Elevating Romanian Startups: A Recap of Our Business Breakfast Series

Entrepreneurship has become a popular concept in Romania over the past few years, with many new startups emerging in various fields. However, many of them, despite their potential, lack the support and resources necessary to scale up their business and compete at an international level. This is evident in the fact that despite the increasing number of early-stage ventures, there are just a few who reach Series A or later. As part of our focus on unlocking the full potential of Romanian entrepreneurial ventures this year we launched a new project –  a series of interactive business breakfasts led by distinguished industry experts.

Addressing a diverse spectrum of startup-related challenges and providing a learning and networking forum for our high-impact entrepreneurs, our series of breakfasts has laid the groundwork for our forthcoming acceleration program. Eventually, every end is the beginning of something even greater. But until then, we are thrilled to present a snapshot of the valuable insights shared during our breakfasts.

First Bite: Pricing and Licensing Lessons with Vargha Moayed

We couldn’t imagine a better way to start this series than by having Vargha Moayed, former Chief Strategy officer of UiPath and Board Chair of Endeavor Romania, share lessons from the frontline in pricing & licensing in Enterprise Software with 14 amazing entrepreneurs, founders of SaaS companies. Vargha’s experience and expertise shone through as he spoke about the factors affecting the pricing model and the importance of adapting the strategy based on market signals.

His examples from UiPath’s journey were particularly insightful for our guests, who engaged in the discussion with challenging questions and compelling personal examples. Throughout the event, some captivating topics took center stage, including the significance of aligning pricing with customer perception, strategies for gaining traction in emerging markets, and effective approaches for attracting early adopters.

Here are a few thought-provoking quotes that stuck with us:

  • “Do not try to educate the market, just go with clients’ perception and anchoring their needs.”
  • “In an emerging market, use the same pricing model as the leader if you are the new entrant, but be cheaper and add better features.”
  • “When selling to enterprises, consider focusing on annual rather than monthly subscriptions. They usually try to avoid the hassle of monthly payments.”
  • “During your early stage, don’t be afraid to apply for higher discounts. The marginal cost of software is minimal.”

The Power of Digital Marketing with Cristian Ignat

Complementing a good pricing strategy with effective digital marketing is essential in order to stay relevant in today’s intensely competitive and evolving business environment. This is why our next breakfast was all about getting more clients with digital marketing.

With his extensive experience gained while working with UiPath, Cristian Ignat, founder of Canopy and Aggranda, provided valuable insights into the latest digital marketing strategies and offered related real-world case studies. Cristian emphasized the importance of customer-centric marketing strategies in the modern business landscape.

He suggested that a paradigm shift is underway, where businesses are now empowered to create customers who, in turn, become brand advocates and contribute significantly to brand growth. ’’There’s not only the conventional way of growing a business: building a brand, advertising and, finally, getting customers. The new way is to create the customers and they’ll build your brand.’’ added Cristian.

Avoiding Legal Pitfalls with the RTPR Team

In tech, speed is seen primarily as an asset. But the ’’move fast and break things’’ mentality often leads to legal pitfalls. Actually, according to CB Insights, almost 10% of all startups encounter growth challenges because of legal issues. With this in mind, for the third breakfast, we teamed up with the RTPR’s team and hosted two workshops, both of them offering a better understanding of how to navigate around common pitfalls to position a startup for long-term success.

During the first legal breakfast, we had a comprehensive discussion, led by Costin Taracila (Managing Partner RTPR and longstanding board member of Endeavor Romania) and Alina Stavaru (Proteasa) (Partner RTPR), about why a shareholders’ agreement is a good idea, what a shareholders’ agreement should contain and the process for getting one in place. The thorough presentation covered key topics such as voting rights, dividend policies and exit strategies. As we fostered an atmosphere of open dialogue, our guests gained valuable insights into the potential scenarios that could arise in their own business ventures and left the breakfast equipped with actionable knowledge to make informed decisions in their entrepreneurial journeys.

The second legal breakfast provided a general overview of Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPs) and their operation from a legal perspective. As a start-up, it is challenging to offer competitive compensation packages compared to other established players in the market, therefore additional incentives are often needed to attract and retain great talent. Our partners from RTPR, Alina Stavaru (Proteasa) and Mihai Ristici, gave us a good understanding of how ESOPs generally operate. Throughout the breakfast, our guests actively engaged with Alina and Mihai, posing thought-provoking questions that stimulated in-depth discussions. Some of the key questions that arose included:

  • How to set up an ESOP effectively to align with the company’s objectives and long-term growth plans?
  • How would the introduction of an ESOP pool impact incoming and existing shareholders? What are the implications for dilution and ownership structure?
  • What happens to an employee’s entitled ESOP shares if they leave the company before they are fully vested?
  • What happens with ESOPs when the companies become public and list their shares on stock exchanges?

Fundraising Insights from Dan Lupu

Right before we dived into the deep chill of summer, we wrapped up our first series of business breakfasts by having Dan Lupu,  partner at Earlybird Venture Capital, “spilling the coffee” on fundraising in 2023.

Our special guest delved into the current fundraising market and the strategies required to successfully navigate this dynamic landscape. Dan encouraged transparent narrative arcs that shift the focus from “growing unicorns” to solving global challenges. One crucial takeaway from Dan’s presentation was the power of a cultural connection in the fundraising journey. While seeking investors outside our region is commonly advised, Dan encouraged founders to initially focus on those with whom they share a cultural bond. Establishing a cultural connection can create a deeper understanding between entrepreneurs and investors, making it easier to align visions and build a strong partnership from the outset.

Some other thought-provoking ideas were:

  • Finding the right investor partner is crucial. Smaller investments may push for faster exits, while bigger ones tend to fuel rapid growth. Choose wisely!
  • While “smart money” is usually the goal, due to our emerging markets’ low startup birth rate, investors value symbiotic relationships with their portfolio companies.
  • Investors are not risk-takers; they’re seasoned “venturers” who meticulously assess risks and know what to avoid.

Looking Forward to the Next Chapter

We are immensely grateful for the lively atmosphere, the connections formed, and the exchange of innovative ideas among the visionary minds gathered here. We are also truly grateful to the Bucharest Stock Exchange, who has become our partner for the Breakfast Series in 2023.

With anticipation and excitement, we look forward to the next chapter of our journey.

Until then, don’t forget to dream bigger, scale faster and pay it forward!