2020 – the Year of Angel Investments in Romania

The business angel investor community in Romania is a growing and vibrant network that brings together entrepreneurs and investors to help pre-seed and seed startups in the developing and growing process. 

Based on the increased activity we monitored this year, we can say that 2020 was indeed the year of angel investments in Romania.

This article will give you an overview of the most important facts and figures of the Romanian angel investments in 2020. You will find out about insights on the market and which are the active angel networks. 

Angel investing in Romania has grown significantly in the last years, from just a few investors and one local network in the country. Today we’re in touch with 14 active networks/organisations for business angels, counting more than 250 investors, most of them located in the major cities of Romania.

This growth is also seen in the size of the business angel investments made annually in early stage startups. In 2019, around €3 million is estimated to have been invested by Romanian business angels in Romanian startups, with approximately 20 startups receiving pre-seed and seed funding from this category of private investors. 

On the other hand, during 2020, we counted 54 startups, which all together have received a total of approximately €18 million through angel investments and equity crowdfunding campaigns.

Bucharest is by far the most active city for angel investors, gathering most of the numbers and sums invested. The most active network is TechAngels with €6M invested during 2019, while for the current year, the estimations indicate that the investment figures will be at least similar to that of last year.  

“This increase in our activity is an argument for collaborating with an angel investor and a sign of encouragement for startups. It is not in vain that we are angel investors, we always have in mind an element of support and encouragement for startups, in addition to the validity and viability of projects. At an European level, we have seen a similar mobilization among business angels, while part of venture capital funds have delayed involvement and diminished the level of investments.“ – says Mălin-Iulian Ștefănescu, president of TechAngels.

Besides Techangels, a new network based in Bucharest is being formed – Lynx (French angels network, under the umbrella of La French Tech and CCIFER). “With French businesses being among the largest investors in Romania (5 billion EUR value yearly; 2500 companies), we decided to take an active role of investing in startups under the umbrella of La French Tech. Hence the launch of LYNX powered by La French Tech, in June 2020. Every quarter, we invite three amazing entrepreneurs looking for funding to pitch their company to our community of thirty investors. We are primarily focused on early stage Romanian and French startups looking for investment to expand internationally. Entrepreneurs who match this criteria may apply to LYNX powered by La French Tech here” said the president of La French Tech Bucharest, Grégoire Vigroux.

Timisoara-originated network, Growceanu, after evaluating 40 startups this year, has invested in 9 startups with a total of €500K. “We’re about to close the last deals of a successful first year during which we managed more investments than initially expected. We’re operating 100% online, supporting startups and investors from Romania and beyond with a complete suite of tools and work methods covering the investment process across our industries of expertise (proptech, edtech, smart city, fintech, medtech) as well as our key technology areas: SaaS, marketplaces, artificial intelligence, data science and IoT.” says Adrian Gheorghe, Chief Operating Officer at Growceanu.

TBNR, the Iași-based angels fund, started in 2019 invested in four startups and will start a new fundraise for 2021. “The first funds were raised in less than 4 days from 25 people who became founding shareholders in the angel fund we created and which we deployed in the past year and half (in total €220K). Based on the lessons and practices developed in the first phase, we aim for next year to transform TBNR in an angel network, welcoming more members in the group with flexibility to invest in more startups.” – says Andrei Postolache, managing partner at TBNR.

Created in mid-2018 as a spin-off from Cluj Startups, Transylvania Angels Network had a more complex year than anticipated. As the year draws to a close, T.A.N. members have participated in 9 investment rounds totaling €350K. “This year we accomplished more than was planned. This included creating a membership process, bringing together several of the other Romanian angel networks for learning and investing, hosting over 40 startups pitching to the group and then investing in 9 of them, as well as participating in many online events to continue helping young entrepreneurs and raising awareness of the Romanian startup ecosystem. Our aim for 2021 is to continue growing the T.A.N. network, reaching 100 members and 200 associates, continue collaboration efforts with other angel networks, inside and outside of Romania, and of course to facilitate new startup investments.” – says Emmett King, co-founder of T.A.N.

Although not focused on angel investors, the equity crowdfunding platform SeedBlink had a serious contribution to the ecosystem by facilitating 26 crowdfunding campaigns with a total value of the funding rounds of more than €8M, out of which more than half is coming from equity crowdfunding investors. ”We are more than happy with our start, actually this was the first year both for SeedBlink and for bringing equity crowdfunding in Romania. More than 2,700 investors came along with SeedBlink to become business angels to some extent and for sure supporters of the tech ecosystem. Next year we have plans to become a regional player for tech investments and expand our community both of investors and startups.” – declared Andrei Dudoiu, co-founder & CEO of SeedBlink.

Important to mention is also that some business angels consolidated their investments into investment vehicles or angel funds such as:

  • Smart Impact Capital – created by 5 angel investors earlier this year and accumulating already 7 investments during 2020.
  • Cleverage.VC – focused on healthtech startups with 5 investments done this year; founded by 5 angel investors with background in health.
  • Gecad Ventures – Radu Georgescu’s investment vehicle, having a wide range of investments and started in 1992.
  • Founders Bridge – based in Stockholm, it was founded by Romanian and Sweedish angel investors, which have invested in 2 Romanian startups this year.
  • SMTH Big – founded by 7 angel investors, based in Cluj-Napoca, with aim to invest yearly in 2-3 startups with global impact (the first investment was in Swisspod Technologies – Hyperloop transportation project).
  • Neogen Capital – founded by angel investor Calin Fusu from Târgu-Mureș, this year has committed a total of €1.8M in three startups (two of them being part of Neogen Group). 
  • V7Capital – startup studio focused on creating new ventures but also investing in new startups from Romania, created by the founders of Benefit Seven (7card).

“2020 is, of course, an atypical year for everyone; at the beginning of the pandemic, everyone immediately went into crisis mode, assessing their own situation, market dynamics, as well as competitors’ response. Investment wise, in Romania, the first semester seems to have ended with more announcements and basically good news for the ecosystem than initially expected – and the trend seems to be keeping steady in the second part of the year. In the medium to long term, we expect interest and investments in solutions and products that make our lives easier to be growing significantly – along with the increased and even accelerated role of technology, both in business and in everyday life, but also as a result of user demand. Our goals and plans at Simple Capital remain the same in the next period. Of course, we are focused on consolidating the startups we already have in our portfolio, as we have  been doing for the first part of the year; but we are more active than ever on the market and keep scouting for the next projects to get involved in.” – declared Andrei Pitis, founder & CEO of Simple Capital

Besides these metrics, below are a few observations about the status and what we can expect next related to angel investments in Romania:

  1. More business professionals are interested as angel investment grows in awareness, attracts more people and investment processes become more clear and easier to implement.
  2. Based on this, strengthening the networks with new potential angel investors and more money is something natural as an outcome.
  1. Covid-19 had an impact on many investors who wanted to do angel investments, indeed some of them decided to rethink their strategies; this slowed the trend but didn’t stop it, as it’s fueled by new people interested in investing.
  1. Although investing locally is one of the assumed principles of angel investors, many investments were done in startups based in other cities of Romania; this also happens because we still have a small ecosystem (startups look everywhere) and the impact of the Covid-19, moved most of the pitching events in on-line.
  1. As a development based on the local networks existing, grouping of angel investors for co-investments or for constituting their own small thematic fund is possible to happen more as a way to drive a better deal flow.
  1. It’s very plausible that the angel funds formed so far will raise more money and include other business angels in their partnership, thus growing their capital, knowledge and capacity to invest.
  1. Collaboration with accelerators (such as Techcelerator) and seed venture capital funds (such as Gapminder, Early Game Ventures, RocaX, Sparking Capital) is quite natural; these collaborations will go on even more as these organisations can complement each other. 
  1. Equity crowdfunding through platforms began strongly in Romania; chances are that we will have more platforms launched and they will have competition from the international ones promoting themselves in Romania.
  2. Often the valuation expectations from angels and startups differ a lot; there were numerous discussions on this topic (ex: pre-revenue startup or with little revenue at €2M valuation) and my belief is that we will see a decrease in valuation from startups in order to get angel investment.
  1. We hope as well for regulatory changes in angel investing procedures, this will be a long-term hurdle but we’re sure in three years time we will have better legislation regarding angel investment and tax advantages for the investors with the aim to incentivize them to get involved.

As closing, we are glad to see so much interest and development this year, despite the skepticism created by the crisis. The trend is stronger and even if affected, it will grow in the upcoming years with a serious contribution to the growth of the Romanian startup ecosystem.

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