Take a trip on the road to 'Excellence in Innovation' | Innovation Labs Gala Award
Take a trip on the road to 'Excellence in Innovation' | Innovation Labs Gala Award
In celebration of their 10th year of activity, we've been honored to participate at the Innovation Labs Gala where we've been awarded the 'Excellence in Innovation' Award. But this was no 'one-stop' trip. Curious about how we got there? Explore the journey up to this moment of relevance and celebration.
Teodora Istrati
5 min. read
Take a trip on the road to 'Excellence in Innovation' | Innovation Labs Gala Award

This is not your usual award article that gives only thanks and talks about the wins along the way. 


This is a tribute to chance, courage, and the people who not only seize them but created the perfect environment for others to take their first steps regardless of fear or mistakes. We’re here to show gratitude for the good, the bad, and the ugly that come along the road of building a startup. 


Innovation Labs, you’ve been the ones who, for 10 years have brought up the Romanian startup ecosystem. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate with you and 500 remarkable innovators at your decade of innovation Gala in Bucharest, on November 14th, 2022. More than that, this is a moment to thank you once more for the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ Award. We’re honored. 


After 10 years of Innovation Labs, more than 1.200 teams can get together within this tribute and say: thank you and cheers to all of you who were bold enough to leap forward into the unknown of startups. 

Most likely, all the ones who made it big now can also get together and say - ‘it wasn’t always like this’


So what happened before we actually got there, on the stage, receiving this honoring award? 



What ignited stronger growth: chance  


We’d be hypocrites if we weren’t aware of that tiny, subtle, yet incredibly influential part of life: luck. For us, it came in the shape of advice.  But one thing that can’t remain unremarked: chance means nothing without being resilient and forward-pushing. 


Linnify was not always what it is today. We started small, in an apartment. Three friends, almost blind faith, and one goal: to bring into this world something authentic that makes things better than they were before we started working together. Not long after this, three other driven team players joined with the same aim: to shape the future by creating simplified life through technology.


While working on DeliverMe, our first product, we realized that our ambition might’ve been more complex than our network in terms of startup specialists who could’ve advised us at the time. Meaning, our good intentions and ways of carrying out our vision needed something special that only rough experience in the startup world could’ve added to the recipe. 


That’s when Andreea Ghic, Program Manager of Innovation Labs at the time, currently our Head of Product Management said ‘Why don’t you apply to IdeaJam with DeliverMe?’.


Well said and, well, soon to be done! When DeliverMe ranked third in the IdeaJam competition, the pre-Innovation Labs pitching competition, we realized a natural next step would be to embark on the ‘InnoLabs’ competition in 2016. 


Here goes a big shoutout to Andreea, without whom, things would’ve definitely been completely different. Cheers to your vision, your discipline, your wisdom, and your willingness to help people grow.

And wholehearted kudos to Cătălin Briciu, co-CEO; Alexandru Bogdan, co-CEO; Răzvan Bretoiu, CTO; Sebastian Godja, Mobile HoD, Darius Bogdan, Backend HoD, Răzvan Todea, Full Stack Senior. 



What makes ‘chance’ turn into action: courage


As mentioned before, our knowledge about the startup ecosystem was no different from any ambitious group of students who decide to create a product together in the (somewhat) comfort of their shared apartment. 


Entering the Innovation Labs world was our first real contact with the reality of things. That was the moment when our ambition met the first:

  • Round of very constructive feedback, 
  • Experts in the startup field,
  • Real mentors who are there to help you grow.  


This intense information wave started creating one big thing we carry with us ever since. Clarity. 

Clarity on what is actually needed in defining a startup - from user segmentation to sales, to team composition, to pitching. Frankly, about it all. 


It feels like, aside from the actual prizes, Innovation Labs awards courage on a daily basis with:

  • A consistent network in the startup world,
  • Lucidity on the essential components that make or break a startup, and
  • The importance of validation. 


Here goes a big round of recognition for such an innovative method of nurturing courage, creativity, and dedication in the tech world. More than this, congratulations to each team who participated in these last 10 years. This shoutout is for you - the daring ones who not only want to change the world, they actually take action to do so. 


What do 10 years of courageous teams look like in Innovation Labs' official numbers?


5.236 participants
1.292 registered ideas
526 mentored teams
307 Demo Days MVPs 
40 hackathons
€200 million value of 61 teams that participated in Innovation Labs



What makes courage turn into fast-growing startups: Innovation Labs


How would your courage and creativity turn into a defined startup with Innovation Labs?


Here’s what the process looks like 

  1. You apply to the competition with your product idea, then 
  2. go through a round of crowd validation, then, if you’re selected, 
  3. you get into a 2-day hackathon. 
  4. After the hackathon, there’s the second round of filtering where
  5. selected teams make it to demo day. 
  6. Then you have the semifinals, 
  7. finals, and surely, 
  8. awards ceremony. 


How did our courage transform with Innovation Labs over the years?


The road to Excellence in Innovation was not a one-stop ride. Across the last six years, ever since we’ve understood the ripple effect of bidirectional learning within Innovation Labs, we wanted to support the learning movement of healthy startup growth. 


Our Innovation Labs journey looked like this:


2017 - Participants
2019 - Mentors Jury Members
2020 - Mentors, Jury Members
2021 - Mentors, Jury Members, Sponsors
2022 - Mentors, Jury Members, Sponsors


We are truly grateful to have had the opportunity to grow within these years with a healthy mindset for what the Romanian startup ecosystem can develop into. 


So this is a big shoutout to the whole team who made this possible - Innovation Labs. The creators of an environment where mistakes are adjusted, not criticized, where lack of clarity meets the answers to questions that maybe never crossed the mind of the participants up to that point, where growth as an ecosystem is all that matters. 


Congratulations on 10 years of innovating the whole Romanian innovation ecosystem. We invite you to take a moment to acknowledge the beautifully creative processes that offer the freedom to evolve authentically, through a clear structure of support. 



What a wonderful gala to celebrate this decade. As the last glass to rise in celebration, here’s to all the supporters of this endeavor that changes the way Romania does business: 


Partners in innovation - BRD – Groupe Société Générale, UiPath, Microsoft, AROBS Transilvania Software, Atos, Carrefour România, Orange România, VTEX, Elrond.

Strategic Partners: Romanian-American Foundation. 

Academic Partners: POLITEHNICA University of Bucharest in collaboration with UEFISCDI - Executive Unit for the Financing of Higher Education, Research, Development, and Innovation.


Local program management: 

A moment of praise for Transilvania IT Cluster, the current Cluj-Napoca Program Managers of Innovation Labs. Congratulations on the first time organizing the local event and adapting seamlessly to the quality of events Innovation Labs accustomed us to. A round of applause to Bianca Muntean, Oana Durcău, Alexandru Roja, Cristina Palamaru. We are looking forward to the next edition.

Cluj-Napoca Academic Partners: Babes-Bolyai University, University of Medicine and Pharmacy Cluj-Napoca, the Technical University of Cluj Napoca (via Ovidiu Stan). 

Cluj-Napoca Partners: Electrolux, Linnify, Wolfpack


Awarded teams

UiPath awarded Synaptiq

Microsoft awarded Ray Vision/XVision

AROBS awarded Linnify,

Elrond / MultiversX awarded Code Truck

BRD awarded Process Lab

Atos awarded CODA Intelligence

Carrefour awarded Fullscreen Digital

VTEX awarded Vatis Tech

Orange awarded Magnasci

Romanian - American Foundation awarded ESENCA, and Pentest Tools. 



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