app could benefit everyone, especially young people at universities.

As time went on and after participating in our first incubation and training program, we delved into market research, which allowed us to refine our idea and identify a specific target group. The evolved “In-Crowd” app aimed to assist introverts or individuals who felt like they didn’t belong in their social circles by making it easier to form connections without the fear of rejection. Our approach included personalized forms where users could write questions to get to know each other better, common interests, and location-based matching. Additionally, we planned to offer discounts at local businesses to encourage users to meet in person. Furthermore, we intended to create group features, where individuals could join communities based on similar interests, with the added incentive of receiving group activity discounts.

Our primary early adopter group was determined to be students aged between 18 and 25 years old. As our project progressed, we fine-tuned our vision, clearly defining the priority of implementing and testing features. 

Currently, “In-Crowd” is a mobile application open to anyone seeking a safe and inclusive environment to forge meaningful connections. Our commitment to mental health remains a priority, and we strive to ease the connection-making process for all users, regardless of their conditions.

To aid those facing social anxiety even after finding a match, we plan to introduce an “AI conversation coach” that will help users keep conversations flowing. Our early adopter demographic has remained consistent, comprising students aged between 18 and 25 years old. Our vision continues to revolve around personalized forms, discounts, and common interests, fostering a supportive and fulfilling experience for all who join our platform.

Do you already have a team supporting you? If yes, tell us more about it.

The team is composed of me, Claudiu-Felix Micu, and my co-founder, Corina Holom. We share a common background in computer science and have been a cohesive team from the inception of our project, “In-Crowd.” What makes our partnership truly special is that despite our similar backgrounds, we complement each other perfectly by taking on different tasks within the startup

Corina is not only a skilled software developer but also possesses a keen eye for design, which adds a beautiful touch to our work. Additionally, she is deeply passionate about empowering women.

For a startup, there are many aspects that contribute to success. Motivation and founder/market fit are among the key factors. Tell us what’s your “why”.

For me, the “why” of every project lies in the journey. Of course, I choose to work on projects that I believe in and see potential in and that can positively impact the life of people. Once these criteria are met, what truly captivates me is the process of problem-solving and navigating uncertainty, especially in the initial stages where everything seems unknown.

It’s an exhilarating experience to start with minimal knowledge and gradually learn and adapt as time progresses. I think that is beautiful – to be able to figure things out on the run, no matter what happens. Also embarking on the entrepreneurial path introduces you to remarkable individuals – people that will not just be your business partners, but maybe also friends that understand you.

You were part of RubikEDU #7. How has the program impacted your journey?

The incubation program we attended covered all the essential aspects crucial for a startup’s success. From team formation and ideation to developing a minimum viable product, engaging with customers, legal guidance, and much more, we received comprehensive support.

Throughout the RubikEDU journey, we experienced numerous remarkable moments. One that stands out is the serendipitous encounter with someone dear to us, who has consistently provided help and advice on multiple occasions – Florin M. Pop. Florin has been an essential guide for us, generously sharing valuable insights into investment dynamics within such environments.

Additionally, Ciprian Harabagiu contributed to the thinking process for our strategy

What sets you apart from your competitors?

The In-Crowd App stands out from other projects by focusing specifically on addressing the challenges experienced by individuals with social anxiety. It provides a safe and inclusive space for these individuals to connect with others. The app allows users to create personalized questions to get to know each other better and join interest groups that foster a sense of community and belonging.

Moreover, the app offers an AI-based conversation coach and personalized suggestions for places where users can meet based on their interests and needs. It also provides discounts for these places, encouraging personal social interactions. This thoughtful approach is aimed at enhancing connections and making a positive impact on the lives of those using the app.

What are your plans for your startup in the next 6-12 months?

In the exciting months ahead, our primary focus will be on fostering growth within our user base and cultivating a bigger community. We’re committed to staying attuned to our clients’ needs and continuously adapting to provide an exceptional user experience.

Expanding our network of partners is also high on our agenda as we seek to collaborate with businesses willing to offer discounts and special offers to our valued user base.

To propel our vision forward and enhance our capabilities, we have plans to apply for funding. This will enable us to dedicate even more resources and attention to the development of our project, ensuring its success and positive impact on our users’ lives.

What are the biggest rewards of being a startup founder?

The most fulfilling aspect for me is the opportunity to connect with incredible, like-minded individuals and make a genuinely positive impact on the world. It brings me immense joy and satisfaction to contribute to creating a better and brighter future for everyone.

What about the biggest challenges?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is the art of embracing change, particularly when something I thought was foolproof turns out to need improvement. It is undeniably the biggest challenge on this journey. There are moments when we believe we’ve nailed it, only to discover that there’s still much to learn and refine.

I vividly recall our first pitch deck and my initial presentation. Both my co-founder and I were convinced it was exceptional, from the thoughtfully crafted PowerPoint to the delivery of the pitch itself. However, as we moved forward, we realized that it didn’t resonate with our audience as we had hoped

Yet, this experience has been a remarkable learning curve. Through numerous iterations and hard work, our pitch deck and presentation have evolved significantly. Same goes for our product: the way how we initially imagined it, in comparison to the way it looks today.

Why would you recommend others with a startup idea apply to our program?

I wholeheartedly recommend anyone to join your program because it offers an opportunity to explore and refine ideas. It’s a safe and nurturing space where participants are encouraged to experiment, test their hypotheses, and receive valuable feedback from peers, mentors, and guest experts.

Not only does the program support idea development, but it also serves as an excellent platform for learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Even if someone hasn’t fully formed an idea yet, this program is the perfect starting point to dive into the world of startups and gain essential knowledge.

What message do you have for other startup founders?

Being a startup founder is no doubt challenging, but the rewards it brings make it entirely worth pursuing. Remember always to prioritize what truly fulfills you and never overlook the things that hold genuine significance in your heart.

While learning from the mistakes of others is wise, there will also be moments when you’ll gain profound understanding only through experiencing and overcoming your own mistakes. Embrace these moments as stepping stones toward growth and success, for they will shape you into the resilient and accomplished individual you aspire to be.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

One crucial belief I hold dear is that success is not solely dependent on talent, but more on our willingness to embrace change and put in the effort to make it happen. Looking back just a year ago, I began participating in numerous entrepreneurial events, often involving pitching competitions. To my delight, I witnessed the audience genuinely enjoying my presentations. As a result, people started asking me questions like, “Have you always been able to present your ideas so effectively?” and “Was it always easy for you to speak in front of a public?”

I can’t help but find these questions amusing because I know myself well enough to understand how things used to be. In the past, I was an incredibly shy individual, and public speaking used to be a major challenge for me. However, through several years of dedicated effort in working on my personal development, I managed to make significant improvements. Today, I am proud to say that this year, I was invited as a guest speaker at an entrepreneurial event in Romania. It’s truly gratifying to see that the hard work I invested has paid off.

We encourage you to support In-Crowd and follow its journey on Linkedin and Facebook.

Stay tuned to discover the story behind other startups from our incubator! #WeAreInThisTogether