After working at Accenture for over a decade, Vitalie Schiopu decided to take matters into his own hand and co-found a climate fintech startup. He talked to Silicon Luxembourg about his innate desire to build things, the joys of being an entrepreneur and his new startup ClimateCamp.
What convinced you to take the jump from Data Science Senior Manager at Accenture to entrepreneur?
I’ve always worked in the innovation space in various capacities, particularly in applied artificial intelligence. At Accenture, I helped build multiple software platforms that could be used by project teams across the world. This kind of work cycle from prototype to finished products or software accelerators was very similar to that of a startup environment so I knew that I was suited to such a work environment.
Having gone through this cycle multiple times, the idea started brewing in the back of my mind that I should do this myself. I kept asking myself: What if I tried it out? I had the skills and learnt a lot in the corporate world that could be applied in a startup so at some point I could no longer ignore this idea.
Eventually, my co-founders and I came up with ClimateCamp, a SaaS company that develops and markets a collaboration platform and open infrastructure for simplifying the collection of reliable data about organizations’ and their products’ greenhouse gas emissions. This helps engage their suppliers efficiently, offering a scalable and repeatable approach for organizations to get results in near-real time and automating regulatory reporting.
Was ClimateCamp your first idea for a startup?
No, while I was still working at Accenture, I was constantly testing ideas with my peers and colleagues, many were technologically interesting but did not go anywhere. I knew that I wanted it to be something that was useful and impactful. I did not want to create just another tool or software, so I knew that it would be a solution that would work in education, healthcare or the environment.
Since there is a great need for climatetech solutions and AI-powered techniques have become a lot more readily available to the masses, the idea for ClimateCamp made a lot of sense. We began our ideation phase two years ago when we were still in our regular jobs and then incorporated in September 2021. In the beginning, we had a formal structure but informal effort because of our day jobs but then as our idea got more concrete and we started gaining traction, founders progressively switched sides.
When did you know that it was the right time to switch from your “safe” job to the riskier life of an entrepreneur?
I only stepped in full-time in December 2022, so it’s only the second month that I am fully dedicated to my role at ClimateCamp. Having signed the first customers and having four investors backing us gave me the confidence to make the switch.
This decision was helped by the fact that we had many internal discussions and had assessed that there was a market for our product, that we all believed in it and that we had validated it through investors and customers, and it was time to accelerate.
I also evaluated my personal situation, assessed where I was in my career and skills wise on the market and I of course had an honest conversation at home with my wife. So on the personal front, it was good timing for me to give this project the proper time and energy it needs to succeed. In the back of my head, I often ask myself: What if things don’t work out? But you can always doubt yourself but until you give it a shot you don’t know how things are going to go.
ClimateCamp recently raised €700K in pre-seed funding. What do you plan on spending this money on? And can we expect you in Luxembourg any time soon?
Our first step is to build the team and accelerate product development, we are 9 people today. Secondly, we want to accelerate the go-to-market with our ongoing campaign, which focuses on breweries by choice and by design and their suppliers. Short term, we want to expand this campaign in two directions: both geographically in the Benelux countries and in terms of sectors naturally expanding into the entire food and drinks sector too.
The product is ready for Luxembourg today, there are some local “hero” breweries on our short-term radar. Although Luxembourg is a small market, we think it would be a suitable springboard into other European markets. We are also already preparing our next seed round which we have planned for the second half of the year and are hoping to raise €2-4 million.
What would you tell people who are considering making the same jump from the corporate sector to the world of entrepreneurship?
If the idea of building a business attracts you and if your idea convinces you, then you should go for it. Of course, you need to surround yourself with the right people too, but if you even have the slightest doubt that you want to become an entrepreneur you should at least try it. I know I would have regretted it if I had not given it a try.