Grile-Rezidentiat.ro (online educational platform with multiple-choice questions for the residency exam), Grile-Admitere.ro (for admission to medical school), BIOMAP (the first 3D medicine platform in Romania), Docendo.ro (online course platform where we published the first video course on how to choose your specialty in medicine) and Grile-Drept.ro (for admission to INM and bar) - all these are brands that are under the ownership of Marsilian, the company with which everything started.
How did we get started? How did we proceed? How did we get here? It's a story about the people behind the platform. 99.99% of the time it's just about you, the user, but today we tell you our story.
Before you continue, thank you on behalf of the entire team for being here.
My name is Mihai Voinea. I was living with my brother, Dragoș, at that time. I was in the 4th year of medical school, and he was in the 12th grade. He was studying for admission to the same university as me (in Craiova, Romania) when he asked me a question that would remain carefully inscribed in our memory, like a tattoo on the brain. A question that would change everything for us from that moment on. A question that produced effects that were going to teach us more about life than 12 years of formal education combined.
… I just didn't know it yet.
It was January 2014, a random Wednesday, and I had arrived home after a busy day at university. I was telling everyone what had happened to us when, solving online exams for the driving permit test, Dragoș told me: "Look what a nasty site they have at the driver’s licence authority. What would it be like to make a site like this, better, but for admission to medical school? Because it doesn't exist."
I said no at first, debated, turned the idea around, and we continued. When I sit down now and think about our mindset from that period, I realize that we would have started the project even if someone had told us that we would definitely fail. Just between us, we were told we would fail, but we blatantly ignored the naysayers.
Looking back, it took me years to realize that you can achieve incredible things if you don't stop at the first sign of fatigue, if you ignore what society says and if you live and build in your "bubble"—if you know how to close the door when you have to and stop the outside noise. For me, personally, that moment of enlightenment was when I ran my first marathon, in October 2013, at the age of 22 - overcoming a huge barrier at the mindset level.
"I could improve my learning process," my brother continued. Frankly speaking, at the time of the question, I gave Dragoș some reasons why it would not work, probably from an innate mechanism built in each of us. We are taught to always look for the reason why it will not work, we are programmed to complain about the 5% part that does not work properly, instead of enjoying the 95% part of our lives that is cool.
But I said yes.
I had no idea where we were going.
As we were both future doctors and did not know a grain of programming, Dragoș asked an Indian friend, a developer, whom he had met in GTA: San Andreas, if he could help us with the platform. His name? Satadru.
Funny, I know.
Ask a man you have never seen if he can help you with a project that you have no idea whether it will succeed. A man you met in a game, a 19-year-old kid in another part of the world. All I knew about him was that he had climbed the Himalayas during military training and that he knew a few programming languages.
We made the sketches in Paint and sent him the first version, the one in the picture below, which contained only the worksheet. It took about a month and a half until the first version was ready. It took me about two hours to find the image below in my folders.
I laugh when I remember.
We really started from here.
The original version cost $150 and we struggled a little to raise the amount.
It was March 2014.
I remember leaving every day at 7:30 to get to the hospital, continuing with university classes until 13:30, running home for lunch, going to the gym at 15:00, then training for an ultramarathon or going to university again. Then I would go home and work or study late into the night. Then I would start over.
And for Dragoș… it was the last year of high school, a period in which two important exams were waiting for him, the medical school exam and the highschool graduation exam (BAC).
Full schedules for both of us.
For me, it was one of the hardest years of my life and it almost cost me my relationship with my girlfriend, my current wife, the woman who supported me in all my crazy, almost obsessive activities and plans. But it was the year when my identity was profoundly altered, because I learned what to do and what not to do. I was maturing too fast and I risked making mistakes. I was aware of this fact, but I have learned that every human being must constantly push his self-imposed limits.
Because absolutely anything you imagine is possible if you make the necessary effort.
That was the mentality that drove me forward.
We were already in April 2014. We started to add more features in the basic platform, and since May, Dragos was already solving multiple-choice questions online. For 3 months, until his admission exam in July 2014, he was the only user of the platform.
The only one.
Almost eight years later, in 2022, the educational platforms we built are the third generation in terms of technology and work about 80 times faster than the first version, totaling over 200,000 users.
And that developer from India, that random man behind a keyboard, thousands of miles away, would move to Romania, he would become our business partner, but more importantly, he would become our friend.
But there was a long way to go…
We are still in 2014. We continued to pay for programming services throughout the summer. We were adding features like in a LEGO game, trying to be as creative as possible, making compromises so we could pay invoices and move on. Dragoș entered medical school, and this came as a validation of the idea—the platform really helped you to study more efficiently and helped you consolidate your knowledge.
I went on a cardiology course in Egypt that I had planned almost 10 months before. The platform and the internship were the two major financial goals for me that year. We were excited about the idea, but the light at the end of the tunnel could not be seen.
We were moving slowly.
Life had intervened in our plans.
On the one hand, Dragoș worked on creating questions, and together we worked on the user experience part (I had no idea how it was called back then), we were brainstorming and we kept writing down ideas for features.
Resources were limited, but it was a pivotal moment in the process.
Dragoș got a job for a month and a half, in the summer, with our uncle’s company and although he had entered med school that year, he chose not to take a holiday like all his colleagues, but to invest his summer salary in the platform’s development, because Egypt had consumed all my money during the summer. This was one of the strongest lessons for me, Mihai the one in the entrepreneur position.
Don't take a vacation, but invest in your dream.
Looking back, we learned things from each other in the process, but that lesson was pivotal to me. We continued to work hard. We started the company’s paperwork as soon as I got back from Egypt.
Because we decided to aim high, I ran the first ultramarathon of my life in September 2014, and Dragoș his first marathon. 64, respectively 42 kilometers on the Transfăgărășan road in Romania. We both raised funds for Hospice Casa Speranței then, for palliative treatments for cancer patients. I remember buying a raincoat from a thrift store before the event, in another effort to save resources.
We officially launched on October 19, 2014.
That day I received 21 likes on my Facebook post.
There were a handful of people who knew how much effort had been put into it. There were also a handful of people who entered the platform.
Visionaries… that's what I call them now.
This is what the first page of the Grile-Admitere.ro platform looked like on October 19, 2014.
That's what the platform's study page looked like at the time.
Here is the first video presentation of the platform. For those curious, the platform was free for 3 months in the beginning and it took 14 months for us to collect the first payment, in March 2015—starting from the time of the idea, January 2014. That one-month bill was about 2-3% out of the total we had invested until then. But nothing else mattered.
We had really created something valuable. From scratch.
It took almost three years for the company to become somewhat profitable and self-sustaining, given that we constantly reinvested almost everything to add features and improve the product we created.
We were never satisfied with the final product. We always found something to change. We were always adding something. There was always a brand new idea.
Putting things in perspective, it will never be complete…
We had plans, and the plans cost money.
In 2015 we realized that other students could also use the platform’s features, so we laid the foundations of Grile-Rezidentiat.ro on the skeleton of the old platform.
In addition, I was to take the residency exam in 2016.
I left with an Erasmus programme in Turkey in February 2015, and Teodor Dumitru had joined the team, the man who would become CMO and who was then in charge of formatting the multiple-choice questions and doing the final corrections. In the first six months of that year I worked from Turkey while Dragoș and Teo worked from Romania, and Satadru from India.
It was also the first time I sent the first newsletters to the online community. In July 2015, there were already dozens of students who had just gotten into medical school, who sent us messages of appreciation. During that period, we crossed the threshold of 1000 users.
I mention running again because it was a crucial element that taught us both a great deal about life, but it also helped us phenomenally on this journey.
Two days before launching Grile-Rezidentiat.ro (by pure coincidence), I ran with Dragoș 102 km from the city of Vidin, Bulgaria, to the front of the Craiova County Emergency Clinical Hospital in an effort to raise awareness in the media and with the authorities regarding the state of the institution at the time. It needed renovation.
Dragoș was 19 years old, I was 24. We were joined by four other friends on the bike and another friend who ran with us. At the same time, I promoted a campaign started by another Romanian, Mihai Jitianu. More than 4,000 euros were raised for the renovation of a section of the hospital.
We launched the platform on October 20, 2015, 1 year and a day after we launched Grile-Admitere.ro. Until the compendium appeared (2016-2020) and then the bibliography from 2021 and until we laid the foundations of a team to create questions, the site initially had multiple-choice questions from ECN (the bibliography before 2016).
I can't find the first page of the site, but I have this image that I posted on Facebook on the day of the launch.
We had to learn to do billing, to learn economics, we had to learn marketing, we had to learn time management, we had to learn psychology, we had to learn business. We had to learn… everything. While we were studying medicine.
In 2016, I used the platform to prepare for the residency exam and corrected spelling mistakes on the platform while testing myself. I would answer user reports in the morning, take care of administration, and write down ideas for improvement.
I was already a full-time user. At the same time, I was studying for the residency exam. I remember a student asking me at one point on Facebook how I was able to learn at the same time. I didn't know what to say to him because I never wondered about this.
When you want to do something, you do it.
Those were some terrifying few months for me, with the stress of the exam rising to alarming levels, with many existential questions in my head, but also with a business to manage. In the end, I made it. Going further, December 2016 brought us to the point where the backend technology was failing us. Not even the best server in the world could save us.
The technology on which we had built the platforms was going obsolete.
The year 2017 was the year in which we worked side by side with Satadru, our programmer, to rebuild the platforms from scratch, on a much superior technology. About 10,000 euros later, we had relaunched the platforms in April 2017 and September 2017, respectively.
Also during that period we were joined by Daniel, the man behind everything related to media and visuals on social platforms. Below is a screenshot from that time.
At that moment, a piece of the puzzle was missing.
We kept thinking about laying the foundations of an educational platform for the legal world.
In September 2017, right after we launched the new Grile-Rezidentiat.ro, I was in the United States when I called a friend that was studying law school to discuss a collaboration. We talked to Dragoș and we partnered up with Mihai Miertoiu.
We all got to work.
We launched Grile-Drept.ro in January 2018, increased it to 11,000 users and put the project on hold two years later, due to a lack of expertise in the field as well as changing market conditions.
The year 2019 was a mirror of 2014. Dragoș, my brother, was studying for a college exam when he saw the opportunity to launch a new platform in the medical niche.
We discussed the investment and agreed on the terms, because at that time we were already a mature company. We signed a partnership agreement with a New York company to be able to use the 3D models that BIOMAP would use.
We launched in August, 2019, after a titanic work in which we built the technology and created content in Romanian for almost 1000 3D models in anatomy, pathology, physiology and interventions.
BIOMAP was the first step in a more complex direction and it was an incredible bet. With over 10,000 users in the first 48 hours, the first 3D medicine platform in Romanian reached the news, we appeared in press articles and this promoted the company's image immensely.
In 2022, BIOMAP counts over 60,000 users from all over Romania, mainly students who pursue the medical school admission exam, medical students, but also resident doctors or specialists. There are also biology teachers who use the platform in the teaching process.
Out other projects between 2018-2021
They have evolved constantly. We have reached almost 4 million tests solved on all the platforms and we have and a number of over 200,000 users (globally).
In 2020, we launched the Grile-Rezidentiat.ro Podcast, the place where dr. Cătălina Voinea interviews doctors from various specialties in an effort to highlight the various branches of medicine. In this way, we help 6th year students and other resident physicians who intend to take the residency exam again to make better-informed decisions about their future. The podcast has generated over 1 million views so far, and our goal is to cover all areas of medicine.
In the autumn of 2021, we started the upgrade process for the multiple-choice platforms, with the aim of launching the new Grile-Rezidentiat.ro in the summer of 2022 and the new Grile-Admitere.ro in the winter between 2022 and 2023. The new technology is about 20 times faster than the previous one (2017-2022).
Time has passed, our brands have become nationwide leaders in their niches, so we have decided to add even more value to our communities. In 2021 we conducted a national study through which we found key information about all medical specialties in Romania.
After a huge research effort, we put together the details and created the first video course in the country on how to choose your specialty in medicine.
Together with the psychologist Alexandru Drăghici, who created the vocational component of the course , and together with the sociologist Andrei Popescu, with me (Mihai Voinea) as an anchor in the medical world, the course reached 10 hours of video content and even includes live workshops on Zoom where participants discuss the vocational component at a broader level.
Currently, the educational platforms have over 200,000 users. The Marsilian team has almost 20 people and I want to list those who are not already in the article: Andra Popescu, Laura Carmona, Diana Răducu, Teodora Vîrdaru, Bogdan Blehuiu, Victor Marancea, Antonio Carneluti, Vlad Ghiță.
The technology behind our brands includes artificial intelligence and machine learning elements. To date, almost 4 million tests have been completed on all platforms. A test can have up to 500 questions.
It was never about money.
It has always been about a revolution in the educational system.
It was about automation and efficiency.
It was about performance.
It was about being better than yesterday.
It was about building a tool that would provide all this.
Our goal is to put high-performance learning tools in the pockets of every person on the planet.
Finally, I note the strongest lesson I have learned in the last four years, one that overshadows all the others.
You can't educate anyone. All you can do is inspire others to educate themselves.
Thank you for using our platform.
Thank you for your trust.