Cluj Start-ups Scene
Over the past few years, venture capitalists have started to look further afield to find the emerging technologies and startups of the future. They are increasingly looking to Central and Eastern Europe. One country, in particular, that has been growing as a tech hub is Romania, best demonstrated by the phenomenal success of RPA startup UiPath, Romania’s first unicorn.
We launched the first Alpha hub program in Romania last year, in Cluj-Napoca. Cluj hosts the largest development center within Flutter and it is growing in significance for Romania and the wider region, so we were always confident we’d find high-quality potential partners.
The city’s rapid rise has happened over the last decade, with the local universities developing a highly-skilled workforce and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. It has led investment funds (like GapMinder, Early Game Ventures), and accelerators (e.g. Spherick, Techcelerator, Risky Business) to invest in the city and develop the potential of the startup ecosystem.
Events and Milestones
Another good signal was Cluj-Napoca hosting the Startup Europe Summit 2019 this spring, which gathered 600 leaders from the European entrepreneurial ecosystem ranging from investors, CEOs and accelerators to European and local authorities and tech journalists. At the time, the Mayor’s office declared its commitment to support start-ups, especially in areas like smart cities, IoT and health.
Other important events of 2019 that fueled startup innovation were:
- Innovation Labs Hackaton (9-10 March) – supporting student innovation
- Startup Weekend Cluj (15-17 March) – a weekend for developing your idea for a startup
- Techsylvania (8-11 June) – the biggest technology innovation conference in Cluj and one of the most important in Eastern Europe, hosting Startup Avalanche, a competition for startups that get to pitch their ideas in front of industry leaders
In a very insightful presentation for Today Software Magazine about the local startup ecosystem, Mircea Vadan (Cluj Startups, Activize) estimates that there are about 200 technology startups in Cluj (compared to over 1000 in Romania), with new ones appearing every week. Also, with more than 100 meetups in technology in the first half of the year, there is a vibrant startup culture and a growing interest in the space.
Corporate Accelerator Programs
In the last two years, corporates started to get more involved in the local ecosystem, getting to know the startups, making investments or creating their own accelerator programs.
Two of the most notable programs of last year were the Startup Growpad program for B2B startups, by KPMG Romania and Spherick accelerator and of course our own program that looked for innovative solutions in responsible gambling, customer matching and more.
Supporting Cluj Startups in the Future
What have we found from Alpha Hub 2018 was that in Cluj there is talent, knowledge and a lot of interest in applying emerging technologies in problem-solving, as well as to partner with corporates. As a proof of that, four of the seven startups we selected to take part in the program were Cluj based (Halcyon, Qubiz, Pamble, AI KYC) and one of them was the winner: Pamble.
Alpha Hub 2018 was an opportunity to access and understand the startups’ ecosystem in Cluj and define our longer-term vision for the future. We envision Alpha Hub as a platform to connect startups, corporates, VCs and academics, creating a community of technical innovation that would benefit all parties.
We are pleased to announce that Alpha Hub will be hosting a Cluj based startup meetup in October. Please get in touch if you are interested in attending or presenting.