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12 Southeast European Scaleups and Their Lessons About Growth

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Summer is scaling up and so are Southeast European startups. The Recursive has dived into the waters of four countries in the region and selected 12 companies speeding up on their scaling journey. They were founded in the last decade with an impressive track record, development, market reach, and partnerships and raised funding at Series A and further rounds.

From sectors such as financial services through to agtech, mobility, artificial intelligence, and space tech, here is a list of 12 Southeast European scaleups based in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, or Croatia, and their lessons about growth.

Romania

#1 FintechOS

Industry – Financial technologies

Funding amount – $92M Series B

Solution – Founded in 2017 by Teodor Blidarus and Sergiu Negut, FintechOS is a fintech platform that provides personalized and low-code digital infrastructure for banks, insurers, and other financial institutions. They assist organizations in offering customers personalized solutions by adopting a data-driven approach based on different sources, like databases and IoT devices.

Milestones – More than 40 institutions run on FintechOS, including Erste Bank, Societe Generale, Scotia bank, Hyperion Insurance Group, Vienna Insurance Group, and many more. Their reach spans 20 markets and four continents. The company manages over $100 billion in assets, with offices in London, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen and Vienna employing 350+ people. FintechOS aims to use their latest investment to scale internationally and promote their solution to financial institutions around the world where the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, is present.

“Don’t meet with your dream investor first. Because you will get feedback, you will get rejections due to not understanding the business model. So, do that learning without compromising the best money that you can get,” the FintechOS co-founder Sergiu Negut shares about growth.

#2 Druid AI

Industry – Artificial intelligence

Funding amount – $15M Series A

Solution – Founded in 2018 by Daniel Balaceanu (Head of Products), Andreea Plesea (CRO), Liviu Dragan (CEO) and Bogdan Pietroiu (CTO), DRUID is an end-to-end platform, which offers AI-powered intelligent virtual assistants that help employees, customers, and partners to communicate digitally. DRUID actively builds on its vision to provide each employee with an intelligent virtual assistant, establishing an extensive 130+ partner network, most notably with UiPath, and servicing 100+ clients from around the world.

Milestones – DRUID AI received the Growth Star award from Deloitte 2021 CE Technology Fast 50 ranking due to its fast growth rate of 6,753%, in the 2018-2020 period. The company reached a 3.8x Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) growth rate at the end of 2021 compared to 2020 and already achieved a 2.8x growth at the end of Q1 2022 compared to the same period last year. A priority on the AI startup scaling journey is to open offices in Europe, US and the Middle East and continue consolidating their presence in the UK and US to reach 1K global enterprise customers by 2024. They plan to use their latest investment to scale their solution internationally in Europe and North America and add extra capabilities to its conversational AI.

#3 Instant Factoring

Industry – Financial technologies

Funding amount – $7M Venture Series

Solution – Founded in 2018 by Alexandru Lapusan, Cosmina Pirlea, Cristian Ionescu and Piotr Swieboda, Instant Factoring is a fintech company that provides flexible working capital financing through invoice financing for small businesses and micro-companies, turning invoices into cash in a few easy steps based on a proprietary automated data driven scoring technology.

Milestones – The first fintech factoring platform in Romania and a member of Innovate Finance, the London based Global Fintech Association has partnered with TechVentures Bank to develop a financing solution addressed to SMEs. Their latest investment will be used to fuel development in the Romanian and Serbian market and accelerate digital financing processes through technology and software development, create new financial products, and expand operational capabilities.

Bulgaria

#4 Payhawk

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Industry – Financial services

Funding amount – $240M Series B

Solution – Founded in 2018 by Konstantin Djengozov, CFO, Hristo Borisov, CEO, and Boyko Karadzhov, CTO, Payhawk is a one-stop shop for finance teams to consolidate the previously disparate systems required to spend, track, process, and budget corporate funds. Their financial platform combines credit cards, payments, expenses, cash management, and pre-accounting into one integrated experience to give companies maximum control and visibility over their business spending.

MilestonesPayhawk is the first Bulgarian company to reach a $1 billion valuation and unicorn status following a historic for the Bulgarian ecosystem $112 million Series B resulting in a $240 million total funding amount raised. They currently serve companies from 30+ countries coming from various industries, use of currencies, and payment methods. Payhawk aims to open three new offices in Amsterdam, Paris and New York and expects to triple its employee base by the end of 2022 for its market expansion and the development of new features. The first SEE startup which caught the attention of Lightspeed Venture Partners and the first Bulgarian investment of Endeavor Catalyst is also partnering with banks on developing a credit card business model.

“My advice for founders is to never stop trying and not to get discouraged if something does not work well in the beginning. Perseverance is the most important factor, next to rooting for yourself and taking risks. We have an internal saying: “When in doubt, risk it.” It is very important that you think about both the big vision and the practical steps to validate that this vision is feasible. At Payhawk, we made 20+ iterations of the business plan and model before we got our first customer. “ Payhawk’s co-founder and CEO Hristo Borisov shares on the founder’s journey.

#5 Gtmhub

Industry – Enterprise software

Funding amount – $161M Series C

Solution – Founded in 2015 by Radoslav Georgiev, Jordan Angelov, Ivan Osmak, and Bo Pedersen, Gtmhub is the world’s leading Strategy Execution Platform based on the OKR management methodology. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results – a goal system used by Google and other organizations to create alignment and engagement around measurable goals. By connecting strategy to daily activities, Gtmhub transforms the way companies do business by creating better visibility and organizational alignment.

MilestonesGtmhub continues on its rocket scaling and will use the most recently raised capital to grow its operations, increase market penetration, and expand the software’s product offerings by including predictive and prescriptive features. Afetr six years of operations, Gtmhub has managed to grow a team of over 240 employees spread across their offices in Sofia, Berlin, London, and Denver. The company has over 500,000 users from more than 75 countries and works with over 1,000 global clients across enterprises, not-for-profits, startups, and governments clients such as Adobe, Red Hat, Experian, TomTom, CNN, Publicis, Societe Generale, GSK, IKEA, Instacart, DocuSign and more. Last month, Gtmhub acquired the Portland-based OKR and status-tracking software Koan to further solidify its position in the OKR landscape.

#6 EnduroSat

Industry – Space technologies

Funding amount – $17M Series A

Solution – Founded in 2015 by Raycho Raychev and Stanimir Gantchev, EnduroSat specializes in engineering, building, and operation of NanoSatеllites and offers shared satellite missions that give nations, companies, and even universities access to space. EnduroSat’s Shared Satellite Service enables continuous improvement in space operations at a fraction of the cost with the goal to drive innovation by providing easy access to space for visionary entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists.

Milestones – EnduroSat is one of the fastest-growing space companies in Europe with an annual growth of 300% year to year. With a team of over 80 people, the Sofia-based company is planning on executing nine shared satellite missions until the end of 2023. In December 2020, EnduroSat joined forces with US-based space tech company Momentus for two service agreements: for the enclosure of Kuwait’s first spacecraft and satellite mission, and EnduroSat’s SPARTAN CubeSat in Momentus’s Vigoride orbit transfer vehicle for the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. With a similar goal but a different target group, EnduroSat and IBM have announced the launch of a joint CubeSat Mission, named “Endurance” that would allow school-aged children to interact directly with a CubeSat in Low Earth Orbit for performing computations, accessing data from different sensors, and taking pictures.

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12 Southeast European Scaleups and Their Lessons About Growth, TheRecursive.com

Greece

#7 FlexCar

Industry – Mobility & Transportation Services

Funding amount – $300M Series B

Solution – Founded in 2018 by Konstantinos Davaris and George Desyllas, FlexCar makes car ownership flexible by simplifying the process of leasing a vehicle and minimizing advance payments, allowing individuals, freelance drivers, and businesses to get the desired vehicle (car, scooter, or business van) without having to deal with bureaucratic procedures and paying deposits.

MilestonesFlexCar has raised a record $210 million and has invested over €100 million in their markets in Greece, Cyprus, and Italy. In just three years, the Greek company has eightfold increased its turnover. They plan to invest the raised capital in international expansion to two more continents within the next 12 months, aiming to become a world leader in the field of flexible leasing. Currently, FlexCar employs more than 150 specialized executives in their market countries and plans to double its headcount by 2023, with more hires in its marketing, technology, and finance departments.

#8 Blueground

Industry – Real Estate & PropTech

Funding amount – $260M Series C

Solution – Founded in 2013 by Alexandros Chatzieleftheriou, Alexis Maragkos, Penny Papakonstantinou, and Andreas Nezeritis, Blueground is a global proptech rental company that provides a platform for booking flexible stays from a network of thousands of fully furnished, quality homes around the world. With a portfolio of 4,500+ apartments in 15 cities across the US, Europe, and the Middle East, Blueground handles the apartment furnishing and offers a range of around-the-clock support services, such as apartment cleaning, wellness services, and grocery delivery.

Milestones – The Greek-founded company is getting close to becoming a unicorn with its $750 million valuation after raising $140 million in an equity funding round led by existing investor Laurence Tosi’s WestCap Group. With plans to fuel expansion around the world and targeting to reach 50 cities by 2025, Blueground is also leading the $14M Series A round of Brazilian proptech startup Tabas. This is their first investment in the fast-growing proptech ecosystem and the Latin American market. By the end of 2022, they aim to consolidate their business in Sao Paulo, expand to Mexico City and new cities in Brazil, and build a portfolio of 1,200 apartments.

#9 Spotawheel

Industry – Mobility & Transportation Marketplaces

Funding amount – $130M Series B

Solution – Founded in 2016 by Charis Arvanitis and Kiriakos Agadakos, Spotawheel provides a tech-driven circular economy platform for finding pre-owned cars. They aim to solve the trust challenge with the B2C second-hand car purchases by helping their customers to find the vehicle that meets their needs with a team of specialists pre-inspecting used cars and delivering them for a test drive right at the door.

MilestonesSpotawheel plans to use its latest $100M investment to scale their solution internationally by growing in Germany and Romania, and entering 10 new markets by 2026. With a team of 450 people in offices around Greece, Germany, and Poland, they’re focusing on team expansion and new hirings in Greece, Romania, Poland, France, Italy, and Spain, amongst others. They also aim to keep developing their big data, machine learning, and human skills solutions and to grow their European network of dealerships. The Greek used cars dealership platform has teamed up with Sofia-HQ TBI Bank to give customers the opportunity to pay for their cars in installments through the Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) solution, helping them to better manage their finances.

“I’m not a car guy. I didn’t know how this worked or what were the dos and dont’s of this industry. I just had the idea of how I could solve it on the customer side. But we have always been open to bringing in industry experts. We need to dig into the operations to understand what is not working and why” the CEO of Spotawheel Charis Arvanitis reveals in an interview with The Recursive.

Croatia

#10 Fonoa

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Industry – Financial technologies

Funding amount – $85M Series B

Solution – Founded in 2019 by Davor Tremac, Filip Sturman and Ivan Ivankovic, Fonoa provides a platform that helps in automating taxes for the digital economy companies, reducing their cost of operations and increasing compliance. Their API solution determines and calculates the right amount of tax a business should pay, resulting in greater profitability for customers, reducing operating costs and increasing their tax compliance

MilestonesSurpassing over 300 million tax transactions per year and currently supporting tax automation transactions across more than 100 countries, Fonoa aims to use their latest funding to expand to over 140 countries by the end of the year. The team is working on improving the features of its product and continuing its global expansion. The Croatian fintech company also plans to launch new products in the next 12 to 18 months, and to double its headcount from the current fully remote team of 110 employees across 20 countries.

#11 Gideon Brothers

Industry – Robotics

Funding amount – $40M Series A

Solution – Founded in 2017 by Edin Kočo, Josip Ćesić, Kruno Stražanac, and Matija Kopić, Gideon Brothers builds flexible robotic solutions that automate complex material handling operations. Their hardware solutions come hand in hand with software, responsible for the horizontal and vertical handling processes most commonly used within the logistics and delivery industries.

Milestones – Gideon Brothers was named as the fifth most successful autonomous robots producer for the cargo industry in the world by leading American market advisory firm ABI in 2021. With their latest $31 million funding round, they will be expanding across key markets of the EU and the USA by opening offices in Munich and Boston. The Croatian company also plans to grow their R&D, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams to meet the increased product demand.

#12 Agrivi

Industry – AgTech

Funding amount – $7.3M Series A

Solution – Founded in 2013 by Matija Zulj, Agrivi is providing a suite of digital agriculture solutions for farms, food companies, agribusiness banks, ministries of agriculture and other important stakeholders of the agri-food value chain to support them in adopting the change and empower their digital transformation project. The AGRIVI approach to solving the global food problem is through digitalizing agriculture by switching the farmer’s decision-making reliant on traditional practices and historical knowledge to the new data-driven and fact-based decision-making empowered by best-growing practices and real-time agronomic insights available using technology.

Milestones – AGRIVI has partnered with and supported some of the major agri-food businesses like Driscoll’s, Nestlé, BASF, Tequila Sauza, and others. They have received a number of awards and recognitions from the UN FAO, The Financial Times, Deloitte and others on its mission to support the food industry stakeholders with real-time insights and decrease production losses. The Croatian company recently announced the opening of its US office to strengthen its global leadership in the enterprise farm management software segment.

“The adoption of agritech solutions is accelerating with family farms being taken over by the younger generations, and with large companies recognizing all the benefits of the supervision and standardization of agricultural production. We believe that the digitalization of agriculture will be accelerated with the beginning of the implementation of the new EU multiannual financial framework, given that digitalization is high on the list of priorities,” Agrivi’s founder shares with The Recursive.

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https://therecursive.com/author/borislava/

Currently working as a Startups & Investors Lead at Webit Foundation focusing on finding the best impact startups worldwide and shining a light on them through the Founders Games startup challenge. Combining my drive for exploring, creating meaningful connections, and presenting stories with a tickling sprinkle, I am also engaged as a Contributing Writer for The Recursive. From entrepreneurs and investors to tech communities, we tell the stories of those shaping the future economy in the vibrant innovation ecosystems of Southeast Europe and make them reach the world. #impact, #startups, #innovation, #investments, #education, #sustainabilty #collaboration
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