Following in the Footsteps of Great Innovators: Romanian Entrepreneurs Unite in London

On May 15, Endeavor Romania held its first event in London, bringing together over 70 entrepreneurs, investors and business people of Romanian origin, most of them living and working in London. As last year in New York, our goal was to bring together diverse experiences and life stories, centered around innovation, entrepreneurship and investment, to enrich our network and build a bridge with our local ecosystem.

Everywhere in the world, the diaspora is a rich source of expertise and value. Harnessing its potential, power and willingness to give back has been one of our objectives in Romania since day one and, as expected, we’ve found amazing people epitomizing the values we believe in.

And not by accident, our event took place at the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation, the London residence of an icon of the Romanian diaspora, a person who was both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. The story of Ion Ratiu is a symbolic one, showing that Romanians can make it everywhere in the world and against all odds. Ratiu was a staunch supporter of democracy and free speech, as his 1977 arrest, outside of Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair, proudly attests. It was then, during a state visit of the Romanian president, Nicolae Ceausescu, when Ion Ratiu chained himself to the railing outside the hotel, in protest to the grandiose welcome the Queen had given to the Romanian dictator. The story made headlines at the time, exactly as its maverick hero had intended.

Under such impressive historic auspices, the soiree we organized was a truly amazing way of paying homage to our history and a subtle attempt at writing our own modern Romania chapter. A fireside chat, moderated by Endeavor Global’s President, Adrian Garcia-Aranyos, brought together three remarkable figures of the Romania startup ecosystem: Teodor Blidarus, the co-founder of the first Endeavor company selected from Romania, FintechOS, Josephine Hus, an experienced investor and McKinsey alumna, and Marius Istrate, a proud member of the UiPath mafia, where he was the company’s Chief People Officer, and currently president of TechAngels, the largest community of business angels in the country.

The three had a very insightful discussion about the ways in which Romanian founders should look at the various challenges that come with every age of their companies. A nonlinear journey, as Teo remarked, in which hopefully the direction is up, but the advancement is a succession of sinuous trades on the belief in the capacity to reach the next level. A journey in which vanity should take a back seat stage – as Marius has famously put it in a different context, it takes 100 Nos to get a meaningful Yes – and in which the entrepreneurs operate without a map. A journey in which, in Josephine’s words, the entrepreneurs gradually become transformed into executives operating in a more organized and structured way, in line with the expectations of an ever evolving class of investors-supporters.

The speakers also talked about the power of uniting Romanians for a greater goal. There are over 4 million Romanians outside Romania and the UK is home to more than 25% of them. While other countries have a more engaged diaspora, it is only these days that we try to build this bridge – against a not very favorable historical background. The sheer number of successful Romanians outside Romania is a testament that we have what it takes to make it everywhere and if we have been successful without being united, imagine what we can do if we come together.

The crux of the conversation was the assessment of the Romanian ecosystem back home, where the density of Romanian software engineers places the country in a very honorable 6th position in the world. The price of their knowledge is still a comparative advantage vs other more developed places and, with the UiPath success, their confidence is growing. We are at a great moment in history, where the energies need to be directed into seeding more of the local ecosystem with knowledge, money and networks which we can leverage on around the world. In a wonderful example of the multiplier effect, the UiPath, the FintechOS or DRUID mafias are already operating at large in Romania and more companies are growing out of our country.

Part of honoring the legacy of great minds before us is creating building blocks towards nurturing a sense of community. The Romanian diaspora has in many instances impressed the Western world, and it’s our mission to actively encourage a mentality of giving back to the local community. This can help speed up our impact and visibility in global tech, but also link the existing dots into a cohesive support system for the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs.