Serial entrepreneur and investor Radu Georgescu shares his thoughts on the past, present and future of the Romanian tech startup ecosystem.
Radu Georgescu has been working in the tech and software industry in Romania for more than 2 decades. After founding GECAD Group in the early 90s, he was involved in building up several ventures, including RAV AntiVirus, which was sold to Microsoft in 2004, and Avangate, which was acquired by American technology-focused private equity firm Francisco Partners in 2013.
But for Georgescu, falling into the world of tech businesses happened by accident. It all began in his senior year of college studying mechanical engineering back in 1992. “I accidentally got into a computer room… and I realized that software could multiply your work exponentially,” he recalled, “That’s when I said to myself, ‘You’ve go to do software and get the ability to grow exponentially.’”
Soon afterwards, Georgescu’s professor, who ran a Autodesk distributor company, bought his final year thesis. That’s when Georgescu really understood the business of intellectual property and philosophy of virtual goods. “That literally got me running,” he said.
Nowadays, GECAD Group is a team of 6 people with offices in Bucharest and London that focuses on investing – mostly in software and high-tech companies in the sphere of security software, e-commerce, cloud technologies and payments. Its current portfolio includes London-headquartered smart watch startup Vector Watch and The Netherlands-headquartered bitcoin payment provider Coinzone.
The trickling effects of communism
Having worked in the industry in Romania for so long, we were curious to hear more about the changes and challenges of the country’s tech and startup scene. In 2003, one of the companies that Georgescu started was an accelerator. At the time, he said there were barely any entrepreneurs or accelerators, but now the country boasts around 20 accelerators. “There’s a huge entrepreneurial spirit around that was not there before,” he added.
Romania’s history of communism has also influenced both how people perceive money and how entrepreneurs approach building businesses, Georgescu posited. “There were zero private enterprises. If you wanted to buy bread, you were supposed to buy bread from the only state-owned company, and that company didn’t need sales nor marketing… The notion of sales was zero and the notion of marketing was negative,” he explained.
But waves have been rippling through the tech business landscape since then and Georgescu is noticing huge cultural changes. More specifically, he said the earlier entrepreneurial approach of ‘if you build it they will come’ is evolving into a mindset of ‘OK, we’ve got to think a little bit of business, a little of this and a little bit of that’. It’s not completely there yet, but Georgescu is optimistic.
Since the fall of communism, perceptions of money among the population have also been shifting and affecting how entrepreneurs operate. “We were coming from a place of thinking that money is bad in itself, that rich people are bad. That you don’t want to have money, because money is bad,” said Georgescu, “Our parents are still there, but the younger generations are okay now. Money is money and it’s good to have money. If you misuse it, then you are bad, not the money. That’s also been a big change.”
Echoing sentiments of Andrei Pitis, co-founder of Romanian business angel network Tech Angels, that while technical education is one of Romania’s strengths, product knowledge/education could be improved, Georgescu also believes the country’s business education needs to be improved for the tech ecosystem to get to the next level.
“Romania has traditionally had very good technical education and technologists in all dimensions and sorts… but the business education is not necessarily there yet, but it’s the next step. And it’s starting to change and there are good universities and colleges for this now,” he expanded.
Considering Georgescu’s vast amount of entrepreneurial experience, what advice does he have for budding entrepreneurs in Romania?
Because of the many contradictory lines of thinking targeted at tech entrepreneurs floating on the Internet and in business books, Georgescu doesn’t believe in giving out advice. Instead, he insisted: “I don’t think it is fair to give pieces of advice to entrepreneurs. The definition of an entrepreneur is a problem-solver, so I think each entrepreneur has a different way in solving a problem… Just be an entrepreneur and solve the problems as they come.”
This post was originally published on e27.
Featured Image Credit: Tech.eu