They launched a year ago as an average IT project of Hungary. Today they have the whole Nordics at their feet and international VCs knocking on their doors. Who are them and how did they get here? I asked Gergő Varga, product manager at enbrite.ly to share his personal experience from Startup Sauna.
Interview by Cécile Binot
To start from the beginning of the story, how did you end up working in a startup?
I used to work in risk management at a large website company but I got sick of this work. I took a break… My previous boss, Oszkár Rimóczi [CEO] called me and offered me to work with him. In less than two months it went from a talk over a beer to a project in a good shape. That was, a new ad fraud stopper project. But initially we didn’t think of ourselves as a growing company. It’s Antonia from InVendor Ltd. who pushed us to take part in Startup Sauna.
How did you prepare for the Startup Sauna event in Budapest?
Oszkar pitched on a few events before and on Startup Sauna in Budapest (in Helsinki I took over the pitching part). We received help from the co-working space where we work currently,as well, and again the startup consulting company Invendor were giving us feedback on our pitches.
How would you describe your experience at the Startup Sauna programme in Helsinki?
It’s like Fight Club. They take you apart and they put you back together in a better way.
You meet people with senior positions in large companies. They are big decision makers but you can approach them easily, ask them questions and they are actually very helpful. You put a ‘human’ face on managers from big corporations.
But it’s also a place where you meet people who are in the same shoes as you. They are really inspiring and ingenious people. There is a very positive atmosphere, no competition feeling. You receive a lot during the coaching.
I miss Helsinki a lot!
How is the programme organised concretely?
There is a pattern, each day of the week is dedicated to a different subject. For instance on Monday you focus on pitching, on Tuesday you attend a seminar from a coach, on another day you get a 1-on-1 coaching with an executive… but don’t forget that you have to run your business at the same time! So it’s a very intense experience.
What was the impact of the programme for your startup?
The Startup Sauna programme helped us to refocus. We did have a solid case but we managed to fine tune it based on the feedback we received: what is the best customer segment to target, what activities to prioritize etc.
It’s mindblowing how it puts you on this track. It levels the playing fields in your mind.
Through Startup Sauna you had access to Slush, the leading startup event in Europe. And you won the prize! What did it change for you and where are you standing today?
After winning Slush we literally went from zero to 600,000 mentions on the internet – we suddenly got ‘on the map’. Since then, when we write an email, we actually get a reply, which didn’t really happen before. People know us.
And today it’s back to business as usual!
What would you say to recommend startuppers to apply to the Budapest Startup Sauna event?
With the one-day event, you receive coaching. You meet people who see that you’re trying to build a real business and they can help you with that. Even for non-startupers, attending such an event demystifies a lot of things: you see that if you really work into an idea, you can make something out of it. It’s a great learning opportunity.
Is it true you wanted to be a rock star?
A rock star? No[laughs]. I think that people here made that up. I actually wanted to be a writer. I dropped out college twice and now here I am. So you see… everything is possible! 🙂