- Start-up.ro – Romania’s top-tier media outlet about startups and VC – prepared a documentary about the national ecosystem
- The name is Romanian Startups – Roaring Tigers of Europe, the film covers the development of the ecosystem from 1990 until today and is set to premiere in December 2023
- The team will then take the movie on tour around Romania and upload in to YouTube afterward
Romanian Startups – Roaring Tigers of Europe is an upcoming feature-length documentary that showcases the Romanian startup ecosystem from the very beginning of capitalism in the country. It was prepared by the Romanian startup-themed media outlet start-up.ro and is set to premiere as soon as this December.
The Right Moment
Started back in 2015 as part of the InternetCorp holding, start-up.ro has grown into a well-known media outlet focused on startups and innovation in Romania. Often, the outlet has been the first one to provide a consequently successful startup with media exposure.
‘From our very first moments we were committed to being different from traditional media institutions. The ecosystem was still small and we were in the middle of it, so we assumed a role of a connector for all those people working in developing innovation,’ start-up.ro’s editor in chief Vlad Andriescu recalls.
Naturally, the team toyed with the idea of promoting the story of Romanian startups through a documentary almost from the very beginning. However, the idea of this particular documentary belongs to Oana Coșman, editor at start-up.ro and editor in chief at green.start-up.ro, as she went to the screening of the Hacking Google documentary in Bucharest in late 2022.
The team concluded that the Romanian startup ecosystem was in a particularly mature state and deserved a story. Some years after Romania had its first unicorn, UiPath, it is in that phase where founders start to become investors and the value returns into the ecosystem.
‘It’s the right moment, too, because Romania still has room to grow and startups have still room to innovate, but a critical mass is born,’ Mr Andriescu adds.
Assembling and Naming
Ms Coșman went on to become the screenwriter and the primary interviewer, utilizing her 18+ years of experience in business journalism in Romania. Florin Cașotă, project manager at Videocorp, another InternetCorp company, directed and edited the movie, and Vlad Andriescu produced it.
Roaring Tigers was originally merely a working title. It was inspired by a report from Inovo VC published in December 2022 that named Romania the tiger of the region, taking into consideration the growth pace of its startup ecosystem. ‘Roaring’ was added to proclaim that Romanian startups and, for that matter, all founders from Eastern Europe should be more vocal about their work.
‘We are used to working hard, sometimes party hard, but we don’t talk enough about our results, compared to our counterparts from Western Europe and the US. We believe that startups from around here should roar more,’ Ms Coșman points out.
Afterward, the team brainstormed another name and even involved the interviewees in the process, but finally settled on ‘Roaring Tigers’ as the most illustrative title possible.
The Supportive Ecosystem
Some big players in the ecosystem believed in the idea and chose to back the team to bring the documentary to life. They include Orange Romania and BCR (Commercial Bank of Romania) who are known for their active support for Romanian startups through programs like Orange FAB or InnovX-BCR. 2Performant, the first tech business in Romania listed at the Bucharest Stock Exchange, was also among the project’s first supporters.
‘Besides them, we were happy to see people and organizations from the ecosystem rallying behind us: How to Web – the most important startup conference in Eastern Europe, Launch – a community for startups founders, Mihai Guran and Guran Consulting Global – the consulting firm of a proactive angel investor in Romania, Impact Hub Bucharest – a local coworking space, Rubik Hub – an incubator that supports startups from Eastern Romania, and Flaviu Simihăian – a Romanian founder based in New York, who built Troy.ai healthtech startup,’ Mr Andriescu lists.
The start-up.ro team originally treated the initiative as a startup – they talked to players in the ecosystem to validate the idea and find out if there’s product market fit and if the key people in this environment believe this is a story to be told. The first draft was prepared already in December 2022, and the first interviews were taken at the end of January.
A Bit of CEE Context
ITKeyMedia readers may remember that this was about the time when another documentary about CEE tech was at the final stage of preparation – the Ukrainian film The First Code. In spite of the apparent similarities, The First Code was not a direct inspiration. The team found out about The First Code movie in March 2023, two months after they began their work on Roaring Tigers, but we have to say that we are more than excited that more stories from this part of the world are told to an international audience, more so about our brothers and sisters from Ukraine.
‘The Central and Eastern European startup ecosystem and the IT industry deserve to be known all around the world. Though our project and The First Code started unbeknownst to one another, we wish that the people from our part of the world were promoted better through the value they created. Numerous innovators started here, and today they populate big international companies. We are glad to see how in the last few years they started to endeavor in entrepreneurship activities. Eastern Europe started from a common dark history of communism, but in this great shadow, greater minds were born,’ Ms Coșman states.
The documentary covers the span from 1990 to present times, when the communist regime fell in December 1989 and the first tech and IT businesses that were started by people who used to be teachers, engineers and worked in communist factories. The movie starts from this point and has a chronological structure for the movie.
‘However, it’s not a movie about the past, but a movie about how we got here, where we are and what are the opportunities for the future, a showcase of the Romanian ecosystem from a global and regional perspective,’ Mr Cașotă specifies.
More than 60 interviews have been shot for the documentary. The team focused on the most significant people from the beginning of the ecosystem in Romania, those who started their first companies in the ‘90s – the likes of Radu Georgescu, Florin Talpeș, Marius Ghenea, etc. An additional focus was placed on the most important investors and select founders with a particularly interesting story or illustrative of a specific niche.
‘We wanted to have representation from a historical point of view, those who marked the most important step stones in this ecosystem,’ Mr Andriescu says.
The Release and the Audience
After the premiere in December 2023, the team will tour Romania and show the movie to ecosystem audiences in other cities. The discussions for a limited theatrical release are in the works, but this is outside the main focus of the team. Start-up.ro promises to upload the movie on YouTube and Vimeo starting with the first months of 2024.
As such, the first audience of the movie will be the ‘early adopters’ – the people from the ecosystem: founders, investors, and other tech people. They will be at the premiere and they are the most interested stakeholders.
However, the main target is the general public, young people who are interested to find out how the economy got here. The story is told in a way to be understood by everybody, even if they don’t follow Romanian startups too closely. It is a story about overcoming and building, about the steps to follow, so the mixed Millennial and Gen Z audience should also be interested to see the movie.
‘Aside from the Romanians from the ecosystem, our documentary is also aimed at investors and founders from outside Romania. Our purpose is to showcase the potential that the new generation of Romanian startup founders has and to help them become more known around Europe and the world, to help them attract funding easier and more and more clients and partners,’ Mr Cașotă adds.
The Projected Impact
According to the team, one of the goals of the project is to demonstrate how media outlets can create amazing products. Even for media professionals who are used to developing and diversifying their work in different multimedia formats, a documentary is a challenge that shows that even starting as a small website focused on local startups one can create value and amazing stories.
Additionally, it is important to show the general public that startups are here to stay and that they are an important part of the region’s development. Ms Coșman is convinced that our very environment tells us that the only way of growing as a country may be investing in technology and assuring a stronger position in the world.
‘You can create value even if you are a smaller country. You can change the world and you can grow the economy. And with that, you can create a snowball effect of good around us,’ our colleague believes.
‘For sure we missed some people, and we will anger some others that were not featured. But after the premiere this December, we will start an extended coverage of the interviews, through video and audio extended content that will complete the documentary and its story,’ Mr Andriescu promises. So – we are to stay tuned.
Kostiantyn is a freelance writer from Crimea but based in Lviv. He loves writing about IT and high tech because those topics are always upbeat and he’s an inherent optimist!