ASPIRE Pre-accelerator

Why join?

Aspire’s pre-accelerator team distilled entrepreneurship support into a 6-month programme.

Entrepreneurial education

We know that there is a lot to filter out when starting your business. We have carefully selected resources that you can readily apply.

Investor network

We can connect you to the right investors. They will have the relevant experience to guide you on scaling your business and the financial means to support you on your journey.

Aspire community

With over 800 members spread across 40 countries, our alumni have the reach and experience to help you with advice, connections and even partnerships. In the Aspire community, you are never alone!

How does it work?

Our 6-month programme includes 2 tailored  training periods, as well as 2 major events. Participants get access to Aspire’s global community, help from coaches and entrepreneurship resources.

Learning quickly is key as you will have to use what you learn to develop your business plan.

Time to get together and share progress. You’ll get to meet everyone in person at the bootcamp.

Once you’ve met your mentors it’s time to start building an MVP for your idea.

Now comes the fun. Pitch your idea!

Past Judges

Have a look at some of the people who judged ideas in the past

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Sergiu Negut

Sergiu is a Business Growth Consultant and Associated Dean with Maastricht School of Management in Romania. He coaches and mentors entrepreneurs. Sergiu is an active Business Angel, with participations in a number of high growth local companies (frufru, Softelligence, 2parale, Hart, Intermedicas). Previously, Sergiu has been the Executive Director and Board Member of PE-owned REGINA MARIA, where he coordinated a growing healthcare business (12x in 6 years) and an expanding team of professionals, including acquisitions of smaller players.

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Dragos Nicolaescu

Dragos uses his 25+ years of experience in various management, investment and entrepreneurship roles to provide coaching, mentoring and consulting services. He has spent the last 9 years coaching over 230 managers to improve their professional and personal lifestyle, mentoring over 220 entrepreneurs in creating a first successful business, advising over 50 companies in growing their business in a sustainable and efficient way, and investing in more than 70 local and international businesses.

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Mircea Bozga

Mircea is Partner within PwC Romania’s Risk Assurance with background in their Audit practice, where he specialized in risk prevention for international audit standards and international accounting advisory services. Mircea has extensive experience in coordinating audits, leading both large audit missions and audits to clients who have projects funded by the World Bank, EBRD, IBRD or Phare.

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Irina Anghel-Enescu

Former mergers and acquisitions lawyer & Law Professor who decided to take a shift in career and follow her passion for promoting entrepreneurship, leadership and education. Irina pioneered legal advice for private equity and VC funds financing entrepreneurial ventures in South Eastern Europe and founded the first law firm specialised in advising funds and entrepreneurs in Romania.

Past Mentors

Have a look at who has mentored past participants

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Dan Pascariu

Dan Pascariu is the President of the Board of UniCredit Tiriac Bank. He has previously been the President of the Board of Bank Austria Creditanstalt Romania for 9 years. He also cofounded the Romanian Banking Institute and has held lectures as an invited Professor at the University of Chicago, Stanford University and Georgetown University in Washington.

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Andrei Cretu

Andrei is an investor, entrepreneur and ex-consultant. He is the co-founder of V7 Capital and of Romania’s main sport benefits platform (7card.ro). As a consultant, he has 8 years of management consulting in Europe, with a focus on strategic and commercial topics (growth, market entry, commercial due diligence, pricing, impact study, scenario modeling etc.)

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Sorana Pascariu

Sorana Pascariu has finished an MBA from Kellogg School of Management with exchanges at London Business School and SDA Bocconi. She is an entrepreneur with endeavours such as co-founding Conversion Network LLC and founding KINDS.tv. Sorana also serves as the Head of Partnerships for Aspire Romania.

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Daniel Nicolescu

Daniel Nicolescu is an experienced executive with solid track record of managing businesses in electronic payments, Internet platforms, software development and electronic software distribution (ESD). He is focused on fast growing products in international markets requiring visionary leadership, team development and engagement.

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Mihai Sfintescu

Mihai Sfintescu serves as the Managing Director at Abilito Capital and he is a Jury Member at European Innovation Council. His work is focused on Venture Capital, Private Equity, Management, and Mergers & Acquisitions. Mihai Sfintescu is specialised on motivating people, shaping strategies, interpreting financials, and developing new projects.

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Tudor Juravlea

Tudor facilitates collaborative problem solving with multidisciplinary teams. He coaches teams to innovate and work better together, with Lean UX, Design Sprint and Design Thinking tools and methods. Tudor has grown professionally in a few amazing teams, inside some of the most formidable companies in Romania: Orange, ING, Vodafone and E.ON.

Aspire Coaches

Our lovely team of coaches is waiting for you.

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Delia Stamate

Delia is working for more than 2 years as an Analyst at Bank of New York Mellon, for Portofolio Services EMEA. She also spends time working on international educational programs, impacting Afghani women and Pakistani youth. She believes that we all have to fight for a better world and for the next generations.

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Luca Mateescu

Luca has experience working in top tier strategy & operational consulting at the Boston Consulting Group and A.T. Kerney, as well as corporate law at Tuca, Zbarcea & Asociatii and sales at a start-up launched by Aspire alumni. Passionate about Aspire’s potential, Luca acted as Co-President, overseeing the partnerships & financing strategy, the global expansion and the launch of Aspire’s business incubation initiatives.

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Ana Voicila

Ana graduated from an Economics and Business program at UCL and now continues her studies in Finance at Harvard Extension School, while working in investment banking in London. Ana joined Aspire’s Mission Circle for 2 years, lead the Incubator and acted as Aspire Co-President. She is currently sitting on the Aspire Strategic Board.

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Leonard Dima

Leo is a generalist who studied disciplines including automotive, electrical, industrial, and systems engineering in the UK and Netherlands. Additionally, he gained work experience in entrepreneurship, project management, consulting, and software development at several NGOs and companies.

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Florin Gheorghiu

Florin is doing his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. Part of his time is spent at a start-up in edtech, where he designs and coordinates research and data analytics, as well as being involved in video content production. His experience took him to research at Harvard, international development in Kenya and displaying work at London’s Science Museum.

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Cristian Avram

Cristian is currently doing a Masters in Computer Science at the University of St. Andrews. With a background in business management and a keen interest in design, he worked for a Fintech start-up near London, where he contributed to the product roadmap, shaped the marketing strategy and executed product launch plans.

How to apply

Applications have closed

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Pre-Accelerator's timeline?

The program is a year-round project. The Coaching Phase takes place between April 8th to May 17th, and the bootcamp is organised between May 24th to May 26th in Bucharest. Starting June throughout the summer, the selected teams will participate in the Mentorship Program followed by the Pitching Day. Please check regularly our website and our social channels to be up to date with our latest news and timeline.

Where is the Pre-Accelerator program held?

The coaching and mentoring sessions will take place in the online environment and 1-to-1 Skype meetings. It is also possible to arrange face-to-face meetings with coaches or mentors. The bootcamp and the pitching event will take place in venues close to Bucharest.

What is the selection process?

The selection process consists of an online application form followed by a short interview. This will give us the chance to examine your skills and will offer you the opportunity to explain in greater detail the problem you identified, your solution and your innovation model.

What is the cost to attend if I am selected?

The real cost of organizing the Pre-Accelerator program is over €300 per participant. However, thanks to our multiple sponsors and partners, we are able to perceive a participation fee of €50. Nevertheless, we offer a range of scholarships, both partial and full, depending on your current financial situation. Please let us know if you would like to be considered for a scholarship by filling in the necessary section of the form. The Pre-Accelerator program is a non-equity based program.

Am I going to receive funding from Aspire for my project?

There are funding chances through the Pitching Day, where you can do your best to pitch your idea. However, we cannot promise funding for your business.

Do I have to submit the project as a team? Can other people outside the Aspire community apply?

Aspire Pre-Accelerator is a programme where we receive individual applications. We noticed that the biggest pain of someone interested in starting a business is finding the right co-founder. So, we take a step back from “the next big idea” and look where the entrepreneurial talent is, bringing them together so they can find the perfect human relationship match before starting to intensively work on building the Minimum Viable Product. However, if you already have somebody with whom you would like to partner we recommend both of you to apply.

How developed should my business be?

The program targets early stage start-ups that did not develop a MVP or did not go through any funding round. Your business idea should reflect the basic plan: problem, solution, market research, competition, client profile, etc. We welcome applicants who are either very passionate about their business idea and want to develop it or who have minimum 3 years experience in the area they want to implement their idea. Please make sure that you clearly state in the application how developed your business is.

Where can I find the list of mentors?

Unfortunately, Aspire Pre-Accelerator cannot disclose the mentors until the actual event takes place, because the team carefully selects them based on the needs of the participants. We will however post past mentors as a reference.

Is there an age limit for participants?

There is no age limit and anyone is welcomed to apply to the program. What matters is your mindset and your desire of solving the identified problem.