As you probably know, TheNextWeb rewards the most important startups, entrepreneurs and local investors. On the list of 12 there is also Romania, the event in Bucharest being co-organized by Geekcelerator. Here is a short analysis of the nominees.
123ContactForm - set up 5 years ago, 123ContactForm turned from Cinderella into the princess in the last two years. Once the original team (Tudor Bastea and Florin Cornianu) was completed by Adrian Gheara as an investor, 123ContactForm has changed its interface, has improved its monetization and has continuously augmented its team up to 10 "kangaroos".
5minutes.to - set up by Catalin Zorzini and Iulia David, 5minutes.to was part of the spring batch of Springboard 2012. Its interface, which is easy to use, has brought two nominations, for the best web application and the best utilization experience.
Appscend - the 2011 finalists in How to Web/ Startup Challenge. Sebastian Vaduva and the team have enhanced their business linearly, every year. 2012 seemed to be a year in which their goal was to scale their sales, as the blog and PR were hyper-active. Towards the end of the year, the startup was accepted in the Chile Startup program and they extended their sales towards Latin America.
CleverTaxi - launched in the second half of the year with the partnership of Orange, CleverTaxi facilitates taxi ordering using the mobile phone. Despite some little turbulences right after being launched, Clever Taxi succeeded in growing (on a relatively crowded market), extending also in Cluj. The startup has Andrei Pitis as angel investor (and sometimes chief programmer).
Erepublik - 2012 was a year with no great news from Erepublik, except the co-founder George Lemnaru"s leaving, who is now working hard on his new project GreenHorseGames. We are waiting for the launching of the new Erepublik version in 2013.
GoodMomming - Started by two Moldavian highly active entrepreneurs, GoodMomming was launched in 2012. It visited TechCrunch Disrupt, then, it was finalist and Runner-up in How to Web 2012/ Startup Spotlight and, towards the end of the year, it was accepted in the GrowLab accelerator. A year full of positive events; we hope 2013 will be beyond expectations.
DocTrackr - though not a 100% Romanian startup, DocTrackr, co-founded by Alex Negrea, drew attention due to the investment received after the graduation from the TechStars Boston accelerator - $ 2M USD from some of the most important capital funds in the technical domain. We wish Alex to spend the money wisely in 2013.
i-Rewind - set up by Bogdan Manoiu after How to Web 2011 (you know the famous mail with the subject "Congratulations - you are a grandfather!") with Andrei Pitis (again) as business angel/ co-founder, it was launched in 2012 on the ski slide in Predeal, with Orange partnership. The innovator concept (i-Rewind films you while you go down the slide and makes an ad-hoc personalized movie of you) and the experienced team, led by enthusiastic Bogdan Manoiu, makes it one of the most interesting startups to monitor in 2013.
KeenSkim - Another one-man-show, KeenSkim is developed by Tudor Vlad and it graduated (Magna cum Laude, I should add) from the summer edition of Eleven, one of the two accelerators of our neighbor and friend country, Bulgaria. The project has made a lot of progress in terms of technology and product; the business part can improve in time. Congratulations to Tudor Vlad, who reached the How to Web 2012/ Startup Spotlight final, then, he won Best Pitch at Venture Connect in autumn, an entrepreneur who is visibly improving his business abilities.
Mavenhut / SolitaireArena - Mavenhut had a year full of events: they graduated from Startupbootcamp Doublin (we also helped a little), won Best Pitch in How to Web 2012/ Startup Spotlight and got a financing of € 550k from SOS Ventures, the biggest first round of financing received since Braininent. It is hard to believe, but a year ago the team led by Bobby Voicu was hardly being formed. Certainly, Mavenhut is one of the main candidates to the startup of the year title.
RealColors - the Makan Studios team launched in spring a first application called RealColors, which was later presented by Friday App Review (a show by Android Developers) as Staff Pick of the Week. For the moment, the team is preparing its next application and great come-back in 2013.
SlickFlick - set up by Maria Constantinescu, SlickFlick established its headquarters in Timisoara, after a first round of investments from several business angels from UK. The team includes the co-founders of NextRoot, company which developed Instamap, therefore, a very experienced and interesting team.
Tjobs - the company from Mures had in 2012 a peaceful year, having participated in several startup competitions where they honorably got a place in the final (Doublin Web Summit, Pioneers festival, Europas). Tjobs seems very interested in building an image outside Romania, as they probably wish to extend internationally. The effort is owed to Andreas Cser, the business angel who is to blame for the growing ambitions of Tjobs.
Zonga - the beginning of the year brought the launching of Zonga, a Romanian music service. As a Zonga user, I am very pleased with the application experience (there are a few small exceptions) and I admire the tenacity of Sergiu Biris, better known from Trilulilu.ro, who succeeded in bringing together a series of important companies from the music industry. Later edit: Zonga entered an interesting distribution partnership with Vodafone.
Zyway - Zyway is the only project I know nothing about. Owned by a company from Iasi, ThinSlices, Zyway is still in its launching phase.
Of the list of 5 nominated investors, only one was active in 2012, namely Andrei Pitis. The latest investments of Vlad Stan and Victor Anastasiu (through Seedmoney) took place in November 2010 (Squeeqly) and in the summer of 2011 (SkinScan); Andreas Cser"s latest investment is Tjobs (2010) and Adrian Gheara"s latest investment is 123ContactForm (2011).
Summify - Mircea Pasoi and Cristian Strat had a spectacular beginning of the year with selling Summify to Twitter. The figures of the transaction were not made public, but even an acqui-hire sounds extraordinary in a landscape where news of Romanian startups acquisitions is lacking.
uberVU - Hiring an American CEO, two offices for sales opened in the USA and Latin America, a new enterprise oriented version, these were the most important landmarks of the Ubervu team, which has now reached a total of over 50 employees.
Brainient - in 2012, Brainient reached a $ 1.8M round of financing to scale its sales operations and it opened offices in the USA.
Peter Barta - Discreet about his investments, Peter added Traderion (in 2012) besides Appscend (where he invests since 2011) and, theoretically, there are other 1-2 investments which we do not know.
Disclaimer: I am a friend of most of the people mentioned in this article, but I have no financial connection to either of them.
Romanian Startup Awards have generated an extraordinary interest and it seems to be a very good meeting opportunity for the local community, although it is a Eurovision type competition, where the public votes for their favorites for reasons that are not necessarily related to the results registered during the last year.
I noticed Facebook groups which asked their members to vote for the founders / startups/ investors from a certain geographic area (the eternal battle against Bucharest), a true media campaign led by Mavenhut and even some misinforming posts which were analyzing the startups and indicating the author"s favorites, plus some fraud suspicions.
All in all, Romanian Startup Awards remains an interesting and useful exercise in promoting Romanian startups, which we hope to be as relevant as possible as well.
by Adrian Cighi
by Ovidiu Mățan