How Romania became a popular tech destination

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Mircea Vadan, Cluj Startups

At first glance Romania seems an unlikely base for cutting-edge tech start-ups. Even regular visitors associate it with misty mountains, medieval churches and potholed roads.

But US wearable technology company Fitbit’s acquisition of Romania’s Vector Watch in January seemed to confirm that Romania’s science-savvy workforce, a sizeable and growing domestic market, and EU membership make it a promising European destination for tech investors.

The downside has been an under-developed and fragmented funding environment, but a wave of recent deals indicate the tech sector’s growing vigour.

“What I find most impressive and reassuring is the active number of young tech entrepreneurs, kids in their early 20s, who have the imagination and power to challenge a global start-up ecosystem,” says Eric Friedman, Fitbit’s co-founder, adding: “The evolution of the tech start-up scene in Romania is highly positive. New investment funds and business angels support more and more tech-based start-ups.”

The Vector Watch acquisition is seen as proof of Romania’s potential. Launched in 2015 by former Timex chief executive Joe Santana, the company won international praise for its watches’ 30-day battery life, cross-functionality, and design. The acquisition was not only adding to Fitbit’s product range. Mr Friedman said it was using Vector Watch — which has a commercial presence in 27 countries — to boost its presence in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and to help it establish a development centre in Bucharest.

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