July 7, 2021

A Google algorithm update killed 70% of his blog’s earnings, but that's not stopping Mircea Giurca from transforming shopping into a carbon neutral experience

A Google algorithm update killed 70% of his blog’s earnings, but that's not stopping Mircea Giurca from transforming shopping into a carbon neutral experience

In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Mircea Giurca, founder of Verdoo. At 22 he was on top of the world, but then hit rock bottom. Now after a few projects like creating a dating app, his latest venture is cracking the future of Sustainable Shopping and making it possible to protect the planet while consumers shop online.

 | In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Mircea Giurca, founder of Verdoo. At 22 he was on top of the world, but then hit rock bottom. Now after a few projects like creating a dating app, his latest venture is cracking the future of Sustainable Shopping and making it possible to protect the planet while consumers shop online.


My guest today is Mircea Giurca

who has worn many hats in his career as a writer analysts in digital marketer, but 

his latest venture is cracking the future  Of sustainable shopping, Mircea is making it possible to protect the planet while consumers, shop by planting trees to offset the CO2 footprint, shopping you do online and find the best price.

It's 100% free.    how are you doing today?  Thank you Everett.  Here really happy to and honor to be part of innovators can laugh think great. Chad, the wonderful weekend with my grandfather, it was hisanniversary. So yeah, pretty excited to be around here home.


Let's start off by doing an ICL round, which are quirky questions That reveal some interesting things about you. are you ready?


What song do you have completely memorized?

Insert - what song do you have completely memorized?

This is very cliche, but Azan the Gnomon. My song is basically on my mind since I heard that. You cannot get rid of this once you hear it somewhere. You sing along  what's one of the verses now don't go there.


Okay. Okay.  Third question here. Does pineapple belong on pizza? No, my best Italian friend would kill me if he ever heard me saying otherwise, but I did try two times. I'm with you on that one. It doesn't belong on pizza. Okay.  Last question for the ICO round here finish this blank at the very end of the sentence.

Okay. Here we go. Members of Bucharest social elite 

 are paying thousands of dollars just to experience

 Mucha doing,  how would you fill in that blank? Akra yoga, what's acra yoga it's a mix between yoga and their crop Biotics, where you basically with the partner, try to do some impossible. Poses. I've done that over the weekend, then it was the first thing that came to my mind.

It sounds a little difficult. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing  it seems like you got your work cut out for you yeah, it's definitely on the challenging side of yoga. Okay. And that's AC R a  yep. Okay. Interesting. How far advanced are you a beginner ? I I went to  free class, so that's why I thought, Hey, that would be really cool to have someone.

Okay. Interesting. Interesting. Let's rewind a bit. Where did you grow up and what was it like?

It was great. Obviously when you're a kid you have less to worry about. And I'm, I had the chance to grow up in this city, which is smaller. It has 100,000 inhabitants in Romania. And basically I would say I started in the same place since fifth grade. Is this. High school that has also classes for younger students.

And it was the best thing ever growing up. Like I, I still have my childhood friends that we keep closely in touch with. I work with some of them in the startup now and definitely it's. It was like a really good and healthy way of growing up. And even though it was quite hard because that was Romania after the revolution, I was one of the lucky ones to be born right off, 1989 a year.

And yeah, it was full off of learning, send off challenges. And I had my friends and I still have them with me. So that's the thing that I'm most grateful for.

Okay. Interesting. 

And then you created a travel blog that began generating 250,000 visitors a month. How did you have so much success with the travel category? 

Good question, because I went through several adventures before that, before settling on travel. Basically those were the golden years of Google let's say any kid from his parents' basement could compete with Big companies like Expedia, for example, when you would Google travel, you would be right next to them.

Those are really cool years to try to do stuff around this. And I always had this passion for discovering more and travel seem like a very broad subject. And I think it was also coming from my dad. He is a travel like a tour guide. And yeah, I think that's where I got the passion and I managed to hire him in my high school, which was like a great,

how is this performance review? What did you grade them? To be honest, it doesn't go that well, because six months later we decided to part ways. Okay. 

Insert: What were some strategies you were using to generate traffic?

What were some strategies you used to generate traffic?

With link exchanges, blog posts and guest posting on other people's blogs. I actually did have a bit of imposters syndrome to be honest because I was 17 or 18 years old. I've only been outside the country to Bulgaria and friends once.

I had the blog about traveling. So that was having conversations around places that I visited when I was talking with my,  peers from the travel blogging community. 

We're you writing about specific regions?

we had the global approach. So when you look at the internet today, you basically have heightened 1000 websites that tell you what are the best things to do in New York or in Rome, or how you can make your stay in a hostel, more enjoyable. But back then, there are only a few. So we were like, Hey, okay, we can put, we can research ourselves.

This looks like something that would be. Basically put together. So it had the global approach back then. Okay. And what happened with the website? I still have the domain, but I think at some point it went out of hand with this because we are, I was on my own basically, but I was seeing this growth and then at some point I became very detached the business because it seemed like something that was scalable.

I also went to the university, new friends, new adventures, and then basically this became like a side thing that I started to outsource more and more. And then the quality dropped quite a bit. And then. When Google realized the goldmine they have. And they, there were empires built around this this idea.

So they released a new algorithm update. And then I think from one day to another it's wiped out. I don't know, 50, 70% of the earnings of the blog. And then. I dunno that demotivated me a bit. It required me to go manually through I think, 10,000 articles and make sure that quality of the content increases.

Yeah. And I would rather be CC first and pull up a rock every day then. Okay. That's good. That's a really cool achievement at that age. So what was your next move after journey, et cetera. Dot com.

Yeah, that's pretty pretty interesting thing to recall about because, then I thought, Hey, look, I can rank in the travel industry. I can compete with experience advisor. I can do anything, but what I was missing was the clear direction. What I've done after that was to spend quite a lot of money on buying luxury shop.

I'm starting a startup that was supposed to compete with Tinder back then with with a friend, we were trying to fix this shallowness of dating apps by facilitating meaningful conversations and Yeah, I would say those were the two highlights that both of them, quite a few other small things like trying to open up a company and, 

I didn't really work out. Did, at that time that, this is the path that I want to take. Definitely. So I would say at that point I was thinking that. Hey, look, we've managed to build this from scratch. I'm great at this.

And it's impossible to go and have a nine to five job, but I couldn't have been more wrong because at 22 years old, you basically think that yeah, you're on top of the world. If you basically achieve to have someone. Yeah. I don't know, getting your finances in place, so to speak. But yeah, it was like a tough lesson seeing how,  the fact that I was chasing things without the clear direction really made me hit rock bottom a year later or so.

That was like a tough realization. I, or epiphany, I went through with my co-founder for the dating. Start-up when I was a. Yeah, we are, we were discussing as we're like, okay, this is not working. One of our best friends got married, thanks to our app. But and that's what really took off.

So we thought, look I think we're not ready for this. We have to get some normal jobs and I thought it was the end of the world basically. But when you say you hit rock bottom, what does that mean? I didn't spend all the money, but basically coming to the realization that I will need to get a nine to five job that was really The tipping point for me because I kept repeating to myself, look, I started building websites when I was 16 in the beginning, it didn't work, but it started working.

And then the idea of going to an office eight hours per day seemed very far away. So I thought, yeah, I maybe need to try this to get more experience for me. Yeah. I remember that day. Very clearly. It was like a big shock decision and yeah, but now looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened for me.

Really. Okay. You took on a number of roles, stayed within the travel industry was one of the roles right after that decision was that with malaria? no. So right after that, I I went through a number of interviews and I was okay. I decided to get the job, it's going to be easier to get one. And then went to my interview.

I'm completely blew it. And then I was like, I cannot even get the job. So this is worse. Yeah. And then my, my former geography teacher from university told me they had an opening in a non-line travel agency called the trip star. It was one of the biggest in Europe at that time. And they asked me for an interview.

 And then I went and then things worked out and I stayed there for four, nine months to try it. I adjust myself to corporate life. It was pretty tough. I would say for the first nine months having the first the job. And then I moved to Denmark and worked for about Mondo. How did you decide to go work for Momundo

, we are working with my Mondo. It was one of our partners trips. Ty was a big fan of the brand. Since we are working closely with. And one day I seen, they had this opening, it was like an internship position, but I thought, Hey, it's worth applying.

Let's see how it goes. And I I applied, I was invited for interview three days later and Yeah, it's an interesting story because before I never took a day off in my job, I was so scared. What I'm going to tell my manager to be able to give that interview from home. So I was Googling online excuses.

You can tell your boss

and what excuses did you find? It was over. I told him that my dog is sick, which I don't know. Still makes me cringe. You at least had a dog though, right? Yeah. Yeah, I did. Yeah. And then it was. Okay. That was out of the way it was when I realized how weird it sounded. The anyway, it was too late to do anything.

And then I I was waiting for the interview. I thought it would be a call, a phone call basically through Skype. And it was a very warm day in Bucharest. I think there were like 30 degrees plus I feel like that. So I was just waiting in bed. Being very relaxed. I was thinking of you who got this.

But I wish I did my short. When Dave called, I basically, I there were two people on the screen and then I froze for a few seconds because they were saying we can see you. So I had to jump in quickly.

Yeah. And because it was the first thing I've seen and there were 30 degrees. My cable was full. So I put everything on the side, everything fell on the floor. And then I managed to give that interview with a straight face. And I was thinking, okay, if they say yes, then I have to go because it was the weirdest thing

You got a sweater on. Okay. Okay. Thank goodness. They didn't see below your ways. That would have been a little funny. Okay. So from there you had roles at kayak and get your guide. Are there other travel services that help users compare prices on things like tickets for hotels and cars and airplanes?

What,  happened  that spiky idea of transforming shopping into a carbon neutral experience. Like how did that come about mature? So living in Denmark really made my horizons bigger. It made me open up to the world much more than as a person that was just pursuing whatever opportunity would be out there to drive revenue.

And then. Thinking more about diversity, about climate change. It's a big topic in Denmark and Sweden, especially where the concept of look scam,  basically, took off thanks to the Gretta, Tony Berg. I was more exposed to this and that I thought, okay. In my country, it's very difficult to think about this because we live in our.

Own bubble sometimes. And even my gender. I think my generation is starting to be much more aware, but my parents' generation doesn't really think about this. They say, okay, it's okay. It's not our problem. What's going to happen. If we buy tons of plastic and throw it there, someone will pick it up without thinking about the whole chain.

So the main trigger was during COVID. When I was exposed to those statistics, I would see how. Much people would start buying online things they don't really need. So everyone went through this period where they were exploring your hobbies during the lockdown, everyone was buying the guitar via Lin weights, everything.

And they were just,  throw them out after two, three weeks, something like that. And in Berlin where I spent a lock down, I could see piles and piles of boxes. You couldn't give one throw your trash basically, because it, everything was basically what was covered in in cardboard and then this kind of things that people were throwing, because they didn't really have space in the room.

It was.  I was living in a studio. It was a building of studio. So in a way that people were trying to clean up their place, but throwing a way, all these things that they bought knocked down and we thought, okay I'm familiar with this model of,  working with the shops where we can get the percentage, if you can help them drive with it.

And why don't we use that in order to give something back and enable people to at least plant a tree somewhere that matters with that revenue? Yeah, no, I love it. I like the fact that 

when a

 person shopping to have the opportunity to just maybe check a box and they know that okay. Because of this purchase, this company is going to plant some trees on my behalf

and it's going to offset the carbon footprint I'm leaving behind . So how's it going? And who you're working with in terms of an NGO,

we're approaching this from an idea that we wanted the global scalable solution arise from the start. So instead of. Going and discussing with each partner in particular, we are working with a network that centralizes all the shops. That's basically how it works. And the idea is that we have almost 10,000 shops that were in the progress of onboarding on our platform at the moment.

So pretty easy. It's pretty relevant for each country because we have relevant Sharps, even if you are in Germany, Denmark, Romania, and so on. And, that, that's the the first part.  

So you're working with the network. Let's say I have a Shopify store. And I hear about this and I think, Hey, I would love that for my store. Like, how do I incorporate verdoo your web app and your browser onto my website, 

 so for Shopify specifically, we're developing an extension now. So you'll only have to, install this extension from the store, and then we would be automatically integrated. And you wouldn't really have to lift a finger like more than the initial setup that takes hopefully not, more than five minutes, something like that.

Because we want to, so obviously if you work with this type of network, then we also tell people that, Hey, you're running a promotion. You can buy from Eric's shop. But we also want to have you displayed this value proposition on your Shopify site, right? So we want to. Pay for the threes that what results from this, or assuming you're selling phones.

So for each phone we would pay you in case you decide to integrate this extension. We will support the cost of planting one, three for each same, that your shop makes as long. That customer would come to us to claim that they want to plan that restart. That shows us that it's an interesting, or an interested customer.

They might engage with our brand moving forward and we will even support that cost for your shop. So you can basically say I'm Eric, this is my shop. I am selling phones, but I'm upsetting the carbon footprint. through overdue and it doesn't really cost you a thing. So that's  our main plan.

That's how we want to revolutionize online shopping. Okay. and are you working with an organization to plant the trees? 

Yes, we are working with Eden reforestation project is the biggest organization worldwide that deals with tree planting and. They do the planting in the tropical areas because that's where the deforestation problem is.

it has the bigger urgency however, we've also seen it from our research that people want to plant trees closer to their home. So in their country and we're discussing with several. NGO is. So now we're in talks with several engineers from Romania, but we are also opening up the conversation with others from from around Europe.

Mateo. Why the name Verdo, where did that come from? It's a tweaked the name from French. It's my favorite language. And then it means green. So we thought, okay. It has a nice sounding,  play to to green, which is where they also means something in Romanian and then the O's a dance represent the planet.

So we, we thought about em, the circular economy. So that was more the thinking around it. Okay. And are there any websites here in Romania, where consumers shopping online can see verdoo So we didn't release this, approach where we pay shops to offset the footprint for like directly on their website, because it requires this one-to-one communication.

So what we've done now is to basically. Centralize all the shops in our platform. And we want to show up with any brand that you would the like in Romania, you go on our website, you can click if we find the discount, we also automatically apply it to your shopping cart. And if you even want to bypass that process, you can start our extension.

And the next time you go to any website It only takes you two seconds to click activate, and then we would plan the trees. We wanted an easy way or for Genesis and millennial still, carbon footprint. Okay. So first just go to vet ado, V E R D o.com. And then he can either shop there or just download the application for consumers.

Okay. So how do you find the sustainability scene here in Romania? So that's something that surprised me a lot  when I started launching the business and we've got accepted into an accelerator here in Romania and then.

In the accelerator. I found so many people interested in sustainability and that got me really excited for the local scene. I've met Maria says from sustainably, I've met Roxanna, which has the group Mitchell level query in Romania at the biggest sustainability group. A lot of people that are passionate about This topic here, and it was an even bigger motivation to keep going and continue with the startup.

Because in the beginning, you don't know if it's going to work out or not, but once you have this co this community feeling to it it's a big driver. I would say flexibility and the face of unknown because everything broke one day before with the website and the launch day everything broke in my apartment. So I may be mentioned that I live in this all departments. During the day of the launch, it was earth day. We are trying to. talk with several journalists.

It was even in discussion to maybe have a TV mentioned. And during this time my toilet became a mess because somehow things happen in all buildings and this kind of thing. Explore the sample. Yeah. Let's try to hear the same for everyone. And at the same. On the side, my cousin was coming and he was like, come quickly.

I don't know what to do. And, so yeah, I, beyond this crazy launch day, I think resilience played the biggest factor into making this happen because you can get very comfortable with your job. Yeah. If, when, if you are motivated by the mission, it's always easier to just say, okay, maybe I'm gonna work on it the next weekend, this weekend, I'm gonna go out and do something else.

Try AcroYoga hours thing. It's good to have this balance and discipline when it comes to launching a startup. Got it. if you could recommend a place to visit anywhere in the world, where would that be? Columbia. Definitely. It was my favorite trip. If you learn a bit of Spanish before it can help your experience a culture, especially if you're from Europe, like you've never imagined because it's all about.

Understanding that you have a lot, even if you don't actually even if it's not of monetary value. So I've met people there that where he had the salary of maybe 100, 200 years per month. And they were so much happier than many people that I've met in Europe. And yeah when I came back from that trip, it was okay.

This is everything that this is about. You really have to enjoy life as it is. You have to share what you have with with others. And , that was really like a groundbreaking experience for me, seeing how generous those people can be compared to How by the Nevan some people have my, in my close family God to operate and to grow up.

Yeah. Awesome.  Micha. Thanks so much for being on innovators, can laugh. Where can people learn more about you? Is. Just enter on our website or check out my LinkedIn profile and looking forward to talking more to anyone there I'm very open 

Thank you and for everyone listening until next week, this is Eric melchor saying goodbye.