BrexitToRemainia Newsletter #32

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Is your skin aging? Try Gerovital. Are you thirsty? Drink Borsec. These, together with 98 others, are Romanians’ favorite local brands. And some of these have hundreds of years of presence in the market. Of a more recent date, you can learn the names of 20.000 new businesses which applied for funding via Startup Nation. If this is too much, try the 600 names of experts who want to digitize the functioning of public administration and just launched Civic Tech (a follow-up to previous government-based GovIT Hub). Wisdom of the past and enthusiasm for the future: this is what newsletter #32 is all about.

Be savvy: know what`s happening right now in Romania. News from politics, economy, business, various industries and social life.

Military exercises at Cincu

SG17 stands for Saber Guardian 17, the largest international military exercise undertaken on Romanian soil (as well as in Bulgaria and Hungary). This year SG17, which concluded last week in Cincu (a commune in Brasov country, nearby Bucharest) involved 5.000 military officers from USA, Ukraine, Croatia and Armenia.

The aim of this joint military simulation is (among others) to deter an expansionist Russia from further steps. This is a much needed reassurance for us, as we discussed here and as we see the region turning more and more towards East. Two side (but related) notes while we are at this important topic:

  1. During communist regime in Romania (and also up to current days) a song by Phoenix called “Under the Shadow of the Great Bear” was (is) extremely popular. It talks about how life goes under the influence of Russia. You can watch it here (English footnotes)
  2. USA Commander in Europe felt confident that Romania will spend the 2% of its GDP already allocated on defense, sever years before “deadline”. It is a sign of leadership, he said during the Cincu event where president Klaus Iohannis also attended. And it nicely aligns with the recent visit of the latter to the White House. Just saying: we are a serious partner in the region

Digitization of government v2.0

If you remember, during 2016 the technocrat government of Dacian Ciolos launched an ambitious crowd sourced platform to find solutions for simplification & digitization of public institutions. The platform was called GovIT Hub and it attracted a large number of IT experts from across the country. However, after the change in government and the massive street protests of which we wrote here, all these experts resigned too. But the hope for a better and more user friendly administration did not vanish. Many of the GovIT Hub fellows just launched Civic Tech.

As the name suggests, the plan is to continue the good work started with Ciolos Government but via the non-governmental / civil society route. More than 600 experts have joined already to continue projects in open data, emergency services, smart cities, electronic registers, online payments etc. See them all here and if you think their effort is worth it, don`t hesitate to donate ;). We did already.

Take action: grasp opportunities for advancing business in (and/or with) Romania. What others think & do. What business events to attend.

Top 100 Romanian brands

Every year Revista BIZ runs a survey on Romanians’ favorite local brands. The latest results are from September 2016, but are worth sharing. Below you will find the top 5 with a short description, and at this link you will get the full list of 100. As a trend, the cosmetics and personal hygiene brands are on the rise (probably linked to increased consumption of such goods, right?). So when you’re back to Romania, buy some of these products and see how you like them:

  1. Gerovital: a beloved anti-aging cosmetics brand created long time ago by renown biologist & physician Ana Aslan. The products are owned by and can be bought online from Farmec
  2. Borsec: with more than 200 years of consumption, Borsec is a mineral water coming from the region of Romania bearing same name. Romaqua Group is exporting the water in 19 countries and won several international medals for its quality
  3. Dero: a new entrant in the top 10 but with a market history of over 50 years, Dero is synonym with “detergent” in Romania. It is now part of Unilever’s portfolio, but its Romanian roots have never been forgotten 
  4. Farmec: is the producer of Gerovital (among 399 other beloved Romanian cosmetics brands). Based in Cluj-Napoca, Farmec is the largest local cosmetics manufacturer, employing 600+ people. Its history across the world wars and communism (then capitalism) is fascinating
  5. Elmiplant: Another cosmetics brand, but a much younger one (1992) Elmiplant made a breakthrough in Romanian consumers’ minds due to its natural ingredients. It is now part of the portfolio of a Greek company, but we like Greeks … its’ ok

And the winners are …

When we last spoke about Startup Nation, things were still in the making: eligibility criteria changing, deadlines extending. Now we know a little bit more: 19.296 applications have been received (and an equal number of new companies setup). They all hope to get max 44.000 Euro from the Romanian government (well, most of them are EU funds in reality). But only 1 out of 3 will be successful, as there is not sufficient budget to cover the demand. While a qualitative assessment of the eligible business plans is still to take place over next few weeks, what we know already is that:

  • There are 3.983 proposals who are eligible for the maximum score 100 points and 4.566 with 95 points. Backup list is made of over 8.000 projects with scores between 85 and 95 points. The full list with scores is to be found here
  • Prioritization, when needed, will be done based on number of jobs created and plans to acquire / develop technology innovation (among others)
  • Majority (77%) of proposals came from urban entrepreneurs, 55% of them under the age of 35. Gender equality was by and large met, hurray!
  • Some funny names have been picked up by influencer Vlad Fiscuteanu in this Facebook post (ask a Romanian friend to translate them to you, some are just hilarious)

Know your game: Build your Aces for when you meet a Romanian business partner for coffee. What we (might) like to talk about.

Siegfried Muresan, a raising political star

Currently a European Parliament member (MEP), Siegfried is also a raising start in the Romanian politics (at only 36 !). He made a brief highlight as the People’s Party Movement (opposition) nominee for Prime Minister role just few weeks ago. It was clear however that Mihai Tudose (the candidate of the parliamentary majority) will be elected. In a context where opposition to socialist – democrats is very weak, Siegfried is doing his best to do just that. Meanwhile, he keeps busy with negotiating the EU’s budget for 2018 (as chief negotiator) and being spokesperson for European People’s Party. We suggest to keep an eye on Siegfried and let’s hope that the “rejuvenation” trend we see in Europe will come to Romania, too.

Summer and its music festivals

We just missed the first in the series of (music) festivals happening in Transylvania over summer. We mean Electric Castle (12-16 July), now in it’s 5th year of activity and which attracted well over 100.000 electronic music lovers in the most amazing place one can think of: the Banffy Castle (some call it the Versailles of Romania). Have a look at the 2016 aftermovie and if you like the style, hurry up and buy your ticket for UNTOLD (3-6 August). While a bit younger and not benefiting from a castle to perform in, UNTOLD has quickly built its reputation due to the more commercial / notorious line of DJs it showcases. And it (also) happens in Cluj Napoca. If you are curious what is the difference between the two (as we were), have a look here.


Romanian Overview Report: In this comprehensive report you will find information about: macroeconomic landscape, industries and investments, infrastructure and technology, taxation system, human capital, governmental support and last but not least quality of life in Romania (if you decide to move over here ;)).

Investor Guide Romania: In this well-structured guide you will find information about: investment climate in Romania, economy in general and the business ecosystem in particular, availability of financing, employment and labour law, fiscal policies, as well as how it is for an expat to live in Romania (not too bad, we can assure).