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Florin Cornianu is the co-founder and CEO of 123ContactForm. 123ContactForm is based in Romania and was founded in 2008. Florin and his associate, Tudor Bastea, had worked for various online projects and, realizing that they needed an online form building tool for their website, they decided to make it themselves.
123ContactForm is an online service that helps anyone create web forms and surveys as easy as 1-2-3. They focus on usability, multi-language and integration with popular 3rd party services like SalesForce, Google Docs, MailChimp, ConstantContact and many others.
MO: I am actually married to an entrepreneur myself. I am interested in the reaction you received upon telling your wife that you were quitting your high-paying job to follow your dream. Was she surprised at this turn of events? Was she supportive from the beginning or did it take some serious convincing?
Florin: Even though we prepared this action for a few months in advance, when I first told my wife that I’ve written my resignation, she thought I was joking. Here in Romania people used to work for 30 years at the same plant, so leaving the comfort of a secure job is almost considered a sign of madness. Lucky for me I have a very understanding wife that supported me along the way, even when I was considering going back to the multinational company.
MO: Your site looks great and very user friendly. Can you talk about the development process behind 123ContactForm and some of the obstacles you encountered along the way?
Florin: We have periodic meetings between me, Tudor and our angel investor. We decide upon the direction of the company and choose some of the things that are important from our extremely long features list. One of our company core values is the quality of customer support, so you can imagine that we listen very carefully to our clients and give a great importance to their needs by turning them into high priority features. We definitely had a few obstacles among the road, but the biggest challenge was to adapt from working only with Tudor to managing a team of 7.
MO: How has the company evolved since you started back in 2008?
Florin: Oh boy, it changed a lot! In the beginning, there was only Tudor and me working one week from his place, next week from my place. In 2010, we joined forces with Adrian, our angel investor. His contribution was exactly what we needed to evolve. We then moved to Timisoara Software Incubator, and got more team members on board, but we always tried to keep the original team spirit through fun and periodic team buildings.
MO: Can you talk about why you’re a strong supporter of bootstrapping a company instead of running after investment?
Florin: Tudor and I began from college to build small tools & software for webmasters. From our 20-30 projects, only a handful ever brought us money. But we learned a LOT from those mistakes. And furthermore, those mistakes were funded from our own money, not Angel or VC funds. For instance, it’s harder to spend recklessly on marketing when the money is coming out of your own pocket. At some point, we began thinking about attracting a VC, but we decided that the amount of time spent searching and pitching is better spent on developing the product. If I were to start all over again, I’d prefer we created a product that grows organically and is a valid & profitable business, rather than having just an idea and spend my time running after chimeras. Fairy tales happen primarily in Silicon Valley, and not in Timisoara, Romania, Eastern Europe. Or don’t they?
MO: What features on your site are you most proud of?
Florin: I would pick the form editor itself. It’s a real-time drag & drop form builder so no technical experience is needed to build any type of web form or survey. No code, no database, no hassle. Besides that, our approach to the multi-language component of a form is unique. For instance, users can create a multilingual event registration form with a few clicks and make sure they don’t miss any potential participant because of language barriers.
MO: What is your strategy for expanding into the European market?
Florin: The strategy itself is heavily based on the multi-language feature. In Europe there are a lot of countries that still rely on their official language(s), so an English only web form won’t receive that many submissions. Furthermore, instead of opening local offices, we are looking for partners with a deeper understanding of their own market to join forces with us and bring 123Contactform to their country in a fully localized way.