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Mapping Romania’s Most Innovative Cities: Who Is Shaping Tech

Romanian Cities
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Cities, large and small, are our innovation hubs, the heart of research and development, business, governance, decision making, and multidisciplinary interaction. Cities are also the place where most of us choose to live and work. Innovation is successful when local conditions and resources are activated and leveraged. 

In Romania – our country in focus for this report – the innovation ecosystem is made of various different innovation hubs, from western Timisoara and Oradea, to the north-east, in Iasi, and to south-central Bucharest. Each city vibrates with a specific energy and has different sectors and verticals in focus, yet many share a passion for technology, innovation, and impact.

To celebrate this diversity and highlight the unique characteristics of cities that make the overall startup ecosystem stronger, we are starting a weekly series of Romanian cities that are shaping the technology and innovation landscape. Every week, the article list below will be updated with a new city – stay tuned!

 

Bucharest

Socio-economic landscape

  • According to the population census in 2011, Romania’s capital is also its largest city, with over 1,883,000 inhabitants. This would make it the 6th largest city in the EU by population within city limits.
  • Bucharest is the financial and industrial capital of Romania, making up 23% of the national GDP and about one-quarter of its industrial production. It is also home to the Bucahrest Stock Exchange.
  • The city houses more than 185,000 companies, including multinationals such as Microsoft, IBM, P&G, HP, Oracle, Wipro, and S&T.Economy.
  • When it comes to higher education, Bucharest is the largest academic hub in the country, with 16 public, 18 private institutes and over 300,00 students.
  • Even though the cost of living is the highest in Romania, it is still lower than for peers in Central and Eastern Europe, making it a favorite among digital nomads.

 

Innovation landscape

  • Bucharest has the largest IT&C sector in Romania – out of 140,000 employees active in the sector in 2018, 46% were based in Bucharest.
  • Analysts have placed Bucharest in top cities by the number of experts and young experts particularly in the high-tech industry.
  • The city also has over 115 companies in the Business Service Sector (IT&C, SSC and BPO), employing more than 83,500 people, making it the country’s leading outsourcing center.
  • Bucharest is also home to the highest overall number of tech startups in the country, including success stories such as RPA solutions leader UiPath, cybersecurity leader Bitdefender, or e-commerce leaders eMAG and Elefant.ro.
  • It has a growing ecosystem of startup supporters and enablers, including the biggest venture capital funds in Romania, startup accelerators and incubators, and regionally leading tech events.
  • Bucharest ran the most smart city projects, according to the Scanning Smart Cities in Romania 2022 report.
  • Bucharest is also an important R&D hub, home to facilities opened by tech giants such as Amazon, Redis Lab, or fitbit.

 

Key ecosystem supporters

Early Game Ventures – a VC investing in early-stage startups that jumpstart new industries in the emerging markets of Europe, with up to €4.5 million tickets for Series A, and through an accelerator, with up to €200K per startup; founded in 2018 by Cristian Munteanu (Managing Partner)

GapMinder Venture Partners – a VC investing up to €1.5 million in seed round and up to €6 million in follow-up funding in IT Software and Services startups from Romania and Central Eastern Europe; founded in 2017 by Dan Mihaescu and Sergiu Rosca (Founding Partners)

Roca X – a management consulting company targeting disruptive businesses at early stages; founded in 2018 as a spin-off of the Impetum Group, and led by Alexandru Bogdan (CEO)

Sparking Capital – a VC investing tickets of up to €300K in pre-seed and seed stage startups with  potential to become national champions and/or scale up fast internationally, founded in 2017 by Cristian Negrutiu and Vlad Panait (Founding Partners)

SeedBlink – a co-investment platform that aims to bring together individual and institutional investors to fund top-tier European tech startups and scale-ups, founded in 2020 and led by Carmen Sebe (CEO)

Catalyst Romania – a VC fund investing in tech companies that have already launched products into their target markets and have experienced management teams, with tickets between €1 and € 3 million; founded in 2012 by Marius Ghenea (Managing Partner)

Underline Ventures – a VC that aims to partner at the earliest stages with Eastern European founders building high-growth startups with global ambitions, founded in 2022 by Bogdan Iordache (General Partner)

Morphosis Capitala private equity fund investing 5 to 10 million euro in high growth Romanian companies from sectors such as FMCG, niche healthcare, technology, and B2B services, with a strong potential for international expansion; founded in 2018, led by Andrei Gemeneanu (Managing Partner)

Simple Capitala private investment vehicle that invests in and mentors technology to support accelerated growth locally and internationally, founded in 2019 by Andrei Pitis

Bravva Angels – a community of business angels, investing in early stage startups by female founders and mixed teams, founded in 2022 by Ilinca Paun

Smart Impact Capital – an early stage VC focused on growing impactful startups, investing tickets of up to €100K; founded in 2020 by Matei Dumitrescu

Impact Hub Bucharest – the local branch of the global organization that supports the development of entrepreneurial initiatives through startup programs, events and a crowdfunding platform; its initiatives include startup education hub Startarium and the startup competition Black Sea ClimAccelerator; co-founded in 2012 by Vlad Craioveanu and Oana Craioveanu

Founder Institute – the local branch of the world’s largest entrepreneurship training and startup launch program, led by Alex Dascalu (Lead Director, Founder Institute Eastern Europe)

Launch – supports startups and founders of early stage startups in Romania in increasing the chances of success, by democratizing access to resources such as feedback, expertise, capital and pilot projects, launched in 2021 by How to Web

Social Innovation Solutions – an organization that assists leaders in creating sustainable tech, entrepreneurial and policy solutions through startup incubation programs such as Future Makers and competitions such as Social Impact Awards, co-founded by Ciprian Stanescu

StepFWD – a pre-accelerator program for diverse teams of up to 2 founders, launched in 2019, run by Daniel Dragomir (Managing Partner)

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Start-up.ro – a local news media platform dedicated to startups and SMEs, founded in 2015, part of Internet Corp, and led by Vlad Andriescu (Editor in Chief)

Commons – one of the biggest coworking space chains in the country, with 5 locations, co-founded in 2017 by Jesse Schimmel

 

Key large-scale tech events

How to Web – a leading European conference on entrepreneurship and innovation for founders, investors, innovation and tech executives who are developing industry-changing solutions, founded in 2009, led by Alexandru Agatinei (CEO)

Bucharest Tech Week – the largest urban tech festival in Romania, consisting of various business summits and a tech expo; founded in 2016

GoTech World – a leading IT and digital business event in Central and Eastern Europe, led by Catalina Dobre (Project Manager)

 

Key scaleups and tech companies

UiPath – the first unicorn startup emerging from Romania and a global leader in RPA, founded in Bucharest by Daniel Dines and headquartered in New York

Bitdefendera cybersecurity leader delivering best-in-class threat prevention, detection, and response solutions globally, founded in 2001 by Florin Talpes (CEO)

Elefant.ro – one of fastest growing e-commerce companies in Romania, founded in 2010 by Ion Sturza

eMAG – the local market leader in e-commerce, with over 5,000 people working in Bucharest, Sofia, Warsaw and Budapest; co-founded in 2001, led by Tudor Manea (CEO)

PayU Romania (former GECAD ePayment) –  an online payment service provider for merchants and buyers, founded in 2004, led by Elena Gheorghe (Country Manager)

Zitec – a software company specialized in developing online products and applications, founded in 2003, led by Alexandru Lapusan (CEO)

Softbinator Technologies – a Romanian R&D and consultancy company providing solutions in fintech, edutech, healthtech, blockchain, founded in 2011, founded by Daniel Ilinca (CEO)

 

Key startups

DRUID AIbuilding AI-powered virtual assistants that enable fast, personalized, and hyper-automated interactions for employees and customers, co-founded in 2018 by Andreea (Diosteanu) Plesea

Bunnyshell – an Environments-as-a-Service platform for creating and managing full-stack environments for development, staging and production, co-founded in 2018 by Alin Dobra

FLOWX.AI – an AI-driven platform allowing financial institutions to build apps fast and without deep code experience, founded in 2020 by Ioan Iacob (CEO)

Instant Factoring – the startup helps small businesses and micro-enterprises turn invoices in capital in a few simple steps, co-founded by Cristian Ionescu (CEO)

Bware Labs – the company offers a blockchain API (application programming interface) to solve the problem of infrastructure demand, co-founded by Flavian Manea (CEO)

Kinderpedia – offers digital tools to help optimizing the administrative processes and place parent-teacher-student collaboration at the core of the learning act, founded in 2014 by Evelina Necula (CMO)

Bright Spaces – the end-to-end digital leasing solution for commercial real estate, offering 3D Digital Twin-based leasing, planning and management web solutions, founded in 2019 by Bogdan Nicoara (CEO)

Questo – a platform for city exploration games, built by local creators and businesses around the world, founded in 2017 by Alex Govoreanu (CEO)

Soleadify – provides SMB business data enrichment, accurate classification and in-depth insights based on real-time updates, co-founded in 2019 by Florin Tufan (CEO)

Procesio – a low/ no-code Integration Platform as a Service empowering organizations to integrate software/ services/ apps, process data, and automate processes and workflows, co-founded in 2020 by Marian Voicu (Deputy CEO)

SanoPass – the startup offering digital personalized medical and wellness services was recently acquired by private medical services provider MedLife; founded in 2019 by Delia Iliasa and Andrei Vasile

FINQware – develops technologies and products in order to facilitate open banking access; co-founded in 2017 by Cosmin Cosma (CEO)

Flip.ro – a platform for refurbished phones, co-founded in 2019 by Alin Luca, Alex Burghelia, and George MoroianuMedicai – a startup that enables patient-doctor collaboration through online sharing and communication, co-founded in 2018 by Mircea Popa (CEO)

Humans.ai – the next-generation blockchain platform that brings together an ecosystem of stakeholders around the use of AI to create at scale, founded in 2019 by Sabin Dima

Bonapp.eco – the startup offers a solution to food waste by connecting food retailers looking to sell food approaching the expiration date to consumers interested to purchase it at discount, founded in 2022 by Gregoire Vigroux


Cluj-Napoca

Socio-economic landscape

  • According to the population census in 2011, Cluj-Napoca (often referred to as Cluj) was the second largest city in Romania, with over 324,000 inhabitants.
  • The city has one of the best developed economies based on local resources, the second largest financial and banking sectors in the country, many and diverse corporations, and good geographic position.
  • Between 2008 and 2018, the city saw a 115% growth in GDP. In 2018, it already recorded the second highest value of private revenues in Romania, after Bucharest.
  • 11 universities throughout the city enroll more than 85,000 students. The Babes-Bolyai University is also the largest in the country.
  • The unofficial capital of the Transylvania region, Cluj-Napoca is home to two of the major music festivals in Eastern Europe, electronic music festival Untold, and alternative music festival Electric Castle, which takes places at 40 kilometers from the city. Every year the city also organizes one of the most famous film festivals in Romania, the Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF).
  • For digital nomads, the city has clear advantages in terms of cost of living for the same quality of life. You would need around €1,900 for the same standard of life that you can have with £4,800 in London, €5,000 in Paris, and €3,300€ in Madrid.

 

Innovation landscape

  • Over the past decade, Cluj-Napoca has become one of the key tech and innovation hubs in Romania. Some of the first IT clusters in the country developed here, hence the nickname of “Silicon Valley of Romania”.
  • In the last decade, the city has seen one of the biggest growth rates in the IT sector, with 9% of the workforce employed in IT in 2020 vs 2% in 2008.
  • In 2020, the city received the recognition of project leader in healthcare innovation and AI in Europe at the Global StartUp Summit.
  • Numerous startups and tech startups were born in the city, supported by a well-developed network of startup community builders, tech events, accelerators, and local investors.
  • In 2021, Emerging Europe named Cluj-Napoca the leader of the “smart city development” category, based on its policies implemented to improve urban life.
  • Alongside other 111 cities across the EU, Cluj-Napoca is participating in the European Commission’s Cities Mission to become climate-neutral by 2030, with the potential of tapping into the Horizon Europe fund programme.
  • Cluj-Napoca is also an R&D hub, with multinationals in industries such as automotive and consumer electronics setting up R&D centers in the city, including Porsche Engineering and Bosch Engineering.
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Key ecosystem supporters

  • Transilvania IT Cluster – a network of IT companies that offers a platform of knowledge and training for the implementation of collaborative projects and supports employees of member companies in getting technical and soft skills, co-founded in 2013 by Bianca Muntean (Cluster Manager)
  • ROTSA (Romanian Tech Startups Association) – a non-profit organization aiming to be an engine of growth and represent tech startups by connecting them with the main actors in the ecosystem, founded in 2021, and run by Cristiana Bogateanu (CEO)
  • Activize.Tech – a business intelligence company based in Cluj-Napoca that focuses on scouting, advising, and matching startups with potential partners, such as funds and accelerators, founded in 2014 by Mircea Vadan (Managing Partner)
  • Cluj Startups – a community focused on helping startups with their first steps in their journey, through access to their network, founded in 2013, and run by Calin Sipos
  • Transylvania Angel Network (T.A.N.) – an NGO launched as a spin-off project of Cluj Startups to facilitate communication between startups and angel investors and mentors, co-founded in 2018 by Mircea Vadan
  • Risky Business Ventures – a pre-seed and seed fund, organizing an accelerator for students, and aiming to invest in young tech founders and support them with consulting services on product development and scaling, founded in 2016.
  • Spherik Accelerator – an NGO with startup programs at different stages – re-acceleration, acceleration, and post-acceleration – aiming to connect startups with resources and support, founded in 2013, run by Sergiu Popa (Executive Director)
  • RebelVentures – the investment arm of RebetDot, a digital product development company; RebelVentures operates as a corporate venture capital fund, reinvesting RebelDot’s revenue into startups, as well as tapping into crowdfunding platforms and angel investment; co-founded in 2022 by Tudor Ciuleanu (CEO)
  • Cluj Hub – a co-working space for entrepreneurs and freelancers, founded in 2012, run by Tudor Pasc (Managing Partner)

 

Key large-scale tech events

  • Techsylvania – one of the biggest business and tech events in Eastern Europe, with 9 past successful editions, co-founded by Vlad Ciurca (Executive Producer)
  • Cluj Innovation Days – an international annual event focused on encouraging innovation, run by Cluj IT, a local cluster association of organizations active in the IT Sector
  • IT Days – a conference on technology, programming, and innovation, happening at the Cluj Innovation Park, and tackling topics such as startups, product leadership, artificial intelligence, the metaverse, software architecture, and devops, launched in 2013, organized by Ovidiu Mățan

 

Key startups

.lumen – the research startup is building glasses that can empower the blind by understanding the environment, computing interaction panthers, and transmitting information using haptic and auditory impulses, founded in 2020 by Cornel Amariei

AiVA – a deep-tech startup focused on creating AI solutions that help clients monetize their CCTV infrastructure, founded in 2020, run by Pushkar Chatterji (CEO)

Beez – a fintech startup offering a platform through which you save money from online shopping, co-founded in 2018 by Vasile Tămaș (CEO)

Blugento – an eCommerce solution that aims to offer everything an online store needs, founded in 2016, co-founded by Vlad Stanescu (CEO)

Bookr – the first booking app with 3D virtual tour integration for businesses, co-founded in 2021 by Flavius Fulea (CEO)

Cyscale – a software developer of data protection solutions and applications in the cloud, co-founded in 2019 by Ovidiu Cical and Manuela Ticudean

Finqware – an open banking startup that develops technologies and products with the vision to connect all 350 banks in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe into one trusted middleware, founded in 2017 by Cosmin Cosma

Neurolabs – a startup developing an out-of-the-box solution for synthetic computer vision for non-technical companies, co-founded in 2018 by Paul Pop (CEO)

OxidOS – a tech startup offering a secure operating system and tools for software development in the automotive industry, co-founded in 2022 by Alexandru Radovici (CEO)

Stailer – an online platform for booking appointments at hair and beauty salons, founded in 2020, led by Andrei Ursachi (CEO)

teleportHQ – a collaborative front-end platform that has integrated UI development and content modeling tools for designers and developers, founded in 2017, led by Gabi Cretu (Managing Partner)

Telios Care –the first company offering telemedicine services in Romania, launched in 2017, co-founded by Philip Choban (CEO)


Timisoara

Socio-economic landscape

  • Timisoara has close to 320,000 inhabitants, placing it in Top 3 cities in Romania by size.
  • In 2020, the city had a GDP close to €10B, and attracted €1.7B in foreign capital through 17,000 companies. 
  • Key industries that have experienced important growth are automotive, chemical and petrochemical, as well as electronics. Timisoara also has companies in traditional fields such as textile and clothes industry, leather and footwear industry.
  • The city has a big academic center, with over 50K students split between four public universities and three private ones.
  • Timisoara was set to become the European Capital of Culture in 2021, but the date was postponed until 2023 due to COVID challenges.
  • Placed on the 20th spot in Europe as a great place for nomads to work.

 

Innovation landscape

  • Ranked 5th on The World’s Bank list of 22 locations in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania for ease in starting a business.
  • So far, the city has bred more than 40 startups, according to Timisoara Startups.
  • Many startups are concentrated in sectors and verticals such as healthcare, medtech, proptech, SaaS, AI, and IoT.
  • Timisoara is among the 4 Romanian cities participating in the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC), with the goal to enhance its status as an IT center and adopt digital solutions for various city challenges.
  • Timisoara is also an R&D hub, with multinationals in industries such as automotive setting up R&D centers in the city. Last year, Porsche Engineering, the tech service provider and a subsidiary of Porsche, chose Timisoara to open its second R&D site in Romania.
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Key ecosystem supporters

Growceanu –  a Timisoara-based angel investment fund, affiliated with the Early Stage Investing Launchpad founded in 2018 by Ciprian Man, Adrian Irimescu, Adrian Gheorghe

Cowork Timisoara – The Garden – the first coworking space in Timisoara for creatives, digital nomads, entrepreneurs and professionals, as well as a place for organizing and running startup events, founded in 2016 by Andrei Cosmin Munteanu, Andrei Firoiu, and Adrian Pica

Timisoara Startups – a community-driven initiative bringing together local entrepreneurs, founded by Coword Timisoara – The Garden, in partnership with digital agency Enovatika and PR agency DigiTales

Global Shapers Hub Timisoara – a new community in the city, part of the international network Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. It works as an NGO aiming to build a local community of changemakers

 

Key local startups

XVision – a medtech developing AI algorithms for medical imaging, founded in 2018 by Andrei Tenescu, Bogdan Bercean, Cristian Avramescu, Stefan Iarca

GuidefAI – SaaS company supporting brands to engage audiences and generate purchases, founded in 2020 by Paul Muntean, Andreea Magyar

MediNav – software company focusing offering an AI-based solution to hospitals and private clinics with the documentation needed to be filled for each patient, founded in 2020 by Adina Wanda Fiat and Adrian Cuzman 

OncoChain – research platform that collects, analyzes, and standardizes real-world data in oncology to accelerate research and optimize treatments, founded in 2019 by Madalin Margan and Roxana Margan

indexAR – a tool for delivering AR content fast and easy, founded in 2015 by Razvan Boldis

uRADMonitor – a global network of environmental monitors for homes, cities, office, or production spaces, following an IoT topology, founded in 2017 by Dorin Muntean

PolyMore – tool for automatic detection of wrongly sorted waste, founded in 2020 by Cristian Pogan, Vlad Mocanu, Iohana Măceșanu, Victor Baerle

PlantyAI – End to end solution in detecting plant diseases and treatment solutions, founded in 2021, by Raluca Incicas and Rafel Milos

123FormBuilder – a form builder for individuals and businesses to automate data collection processes and workflows, founded in 2008, led by Florin Cornianu (CEO)

Carter (Xilar Technology) – home automation technology using AI, founded by Marius Lucian Popescu

The Care Hub – social enterprise that provides dignified work for older adults by connecting them digitally and in real time with families in need of care service, founded in 2017 by Monica Moldovan

You can find a more in-depth analysis of Timisoara’s economic and innovation landscape here.


Oradea

Socio-economic landscape

  • Oradea has 220,000 inhabitants, placing it in Top 11 cities in Romania.
  • Between 2014-2020, Oradea contracted European funds of €284 million, twice more than in the previous period.
  • Key investment areas have been road infrastructure, the rehabilitation of buildings, developing green spaces and expanding pedestrian spaces, and industrial park development.
  • In 2019, it had 10.6K active enterprises – 50% the total in the Bihor county
  • The city of Oradea currently has four industrial parks employing more than 8,500 people in 2021.
  • Oradea is known for its art nouveau style, beautiful medieval Romanesque fortress, and having one of the most important university centers in the western part of the country, The University of Oradea.

 

Innovation landscape

  • In 2020, small enterprises made up the largest number of companies in the city, predominantly active in the services and commerce sectors, and with a €1.54 billion revenue figure.
  • In 2020, Oradea had 22 startups with local DNA, active across 21 industries, with presence in 19 countries, and employing over 300 people.
  • Over $9 million has been invested across these startups.
  • Local governance has been particularly involved in the technological transformation of Oradea and the building of a startup ecosystem
  • In 2020, a private-public partnership was formed with the goal to develop the local tech scene, promote tech, startups, and retain IT and entrepreneurial talent.
  • Make IT in Oradea organizes a local incubator program with a 300K euro yearly budget. More about the program here.

 

List of startups from Oradea

Appointfix – scheduling management app for beauty & wellness, founded in 2015 by Flavius Saracut and his co-founders

Axosuits – robotics company developing exoskeletons for people with disabilities, founded in 2013

Bannersnack (now Creatopy)– graphic design software company, founded in 2008, by Gabriel Ciordas

Cartloop – personal shopping assistant, co-founded in 2020 by Andrei Negrau (CEO)

confDesk – tool for organizing academic conferences, co-founded in 2019 by Catalin Zmole

East-Tec Eraser – confidentiality protection software, both offline and online, founded in 1997

Expert24 – marketplace for expert services such as lawyers and real estate appraisers, founded in 2019, by Adrian Daniel

ExpertAccounts – cloud-based software ERP and virtual assistant company, founded in 1996, run by Marcel Focsa (CEO)

ExpertPOS – selling and managing solutions for retail and horeca

FieldVibe – planning app for companies with field teams, founded in 2019, project manager – Adrian Cucerzan

Finboard (Fintech Business Solutions) – financially analysis software, co-founded in 2014 by Mircea Bodog

Flipsnack – online program for interactive digital catalogs, founded in 2009 by Gabriel Ciordas

HoteloPro – program for hotel management , founded in 2011

KeyTicket – parking access and ticketing system, founded in 2011

Octavic – data collection and analytics software for manufacturing companies, co-founded in 2016 by Paul Harfas (CEO)

Paymo – project management app, founded in 2008, led by Jan Lukacs (CEO)

Prime Dash – analytics tool for companies’ final data, founded in 2012, led by Catalin Rus (COO)

Publi24.ro – selling and advertising platform, founded in 2010, led by Lucian Luncan (Managing Director)

SVGator – SVG animation generator, founded in 2017, Product Manager – Csenge Miklos

tapTasty – mobile solution for food product management, founded in 2019, led by Adorian Chiorean (CEO)

Tracknamic – fleet management and monitoring solution, founded in 2016, led be Istvan Barta (CEO)

TypingDNA – biometric authentication service, founded in 2016, co-founded by Cristian Tamas (Chief Marketing Officer)

More about these startups in the Oradea Startups Report.

 

Is any company missing from the list? Drop as an email at [email protected]

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Antoanela is a Deputy Editor at The Recursive, where she writes about climate tech, blockchain, and other high-impact innovations in Southeast Europe. She loves complex topics and translating geek to chic. Her holy grail is telling stories that have great potential for social and environmental impact. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, she worked in various sustainability roles.
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