Start-up funding in Romania doesn’t have a long history, but its level grew constantly. When analyzing the evolution of the ecosystem of technology start-ups in Romania, we can say that year after year the ecosystem grew bigger, innovative start-ups appeared, lead by result driven entrepreneurs.
When thinking about some of the most recent success stories, one can come up with these two examples: UiPath and Elrond. We wrote about both on our platform, no need to get back to telling their paths to success. What we’ll be focusing today is how this sort of start-ups reach a certain level of scalability, where they found resources to grow that big and how the entrepreneurs found financing while in their early developing stages.
On short, we’ll focus at the start-up funding process in Romania. Who are the big players, what kind of industries they prefer and how you can get to them.
Start-up funding in Romania: investors, venture capitals and business angels
Early Game Ventures
Early Game Ventures is one of the recent venture capital investment funds that has become active in Romania.
The Early Game Ventures Fund (EGV) is mostly financed by the Competitiveness Operational Program 2014-2020, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The EGV Fund Manager was selected by the European Investment Fund by call for expressions of interest for the venture capital instrument under this operational program.
The fund has a target size of EUR 28 million and invest in Romanian companies at the beginning of the road. Investments in technology and other areas in which intellectual property takes precedence are considered. Early Game Ventures will always target minority stakes in the companies in the portfolio, and the maximum amount invested will be EUR 3.5 million per company.
Does it seem much? Don’t think like that and start dreaming big. After all, UiPath, the first Romanian unicorn, started in an apartment in Bucharest, with 10 developers gathered in small rooms, coding endless hours and trying to do their best for their clients.
Catalyst Romania, one of the most well-known private equity and venture capital funds in Romania, launched the first fund worth EUR 15 million in 2012.
Administered by a local team in Bucharest, Catalyst Romania aims to invest in technology start-ups in Romania and other countries in the region. Their team, made up of professionals with entrepreneurial experience and financial management, become active partners of the companies in the portfolio. Catalyst contributes to the scaling and development of companies through know-how, resources, business partners and co-investors in Europe, North America and Asia.
Catalyst Romania Fund II will continue focusing on tech companies that have already launched products into their target markets and have experienced management teams.
ROCA X is one of the funds where some of the biggest Romanian entrepreneurs have entered. All they want is building a solid and much needed bridge for startups between the support offered by business angels which are nurturing ideas in their infant stage and the upper stage VCs providing growth support for the companies teenage times.
Some of the businesses in Roca X’s portfolio at the moment are Feeel – a European digital platform that centralizes access to health services, Beez – a cashback solution, Feexers – a marketplace for household & beauty services, Betmarkets – a solution that turns sports betting into tools and PatchAI, a virtual assistant for patients involved in clinical trials.
Up to 2020 ROCA X had invested EUR 600,000 in five companies, but already targets 14 other companies, selected from over 150 start-ups.
Think you can make it to the selected ones? The first step you have to take is applying for a funding session! It’s that simple.
Gecad Ventures invests in hi-tech companies from CEE with meaningful prospects of scaling internationally, including verticals like Cybersecurity, Fintech, AI/ML, AR & VR and IoT.
Gecad was established as a software company in 1992 and had its first big hit in 2003, when the RAV antivirus technology it had developed in 1994 was bought by Microsoft.
Gecad Ventures sustain companies with growth potential that have the capacity to innovate and to revolutionize their fields of activity. The investments are focused on software, FinTech, security, technology, cloud, e-commerce and wearables areas.
The man behind the fund knows the ins and outs of the tech businesses. Don’t embellish your presentation, don’t try and look bigger than you are. The important thing with Gecad Ventures is to be able to present your innovative idea in a manner which can persuade the investor to believe in its potential. Don’t forget about scalability and the ROI. All the investors invest for profit.
TechAngels was created in 2013 to fill the need of having a common “meeting place” between early stage technology startups and the investors looking for investment opportunities.
The group has two main directives: to educate and support young entrepreneurs through investments, access to acceleration programs and a sum of various other resources needed to grow their business, and to encourage potential business angels to take their first steps in this area of expertise.
They facilitate investments in mostly tech projects, focusing especially (but not exclusively) on web, mobile, embedded software, hardware, meditech.
TechAngels is the place to apply when in your very early stages of your development.
Neogen Capital Investment is one of the most famous tech investors in Romania. Founded by the very entrepreneur behind Best Jobs, the well known HR platform, Neogen Capital, as they say on the website, invest in marketplaces. fast decisions, founder-friendly terms and operational support.
If this is too confusing and you don’t think you can enter their target, check out the following list of some of the investments they have made so far: Best Jobs, Vivre, Casta, Muvi, Tailent, Clever Taxi, Racket Pal and more.
As long as you have an idea and you can prove its reliability, scalability and profitability, Neogen could be the investor for you.
Growceanu is a concept that aims to develop the entrepreneurial environment and the ecosystem of startups, by connecting investors and those who propose business ideas in a system of education, support and professional recommendations.
Growceanu is addressing to those people with proven expertise in carrying out professional and business activities in various industries, capable of providing financial resources, expertise to startup beneficiaries, through individual investments or within an investment group as a member of Growceanu.
Risky Business was established to support promising early stage startups with the resources to grow into regional and global sustainable tech firms. Bringing together some of the most prominent business people in the region, they provide more than financing. In addition to intensive and high-quality consulting services focused on product development, scaling and strategy, they also offer financial investment.
Besides the IT investors, Risky Business manages to attract in this fund also famous names from traditional industries, which believe in the potential of this approach, such as the founder of Perpetuum, the founder of Marty Restaurants, the founder of Electrogrup or the owner of the Subway franchise in Romania.
Sparking Capital focuses on pre-seed & seed investments.
Sparking Capital has invested in a total of five start-ups, including four locally – SymphoPay, ProductLead, EverToys and Bright Spaces, and one in the UK – Mindful Chef. They are industry agnostic but have a preference for investments in consumer internet, marketing-tech, supply chain-tech, fin-tech, property-tech, circular economy-tech startups with differentiating value propositions, disruptive business models which have the potential to become national champions and/or scale up fast internationally.
Something Big is a Romanian investment fund recently founded in Cluj Napoca. They kick-off their activity with big news: they pledged an undisclosed amount to Swisspod, a Swiss startup that is currently building Elon Musk’s hyperloop.
Something Big represents a venture capital investment fund in Cluj-Napoca that targets innovative startups in Romania or led by Romanians.
Simple Capital is a private investment vehicle, founded by a tech entrepreneur, angel investor and advisor, with over 25 years of experience in the IT industry in Romania and the United States and five successful international exits.
Simple Capital generally invests in technology startups, and mentors them to support accelerated growth locally and internationally, as well as help them reach next investment rounds.
Transylvania Angels Network
T.A.N. is an initiative created for bringing together business people interested in angel investing and mentoring tech startups. Their focus is on connecting people with the desire to learn from each other while assisting us to grow and mature the local startup environment.
T.A.N. is based and grown from Cluj Startups (non-profit organisation) with the mission to support the growth of the local startup ecosystem.
Smart Impact Capital
A group of Romanian entrepreneurs with experience in the investment field and in various business verticals have launched Smart Impact Capital, a fund focused on micro-investments.
Currently, on the list of investments already made, there are those in the medical startups Telios and SanoPass, as well as in Voxikids (launched under the name Nummo, a speech therapy application), the equity crowdfunding platform Seedblink, Amsimcel (a startup that do hardware check).
Looking for funding your start-up?
2021 will mark, in our opinion, the beginning of a new period of growth, based on more entrepreneurial start-ups and scale-ups.
The current socio-economic context may be favorable for investments in technology and digital solutions, and start-ups that address changes in cultural and societal behaviors, generated by the consequences of the pandemic, may find their way to success more easily.
Whether you are at the beginning of developing your tech company, or you already developed your first MVP and you need for investors, you can always approach the above listed investment opportunities. After all, start-ups rarely grow big without an initial investment and big ideas will always need big investments to develop.
Good luck to all the entrepreneurs out there!