Interview with Alex Negru

The Challenge

 “Minutizer is the PayPal for time”

Now that’s an ambitious statement from a young Romanian entrepreneur that started this project only a few months ago.

Read on to find out what are his plans and what sets him apart from his  peers in Western Europe. Interesting stuff. I promise.

Intro

I know Alex for maybe 6-7 years now. We first met during a blog meet in Iasi, our hometown. We were both there to find out other like-minded people and connect with the upcoming people in the Romanian online scene.

Even though we kind of lost the connection during the years, especially since I moved to the Netherlands, we still had Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with each other’s achievements.

This interview proved to be great opportunity to revive a dormant friendship and learn so many nee things about the Romanian startup scene.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi everyone, my name is Alex and I am an experienced marketeer that loves to work in Online.

Before starting my current project, I ran my own marketing agency in Iasi, providing online and offline marketing solutions to the local market. In 2012 I moved to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, with only one thing on my mind: create a business that will bring me a passive income.

When I got here I started an online project, together with an ex-client of mine. We wanted to create a new market for the online services industry. After a few months of working and deep diving into this new area, I noticed a big need that wasn’t filled by anyone … so I decided to start a new company and solve it myself.

 Can you describe your new project for our readers? 

Minutizer is the PayPal for time. This is basically a tool that helps anybody to charge per minute an online conversation.

So for example, if you wanted to learn Spanish, Minutizer would allow you to pay per minute the video/audio call with the teacher instead of  paying him/her upfront.

You can imagine that as a buyer, you don’t want to pay upfront for a service that you didn’t receive and the teacher would not want to perform the service and hope the transfer will happen afterwards. This is a great solution as both parties are happy with this pay as you go solution.

For the moment Minutizer works only with Skype, but we are developing plugins for other VoIP apps like Google Hangouts, Viber and so on.

Alex Negru from Minutizer

So it’s basically real time payments through Skype. Correct?

Exactly. Another way you could think about Minutizer is to compare it to the paid/ premium number for GSM mobile phones but for Internet. So basically the 0900 numbers or whatever it is in your country.

How did you come up with this idea? 

As I mentioned, I moved to Bucharest to work on a project that was not related to online payments. We wanted to start an online market for people selling and buying online horoscope readings and tarot predictions. As I looked into this industry, I understood better both the market and the user behavior. And the idea evolved form there.

At first I wanted to embed Skype calls in a web page, but that is technically impossible. So… thinking about this I realized I don’t need to do that. Instead I could make a pay per minute tool for Skype that would simplify the process and free the user.

I bet you had a lot of ideas. What made you choose this project over other projects?

First, this idea made a lot of sense for me. I noticed that a lot of the horoscope readers that were providing services on the website were moving their clients to Skype after the first contact. So the need for an alternative solution was there.

Second, I believe that the time is right for a tool like Minutizer. Nowadays, many people understand concepts like e-wallet, e-payments and so on. Think about it, PayPal is already 11 year old and they did a good work educating the masses in this area.

Third, nowadays almost everybody is using video calling, and they even use on the go.

And last but not least, in the last two years the Bitcoin ecurrency has open the gates to the peer-to-peer, decentralized payments.

So yeah… basically I choose Minutizer because all of the above 🙂 .

Talking about ridding these waves. I imagine there are others ridding the same waves. So how do you feel about competition?

First of all I think is good to mention that Skype already tried this in 2007 but abandoned it after 1 -1.5 years or so. I guess that’s because they changed the CEO and they decided to focus on SkypeOut, their VoIP to operator solution, which I think is a much better revenue model for them. Also I had the opportunity to talk with some guys from Microsoft Europe (since Microsoft owns Skype) and from what I understand, their focus in a very different direction. So for the moment I am not worried about them.

So that is Skype. And the other players?

Continue reading “Interview with Alex Negru”

Interview with Elsa Alexandra Razborsek

Intro

I met Elsa at the beginning of 2012, when we both started the RSM Full Time International MBA at the Erasmus University. I remember that from the very first days of studying together, she seemed very focused, dedicated and passionated about learning…which proved to be exactly the case.

Hearing about her new project and knowing her, I knew that I could learn a thing or two from her experience so I asked if she would spare half an hour for a Startup Maze interview.

The Challenge

In this interview you will find out how a young professional woman who has a full time job and is full time mom, managed to start a website about work-life balance. Talking about of “practicing what you preach” huh?

Hi Elsa, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m a 30-year old multi-passionate professional woman. Nowadays, I like to describe myself as a blogger, life coach, health & fitness enthusiast, financial analyst at Shell and, most importantly: a new wife and mum.

I have a pretty varied background as well. I started off studying biological engineering, worked as a scientist for a couple of years then I moved to the banking industry, where I worked nearly four years in the City of London. Now I am here in the Netherlands, working for Shell. So I changed industries, countries and jobs and I have been doing several things over the last 10 years or so.

So what it your new project? Can you describe it in a few words?

Around this time last year, I was pregnant and I found out that I was expecting a little girl. This got me thinking about all the things I want to teach her. Above all, I wish her to grow into a healthy, balanced and happy woman.

Achieving this balance can be a challenge, especially for career-driven females working in fast-paced, male-dominated environments. I’ve experienced it first-hand while working in the City of London as a Financial Analyst.

At the time, seeking to improve my work & life balance, I started researching personal development, productivity techniques, fitness and general well-being. Eventually, I trained as a life coach (CCF-certified) and also as a Body Control Pilates teacher.

Over time, I’ve developed my own ways to manage my time, stress levels, health and relationships.

It’s these strategies and attitudes that I wish to teach my daughter. And frankly, I believe they can also benefit a much broader audience of women who wish to build more vibrant and fulfilling lives.

With some time on my hands during my pregnancy and maternity leave, I decided to start XanaLiving.com.

 Elsa Alexandra Razborsek owner of XanaLiving.com

So this was an older idea/passion of yours and now you finally got the time to start working on it.

Yeah, I mean I have loads of passions, that is the good part. The problem is to focus on one.

Let’s say that the concept was not refined until quite recently and I still refine it as I go along, but I have always been interested in these things.

Even if I look at my professional career, apart from my current corporate job, everything I did was always related somehow to healthcare or well-being. Either I was doing research in laboratory to find tests that check the purity of vaccines or I was working with small RNAs which can be used to cure the auto immune diseases. In the City of London while working as an equity research analyst covering small and midcap companies, one of the industries I followed was that of health care services. And on top of that, I am very passionate about fitness. So yeah, there was always this healthcare/well-being theme going on.

Now the concept of the blog per se only came up last year.

What helped me pick this specific idea was going through Marie Forleo’s B-School. In the program, Marie talks about finding your “sweet spot” at the crossroads between your passions and what your audience needs.

Accordingly, I took an inventory of my personal interests, my professional certifications and experience. This gave me an array of potential projects.

I knew that I wanted to work on something related to well-being, something that I would like to pass on to my daughter. So the next step was to think about gaps in the market that would match my qualifications and personal story.

As I said before, something that I struggled with in the past was work & life balance as a professional woman. I would have welcomed some kind of coaching on the subject when I felt that my life was a mess. Although there are plenty of workshops and self-help books out there about career and time management, relationships, diet, exercise, spirituality, etc., I didn’t find ONE source that covered it all in an integrated and consistent way.

Hence, I my idea of filling that gap with XanaLiving.com!

So the blog is a way to share your knowledge with others. Is that correct? 

 Elsa Alexandra RazborsekYeah, and actually it’s funny because I started doing more research about these things about 5 years ago. As soon as people noticed that I was doing a therapeutic massage course, training as a Pilates teacher and studying coaching, they started asking me questions about these things, and I really loved sharing those strategies with my friends and my family.

Also, at my previous employer, I was a mentor for a couple of junior analysts and I even started sharing the things I was learning with my mentees. Doing all that, I found that I really enjoy this side of things, mentoring and coaching.

So yes I do it for myself, but I am very happy to share it as well. And people say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, so for me it works both ways.

And how did you fund the project? Was it expensive to launch your own website?

Continue reading “Interview with Elsa Alexandra Razborsek”