Over 2,000 Romanian companies are directly predisposed to expanding abroad, and the companies with the biggest internationalization potential are those that are industry leaders on the local markets, tech start-ups that are “born global” and high-growth enterprises. These are the conclusions of the Start-Up Bridge project after its first year of activity.

The project’s first 12 months showed that market leaders in industries like car rentals, delivery, online retail, furniture and retail have the potential of expanding towards external market, together with the hundreds of born global tech start-ups and high-growth enterprises. Around 1,500 Romanian companies can be identified as high-growth, according to Eurostat.

A company is seen as a high-growth enterprise if its number of employees grows at a rate higher than 10 percent over three years, and only the companies with at least 10 employees at the beginning of the three years are taken into account.

Start-Up Bridge is a project aimed at the internationalization of Romanian businesses, launched by Romanian Business Leaders (RBL) in June 2017 to help entrepreneurs and companies to expand on external market. The team at Start-Up Bridge helps entrepreneurs with know-how and resources, organise match-making events on the external markets and offers inspiration and technical knowledge through meet-ups organised with entrepreneurs who have taken their businesses abroad.

Start-Up Bridge organised five match-making events abroad in its first 12 months, as well as over 20 local meet-ups. Over 100 Romanian entrepreneurs interested in internationalization and over 50 companies that were already abroad have participated in the project’s first year of activity.

“The 2,000 companies with real potential for internationalization have three main needs to be able to reach their goal: access to good development and sales people, business partners in target markets and financing. Any associative platform, private or public institutions should first offer know-how and information and then financing, which is becoming more accessible due to business angels and investment funds,” said Claudiu Vrinceanu, coordinator and one of the founders of Start-Up Bridge.

Studies show that the direct international presence of Romanian companies is modest, as the number of domestic companies that make investments on external markets is about 20 per year. At the same time, domestic companies are responsible for just 30 percent of Romanian exports.

“Through Start-Up Bridge we want to help Romanian entrepreneurs go beyond personal or legislative barriers. There are products and services in Romania which are at least as competitive as those in other countries and they must become known, but the experience on international markets, especially for young entrepreneurs, is limited. At the same time, a growth in Romania’s exports would bring multiple benefits to the Romanian economy,” said entrepreneur Gabriel Istoc, initiator of Start-Up Bridge.

The share of exports in Romania’s GDP is the lowest in Central and Eastern Europe, as Bulgaria and Hungary have a much higher share of exports in their GDPs. Romania has an export share of 60 percent, while Bulgaria’s is at 80 percent.

The main partners of Start-Up Bridge are eMag, UniCredit Bank, FanCourier and DocProcess.

The case studies analysed in Start-Up Bridge’s projects are Romanian entrepreneurial companies that have already gone abroad, like SaladBox, Autonom Rent-a-Car, eMag, DocProcess, Qualitance, Modex, Pitech Plus or Neogen.

RBL is a community of Romanian entrepreneurs, managers and professionals in various industries, united by the desire to contribute to a public good beyond the company’s or the industry’s interests. The 190+ members participate in RBL because they are guided by common values: trust in Romania, altruism, integrity and action.

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