Get our rare newsletters
Contact GoalEuropeIf you have questions or need a consultation, get in touch.
This post has been brewing in my head for a few weeks now, but other stories took priority. While my memories of the last week’s How to Web conference in Bucharest are still fresh, I thought I will outline what it is happening in Romanian startup ecosystem.
First of all a couple of words about so-called “celebrity startups”. Brainient and UberVU are the internet businesses which were noticed once they became Seedcamp companies, vintage 2009 and 2008 respectively. After the success at Seedcamp, they have raised funding, found the right advisors and have been growing ever since. Brainient, which increases effectiveness of video advertising, while still making losses, has been marked as an Eastern European success story at Startup Week Vienna, where Emi Gal has appeared on stage in his trademark red shoes. UberVU, social media reputation tracking business, has become profitable in 2011.
However seasoned serial tech entrepreneurs in Romania are few and far between. Radu Georgescu, whom I had a brief chat with at How to Web, has built and sold a number of successful businesses in the area of security (RAV Antivirus sold to Microsoft), ecommerce (ePayment sold to Polish Allegro / South African Naspers), electronic software delivery (Avangate) and electronic messaging (Axigen). He is investing via his company GECAD.
Georgescu does not share the same belief as I do, that outsourcing industry will drive innovation. Quite the opposite. Whilst he did built and sold a call center business some time ago, Georgescu thinks that the comfort of the stable outsourcing cashflow spoils the business owners (often technologists and engineers themselves) who give up all attempts to create disruptive technologies.
I have hard (sort of) facts to counter this argument. In the past month we at GoalEurope have been extensively interviewing Romanian outsourcing companies (of which we found circa 180 with an existing English version of the website). Out of 16 completed interviews with mainly small-ish companies (up to 40 employees), 5 of them have innovative projects in place ranging from tablet apps for children to email marketing and cloud-based mobile voicemail solutions.
Moving on with the Romanian ecosystem: Doug Richard, an American entrepreneur living in England, has become somewhat of a local startup celebrity in Romania, causing splashes of enthusiastic tweets whenever he speaks at a public event there. I have crossed paths with Richard starting with 2003 at Venture Fair in Perm, Russia and have also been promoting my then plastic bomb detecting startup via his Library House (a business plan database originally intended for the VCs, but which has ultimately become a market research tool for investment banks, and which has gone the drain together with those banks in 2008). Former Dragon Den (UK edition), Richard has established the School for Startups in Romania, and plans to educate not only the Romanian entrepreneurial community, but also those from Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova to build global tech companies.
Richard has brought an experienced Romanian businessman Marius Ghenea to teach in the school with him. Ghenea, whom I met at IDCEE in Kiev, Ukraine last month, is one of the top Romanian entrepreneurs according to Revista Biz, and also a former Dragon (not Dracula!) of Romania. Ghenea is also a board member of Venture Connect.
Finally it brings me to talk about Venture Connect, whose PR manager Alexandra Dumitru, I interviewed a few weeks ago. Venture Connect roams the Romanian cities (Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara), searching for great startups and aims to provide seed funding while accelerating their development. The final presentations will take place on the 23rd of November (save the date), and investors, including GECAD, have committed Euro 50,000 for each event.
Socialook, the startup run by Horatiu Mocian, which made it to the top three in the How to Web Startup Challenge, originally won at Venture Connect event in Cluj. Another noted startup at How to Web and a finalist at Venture Connect, Appscend, also comes from Romania, and counts Peter Barta, executive director of Post-Privatization Foundation, an organization which promotes entrepreneurship within Romania. Socialook helps find sales contacts using social media, whilst Appscend is a mobile markup language, which aims to drastically reduce the time required for an app development.
This is more or less what I have to say about Romanian entrepreneurship – but please comment to correct any omissions. Business Angels are not yet organized and the tech investors are scarce, but the country, full of brilliant engineers (read our multiple posts on the subject of outsourcing), is getting prepared for the next stage of economic development.
+44 (020) 3290 3544
vita at goaleurope dot com