Romania: Great potential yet to be unleashed

esi: Who are you, what do you do and what makes you an expert on your start-upcountry?
Grégory: My name is Grégory Rondin and I am the director of Pentalabbs, a French business incubator which aims to boost the development of IT start-ups from France and Eastern Europe, mainly Romania. The fact that I’ve been living in Romania since 2005 offered me the opportunity to see how the local business environment has evolved from the outsourcing activity of several multinational enterprises towards a more complex one, where the entrepreneurs are encouraged to start their own businesses, mainly internet and mobile related. When we created Pentalabbs, we were focusing on enhancing the internal innovation within the Pentalog Group, which created this incubator, but we realized that the competencies and complementary talents within the incubator can support the entrepreneurs, start-ups and other geniuses outside the Group in developing their projects. For this reason, we organized two years in a row the start-up contest for the Romanian start-ups, which allowed us to get a better view of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Moreover, the Pentalabbs team attends most of the start-up-related events organized either in Bucharest or in the other cities like Brasov, Iasi, Cluj-Napoca, Targu-Mures, being all the time in touch with both, the entrepreneurs and the other start-up incubators/programs.

esi: What is cool about your start-upcountry, what inspires you and keeps you thriving?
Grégory: The coolest aspect is that the entrepreneurs are so passionate about what they do, and they are very motivated to present their start-up, ask for feedback, look for opportunities to develop it faster and to reduce the time-to-market for their products and/or services. This allowed a fast development of the local entrepreneurial environment, which inspired us to get involved and offer our support during this development.

esi: What makes you shake your head about your start-upcountry, what needs to be improved?
Grégory: I believe that there are two main aspects that need to be improved very fast: First the support given by the Government. Starting a business in Romania is not an easy thing, maintaining it means even more bureaucratic activities. But this is not even the biggest problem in the relationship with the Romanian state. I think that the Government should initiate more programs which assist and support the start-ups, especially the IT-related ones that have the potential to create value and rapid growth for the economy. The programs can include: tax reductions, fiscal advantages, subsidies for attending international events, facilitate the access to international networks having IT and high-tech know-how. The second thing that need to improved is the entrepreneur’s mindset. Passion and motivation are not enough to make a start-up successful. We notice a lack of financial and entrepreneurial education, which should be acquired not only in schools and universities, but also during extracurricular activities like workshops, seminars, open day’s events, exchange programs. This kind of activities appeared only recently in Romania – the last 4 years. The Romanian state should collaborate with the local companies, business incubators, entrepreneurs and investors in order to initiate more of these activities.

esi: What’s some cool fact we are likely not to know about your start-upcountry?
Grégory: I don’t think a lot of persons know what RAV Antivirus, Gecad ePayment and Avangate are and have in common. These are three start-ups that where created and developed by the same serial entrepreneur and business angel: Radu Georgescu. He had the successful exit from these businesses in 2003 (RAV to Microsoft), 2010 (GECAD ePayment to MIH/Nespars) and 2013 (Avangate to Francisco Partners). If you want to find out some more cool facts about Romania, we recommend you the Romanian Startups website: I would like to thank Mircea Goia for creating this website that offers very interesting insights about the Romanian start-up scene.

esi: Thank you for the interview.

Grégory Rondin

About the interviewpartner:
Gregory Rondin is Director of Pentalabbs and Pentalog Bucharest Office Manager