Cristian Munteanu – Founder of Qalendra Inc

Get on stage and present your business to the world, especially if you’re in B2B. Meet business partners, explain what you do, be brave and memorable. Say clearly “come talk to me!”.

Cristian Munteanu is a tech entrepreneur with a creative background. He’s a skydiver, wingsuit flyer, BASE jumper, Porsche fan, anime lover, gosu (means skilled in Korean) Starcraft player.

He started his career as a journalist while still studying British Studies @ the University of Bucharest. Then moved to the ad industry for the following 14 years: progressed from copywriter to CEO, won many international advertising awards, published articles and interviews, led international teams on projects for world’s largest brands, worked in Moscow, Vienna, Dusseldorf, Paris, Prague, Warsaw, Istanbul, Budapest, Bucharest…

In 2004 co-founded Merlin, acquired by TBWA (Omnicom). As CEO, he founded a digital technologies hub for TBWA offices in Europe; founded SOA, a CSR and not for profit division.

Founded ESMUS (E-Sports Match-Up Services) – an online competitive gaming platform that proved to be a glorious flop.

Founded TBIEH (The Best I Ever Had) – an NPS platform acquired by Ermenegildo Zegna, Milan.

In June 2013 left the agency to found Qalendra Inc. – a technology startup that automates travel research and makes it orders of magnitude better than any human expert and delivers it instantly on any platform.

Where did the idea for Qalendra come from?

Everything started out of personal need. For years, I’ve been dreaming of fighting with tomatoes at “La Tomatina” or attending the carnival in Rio. And for years, I’ve missed it. Simply because I forgot to book tickets in advance. So, initially, I started Qalendra as a calendar of festivals and events. Soon, I realized that the market was too niche and we’re missing on a bigger opportunity. So we pivoted into a much more technological solution: developing algorithms that analyze tens of factors and identify where the best conditions for each specific type of vacation or activities are, with months in advance. Now we develop the technology and deliver it to other companies in travel.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wish I could wake up earlier, but I simply can’t. That’s because I go to sleep too late in the night. So, I wake up around 8.30 am, dress up and hurry to the office – I need an office; don’t like to work in Starbuck’s or at home. Then I work. Until the job is done or until I’m too tired to continue. Go home. Eat. Neglect my girlfriend 🙂 Sleep.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I don’t know the answer to this question. I guess it’s just a matter of getting the job done. Betting everything on it and doing your best. I know too many people that had one or a hundred ideas and never did anything about it. I don’t know if this is something that can be trained or learned. Probably is just the other way around: having ideas is natural; turning them into reality is not. It’s dangerous. It’s outside the comfort zone.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Everything that’s related to technology excites me: space tech, AI, blockchain, genomics, drones, longevity tech. Space tech probably the most. I love ideas and startups that can impact a billion people. Like those guys that plan to send a 3D printer to an asteroid, mine it and print structures in space. That’s really big. I believe in demonetization and democratization of resources through technology. I believe that technology has the power to right the wrong and change our lives for better.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I use my email as a to-do list: any email that’s marked as unread is a task. I try not to use many tools or resources but to consolidate everything in my email and calendar. I use Google a lot. Absolutely no chat app. I get annoyed very easily with people that keep sending lots of text messages or call too often. Also, I don’t listen to music when I work. Many consider this to be awkward but I am more productive when it’s silence.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My worst job was as a CEO for an advertising agency in Bucharest, Romania. Having the government and ministries as clients was awful. Beaurocrats manage to mix stupidity with laziness and incompetence. The result is a deadly cocktail. I couldn’t survive the frustration of not being allowed to do my job properly. So I quit advertising never to return and started Qalendra.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would do everything differently. I would get into technology from day 1 and relocate to Silicon Valley. They say you are the sum of the 5 people you meet most. I believe this is true. So I would surround myself with brilliant people and enjoy every minute of it.

Also, I would start BASE jumping and wingsuit flying sooner (not wait until 100 skydives). I would eat healthier and exercise more etc.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I ask myself questions. For example, before I have a meeting I ask myself: what do I want to get out of this meeting? Is this feasible? Why would the other guy do it or give it to me? What’s his or her motivation? But I never try to have answers to all the questions that may be asked. I never try to anticipate all the stupid things that one can ask or that can happen. That’s impossible and induces fear and anxiety. I refuse to be afraid.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Get on stage and present your business to the world, especially if you’re in B2B. Meet business partners, explain what you do, be brave and memorable. Say clearly “come talk to me!”.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I feel as if I had a failure every day. It happened so often to say something stupid during an important call with a client or an investor. Or send the wrong email, or make the wrong decision and suffer the consequences. But that’s part of being an entrepreneur – trying new things that obviously you’re not trained for.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Imagine a new type of oceanic drones with unlimited autonomy and capable to accomplish a wide spectrum of tasks (monitor currents, fish migration, locate shipwrecks, provide Internet access etc). The drones should be able to carry different sensors and act as a pack of whales.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Spent $100 on some amazing spices in Istanbul. Mind-blowing!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Gmail and Grammarly for mailing. Google Calendar, Time Converter, and Google Maps to set up calls and meetings on different time zones. Google Drive and Dropbox to share documents and for storage. Google Analytics and Inspectlet for analytics. LinkedIn and AngelList for professional networking. Instapaper for bookmarking. MailChimp for newsletters. I also read the newsletters from CB Insights and Abundance 360.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Read “Founders at Work“. It’s a series of interviews with entrepreneurs such as Max Levchin, Steve Wozniak, Paul Graham or Stephen Kaufer. When it comes to startups I tend to give more credit to entrepreneurs than professors or researchers.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I was very influenced by Frank Herbert’s “Dune”. Looking back it’s easy to understand how I got into this predictions thing (at Qalendra we predict the quality of travel conditions with months in advance).