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Angel Investor Ciprian Man: Startups must build resilience

Angel Investor Ciprian Man
Image credit: Ciprian Man - co-founder of Growceanu Angel Investment
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“We are in full acceleration mode,” says Ciprian Man, co-founder of Growceanu Angel Investment, a Timisoara-based group of investors active in high-tech since 2018. The team scouts startups with growth potential and aids them with funds, knowledge, networking, and consulting.

“The organization manages the entire investment process, from the deal flow to the investment itself, with no hassle for investors, and then to the exit. The aspects related to business, leadership, and human connection are the areas where the value brought by investors is most clearly felt,” Ciprian Man explains.

The platform is affiliated with Early Stage Investing Launchpad (ESIL), a pan-European community that supports the development of business angels. The team is made up of Adrian Erimescu, Ciprian Man, Dan Bugariu, Radu Ticiu, Val Muresan, and Adrian Gheorghe.

The Angel Investment group organizes events for pitching and matchmaking, creates deal services, like deal flow, due diligence, company valuation, and deal terms, and offers consultancy for strategic plans, team synergy, digital systems, and culture signature.

Ciprian Man is a supportive mentor, passionate about quantum physics, philosophy, yoga, and sustainability. He has a background in management and economics. He even has worked as a teacher in the past and has occupied a seat at the Chamber of Commerce in Timisoara. 

His personal investments include both local and international startups, like ialoc.ro and Quarks Interactive in Romania, and Happy Melly in The Netherlands. 

Growceanu’s plan for 2021 is to invest €1M in Romanian startups. Some of the verticals they are interested in are PropTech, EdTech, SmartCity, Enterprise, Marketplaces, FinTech, and MedTech. Some of the startups they have invested in are Kinderpedia, Telios Care, xVision, Metabeta, and Bright Spaces.

The Recursive reached out to Ciprian Man to discover what is next for the Growceanu Angel Investment organization, what startups are they interested in, and how is the Timisoara ecosystem evolving.

The Recursive: How did you start Growceanu Angel Investment in 2018 and what can you share with us about the developing phases in the first three years?

Ciprian Man: We wanted to put our money and expertise into the service of innovation, while also contributing to strengthening the start-up ecosystem. We put practices in place and added new partners to the operational team to develop and manage the start-up community we work with. We developed clear processes to make the investment process effortless and transparent for both investors and start-ups.  

Now, we are close to launching an automated tool for our growing investor community and we’re reaching out to an ever-expanding network of partners to improve and increase our contact with high-quality start-ups. We are in full acceleration mode.

You aim to invest in a few more start-ups this year. What particular verticals and solutions are you interested in?

We’re industry agnostic when it comes to the start-ups we’re looking to work with. We keep in mind our investors’ expertise and background, but we are happy to match with start-ups on any verticals, as long as they have scalable tech solutions as the backbone of their business. Given the very fast pace of innovation and change, we must adopt an explorer’s mindset and embrace diversity, at all times.

What makes a start-up stand out from the market – the leader, the team, the solution. What are the top three criteria when you choose a start-up to invest in?

We believe that a strong team is essential for the start-up to succeed. They’ll pivot, and pivot again until they figure it out. 

It’s equally important to have identified a problem, an issue that needs to be dealt with, to have a validated solution, and have some kind of traction proving that the issue and the solution have been properly approached and managed. 

What tech trends can you sense forming in 2022 that you would like to pursue?

Apart from accelerated digitalization, which is the obvious trend, we will continue to pursue adding artificial intelligence to every field that is being enhanced by information technology. 

We care about sustainability and the technologies addressing it in every field. Often, there is more to it than recycling and energy, as it’s also about the information and logistical challenges of a circular economy. 

On a personal side note, I’m also fond of a deeper-future technology, quantum computing. This could contribute to a whole different understanding of the fundamentals of our lives, and to a deeper transformation of consciousness, which we are slowly getting ready for. 

Can you point out one start-up you wished you had invested in?

When we first heard MediNav’s pitch, a highly capable team of data scientists, we weren’t sure about the business they were building. However, as our team continued to develop, we reconnected with them as part of start-up community management. Even though we have missed an intermediary stage of their development, we’re now helping them with the current round. I’m very interested in joining as a committed business angel. 

What lessons have you learned from this experience?

A few points have emerged as a result: 

  1. First, the effort we’re making to keep in touch with all the valuable startup teams we meet is worth it. 
  2. Then, there’s the confirmation that staying open to revisiting previous decisions is a great feature of our organization’s DNA. 
  3. Finally, this experience confirms our basic premise that a great team will constantly improve, eventually turning their idea into an investment opportunity.

What is the developing target for Growceanu in the next 2-3 years, are you only focusing on making investments in Romania?

Our strategy is a living thing. We aim to accelerate our growth over the next year and become a significant player in the angel investment space. Our goal is to make it easy for relevant angels and start-ups to come together and succeed.

We’re focusing on EU-based start-ups, and we’re also open to other countries, even though so far most of our investments have been Romanian companies.

What are the advantages of “Growceanu’s funnel” for start-ups?

Diversity is our power. Our Angels come from various industries, like marketing, branding, business, tech, to name a few, as it takes a variety of expertise, different mental models, and divergent worldviews to innovate, stay the course, and be successful. 

What is the current state of the Timisoara start-up ecosystem? What does it still need to grow?

In Timisoara, all the actors on the local scene are present – education, pre-acceleration, and early-stage investment. We need to bring in the Municipality to back up the tech startup growth within the local community. 

What Timisoara lacks is PR and it does one hell of a job keeping initiatives “low-profile” until they think they are ready. To counter this, I encourage entrepreneurs to be courageous and take on market challenges head-on, testing their offerings with customers and stakeholders as early as possible.

What do you like about the Romanian start-up ecosystem and what do you feel is lacking?

I like that the ecosystem is an emerging one – which is a definite advantage, because, while growing, it can learn and adapt fast. Our foundation is the tech background most of our founders have. 

What’s lacking is some entrepreneurial/marketing/business background – which, of course, we are actively and constantly working on, to build up and enhance our ecosystem. 

You are a start-up teacher and mentor, what are your top pieces of advice for future entrepreneurs?

This is where I’d like to offer what I’ve learned from my colleagues, partners, and the investor community: 

  • create a balanced team, 
  • validate all assumptions, 
  • continuously sharpen your focus, 
  • know your customer, 
  • train for speed and endurance, 
  • build your resilience (endurance is mostly stamina and persistence while resilience is about the ability to recover – it’s the difference between knowing how to spend and knowing how to renew your resources). 

Do all this, and yet don’t overspend on your MVP. Plus, have fun all the while, because this is your life that is in the making, every moment.

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive with 10+ years of experience as a freelance writer based in Bucharest, Romania. Her mission is to report internationally on the amazing progress of the local startup ecosystems while bringing into focus exponential projects developed in niches like health and education or by female entrepreneurs.