This selection of news was collected along the way as part of our weekly reports we send to our clients, with various things of interest regarding the Romanian startup ecosystem.
We’re grateful to Start-up.ro and other publications like Startup Cafe, ZF, Business Review, Wall-Street, Startups&theCity and Tech.EU, as they are among the ones which are breaking many of these news.
In the previous article we overviewed 42 news pieces that were selected from those 7 months; while for this one, although we cover 5 months, the worthy news pieces selected went up to 90, which (subjectively) means that the ecosystem increased its activity a lot.
The news are clustered on several main topics for easier reading, as you’ll see below, and although some of the pieces might be fitting in other categories as well. The point was to give a structure, without entering a debate about where each would fit best.
Venture capital and investments in startups
It seemed to be a very active autumn, with 22 investment rounds amounting to €25M-€30M (some of them were not disclosed as sums). Seems like a good evolution compared with January to July 2019 period, which saw around 25 investment rounds with around €15M invested in total (we’re not counting here UiPath’s $568M round).
- The Norwegian group Visma (focused on digitalisation, integration and automation of business processes) enters the SmartBill shareholding, receiving over half of the company. SmartBill is used by 65 000 SMEs in Romania to issue over 2 000 000 monthly invoices, with an annual total value of 4 billion euro. The startup founders will keep the control and will continue to develop the business, with the benefit of expertise and market opportunity offered by Visma.
- MEDIjobs, medical recruitment on-line platform in Romania, has obtained $900K in a new funding round led by Gapminder VC and other business angel investors. In July, MEDIjobs opened its first office in New York and already has more than 60 clients who together need to recruit over 1,000 people annually. The company plans to consolidate its presence on the US during the next year.
- Early Game Ventures (EGV) announced five investments during the autumn as follows, some of them also involving a few angel investors:
(1) pre-seed investment in Adiem, a startup focused on processing health data;
(2) €200K round in RoboSelf, a startup that develops an assistive software robot technology;
(3) €500K in Neobility, a startup founded by Mihai Rotaru — one of the founders of the Clever Taxi mobility app (Neobility develops technologies that support the new wave of urban mobility solutions globally, with the aim of radically improving the capacity and movement speed of city residents);
(4) €750K in Bunnyshell, an automated DevOps platform, with the aim to support international expansion and further product development.
(5) undisclosed sum at a valuation of 8M in Druid, a chatbot-focused startup for corporates in retail, banking and health, with the participation of several angel investors.
- Bright Spaces, a real-estate solution facilitating properties management, received funding of €185K from Sparking Capital, as lead investor, with Growceanu and Ilinca Paun as co-investors.
- V7 Capital, Gapminder VC and Difrnt Agency invested €120K in Flip.ro, a platform marketplace that sells verified second hand phones.
- The entrepreneur Cătălin Chiș, angel investor in Noah Watches, invested in the startup MOCAPP, a digital platform founded by Florin Grozea (formerly HI-Q). The platform uses technology to facilitate the achievement of marketing objectives in influencer campaigns.
- DocProcess, a company specialized in the automation and interoperability of business processes within and between companies — expands its national and European presence, with the help of an infusion of capital from the private equity fund Morphosis Capital.
- Frisbo, a smart e-fulfillment platform that takes over the storage, processing and delivery of orders for online stores, has raised €1.2M in a financing round from GapMinder VC and Roca X.
- Casta.ro (online real estate agency financed by the entrepreneur Călin Fusu, founder of Neogen Group) invested €150K in Cleany.ro, a platform that offers cleaning services with the aim to use the synergy and complementarity of the two platforms. The service is already available in Bucharest and Cluj.
- Confidas.ro, startup offering financial overview and information over Romanian companies, attracted Gapminder VC as investor, rounding the total investment to €130K, based also on the capital invested by V7 Capital and several angel investors.
- FintechOS, startup offering hyper-personalised, automated financial technology to banks, announced that it has secured $14M in Series A investment. The funding was led jointly by Earlybird’s Digital East Fund and OTB Ventures, with participation from existing investors Gapminder VC and Launchub.
- MedicAI received €500K funding from D Moonshots and RocaX. Medicai is a collaborative online medical portal for imaging investigations that enables patient-doctor collaboration, imaging investigations, online storage and sharing.
- Bittwatt Financial Investments PLC invested €2M in the app BGourmet, focused on restaurant reservations. The app was already installed in 200 restaurants in Bucharest, and investors think the number of restaurants will rise up in the next 6 months.
- SeedBlink, a new equity crowdfunding platform which facilitates investments in the local startup ecosystem, listed Evertoys for investment through the platform, with Sparking Capital and Venture Growth Partners participating in the round as follow-on investment. Evertoys is transforming the way families get toys for their children: instead of buying them, they can now only pay a subscription for using the toys. Meanwhile, the €150K milestone was achieved!
- ROCA fund announced the acquisition of 30% shares in the food delivery platform Yellow.Menu, in a €300K transaction, with the aim to strengthen management team, optimize business model and reach sustainability.
- GapMinder VC and the private investors network TechAngels have concluded a partnership, based on which GapMinder VC will participate in any investment round between 40,000 and 200,000 euros made by TechAngels members, with a similar amount.
- Andrei Pitis announced the formation of Simple Capital, with first two investments (15% in each): Garderoba Infinită and PentestTools. Valerica Dragomir, former executive director of ANIS, joined as managing director of Simple Capital.
- As in previous season, we had around 20+ European funds, to name a few Point Nine Capital, Launchub, Credo Ventures, Seedcamp, 500startups, visiting and scouting actively in Romania; they are in talks with various startups but no investment from their side has been announced yet.
- The online trading platform eMag has acquired a majority stake of shares from the Romanian company EuCeMananc (food delivery to restaurants, to online ordering). eMag will own 54% of the shares in EuCeMananc, but the founders of will continue to run the delivery business.
- Cluj Startups and Transilvania Angels Network continues the series of angel investment meetups in Cluj, concluding the year with 10 meetups, 13 startups that pitched their products/businesses and the first syndicate formed in the network with purpose to invest in Telios (platform providing telemedicine services). The syndicate is managed by Emmett King and Florin Pop, previous investors in Telios and members of the local investors network.
- TypingDNA, startup started in Oradea with headquarters in New York, is looking to raise $7 million in funding for its AI-driven technology that can recognize people based on the way they type, both on their laptops and mobile devices. A new SEC filing says that, so far, the company raised $5.25 million towards that goal.
Programs for startups
- KPMG Romania’s Startup GrowPad launched a call for startups for its second edition in coordination with Spherik, with the aim of finding startups that fit the KPMG Romania resources. The partnering startups will be announced in January 2020. In the first edition, five startups participated in the personalized program, focused on partnerships, business development and sales activities to KPMG clients, prototype testing inside KPMG or financial investment.
- Techcelerator, the acceleration program sustained by the GapMinder VC, opened the fourth acceleration round for tech and digital startups, in which approximately 10 selected startups will receive €50K. The fourth round of the acceleration has started in December and will last until June 2020 and it will be held in both Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca. The selected startups will be officially announced in January.
- Orange Fab announced the collaboration with 6 new tech startups and expands the fields of activity; the program’s intention being to better meet the business needs of its clients. Since the launch, in 2017, Orange collaborated with 16 startups in this program. These collaborations have resulted in 3 directions — solutions used by Orange and its clients in commercial or pilot projects, solutions integrated in the Orange portfolio and collaboration in European research and development projects Horizon 2020 alongside Orange.
- Metro Systems launched Tech’N Trade Incubator (with support from Cluj Startups and Activize) aimed at entrepreneurs and startups that innovate in retail and related fields. The company wants to connect entrepreneurs with the B2B retail market and provide support in launching and developing their startups. The incubation period is focused on 6 product ideas and will continue until spring.
- EIT Health’s SmartUp Lab pilot program was launched in the end of September in partnership with FreshBlood HealthTech; with the aim of supporting health-tech focused startup ideas coming from entrepreneurs, life-science domain experts, students or academia members. Two teams were selected and participated in october at the Forge of talents event organised by Medical University of Lodz- Poland and EIT Health.
- StepFWD, the 6-week pre-accelerator for tech startups with gender-balanced teams, had its first batch during this autumn, closing with demoday event at the end of November. During the event, the 9 graduate startups of the program presented their products and team in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, investors, IT industry experts and guests. The program was organised by TechHub Bucharest and Codette, in partnership with Google for Startups and supported by the US Embassy in Romania.
- Level-up the first accelerator program for makers had its first incubation period with 5 startups and the program demo-day in the beginning of October. Level-up is developed by Nod makerspace association and Babele, with the support of Banca Transilvania and Bosch.
- Student entrepreneurial organisations in Cluj were quite active this autumn. Founded inside universities, each of them ran programs for students with potential to become startup founders, for example ASAIH in the Medical University of Cluj-Napoca and SASUTCN in the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.
- Future Makers has selected the young people with ideas for future startups. In the closing of the program, from the 55 teams that were in a 4-month incubation period, seven of them received financial awards worth €20K euros, tens of hours of tax and legal advice and access to a global network.
- The pan-European EIT Jumpstarter program and innovation contest took place this autumn The program activities were co-organised by EIT organisations in CEE and implemented in Romania by FreshBlood HealthTech with the support of Activize. EIT Jumpstarter is an innovation contest aiming to reach out, identify and support the best ideas from researchers, professionals and early-stage startups. Six teams from Romania participated in the program while one of them qualified and won second prize in the final event which took place in November.
- Kinderpedia, Parinte.EU Kinetobebe, Arttachement received €120K financial support while participating in the acceleration program Innovators for Children, organised by Impact Hub Bucharest in partnership with Botnar Foundation and Impact Hub Basel. During the 100 program days, the 12 participating teams benefited from workshops, feedback and follow-up meetings with the mentoring team.
- BCR InnovX business accelerator has launched registrations for the scaleups cohort. This stage is dedicated to businesses that have a turnover or have attracted investments from 1 million to 2.6 million euros in the past.
- Commons Accel program was launched in the beginning of October with a cohort of 15 startups and had its first demoday event on December 3rd. Commons Accel is a new independent, equity-free accelerator launched in Bucharest, focused on PropTech, IoT and SDG projects.
- Risky Business and Babes-Bolyai University announced the launch of Flux Labs, an accelerator for Technology Transfer, founded to connect high-potential research teams and industry collaborators. The program is open to all disciplines taught at the university.
- Rubik Hub launched Rubik Garage, a 6-month pre-accelerator focused on early stage startups. The program gathered 22 startups and had its demoday event on the 27th of November.
- EIT InnoEnergy in partnership with Iceberg consultancy company, opened a hub for ecotechnology startups from Romania. The role of the new hub is to support innovators, researchers, startups and companies active in energy related fields to develop, improve, scale and internationalize their products and services. Over the next year, the hub will organize a pre-acceleration program, InnoEnergy Primer, to facilitate the startup, and innovation of startups and innovations in the InnoEnergy network. InnoEnergy is an initiative of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), funded through the Horizon 2020 program.
- After the second edition, Changeneers (tech for good), organised Impact Hub Bucharest and Samsung, will launch soon the new edition of the competition, together with an incubation program for startups.
Startup conferences and events
- Under the motto “better products + faster growth”, the main startup-conference of this autumn was How to Web (29–30 October, in Bucharest). Having a new format, the conference gathered really good speakers, many investors and startups and around 1500 participants. During the conference the CEE Tech Landscape Eastern Disruptors report was published.
- The conference also had a few pre-events, most notable, one focused on venture capital gathering around 100 finance professionals and investors, while the other focused on startup communities, gathering community builders from all over Romania.
- Twenty selected startups competed for €125K investment award during How to Web’s Startup Spotlight — the amount was syndicated by TechAngels Romania, GapMinder VC and RocaX and the winning startup was Machinations. While in the “UiPath Automation Awards”, SmartDreamers, the recruitment marketing automation solution, was named the winner of the competition.
- In the startup track at IT Days conference, the public decided to award Mockless (a platform which helps developers create API prototypes without coding) with a trip to Silicon Valley.
- Seven startups presented their concept and solutions this year in the pitch organized on the main stage of the GoTech World conference in October. The startups were selected from a number of twenty that also participated in the exhibition space.
- The fourth edition of Startarium PitchDay brought together, on November 5th, over 1000 entrepreneurs, investors or professionals from all over the country. Ten startups reached the stage of the grand finale. The prizes (€105K in total) were claimed by Digitail, MedicAI, Kinderpedia and xVision.
- Impact Hub Bucharest organised the Central European Startup Awards finals on 21st of November, part of Global Startup Awards. Winners were announced in 16 categories related to startup domains but also related to ecosystem roles (like Female Role Model of the Year and Founder of the Year and for ecosystem supporters like Investor of the Year, Best Acceleration/Incubation Program and Best Coworking Space).
- This autumn, we saw tech conferences dedicating more space for startups, either by organising a startup track or a startup booths area. Among them we were involved in Transylvanian International Clusters Conference’s Startup Expo and Codecamp’s Startup Tracks in Iași, Cluj and Bucharest (organised by Rubik Hub with partners like How to Web and Cluj Startups)
- How to Web team continued the Demo Nights series of events in Bucharest, Brașov and Iași. Each of them showcased local startups that pitched and had the chance to meet with representatives of KPMG, Orange, BCR, eMag, Google, Alpha Bank, Shoenherr and Metro Systems.
- Part of the My-Gateway project activities, Spherik organised two one-day startup funding workshops for startup founders in Bucharest and Cluj, focused on how to raise investment, negotiation with investors, venture capital landscape and legal terms.
- Startup Weekend events took place in Cluj (in September, edition #9, encouraging women participation and involvement) and in Timisoara (in November, edition #7). Meanwhile the next Startup Weekend in Cluj (#10) was announced for March 13th to 15th 2020.
- In November Startarium organised the Crowdfunding Makeathon Weekend, the largest project dedicated to crowdfunding in Romania. Ten entrepreneurs received 20,000 euros to promote their campaigns which were launched during Startarium PitchDay.
- Over 70 digital banking specialists, developers and founders of fintech startups participated in mid-September weekend in the Open Banking Hackathon in Bucharest. Developer teams built solutions based on the multi-banking connectivity platform provided by Finqware, through which they were able to connect to test environments of 15 banks in CEE, covering 9 countries, including Romania.
- Rubik Hub organised a new edition of Startup Spinner, gathering 15 startups and 40 mentors and investors to guide and to advise them during one weekend in Piatra Neamt. The team also organised Startup Challenges hackathon in Iași during which 11 startups came with challenges they had and 40 specialists focused on helping them solve those challenges during one weekend.
- On October 25–26th, Impact Hub Bucharest organized Climathon Bucharest, an EIT Climate-KIC supported hackathon focused on climate solutions for the challenges facing the capital. It was a hackathon that happens in dozens of cities simultaneously, and in Bucharest participants were invited to solve topics proposed by the partners WWF Romania and Urban Monkey. The winning teams receive 5,000 euros each.
- Proptech Romania and Skansk aorganised the first real-estate hackathon exclusively on the office segment. Skanska experts, together with startups and IT companies used their resources and expertise towards finding the most innovative technological solutions to promote the digitization of the real estate industry in the office sector.
- In closing a really good year for the fintech ecosystem in Romania, iFactor organised AI in Finance hackathon which gathered more than 50 participants working on fintech ideas involving machine learning. Unsigned, Franc and BGF were designated as winners by jury, winning in total €7K in cash prizes and more than €30K in services.
Startups in international programs/competitions
- The Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin had a Romanian pavilion with 17 startups and 6 organizations supporting startups; totalizing over 60 representatives present during the conference days (December 11–12th). This was the biggest startup-related organised delegation we had so far, let’s hope we’ll repeat the experience in other conferences as well.
- Morphl, startup that uses machine learning to predict user behaviors in mobile & web applications, is the first Romanian startup that joins Techstars Montréal AI during this autumn for a 12 weeks program focused on growth. Techstars acceleration program usually comes with a $120K investment for each startup.
- Eyeware (eye tracking software for depth sensing cameras) and TPS Engage (marketplace for outdoor advertising) are among the businesses accepted for this autumn’s edition of the K-Startup Grand Challenge acceleration program in South Korea with the purpose of launching their products in the Asian market.
- Femyo is a platform for pregnant women to connect them with medical doctors for on-line consultations and support. The startup received 25,000 euros grant in a European competition organised by EIT Health, as part of the 15 finalist startups in the InnoStars Awards competition.
- The edutech startup iziBac, part of BCR InnovX, took second place in the Startup Grind Europe-Asia Connect competition and will have the opportunity to go to the USA and Silicon Valley in June 2020 where it will be able to meet investors and other entrepreneurs.
- The World Tourism Organization, in collaboration with FC Barcelona, has decided the finalists of the competition of startups in the field of tourism and sport. Three startups in Romania have been selected, and will go further in the next round: Questo, Oveit and Sportcompass.
- With the help of the British Embassy in Romania, startups like Finqware, iFactor, Symphopay, Payvent, Omnicredit, Creditez, TypingDNA and the Romanian Fintech Association participated as a Romanian delegation in Katowice-based Impact Fintech conference in the beginning of December.
- Two Romanian health projects were chosen for a grant through EIT Health RIS’s Innovation Call 2019. The selected ones will receive advice and funding of up to 75,000 euros from EIT Health, one of the largest public-private partnerships in Europe for innovation in the field of health and they will have the chance to apply to the Startup Amplifier — the EITHealth Program where they can receive up to 500K over 3 years.
- Xvision has won the Seedstars World 2019 competition round in Romania, and represented our country in the Seedstars Summit CEE contest. The startup will have the chance to participate in the Seedstars Summit in Switzerland where it could obtain a funding of $500.000.
- In October the finals of the Social Impact Award Romania took place. Following the pitches of the 12 finalist teams, the jury selected three teams that won prizes worth 1,500 euro and the opportunity to go to Kiev in December, to meet the winning teams from the other 16 countries, within SIA International Summit.
- Eight Romanian women entrepreneurs have reached the national final of the Women Startup Competition Europe, supported by the cosmetics company AVON. The winner from Romania is Nummo and has represented the country in the London competition with a speech therapy project.
Coworking spaces and hubs
A Thriving year for coworking spaces! Most of the big ones (Impact Hub, TechHub, Commons, Mindspace, Cowork Timișoara, Cluj Hub, Silicon Forest) expanded in new locations or rented more space. A few of these notable expansions happened during the autumn months.
- Silicon Forest, hub and coworking space launched last year in Cluj-Napoca, opens the second location in Cluj, with a 200 000 dollars investment made by US partners. The new location has 3 event rooms and an office space of 400 sqm which has become almost fully occupied in the first two months after launch.
- Cartier Hub is a new community driven coworking space of 300sqm, based in Bucharest opened in partnership with Nod Makerspace and Ceetrus.
- Autonom became a shareholder in Impact Hub Bucharest, investing 2 million euros in equity, letters of bank guarantees and lines of credit for the new spaces. This autumn the hub announced the opening of Impact Hub Floreasca, its third location in Bucharest.
- Commons opened in October its third coworking space in Bucharest in Baneasa. The other two spaces operated by the Commons have already gained popularity among small and medium-sized companies in Bucharest, currently hosting over 250 members.
- In november, Cowork Timișoara opened the second location called “The Garden” in the nearby vicinity of Politehnica University of Timișoara: 300 sqm meters distributed on two floors and a garden.
- Orange Fab launched Hub Pass which gives entrepreneurs increased mobility within the partner network that includes 6 hubs in Romania. All entrepreneurs enrolled in the Orange Fab program, as well as all members of the 6 hubs, who travel to one of the cities with Orange Fab presence, benefit from free work space in the partner hubs.
- Rubik Hub, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University from Iași and Orange opened Rubik MiniHub, the first coworking space (125 sqm) dedicated for the students of the university.
Other ecosystem news
- UiPath announced the acquisition of two companies ProcessGold in Netherlands and StepShot in Ukraine. ProcessGold is a platform used for developing business applications, while StepShot provides software solutions for Process Documentation.
- The Romanian Government approved the draft law on business incubators and accelerators which will change the existing legal framework. The change was taken into consideration in order to improve the framework for providing support to startups in the initial stages of development.
- Spherik, together with four other European partners, announced the launch of B-Hub for Europe, a program dedicated to the development & innovation in the blockchain sphere, based on the potential already existing in the European market. The initiative will be launched in January 2020 and will have a total budget of almost 1.9 million euros.
- Startup Europe Cities is an initiative launched by the European Commision with the purpose to sthregthen the collaboration between various cities in Eastern Europe in innovation and startup field. Twelve cities are involved, among them Cluj, which is piloting an experience exchange with Varna startup ecosystem starting with 2020.
- The first map of the Romanian fintechs was launched at Future Banking FinTech Edition event. The report contains the profiles of over 40 businesses in this industry based in Romania or with Romanian founders. The Fintech landscape from Romania can be considered quite young, the vast majority of startups in this domain being founded in the last 5 years.
- Part of the educational-focused strategy, Rubik Hub continued the RubikEdu startup workshops for students in universities in the region of Moldova: Iași, Suceava and Bacău.
- On October 8th, The National Council of SMEs in Romania (CNIPMMR), together with the BCR and under the High Patronage of the President of Romania, launched Romania Tech Nation a program supporting the tech education and development in Romania.
- The National Bank of Romania (BNR) declares the launch of the project FinTech Innovation Hub, a platform dedicated to communication with companies that develop innovative solutions of general public interest in the field of payment and financial services.
- The program “Vreau Să Fiu Antreprenor” ends the year with more than 3000 participants in the 32 events (with 65 speakers) 20 towns in Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
- Bolt officially recognizes the company’s intention to bring electric scooters and electric cars to Romania. The plan to launch electric transport versions throughout Europe and, in Romania, is part of the initiative called Green Plan, whereby the Estonian company will invest 10 million Euros over the next five years.
- FreshBlood, the hub of EIT Health in Romania, became connected to the European Connected Health Alliance, a European network of ecosystems, forming the regional network Transylvania Digital Health Ecosystem.
- The Romanian startup Flow, providing the electric scooter rental systems in Bucharest, entered the Cluj market. The company wants to reach next year several cities in Romania and other countries as well.
- eGO, the first 100% electric car sharing service in Romania, launched in 2017 in partnership with BCR, has been opened in Timișoara as well, as third city after Bucharest and Constanța.
- Modex announced the launch of the enterprise platform that simplifies the adoption of blockchain technology. The Modex Blockchain Database (Modex BCDB) platform allows companies to implement their first blockchain project in just a few days instead of a few months.
- Four European ecommerce companies accumulating about 30,000 online sellers — eMAG, Cdiscount, ePrice, and Real — have announced the launch of the International Marketplace Network (IMN) — which offers an interface that connects the four platforms, so sellers can use as a single point of work to synchronize their offers on each of the four platforms, securely and in real time. IMN aims to support the development of the digital single market, in line with the European Commission’s aim.
- Blugento, a Cluj-Napoca based company specialized in providing eCommerce solutions based on the Magento platform, lays the foundation of the first commercial agreement to support online stores in Romania in selling their products in Poland. By doing this it launched the first alliance in local eCommerce, together with Frisbo, Coletaria.ro and VE Global.
- Cluj-based teleportHQ announced that it has launched the beta version of their AI-powered platform for automated generation of front-end code and design, a solution meant to keep up with the huge unmet global demand of experts in building user interfaces. The platform is addressing developers by automating their front-end work and learning their way of design, their project, and their industry scope. The project is the result of a sustained R&D effort of more than 3 years, partly financed by the European Union.
- In November, the hipMenu app, which was bought by Foodpanda in 2018, was closed by the new owners which decided to migrate all the users in the Foodpanda app. The move generated a backlash on social media from users as they were dissatisfied by the lack of group orders in Foodpanda app and by without-reason canceled orders and unjustified delays in deliveries which happened during the migration.
- Clever Taxi will become FREE NOW over the next few months, and will be part of the international group NOW launched by Daimler and BMW in February 2019. Clever’s transformation into FREE NOW will allow Romanian passengers to use a single app to find either a taxi or an alternative transport solution in Romania and over 100 cities in 9 European countries: Germany, UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Austria and Sweden, according to a statement by the company.
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