Acceleration programs supporting startups in Romania
Acceleration and incubator programs multiplied in recent years, in keeping with the development of the local startup scene. While tech startups have the most options, social entrepreneurs and agriculture and hospitality ventures have also received dedicated programs. We outline below some of the available options, from programs focused on particular geographical areas to corporate-backed initiatives and regional ones.
Commons Accel is a three-month acceleration program that provides entrepreneurs with the necessary curriculum and mentors, the right framework, and the support and services to achieve their business goals in terms of marketing, internationalization, investment or startup scaling up. The accelerator ends with a Demo Day where the founders present the pitch in front of the community and investors, organized in tracks of tech and non-tech solutions.
Following the requests coming from the local startup ecosystem, the Commons team decided to diversify the range of solutions to include startups without tech components. The program continues to focus on impact and sustainability, therefore solutions in education, sustainable development for cities or the community, including mobility, proptech or green energy, as well as other areas of responsible business, are potentially suitable for the accelerator.
Registrations for the sixth cohort of the Commons Accel acceleration program are open until February 28. More here.
The recently announced program from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and training and consulting company Ascendis targets SMEs with revenues below EUR 50 million from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia. The program allows companies to engage with top entrepreneurs and consultants, who will support them in turning their ideas into innovative products and services.
More than 100 SMEs are expected to apply to IncubatorX SME, out of which up to 20 companies will be selected. The selected companies will work on their ideas together with Ascendis innovation experts.
The program consists of 3 phases and will start on March 15. In the first phase, selected teams will speak to successful entrepreneurs and visit their companies (virtually or, if the epidemiological context allows, in person). In the second phase, teams will participate in facilitated workshops and a hackathon, where they will learn to validate their business idea, build a viable business plan and prepare for incubation. The third phase, incubation, will incorporate 5 to 7 teams and will run for 16 weeks, during which teams will continue to work on their business idea and will benefit from mentoring, workshops, and project management support. The result of their work should be a viable product ready for launch at the end of the program. Access to the incubation phase is based on jury selection.
Participation in the first two stages is free of charge, and the third stage requires a participation fee of EUR 784.
Registrations can be made on the XbyAscendis website until February 28.
The acceleration program run by Techcelerator, and developed with the support of Google for Startups, GapMinder BV, Stripe, Seedblink, TechAngels, RoFintech Association, and Romania Tech Startups Association – ROTSA, is on until March 25. It targets fintech startups, and it will include eight intensive mentoring modules: sales, matchmaking with financial institutions in the region, product marketing, transition strategies to the international market and preparation for attracting investment, matchmaking with investors and investment funds. In addition, startups with commercial traction are exposed to program partners to attract pre-Seed and Seed investment rounds. Ten FinTech and SaaS startups from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, the UK and Armenia have already been selected, with MVPs ready to launch or in beta testing. These are: BankSpot, Boleron, Credify, Infin8 Applications, Prime Dash, Solo Fintech, SPIN Analytics, Text' Pay Me, Vestinda and Zanumi. More details here.
Techcelerator, the accelerator for technology startups, runs four programs: NEXT FinTech for fintech startups; Advancing AI, an AI accelerator for early-stage startups; Scale Match, investment matchmaking for SEE startups; and Investment Readiness, a program designed to help tech startups prepare for their next pre-seed/ seed investment round.
The program gives participants access to the newest forms of technology, top education through our partnership with edX For Business, and global communities of network partners, including Microsoft or UiPath. It provides workshops on how to get started, how to assess the market, how to tackle financial aspects, how to create a business plan, deliver a pitch, or how to spot weaknesses and come up with solutions, what legal points one needs to take into account and more. It is open to startups in the technology sector, with various turnover levels, depending on the cohort they are included. More here.
The Start-ups cohort, for tech companies with a turnover or attracted financing of more than EUR 50,000, had registrations open until February 14.
Make IT in Oradea
This is a public-private partnership aiming to accelerate the development of the startup ecosystem in Oradea. It is an initiative of several privately-owned tech companies in Oradea supported by Oradea City Hall & ADLO (Oradea Local Development Agency), alongside national partner Orange Romania. It is aimed at developing, accelerating and promoting the local technology startups ecosystem. Make IT in Oradea manages an annual fund of EUR 300,000 through Bright Labs Incubator, a program where technology startup founders apply to receive mentoring and financing. Last year, it offered a first funding round of EUR 50,000 to the locally-based technology startup OptiOffer. More on the program here.
Early Game Accelerator
Run by Early Game Ventures, it selects every year 5 or 6 early-stage startups for a highly tailored and very intensive acceleration program. Every startup works closely with one partner of the fund and has access to the resources it needs. The selection is made on a rolling basis. EGV invests up to EUR 200,000 per startup. More here.
MIT Enterprise Forum CEE
The MIT Enterprise Forum CEE Accelerator gives participants access to successful mentors combined with quality training developed by members of the MIT and MIT Enterprise Forum communities. The program culminates in a high profile Demo Day featuring pitches from the finalists and a poster session for all participants. More here.
Nextcelerator - the Digital Agriculture Hub
Launch at the end of last year, Nextcelerator is a digital accelerator designed for early-stage agri-tech companies in CEE's agriculture sector. It was launched by Agricover, one of the biggest agribusiness groups in Romania, investing platform for tech startups SeedBlink, and Microsoft.
It is open to entrepreneurs in the agri-tech sector with an early-stage startup founded in CEE, already tested MVP and growth business plans. The program will use mentoring sessions to diagnose the startups' gaps and opportunities and then deploy appropriate support mechanisms such as training, business planning, mentorships, peer learning and introduction to farming. The selected startups will have access to four weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions focused on entrepreneurial skills. More on the program here.
EIT Food, a pan-European consortium active in the agrifood entrepreneurship and innovation area, has four programs that are open to local entrepreneurs as well. Registrations can be made by February 28.
This is a six-month program that aims to turn scientific and technological innovation into market-validated business propositions. It includes training, coaching from seasoned entrepreneurs and experts in the agrifood sector, and access to funding of up to EUR 6,000 to facilitate market testing activities and to speak to potential customers, stakeholders and end-users to validate business ideas. More here.
EIT Food Accelerator Network
This program connects agrifood startups with corporate and research partners to pilot their technology and drive successful market adoption. Participants receive coaching and mentorship from industry experts, access to labs, pilot sites & maker spaces, and financial support to help them obtain seed or Series A investments. The program offers access to funding of up to EUR 10,000. More here.
This program is meant to aid agrifood scaleups to scale to the next level. It addresses early scaleups that are past the ideation phase, have paying customers and are poised for significant growth and global scale. Participants receive support from experts, connections to corporate partners across the food industry and access to investors. More here.
This seven-month program finds and matches up innovators with compatible and complementary profiles. It provides important tools and support, including expert guidance, world-class training, mentorship, networking and funding. More here.
This competitive program for EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) countries is designed to help startups validate the need for your healthcare innovation, attract investors and shorten the time it takes to get their ideas to market. During a funded four-month training process, they learn from experts, gain insights on innovation through interviews with potential customers, investors and partners, and make connections. At the end of the program, they can earn the opportunity to compete for recognition and additional funding in a pitch contest.
The program is for micro- and small enterprises, spin-offs and startups that already have a prototype or minimum viable product but do not yet have a product or service in the market. The 20 teams accepted will receive EUR 25,000 to cover four months of training and mentoring. The ten teams with the best business plans will be selected for the pitch contest, where they can win up to EUR 25,000 in additional support for the launch of their product or service.
Applications are open until March 27. More on the program here.
Startarium, the entrepreneurial education platform initiated by Impact Hub Bucharest and ING in 2016, launched last year Startarium 4GOOD, a program for social entrepreneurs and NGOs. It is a business accelerator offering EUR 30,000 in funding, nine months of mentoring, consulting and training in finding and implementing the impact scaling strategy. In March 2022, after two months of training, ten participants in the program will be chosen to give their pitches for funding. A maximum of three will win financing of EUR 30,000 in total. The winners will continue the program, where they will use the funding to develop, test and implement their proposed solution. In autumn 2022, they will once again have the opportunity to present their solution, transformed, in front of the public and independent investors. More about the selected projects here.
Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator
The program, where registrations ended on February 6, offers professional and financial support to startups developing carbon removal solutions. The initiative was launched by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, ETH Zurich University and Climate Innovation Community in Hungary, with the support of EIT Climate-KIC, among others. Over 12 months, the program is meant to help participants develop their ideas, validate the business model, evaluate their impact on the environment, grow internationally and attract investment. At the end of the one-year program, the high performing startups receive a EUR 25,000 grant to help them implement their ideas. The program is open to Romanian startups as well. More here.
Black Sea ClimAccelerator
After a first edition in 2021, the acceleration program for green startups, is to be launched this summer, with pre-applications open on the website of The Climate Vertical, one of the main partners. The program is organized with the support of EIT Climate-KIC by Impact Hub Bucharest and its main partner Raiffeisen Bank Romania, The Climate Vertical and its main partner Volta, as well as by Innovation Starter in Bulgaria.
Last year, the program supported startups from Romania and Bulgaria, all in a curriculum consisting of workshops on business modelling, marketing, sales, finance management, business consultancy and investment readiness, one-to-one mentoring sessions, pitching sessions, peer sharing, access to international events and finally, grants of EUR 300,000. Each selected startup took part in one of the three divided categories, depending on their startup development stage and growth needs: Early Stage, MVP or Growth. More here.
NESsT & Ikea Social Entrepreneurship accelerator
Early-stage impact investing nonprofit NESsT and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have partnered for a program designed to strengthen and scale the work of ten social enterprises in Poland and Romania.
In the three-year program, Polish and Romanian social entrepreneurs are supported to grow their business and impact, expanding local employment opportunities and finding solutions to social and environmental challenges. The chosen participants create better everyday lives for marginalized populations including women, migrants, small producers and artisans, youth at risk, migrants and refugees, and people with disabilities. Supported social entrepreneurs create opportunities in sectors ranging from artisanal farming to waste recycling, to sustainable fashion, among many others. More here.
Innovators for Children
The third edition of the Innovators for Children runs until March 2022. The accelerator is an initiative started in 2019 by Impact Hub Bucharest. At the 2021 edition, Impact Hub Basel and Botnar Foundation support startup projects, while Vodafone Romania Foundation joined the program with a EUR 72,000 financing to support the participation of the NGO sector.
The accelerator aims to validate scalable and impact solutions providing children and teenagers with access to better healthcare and improved lifestyle. It targets entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs working with technological solutions for the physical and emotional wellbeing of children, education, nutrition and food, safety, children's rights in the digital age, and other areas that could contribute to a better life. More on the 2021 edition here.
Orange Fab Romania
This one-year acceleration program is designed to support entrepreneurs in developing innovative products and distribute them locally and internationally. The program aims to discover local startups with advanced products that "help improve lifestyle and establish trends." The startups receive access to technologies and APIs to develop their products, support for testing, and access to the Orange distribution network to grow the business. A range of areas are covered, from 5G & Networks of the Future and IoT & Connected Objects to Smart City& Mobility and Fintech. More on the program here.
Horeca Business Accelerator
This is a program targeting the entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry, who receive mentorship workshops and sessions from HoReCa entrepreneurs and professionals in related industries. A financing pitch is organized at the end of the program, with participation from investment funds and angel investors. Registrations are open until February 20. Programs are available for Technology for the F&B industry, Food & Beverages serving concepts (May/June 2022), and Food & Beverages Products (October/November 2022). More here.
This is a startup incubator for future-oriented business ideas that can go to market. The digital incubator includes international mentorship for 35 teams; business, tech, and foresight workshops & masterclasses; access to a global community of change-makers; feedback sessions, and investment pitches with CEE Investment Funds and EUR 20,000 in awards. More here.
In 2021, Social Innovations Solutions also worked with more mature SMEs (3-4 years old) in their quest of becoming more sustainable and future-oriented in the Transformator program. Participants, which are businesses or NGOs (2-4 years old) with a solution for one of the UN's ten sustainable development solutions, receive mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, instruments for strategic decision-making, and pitching sessions in front of regional investment funds.
Cluj Startups Pre-accelerator
The pre-accelerator held in 2021 meant a three-month intensive program for 30 startup founders, organized to validate and generate new investable businesses. Participants had access to resources like mentors, advisors, investors, books, articles, other programs and specialists. In 2021, 20 startups were enrolled in the program, and some of them also pitched for investment at Transylvania Angels Network. It is run by Cluj Startups, whose mission is to support and facilitate the growth of the startup ecosystem in Cluj/Romania.