After years of constant growth, 2019 set a new milestone in the development of the Romanian Tech startups ecosystem. It is growing up and attracting investor’s interest, reads a EY survey.
Funding of Romanian startups became more sustainable and diversified. The pipeline of the local and international ventures is no longer driven by a few small-sized companies in e-commerce and marketplaces, rather it shows a balanced mix of innovative ideas in FinTech, Biometrics, Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation and HR related solutions. Bucharest is the main hub in Romania, driven by its strong digital workforce and diversity.
Top funding is driven by international investors with only a few local Romanian funds able to participate in Series A+ rounds. Among the local VC funds investing in the ecosystem, we increasingly see more international players scouting the Romanian tech market for investments opportunities. Due to the lack of local growth VC funds, most of the early stages startups are looking to join external incubators and accelerators programs.
In terms of M&A, corporates remain the most relevant exit channel for startups founders and their VC investors. Romanian ventures are sold in rather early stages, whereby the buyers’ headquarters are outside Romania. Besides the missing experience of an international IPO, the local stock exchange market has never been seen as a relevant exit channel for the Romanian tech startups, despite favorable macroeconomic conditions.
Empowered by the success of UiPath, the first Romanian unicorn, the local tech startups ecosystem is experiencing a radical transformation, accounting for 92.5% of the total funding. The survey forecast double-digit growth in the ecosystem indicators: number of startups, new accelerators, capital raising rounds, total funding amount.
The global survey of over 506 business reveals that, relative to other regions of the world, Western Europe is now considered more attractive than 10 years ago. Moreover, Eastern Europe is considered the second most attractive region for investments in the world. In this positive investment context, Romania should take advantage of its second largest economy in Central-Eastern Europe and its long tradition in IT education to increase its potential in the region.
Trending industry sectors are now accelerated by ML/AI technology.
Enterprise Software startups have been traditionally the best funded sector within the local ecosystem. Software applications for web development and recently RPA solutions succeeds to attract local and international funding or exits via crossborder transactions with key international players. UiPath is the first Romanian unicorn currently valuated for $7.0b active in the area of Robotic Process Automation solutions.
Fintech startups have been evolving by offering a disruptive set of services and solutions. Most active startups with their solutions can be mapped in the following categories : Payments & wallets, Lending, Personal Finance, Investment & Wealth, InsurTech, Financial Infrastructure. Another category , different from the ones mentioned before, provides different crossfunctional enablers, for the existing financial services.
Lack of workforce and skills have been an increasing problem in Europe, not only in Romania. Startups tackling diverse segments of the recruiting process, acting either as a platform or offering selected services, continued to be in the public spotlight. Recruiting platforms engaging in specific occupational fields such as medical and IT, received significant funding in the last years and the trend continued during 2019.
Security is the most mature sector of the Romanian tech market. While Romanian AntiVirus (RAV) sold to Microsoft in 2003, Bitdefender, the second antivirus solutions provider, has now the second biggest valuation of a Romanian Tech business after UiPath. New startups are tackling Biometrics and Cloud security solutions.
Marketing is the sector with the highest growth rate due the disruption in online sales channels. Adopting a growth mindset has become an essential element of the marketing teams. In this context, startups provide more agile marketing execution models with focus on customer experience, an essential ingredient for online growth.