About the Romanian Startup Awards finalists

As you probably already know, The Next Web is organizing a series of 12 events in Europe, nominating the most important local startups, entrepreneurs and investors. Romania is also on the list, the Bucharest event being co-organized together with Geekcelerator. A few days ago, the list of the final nominees has been published and the individual voting has started. So I thought it would be interesting to write a short analysis of the nominees.

About the nominated startups and co-founders

123ContactForm – founded 5 years ago, 123ContactForm has gone from Cinderella to princess in the last 2 years. After the initial team (Tudor Bastea and Florin Cornianu) was completed by Adrian Gheara, as investor, 123ContactForm changed its interface, improved its monetization and has permanently grown the team up to 10 “cangoroos”.

5minutes.to – founded by Catalin Zorzini and Iulia David, 5minutes.to was part of Springboard 2012’s Spring batch. The easy-to-use interface has brought it two nominations, for best web app and best user experience.

Appscend2011 finalists of How to Web / Startup Challenge, Sebastian Vaduva and the team have grown the business linearly, year by year. 2012 seemed to be the year they set to scale sales, the blog and PR being hyper-active. Towards the end of the year, they got accepted to Startup Chile and extended their sales to Latin America.

CleverTaxi – launched in the second half of the year, in partnership with Orange, CleverTaxi facilitates taxi ordering from the mobile phone. Despite some little turbulence right after the launch, CleverTaxi has managed to grow (in a relatively crowded market), extending to Cluj. The startup has Andrei Pitis as an angel investor (and sometimes chief programmer).

Erepublik – 2012 was a year with no big news for Erepublik, except for the departure of co-founder George Lemnaru, who is now hard at work on his new project – Green Horse Games. We’re waiting for the launch of the new Erepublik version for 2013.

GoodMomming! – Started by two Moldavian super-active entrepreneurs, GoodMomming! was launched in 2012, visited TechCrunch Disrupt, then was a finalist and the Runner-Up of How to Web 2012 / Startup Spotlight, and towards the end of the year, was accepted to the GrowLab accelerator. A year filled with positive events for GoodMomming!, and we’re hoping 2013 will be even better.

DocTrackr – although not a 100% Romanian startup, co-founded by Alex Negrea, it got people’s attention with the investment recieved after graduating the TechStars Boston accelerator – $2mil from some of the most important capital funds in tech. We wish Alex to carefully spend the money in 2013 🙂

i-Rewindfounded by Bogdan Manoiu after How to Web 2011 (you might remember the famous email I recieved saying “Congrats – You’re a grandpa!”), together with Andrei Pitis (again) as an angel / co-founder, was launched in 2012 on the Predeal slope, in a partnership with Orange. The inovative concept (i-Rewind video-records you while you go down the slope and creates a personalized on-the-spot video) and the experienced team, led by the enthuziast Bogdan Manoiu, makes them one of the most interesting startups to watch in 2013.

KeenSkim – still a one-man-show, KeenSkim is developed by Tudor Vlad and has graduated (Magna cum Laude, I’d say) the Summer edition of Eleven, one of the two accelerators in Bulgaria, our neighbor and friend country. The project has advanced a lot in terms of technology and product, the business side still having time to grow. Congrats to Tudor Vlad, who was a finalist at How to Web 2012 / Startup Spotlight, and then won Best pitch at Venture Connect in the fall, an entrepreneur who is visibly improving his business abillity.

Mavenhut / SolitaireArena – Mavenhut had a full year: they graduated StartupBootcamp Dublin (we helped a little too), they won Best Pitch at How to Web 2012 / Startup Spotlight and they got a €550k from SOS Ventures, the biggest first round since Brainient. It’s hard to believe, but a year ago, the team led by Bobby Voicu was just being formed. For sure, Mavenhut is one of the main candidates for the startup of the year award.

RealColors – last Spring, the Makan Studios team launched a first app, named RealColors, which was later presented by Friday App Review (show by Android Developers) as Staff Pick of the Week. Nowadays, the team is working on the next app and preparing the great 2013 come-back.

SlickFlick – founded by Maria Constantinescu, SlickFlick established its headquarters in Timisoara, after a first investment round from several busines angels in the UK. The team includes NextRoot co-founders, the company that developed Instamap, thus an experienced and very interesting team.

Tjobs – the company from Mures had a quieter 2012, having participated in several startup competitions and having honorably qualified to the finals (Dublin Web Summit, Pioneers Festival, The Europas). Tjobs seems very intersted in building an image outside Romania, probably planning on extending internationally. The effort was led by Andreas Cser, the business angel who has a great part of the merit for the increasing aspirations of Tjobs.

Zonga – the beginning of the year brought the launch of Zonga, a Romanian music service. As a Zonga user I am thrilled by the application’s experience (with few little exceptions) and I admire the tenacity of Sergiu Biris, better known from trilulilu.ro, who managed to bring to the table a series of important companies of the music industry.

Zyway – Zyway is the only project I know nothing to say about. Property of the ThinSlices company in Iasi, Zyway is still in launch phase.

About the investors

The list of 5 investors proposed to be voted contains only one investor who has been active in 2012 – and that is Andrei Pitis. The most recent investments of Vlad Stan and Victor Anastasiu (through Seedmoney) were 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).

About the ones that weren’t mentioned

Summify – Mircea Pasoi and Cristian Strat had a spectacular beginning of the year, with Summify’s sale to Twitter. The transaction figures weren’t made public, but even an acqui-hire is spectacular for the “no-acquisition news” landscape of Romanian startups.

uberVU – The hiring of an American CEO, two sales offices opened in USA and Latin America, a new version of the app oriented towards the enterprise sector, these were the most important landmarks of the uberVU team, who now reached a total of over 50 employees.

Brainient – in 2012, Braininet raised a financing round of $1.8mil. To scale the sales operations it opened offices in the USA.

Peter Barta – Discreet about his investments, Peter has added to Appscend (where he is an investor since 2011), Traderion (in 2012) and theoretically there are also 1-2 investments more, that we don’t know of.

Disclaimer: I am friends with most of the people mentioned in this post, but I have no financial implications with either one.

At the end

Romanian Startup Awards have generated an extraordinary wave of interest, and this seems like a good moment of meeting for the local community. With all this, it’s still about a Eurovision type of competition, where the public votes for their favorites with reasoning not necessarily related to the results obtained in the last year.

I’ve seen Facebook groups encouraging their members to vote for the founders / startups / investors in a specific geographic location (the eternal fight against Bucharest, yes), a true press campaign led by Mavenhut, and even some misinforming, biased posts analyzing startups and indicating towards the author’s favorites, plus fraud suspicions.

All in all, Romanian Startup Awards remains an interesting and useful exercise for promoting the Romanian startups, hoping to be as relevant as possible.

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