Romanian Startups Ecosystem — overview and news for first half of 2019
As expected, the Romanian startup ecosystem continued its wild excitement, so we thought about reviewing the major news and events that took place related to startups in Romania, a perfect 10 minutes read for your vacation.
For more details, just open the links in each of the paragraphs. In case, I missed something important, let me know in a comment. We’ve started with 10 pieces, but the list got close to 40 so far :-) Enjoy!
We witnessed approximately 25 deals totalising close to €10M, including the ones in seed/acceleration phase, but those take less than 10% of the total sum (we’re not including here UIPath’s Series D round).
- The Romanian based unicorn, UIPath raised Series D investment round of $568M at more than $7B valuation. UiPath was founded in 2005 and began raising private capital in 2015 and has since experienced rapid growth of its valuation and annual recurring revenue (ARR). The company went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue in less than two years. It counts close to 2000 enterprise customers and various sources estimate a $450 million in ARR in 2019.
- E-commerce platform, Blugento, received funding of €1 million from R22, a Polish IT group, with aim to expand in central Europe. Blugento grew its revenue almost 10 times in just 3 years to 1.5 million RON and it was valued at almost €4 million in this transaction of 31% equity stake.
- GapMinder Venture Partners rounded its capital to €40M size, while continuing the investments in startups like Undelucram.ro (platform for employees to review companies), MediJobs (career marketplace for healthcare recruiting), Beez (platform for saving money on online shopping), Deepstash (curated & reliable bite-sized ideas from any online articles), Finqware (middleware financial API aggregation platform to interconnect businesses and fintechs with banks), FintechOS and TypingDNA (see bellow).
- FintechOS, startup focused on accelerating the digital transformation of financial institutions, has attracted €1,1M post-seed investment in a new round led by GapMinder VC, with participation of LAUNCHub Ventures, Gecad Ventures and other private investors. This makes the total capital invested so far worth €2.7 million. The company plans to continue its expansion and raising series A round by the end of 2019.
- SymphoPay, a middleware platform that adds marketing capabilities and analytics to existing POS devices, received investment of €650,000 from Early Game Ventures, GECAD Ventures, Sparking Capital and other business angels. The solution is designed for retailers who want to integrate all partner banks into one single payment terminal which is connected to a central platform capable to integrate marketing and loyalty campaigns in real-time.
- Early Game Ventures (EGV) announced the launch of its acceleration program. The fund selects around 5 startups each year, providing up to €200 000 for 7% -10% of the equity. The fund invested already in Watto (company building a network of ultra-fast charging stations for electric vehicles in Central and Southern Europe), Bookvitals (extracts essential information from books and provides book summaries) and as well Symphopay (as mentioned above).
- Gecad Ventures participated with a follow-on investment in TypingDNA. Romanian AI-based typing biometric secured $1.5M funding from several investors including GapMinder and other international investors. The startup combines AI and behavioral biometrics as an identification verification tool for recognizing people by the way they type on desktop keyboards and mobile devices.
- A new private equity fund of €45 million was launched with the support of European Investment Fund. Morphosis Capital is focused on growth investments, of €5–15 million per transaction in companies active in sectors such as consumer goods and supporting sectors, healthcare, technology with impact in the real economy and B2B services.
- AlphaBlock, a Romanian AI company that builds investment management solutions for pension funds, family offices, and hedge funds, has raised an undisclosed amount from Real Ventures, a Canadian early-stage venture capital firm. The investment brings the startup’s valuation to $15 million.
- Bucharest-based Questo raised seed round of funding from two private angel investors, bringing its valuation to $1.5 million. Founded in 2017, Bucharest-based startup Questo has developed a mobile city exploration game which is already present in 40 European cities. Questo plans to use the funding to expand to some of the largest cities in the world, including London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona.
- DigiTail, SaaS startup that helps digitise veterinary practices and founded by Romanian living in the Nordics, closed an investment round of 220 000 euro after their participation in Fast Track Malmo accelerator. The same accelerator invested also in Neurolabs (which provides artificial intelligence solutions for the retail industry; in issues related to supply chain, from forecasting to on-shelf monitoring and self-checkout).
- Jobful, recruitment through gamification platform, has completed its first angel investment round and obtained EUR 100,000 in funding from three private investors. The investment will be used for both further platform development as well as a mobile app to be launched this fall. Jobful targets young professionals who are looking to develop their careers as well as companies seeking to make the recruitment process more efficient by providing an initial test of candidates’ skills and an assessment of their interests.
- Techstars Berlin invested and accelerated two Romanian startups, MEDIjobs (healthcare career market place) and Nifty Learning (operational intelligence for enterprise training management), with focus on client acquisition and growth in international markets.
- InnerTrends (data science product for SaaS that uncovers insights in customer onboarding, retention and engagement) is part 500startups’ 25th batch. As a US-based four-month seed program, the 500 Startups seed fund invests $150,000 in participating companies in exchange for 6% equity.
- Bucharest-based blockchain startup SWAZM raised a round of €500k from Armand Domuta, an investor and founder & CEO of Restart Energy. Swazm has launched a decentralized architecture to enable the horizontal scaling of distributed applications (DApps) into mainstream usage.
- Appsulate, cybersecurity startup, was bought by the Zscaler, American company, leader in cloud security. Appsulate was founded in 2016 by Alex Negrea and Uli Mittermaier, while having Mihai Rotaru and Andrei Pitiș as investors. In 2018, Appsulate was part of Innovation Labs and Orange Fab programs.
- Unloq, Cluj-based startup, focused on multi-factor authentication announced its acquisition by iWelcome, worldwide product leader in identity & access management for B2C and B2B scenarios, for an undisclosed sum. iWelcome’s connection with Unloq is not new, the company has been using the startup product in the past few years.
CONFERENCES AND EVENTS
- ICEE.Fest team came this year with a new concept for its festival: UPGRADE 100. During the startup competition, organised together with Start-up.ro, 14 startup presented their products and the winner, Antifragile (real-time impact monitoring and tracking of the supply chain) received €50 000 from GapMinder.
- A new edition of Startup Europe Week took shape in spring, with the involvement of Spherik Accelerator, Startup Weekend Cluj, Rubik Hub and Startup Grind Iași in a series of events in Cluj-Napoca, Iași și Piatra-Neamț. Startup Europe Week is a pan-european event concept which took place in more than 300 cities with the aim to promote the European programs and success stories in various local startup communities.
- Startup Europe Summit, took place in Cluj-Napoca in March, as a major conference focused on startups, part of Romania’s EU Presidency program. The event gathered representatives of various startup ecosystem and European Commission delegates in discussing support programs and policies aiming to grow the startup environment in Europe.
- In preparation of How to Web conference, the team continued the demonight events in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea, Timișoara and Iași. Each of them showcased local startups and had the chance to meet with representatives of KPMG, Orange, BCR, eMag, Google and Metro Systems.
- Techsylvania gathered thousands of technology enthusiasts and startupers in a 2-day international conference, taking place in June, in Cluj-Napoca. Startup founders had the chance to network and participate in Startup Alley (supported by Google, with Activize’s involvement) and in Startup Avalanche (organised by Risky Business) competition with a prize of €100 000 (won by Italian healthtech startup, PatchAI.io).
- Startup Weekend organisers continued the series of events, in Cluj-Napoca (March, with a follow-on edition in upcoming September) and in Bucharest (in May, focused on fintech). By the way, overall in Romania, there have been 31 Startup Weekend events, since 2010. Best example of startup initiated at such event is Clever Taxi which was sold last year for more than €10M.
PROGRAMS FOR STARTUPS
We’ve tracked around 15 programs for startups happening this year, a good part of them sponsored by corporations as well. On one side incubation/pre-acceleration with focus on education and validation, while more advanced ones, acceleration, focused on launch and growth.
- Impact Hub Bucharest organized startup related projects such as Startup Barometer, Innovators for Children (acceleration program for solutions to health problems faced by children), Creative Business Studio (dedicated to young entrepreneurs in creative industries) and for the near future the Central European Startup Awards Grand Finale, organized this year in Bucharest, is on its way.
- BCR-InnovX Accelerator program was launched and is already working with a second batch of companies. The program supports them with access to grants, clients, investors, to Startup Grind global network and mentors. The first batch was focused on 10 startups, each with a turnover of more than €100,000, while the second batch was dedicated to aspiring entrepreneurs who have ideas at the beginning that they want to scale internationally.
- Raiffeisen’s Elevator Lab, organised by TechHub Bucharest, had a new edition focused as educational program aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs understand what it takes to build a fintech startup and how they can turn their idea into an MVP. In June, the 9 participating teams presented their pitches and prototypes during the closing demonight.
- Techcelerator accepted 7 startups in its third batch and invested in each of them €50 000. Previously 17 other startups have completed the first two rounds of acceleration, benefiting from a total investment of €1 million. Notable is also the partnership with EIT Digital in search for Romanian scaleups that can be support to grow internationally.
- KPMG Startup Grow Pad program for B2B startup, launched by KPMG Romania and Spherik Accelerator last year, had its Demo Night on March 7th. Following a six-month collaboration period, Nifty Learning, iFactor, Jobful, Box2m and SYT.app presented their business and progress to the audience comprised of business managers, community members, investors and KPMG’s clients.
- Metro Systems launched in Cluj the Tech’n Trade concept comprised of the Startup Hub (a collaboration program focused on retail startups) and the Club (a space offered for free for various community meetups and events), thus Tech’n Trade has become one of the most active gathering places for the startup community in Cluj.
- UiPath has launched the Automation Awards, CEE Edition, while looking for B2B automation software business in the CEE region. The selected companies will receive money, mentorship, sales and marketing exposure and technical support for 12 months. Application can happen until September 2nd, while the semifinal and grand prize awards ceremony held at the How to Web conference.
- The Changeneers competition organized by Impact Hub Bucharest and Samsung Romania had Tech Game Changers as its main theme this year. Out of the 47 startups, 12 moved to the final and Parking Spotter convinced the jury to be most promossing and won the top prize of €10,000 in funding.
- For the 5th edition, Timisoara’s Startup Survivor educational program for young people interested in starting a startup, had 20 participants and over a period of three weeks they focused on lean startup and idea validation, in an informal environment organised by Cowork Timisoara.
- Culturepreneurs developed its second edition — a program devoted to cultural industries, of startups in design, film, music, crafts, and media. Over a four month period, Cluj Cultural Centre and Activize.Tech provide workshops, mentoring and consultancy for the 5 teams selected in the program.
- Innovation Labs program was organised in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Sibiu and Timișoara; it gathered 70 teams which participated in the 10-weeks pre-acceleration program. On May 20th the jury awarded best pitch to NotThisTimePal (counterfeit product detection by reverse image search), best product for CNEO (device used in knee injury recovery), best business to Heimdall (electricity consumption monitoring solution), best startup for TrustyCamera (mobile application for securing images against tampering) and best scale-up to Knosis.AI (providing machine learning datasets for developers).
- StepFWD, a new program organised by TechHub Bucharest and Codette in partnership with Google for Startups and with support from the US Embassy in Romania, was launched. The 6-week pre-accelerator for tech startups is looking for gender-balanced teams that want to participate in the autumn batch.
- Future Makers, educational program for future entrepreneurs, has nominated the finalists for its second edition. The jury of experts chose the best 55 teams to be part of the incubation program, among the teams, ROmenie (an online platform that aims to promote democracy in society) is project started in Start-up.ro’s Startup Your Life camp. Future Makers is organised by Social Innovation Solutions and Global Shapers Bucharest Hub.
- Rubik Hub selected 22 startups selected to participate in Rubik Garage based in Piatra Neamt. Rubik Garage is a 6 months program that aims to develop the selected startups with the help of the mentors in the community.
- A group of five business angels from Timisoara, active primarily in high-tech areas decided to launch Growceanu platform as a means to contribute with investment, network and business expertise to local tech startups with high potential of growth.
- The healthtech ecosystem grows with the launch of the Transylvania Digital Healthcare ecosystem, part of European Connected Healthcare Alliance, initiated by FreshBlood, with quarterly events organized in the future. Visibility for healthtech startups is on the rise as well as Cluj Innovation Days, Innovation Labs 2019, Startup Alley and UPGRADE 100 showcased products in health.
- PropTech Romania, community focused on innovation in real estate area, was launched this spring. The team organized a proptech hackathon in April, while in June they organised the PropTech Demo Day, together with the TechAngels network, where 10 startups presented their products. FYI, across Europe, in 2018 there were €485 million invested in 119 proptech startups, proof that the domain is attractive and growing.
- The equity-for-services, or ‘sweat equity’ model is not new. Kraian Ventures is putting to the test this model of building startups in Romania, using the power of creative and tech capital in joint ventures. They source founders, software development and design agencies with the proper startup mindset. In doing so, all partners have aligned incentives, limited risk and reduced time to market. All parties can go on to benefit from the future success of the product and company.
- Cluj Startups is working on creating a network of local angel investors, with the purpose of bringing together business people who are interested in angel investing and mentoring tech startups. As a network, the focus is on connecting people with the desire to learn from each other while assisting the grow of the local startup environment. Five meetups took place this year with six startups presenting their products (with two of them in follow-on syndicating discussions).
So, this is it for now :-) Congrats to all the ones who worked hard and became part of the news! Let’s keep things rolling in the autumn!
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