50 international investors with a collective potential of over $100 million are coming to TechVillage in Moldova
In September, Moldova lights up on the global entrepreneurial map. 50 international investors will meet 50 startups from Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania (RUAMD region), in a small Moldovan village, Butuceni. For three days, September 11–13, Butuceni will become the venue for a unique startup event, TechVillage.
TechVillage will take place in the bosom of nature, in a rural environment. It is a small event focused on quality rather than quantity, destined for investors and startups that are tired of the conventional conferences, pitching competitions, and business forums. But why Moldova? And why now?
All eyes are looking East
At a first glance, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine don’t strike as hot tech startup hubs worth looking at. These countries are more associated with post-soviet mentality, medieval churches, and bad roads. However, in the last years, their startup scenes have evolved and now are showing real potential. The CEE region as a whole, just a decade ago, was not on the tech investors’ radar. But after the success of products such as Skype, Prezi, TransferWise, and Avast; and a sudden growth of numerous small entrepreneurial hubs in the area, the CEE began turning heads.
The entrepreneurial ecosystems in Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova
Ukrainians already left their fingerprints on Silicon Valley by being involved in the development of giants like Whatsapp (Jan Koum), Paypal and Affirm (Max Levchin). The outsourcing business in Ukraine has grown exponentially in the last years, counting at least 200,000 inexpensive tech professionals. The Ukrainian IT sector’s share in the national GDP has turned from just 0.06% to 3.3% — a whopping 5500% growth — in just 5 years. It is soon to be Ukraine’s biggest outsourcing industry. Today, over 100 giant corporations such as Samsung, Boeing, Siemens, and Oracle are in Ukraine. Ukraine might be close to reaching unicorn-level companies like Grammarly, bpm on-line, Genesis, Readdle, and Jooble.
Across the street, in Romania, the tech industry has its own offspring to be proud of — BitDefender and Soft32. A success of the Romanian startup factory is Clever Taxi, founded in 2010, now counting over 17,000 drivers and over 600,000 clients in Romania. Taking in account the local market size, these numbers are tremendous. According to The European Digital City Index, Bucharest is in top 10 best CEE cities for starting a business.
RUAMD’s funding scene
For a long while, Eastern Europe’s big disadvantage was the underdeveloped and fragmented funding environment. But things are improving.
In 2016 a series of Romanian startups got funded:
- Elefant.ro (e-commerce) — 5.5 million euros
- Omniconvert (A/B Testing)– 1 million euros
- SmartBill (billing) — 1 million euros
- Smartdreamers (recruiting) — 700,000 euros
- SymphoPay (intelligent POS) — 600,000 euros
A series of other Romanian startups that launched abroad have also received substantial funding: Databricks (USA, $60mln), Branch Metrics (USA, $35mln), Midokura (USA, $20mln), Knotch (USA, $10mln), Vector Watch (UK, $5mln), Big Step (UK, $2.2mln), StatusToday (UK, $1.3mln).
In Ukraine, VC funds such as AVentures, TA Ventures, Wannabiz and Imperious saw the opportunity and decided to capitalize on geoarbitrage, thus helping Ukrainian entrepreneurs to become top class. According to a UVCA study of the Ukrainian investment and private capital, in 2015 the total investment value reached $132mln — 237% more than 2014.
By comparison, Moldova still has a lot to catch up on the investment front. There are no local funds to speak of, and foreign investors are somehow timid, or just unaware of the possibility. Moldova is a developing country with a yet undeveloped market and a low volume of startup investing. However, in the last couple of years 40 Moldovan startups have received a total of $1mln in funding. Some of the more successful are xor.ai, Planable, Gaus, nemo.ai, and BubbleWits. To be able to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem which is at its embrional stage, Moldova needs success stories that would inspire the young generation to become entrepreneurs.
How is TechVillage filling the gaps
Growth is the goal, which can only be achieved it by building genuine, lasting collaborations between startups and investors, hubs, and accelerators. When it comes to entrepreneurship, the Moldovan glass is half-full, and the local community is pouring some more water in it — actually wine, if you didn’t know, Moldova hosts two world’s largest wine cellars and wine collections.. A group of motivated community leaders decided to organize an unprecedented event that will bring together 50 foreign investors with a collective investitional potential of $100mln and 50 Moldova, Romanian, and Ukrainian startups in an authentic Moldovan village, for three days.
TechVillage’s ultimate purpose is to showcase the potential of CEE startups to the investors, accelerators, and community leaders from around Europe while creating a friendly environment for foreign investment in CEE. In addition however, the event aims to bring value to the Moldovan tech market, as well as, boost the development of the Butuceni village, a small village 30min drive from Chisinau — the capital of Moldova. Butuceni is known for its scenery, a place where traditions have been preserved in time, that’s why the village is the perfect escape from the everyday rush. The entire event budget will be injected in the services and products provided by Butuceni’s entrepreneurs.
For three days, the participants will take part in various rural activities aimed to create meaningful connections and potential collaborations while familiarizing with the Moldovan culture. The event is an unconference type that puts focus on the interaction between participants rather than listening to speeches and panels. The event tickets are as low as €249 for founders and €399 for investors, which includes accommodation, local transportation, food, drinks and all activities for the 3 day stay. To ensure a good matchmaking between the startups and investors, all participants will go through a selection process before payment.