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Steve Blank meets Nexi.me in Amsterdam and Silicon Valley

The founders of Nexi.me, Cristian Andreica and Ciprian Mardare, met Steve Blank on July 6th 2012. Steve was invited by Rockstart Accelerator for a comprehensive session with the ten startups in Amsterdam. He talked to the startups in an open event and in private mentorship sessions with the founders. You can watch the most important parts of the open discussion here. During the private discussions, he spent considerable time with the founders of Nexi.me, and they agreed to meet a few months later in San Francisco, during the road trip of Rockstart Accelerator in Silicon Valley in September.

In the following video, Cristian Andreica pitches to Steve Blank, is bombarded with questions about Nexi.me, gets valuable feedback, and finally gives a short interview a few hours before meeting Steve Blank at his ranch outside San Francisco.

In the interview below, Cristian shares his learnings from his encounters with Steve Blank in Amsterdam and San Francisco.

All the ten startups had a group session with Steve Blank, who gave personalized but also general guidance to all of you. What did you learn at this session?

I remember that there were two ideas that were stuck with me and have since then constantly made me challenge the way we run our company. Number one was the fact that a way to solve a need is to take an offline process or behavior and create software and tool to make it better online. Nexi.me, our company, is moving the employee referral process from offline to online and our challenge is to find what are the best ways to design our product, such that it doesn’t entirely change the current referral behavior, but it rather simplifies and optimizes it.

The second point was about focus. You’re a B2B company, trying to figure out whether corporates are your target market, but most of the time, corporates want you to build a custom solution for them. It’s always a challenge to say no to them, as they might be fueling your business, but there’s definitely going to be a moment in the life of your startup when you’ll have to. Otherwise, you’ll end up a being a consultant.

You also had a one-to-one conversation with Steve Blank. How did he help nexi.me and you personally as a founder?

Here’s the most important lesson from the 1-on-1 conversation with Steve:
When you’re struggling to figure out which customer segment to tackle first, think about the one that will lead you as a founder to get the fastest result. It might depend on your previous background, your network, or just the one that you are most familiar with. Even if being an entrepreneur is all about getting out of your comfort zone, you have to use what you already have to your advantage.

Steve Blank showed a special interest in nexi.me and you personally. What do you think draw his attention?

I think we started on the right foot with Steve. He really liked our team. Me and Ciprian, although we have times when we’re not agreeing with each other on things, we’re very good friends and we’re supporting each other. Steve saw that right from the beginning.
In the past, I’ve done a lot of mistakes that he mentioned in The Four Steps To The Epiphany and I only realized what I was doing wrong after I read the book. At Rockstart, I shook his hand and thanked him for that. Then I shortly explained the impact that it had on me and how bad I’d wanted to meet him. I also took the opportunity to tell him about our future San Francisco trip and that we’ll will want to meet him for a coffee in September.

So, you went in San Francisco in September for the Silicon Valley Rockstart Accelerator road trip and you actually met him. How was your meeting?

We spent about one and a half hours with Steve, at his ranch near San Francisco. He got to know us better as founders and the reasons why we were building Nexi in the first place. Then we challenged ourselves to think about new ways to approach the market and he shared a few experiences that he’s been through. Overall, it was great and we really appreciated his time.