As Russia Chokes Ukraine’s Grain Exports, Romania Tries to Fill In

With famine threatening millions, Europe is intent on finding alternatives to one of world’s biggest food exporters, whose landlocked crop is stranded by war.

#agriculture-and-farming, #europe, #european-union, #food, #grain, #ports, #romania, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #ships-and-shipping, #supply-chain, #ukraine, #wheat

Romania Sees an Opening to Become an Energy Power in Europe

The Ukraine war could lead to breakthroughs in nuclear power and natural gas, with Washington’s help.

#bucharest-romania, #electric-light-and-power, #europe, #exxon-mobil-corp, #natural-gas, #nuclear-energy, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #romania, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022

In Romania’s Transylvanian Alps, See Bison on Safari

In Europe, “rewilding” is aiding the reintroduction of key animal species, including bison, which visitors can track in the forests and meadows of western Romania.

#biodiversity, #bison, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #rewilding-europe, #romania, #safaris, #transylvania-romania, #travel-and-vacations

Jill Biden Embarks on Trip to Eastern Europe to Visit Ukrainian Refugees

The first lady is also scheduled to tour the Slovakian border with Ukraine, becoming the latest high-profile Biden administration official to come close to the conflict zone.

#biden-jill-tracy-jacobs, #bush-barbara, #first-ladies-us, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #romania, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #slovakia

Seeking Arms for Ukraine, Pentagon Buyers Scour Eastern European Factories

Soviet-designed ammunition is part of the ‘life blood’ for Ukrainian troops fighting Russia, and the United States is keeping it flowing.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #arms-trade, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #bosnia-and-herzegovina, #bulgaria, #czech-republic, #defense-department, #firearms, #florida, #general-dynamics, #kabul-afghanistan, #kyiv-ukraine, #new-jersey, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #poland, #romania, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #serbia, #slovakia, #ukraine, #united-states-army, #united-states-special-operations-command, #ussr-former-soviet-union, #warsaw-pact

Putin Knows What He’s Doing With Ukraine’s Refugees. This Is the World’s Big Test.

The response to Ukrainian refugees is a test of European solidarity.

#asylum-right-of, #europe, #humanitarian-aid, #immigration-and-emigration, #international-relations, #moldova, #poland, #politics-and-government, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #romania, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #ukraine, #warsaw-poland

A Model’s Refugee Story

Irina Lazareanu has a new book about her life in fashion. But it was her life before fashion that haunts her now.

#books-and-literature, #chanel-sa, #content-type-personal-profile, #fashion-and-apparel, #immigration-and-emigration, #lagerfeld-karl, #lazareanu-irina, #models-professional, #romania, #runway-bird-book, #your-feed-fashion

Would Putin Strike NATO Supply Lines to Ukraine? History Suggests No.

From the Soviets in Afghanistan to the U.S. in Korea, Moscow and Washington have often chosen not to attack the countries aiding their enemies.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #cold-war-era, #defense-and-military-forces, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #poland, #putin-vladimir-v, #romania, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

‘A Frightening Repeat’: Ukrainian World War II Survivors Face Conflict Again

Nearly 80 years after Ukraine emerged from a devastating world war that killed more than five million of its people, Russia’s invasion has stirred memories that the country had struggled to overcome.

#babyn-yar-holocaust-memorial-center-kyiv-ukraine, #romania, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #sharhorod-ukraine, #transnistria-moldova, #ukraine, #ussr-former-soviet-union, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #world-war-ii-1939-45, #zelensky-volodymyr

On the Edge of a Polish Forest, Where Some of Putin’s Darkest Fears Lurk

A U.S. missile facility in Poland is at the heart of an issue animating the Kremlin’s calculations over whether to go to war against Ukraine.

#defense-and-military-forces, #missiles-and-missile-defense-systems, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #poland, #putin-vladimir-v, #romania, #russia, #ukraine, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

For This Sex Satire, the Pandemic Built a Perfect Set

Radu Jude’s movie “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” plays out in a Romania divided about how the country’s history of dictatorship shapes its reaction to the coronavirus.

#bad-luck-banging-or-loony-porn-movie, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #jude-radu-1977, #movies, #romania

He Suffered Under Romania’s Dictatorship. Then He Was Forced to Spy for It.

Ruta Sepetys’s latest historical Y.A. novel, “I Must Betray You,” follows the life of a teenager who is blackmailed to become an informer for a repressive Communist regime.

#books-and-literature, #ceausescu-nicolae, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #genre-books-young-adult, #i-must-betray-you-book, #romania, #sepetys-ruta

In Responses to Russia, U.S. Stands Firm on Who Can Join NATO

In responses to Moscow’s security demands, the U.S. and NATO rejected a demand that Ukraine never join the alliance but offered more transparency on missile deployments in Eastern Europe.

#arms-control-and-limitation-and-disarmament, #defense-and-military-forces, #international-relations, #missiles-and-missile-defense-systems, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #peace-process, #poland, #romania, #russia, #strategic-arms-reduction-treaty, #treaties, #ukraine, #united-states, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Europe Toughens Rules for Unvaccinated as Fourth Covid Wave Swells

Austria took the hardest line yet on Monday, beginning a lockdown aimed exclusively at those who are not inoculated, part of a pattern to make life harder for resisters.

#austria, #bulgaria, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #di-maio-luigi, #disease-rates, #eastern-europe, #europe, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #greece, #italy, #johnson-boris, #latvia, #politics-and-government, #portugal, #quarantines, #romania, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russia, #schallenberg-alexander-1969, #slovenia, #spain, #ukraine, #vaccination-and-immunization, #world-health-organization

In Romania, Hard-Hit by Covid, Doctors Fight Vaccine Refusal

An anti-vaccine clarion call by leading religious figures, echoed by prominent politicians and social media, helps explain why Romania now has the world’s highest Covid death rate.

#bulgaria, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #hospitals, #latvia, #romania, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russia, #social-media, #vaccination-and-immunization

Germany Sets Aside an Additional $767 Million for Holocaust Survivors, Officials Say

Many of those now eligible for reparations are Russian Jews who survived the Nazi siege of Leningrad. They will receive annual pensions of about $5,200, or 4,500 euros.

#compensation-for-damages-law, #conference-on-jewish-material-claims-against-germany, #eastern-europe, #eizenstat-stuart-e, #france, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #israel, #jews-and-judaism, #reparations, #romania, #russia, #st-petersburg-russia, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity, #world-war-ii-1939-45

Romanian marketing expert Robert Katai explains how to get the most out of your content

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to grab people’s attention, but there’s one aspect of marketing that Robert Katai thinks isn’t talked about as often: maintaining their attention. The solution, he says, is a combination of content strategy and positioning.

Based in Romania, Katai is known for his podcasts and speeches covering the gamut of content marketing. A product manager at online graphic design platform Creatopy, he also works with clients as a freelance content strategist, and it is in this capacity that he was recommended to TechCrunch via our growth marketer survey. (If you have growth marketers to recommend, please fill out the survey!)

Katai was recommended by multiple Romanian clients and contacts who vouched for his content strategy prowess, so we were curious to know more. Who is he? And is his advice applicable beyond borders?

The short answer is yes. In a freewheeling interview, Katai spoke about how content marketing should integrate with users’ daily lives, and how content can be repurposed across multiple formats. He also shared some insights on the booming Romanian startup ecosystem.

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: How do you help your clients as a freelancer?

Robert Katai: One of the two things I’m doing is that I’m helping clients with creating their content strategy based on their objective. You can get web traffic, but you can also create a message and build the brand. You don’t have to start at the beginning; You can rebuild the brand later.

For instance, I’m working with a Romanian outsourcing company that started in 1993. They pioneered this industry in our city of Cluj-Napoca, but lately they started to realize that they should be more attractive from a sales as well as from an employee perspective. So I worked with them to perform an internal audit to see why employees love the company, why they leave, why they stay and what they want from the company.

Robert Katai

Image Credits: Robert Katai.

From there, I got to the idea that they needed to reshape their brand to not just have people notice them but to also maintain their attention. And here comes the content: I started an ambassador program, because there are people outside of the company who love it.

I also recommended they create an internal print magazine. It’s a very well-designed magazine that their 200 to 300 employees can take home and read. It’s not just about the job; it’s also about their hobbies, things to do in the city and some thought leadership articles that can inspire them to have a better life.

What’s the second way you are helping clients?

Apart from content strategy, I’m working with clients on their positioning for their audience, community and market, but also sometimes in terms of employer branding. Content can be a bridge between the two ways I am helping clients, because I’m using a lot of content marketing here and not focusing only on performance or growth marketing hacks. I’m helping them understand that if they want to establish a memorable, long-lasting brand in the market, they have to make content marketing part of their life.

If they want to reposition themselves in the industry, they need to say: Okay, these are the kinds of content we have to create for our goals; who will amplify the content, who will connect with us, and who will consume the content. Today, content creation is free — everybody can do it. The hard part is how you distribute and amplify that. And here’s how I can help the startups: Make a big piece of content and repurpose it in several small pieces; get it in front of people so that the brand is on their minds.


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How can brands achieve that top-of-mind status?

We all know that there are four kinds of content: Text, video, pictures and audio. These four formats never die. The platform can change, but the format will stay the same. A video can be an Instagram Reel, a documentary or something else, but it’s a video. The same goes for a photo. So the content strategy I’m working with is how brands can use that content ecosystem.

When I work with my clients — and also with Creatopy where I’m a product marketer — I recommend them to use content to build their brand and be visible to their users every day in their feeds. Every morning, when their customers are waking up and checking their phones, they don’t open a newspaper. They will open Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and maybe then when they get out of the bathroom and make coffee, they will open YouTube and connect with Alexa.

I really believe that brands should create content that can just be in the mind of the user. Snackable content, Reels, TikTok … It doesn’t matter what we call it.

You also talked about repurposing content. Can you explain that?

Let’s take the interview you’ve done with Peep Laja. You could have recorded it as a video. And he covered several topics, so you could have several short videos — 30 seconds, three minutes, whatever. You can publish them daily on your site or social media channels with a comment that says, “Here’s the link to the full article.” But remember that on LinkedIn, that link will need to go into the comments section, not the post itself.

You can also have a longer video that you can publish on social media or on Wistia, asking people to give their email — so now you also have subscribers.

Then the second type of content you can create is audio. You already have it from the recording. You don’t have to publish the full 45-minute conversation, but you can have a five-minute audio clip, and again link to the articles.

Now we have video and audio, but what if you also designed quotes with his headshot and messaging? If it’s part of a series, you should also give it a name.

And it’s not just motivational; it’s educational, too, so you should take these quotes and create carousels for Instagram and LinkedIn. The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.

The last slide will always be a call to action: Asking people to share, comment or save it for later — it’s the new currency on Instagram! And once you have your Instagram carousel, you create a PDF and publish it on LinkedIn.

So now you have five formats of content from one piece of content.

Wow, how much do we owe you?! Just kidding, we actually do some of that for the Equity podcast, for instance. Now, what other advice do you have for startups?

I’m a big advocate of documenting the process. Just imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had done that and you could read how he launched Facebook and so on. Noah Kagan is doing that right now. I think startup founders should do it, not just from the PR and marketing perspective, but for their audience. Even if your audience is not paying for your product right now, they are staying with you and giving your brand an essence in the industry.

Just think about what Salesforce is doing right now: They launched Salesforce+, which is like Netflix for B2B. It’s to get the attention of professionals and also maintain it, and I believe this is the currency of the big companies today: People’s attention.

Do you work with any startups in Romania? And do you have any impressions to share on the Romanian startup ecosystem?

Yes, I help a few Romanian startups with their content marketing and positioning. Sometimes other startups email me with questions, so I help them, too, but I don’t charge for email advice. I work with the ones that are looking for a long-term or project-based collaboration.

Startup founders here in Romania are curious, and very courageous to experiment even if it won’t necessarily work. And Romanian startups are very smart. For instance, Planable is doing a great job with content, social media and positioning. We also have social media analytics company Socialinsider, which this year launched virtual events, and TypingDNA, which wants to get rid of needing to log in with passwords and was founded by a former colleague.

I also found that the founders here work harder than their teams and don’t just leave others do the work — at least the ones I have met. We have several startup events in Romania: How to Web, and Techsylvania here in Transylvania.

I don’t like this name, but people say that Cluj-Napoca is the “Silicon Valley of Romania.” Lots of startups have been launched here, but the city that is getting more and more traction is Oradea, where the bet on education is paying off.

(If you are a tech startup founder or investor in Cluj or Oradea, fill in TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021.)

#brand-management, #content-marketing, #growth-marketers, #growth-marketing, #instagram, #marketing, #robert-katai, #romania, #social-media, #social-media-analytics, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts, #youtube

German identity verifier IDnow acquires France’s ARIADNEXT for $59 million, hits M&A road

IDnow, a German-based identity verification startup is acquiring ARIADNEXT, a French equivalent, specializing in remote identity verification and digital identity creation. A price was not released by either party but TechCrunch understands from sources that the deal was approximately $59 million / €50 million. Sources say IDnow is looking to do similar acquisitions.

IDnow says the combined entity will be able to provide a comprehensive identity verification platform, ranging from AI-driven to human-assisted technology and from online to point-of-sale verification options. IDnow offers its services into the UK, French and German, Spain, Poland, Romania, and other international markets, and says it expects to increase revenue 3x in 2021 versus 2019.

The startup also says the pandemic has meant usage of its products has gone up 200% more compared to last year as companies switch to digital processes.

Andreas Bodczek, CEO of IDnow said in a statement: “This combination with ARIADNEXT is an important step towards our vision of building the pan-European leader for identity verification-as-a-service solutions. With ARIADNEXT, in addition to our recent acquisition of identity Trust Management AG, IDnow can provide our customers with an even broader suite of products through a single platform with a seamless user experience.”

Guillaume Despagne, President of ARIADNEXT, said: “We are looking forward to joining a team of IDnow’s caliber, combining our experience and skills to work towards our shared vision of providing a pan-European secure and future-proof solution to customers.

IDnow will retain ARIADNEXT’s locations in Rennes, Paris, Madrid, Bucharest, Iasi, and Warsaw, as well as its over 125 employees. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals.

The acquisition means IDNow is now on a par with the other large player in Europe, OnFido. TechCrunch understands the company has done €50m+ revenue this year expect to over-perform its €100m revenue target for 2023.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #business, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #german, #idnow, #madrid, #onfido, #paris, #poland, #president, #romania, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #united-kingdom, #verification, #warsaw

Glovo splurges $208M on three Delivery Hero brands in the Balkans

The high stakes game of chess (or, well, consolidation chicken) that is on-demand food delivery rolls on today with a little more territorial swapping in Europe: Barcelona-based Glovo has agreed to buy three of Berlin-based Delivery Hero’s food delivery brands in Central and Eastern Europe — with deals that it said are worth a total value of €170 million (~$208M).

Specifically, it’s picking up Delivery Hero’s foodpanda brand in Romania and Bulgaria; the Donesi brand in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Pauza in Croatia.

There’s some notable symmetry here: Last year Delivery Hero shelled out $272M for a bunch of Glovo’s LatAm brands, as the latter gave up on a region it had already started withdrawing from in its quest for profitability.

Glovo said then that it would be focusing on “key markets where we can build a long-term sustainable business and continue to provide our unique multi-category offering to our customers”.

Earlier this month the Barcelona-based ‘deliver anything’ app also announced it was picking up Ehrana, a local delivery company in Slovenia. So it’s been on quite the (local) shopping spree of late.

Its existing operational footprint covers markets in South West Europe, Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. So its attention here, on the Balkans, suggests it sees a chance to eke out profitable potential in more of Central Europe too.

Glovo said the transactions in Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia are expected to close “within the next few weeks”, subject to fulfilment of closing conditions and relevant regulatory approvals.

While it said Romania will be completed following approval from the competition authority — but gave no timeline for that.

Its splurge on Central and Eastern European rival food delivery brands follows a $528M Series F funding round in April — so it’s evidently not short of VC cash to burn spend.

Commenting in a statement, Oscar Pierre, CEO and co-founder, said: “It’s always been central to our long-term strategy to focus on markets where we see clear opportunities to lead and where we can build a sustainable business. Central and Eastern Europe is a very important part of that plan. The region has really embraced on-demand delivery platforms and we’re very excited to be strengthening our presence and increasing our footprint in countries that continue to show enormous potential for growth.” 

In another supporting statement Delivery Hero made it clear it has bigger fish to fry (than can be served up to hungry customers in the Balkans) right now.

“Delivery Hero has built a clear leading business in the Balkan region in the last couple of years. However, with a lot of operational priorities on our plate, we believe Glovo would be better positioned to continue building an amazing experience for our customers in this region,” said Niklas Östberg, its CEO and co-founder.

A relevant, recent development for Delivery Hero‘s business is the decision to re-enter its home market of Germany — Europe’s biggest economy — under its foodpanda brand, starting in its home city of Berlin this summer (but with a national expansion planned to follow).

This is notable because back in 2018 it sold its German operations to another on-demand food delivery rival, the Dutch giant Takeaway.com — in a $1.1BN deal which included the Lieferheld, Pizza.de and foodora brands — temporarily stepping out of the competitive fray. (Meanwhile Takeaway.com has since merged with the UK’s Just Eat to become… Just Eat Takeaway so, uh, keep up.)

Delivery Hero is returning to Germany now because it can, and because the market is huge. A two-year non-compete clause between it and Just Eat Takeaway recently expired — allowing for reheating (rehashing?) of the competitive food delivery mix in German cities.

Speaking to the FT back in May about this market return, Östberg suggested Delivery Hero has girded itself (and its investors) for a long fight.

“We don’t see necessarily that we are going to go in and win the market in the next year or so. This is a 10-year game,” he said. “Of course we will definitely make sure we put in enough money to be the clear number two, the clear challenger [to Just Eat Takeaway.com].”

Winning at food delivery is certainly a(n expensive) marathon, not a sprint.

There are also of course multiple races being run in markets around the world, depending on local conditions and competitive mix — with the chance that the winner of the biggest and most lucrative races will reach such a position of VC-sponsored glory that it can buy up the top competitors from the smaller races and consolidate everything — maximizing economies of scale and gaining the ability to squeeze out fresh competition to grab a juicy profit for themselves.

Or, well, that’s the theory. Competition regulators are likely to take increasing interest in this space, for one thing. Rising awareness of gig economy workers rights is also putting pressure on the model.

For now, the thin-margin food delivery business needs the right base conditions to survive. The model only functions in cities and ideally in highly dense urban environments. Most of the players in this space also do not employ the armies of riders that are needed to make deliveries — because doing so would make the model far more costly. And in Europe political attention on gig economy workers rights could force reforms that raise regional operational costs, putting further pressure on margins.

Spain has its own labor reforms in train that will affect Glovo in its home market, for example.

Achieving sustainability (i.e. profitability without the need for ongoing VC funding injections) remains a huge hurdle for delivery apps. It will likely require massive market consolidation and/or convincing users to switch from making the occasional order of a hot meal on a weekend to relying on app-based delivery for far more of their local shopping needs — not just lunch/dinner but groceries and toiletries, and other fast moving consumers goods and household items.

It’s notable that super fast grocery delivery is a major focus for Glovo, for example — which has recently been building out networks of inner city dark stores to service in-app convenience store shopping.

Lots of other on-demand app players are also ramping up on that front. Including Delivery Hero — which has been paying more attention to groceries (picking up InstaShop last year in a deal worth $360M).

Glovo building out in Central Europe while exiting markets further afield suggests it believes it can use a concentrated market footprint to drive operational efficiencies and strong order margins through a tightly integrated meal delivery and dark store play.

If it can do that — and offer at least the whiff of profitability — it could make its business an attractive future acquisition target for a larger global giant that’s looking to up the ‘consolidation chicken’ stakes by bolting on new regions.

A larger player like Delivery Hero may even be a potential future suitor — having shown it’s happy to return to markets it left earlier. After all, it surely knows Glovo’s business pretty well since they’ve done a number of market swaps. But, for now, that’s pure speculation.

Zooming out, what the on-demand model of app-based urban convenience means for the future of urban environments is a whole other question — and one which both competition and urban regulators will need to ponder very carefully.

If the rush to scale delivery platforms drives unstoppable consolidation that sees smaller players gobbled up by a few global giants — that can then use their size and scale to outcompete local shops — it may spell even more dark times for the traditional High Street and its family-run bodegas which have already been hammered by Internet giants like Amazon.

Touch of a button convenience does carry wider costs.

 

#amazon, #apps, #balkans, #barcelona, #berlin, #bulgaria, #central-europe, #croatia, #delivery-hero, #eastern-europe, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #foodpanda, #fundings-exits, #germany, #glovo, #just-eat-takeaway, #just-eat, #montenegro, #niklas-ostberg, #online-food-ordering, #oscar-pierre, #retailers, #romania, #take-out, #takeaway-com, #tc, #united-kingdom

Liechtenstein Royal Is Accused in Bear Killing in Romania

The unauthorized killing of a bear called Arthur in the Carpathian Mountains has set off a wave of anger in Romania.

#bears, #hunting-and-trapping, #romania, #royal-families

Auction House Suspends Sale of 19th-Century Jewish Burial Records

The records of a Jewish community in Romania that was almost annihilated during the Holocaust are viewed as essential to reconstructing its history.

#archives-and-records, #arts-and-antiquities-looting, #auctions, #auschwitz-concentration-camp, #brooklyn-nyc, #cluj-napoca-romania, #eastern-europe, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #jews-and-judaism, #kestenbaumco, #manuscripts, #oradea-romania, #romania, #world-jewish-restitution-organization

Emerging as an Eastern powerhouse, Earlybird Digital East Fund launches new $242M fund

Earlybird Digital East Fund — a fund associated with Germany’s Earlybird VC, but operating separately — has launched a €200m ($242m) successor fund. The fund’s focus will remain the same as before: a Seed and Series-A fund focusing on what’s known as ‘Emerging Europe’, in other words, countries stretching from the Baltics to Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey. The firm has also promoted Mehmet Atici, who’s been with the firm for eight years, to Partner. The new fund has made four investments so far: FintechOS, Payhawk, Picus, and Binalyze.

The back-story to DEF is a fascinating tale of what happened to Europe in the last 15 years, as tech took off and Europeans returned from Silicon Valley.

Following his exit from SelectMinds (where he was the Founder & CEO) in 2005, Cem Sertoglu moved back to Turkey. Although he says he “accidentally became the first angel investor” there, he was clearly the right man, in the right place, at the right time. He told me: “I was very lucky and ended up writing the first checks in some of the first large outcomes in Turkey.”

In 2013, Sertoglu partnered with Evren Ucok (the first angel in Peak Games and Trendyol), and Roland Manger (Earlybird). Dan Lupu, a Romanian investor who had covered the region for Intel Capital, joined them, and together they raised the ‘Earlybird Digital East Fund I’ set at $150m fund in 2014, focusing on CEE and Turkey. This was and is an area where there can be high-quality ventures to be found, but very little in the way of VC. 

Thereafter, between 2014 and 2019, the fund invested in UiPath, Hazelcast, and Obilet. UiPath has become a global leader in the area known as ‘Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Hazelcast is a low latency data processing platform startup with Turkish roots. Obilet is a marketplace focused for the massive Turkish intercity bus travel market. DEF has also exited Vivense, Dolap, and EMbonds and in more recent times the fund has exited Vivense, the “Wayfair of Turkey” to Actera, the top local PE fund.

The team had spectacular early success. Peak Games, Trendyol, YemekSepeti and GittiGidiyor are the four largest Turkish tech exits to date. Digital East Fund was an investor in all of them. Peak games exited for $1.8 billion in cash to Zynga only last year.

As of Q4 2020, the fund’s metrics are:
Investment Multiple: 24.9x
Gross IRR: 104.4%
Net IRR: 84.1%

So in VC terms, they have done pretty well.

I interviewed Sertoglu to unpack the story of Earlybird Digital East Fund.

He told me DEF has achieved a 17 times investment multiple on a $150 million fund. He thinks “this might be the biggest European VC fund performance in history, and it’s not coming from Berlin, it’s not coming from London, but it’s coming from Eastern Europe. We have been told by some of our LPs that they think we’re the top 2014 vintage VC fund in the world, nobody’s seen stronger numbers than this.”

“Peak Games turned out to be a phenomenal story. When you look at how tough it’s been for Turkey, macroeconomically. The fact that a single company with 100 people essentially sold for $1.8 billion in cash, was just… it was staggering for the local market here.”

DEF’s emergence from Turkey, together with its relationship with a fund in Berlin, was not the most obvious path for the VC fund.

“One thing we realized early one was that we could invest with our own capital and syndicating to our friends, but for follow-on funding, we’d always have to go global. And that made us feel vulnerable. It made us feel we were always dependent on others’ comprehension of the opportunity that we were facing. So that’s when the first fund idea came out this was,” said Sertoglu.

“We felt that there was this unusual dislocation between opportunity and capital in Eastern Europe. Our first fund was $150 million funds – I mean, a very quaint size compared to Western markets. But we became the largest fund in the region, and decided to focus on this series A gap where we felt that there was this big opportunity, because of the way we think series A is still very much a local play.”

“Being a local player that understands the region would be an advantage, so this was proven to be true. We could essentially see pretty much everything in Eastern Europe for the last eight years. And we caught the biggest one, fortunately, which was UiPath. I think very few funds around the world can say that they see the majority if not all of the opportunities that fall into their mandate,” he said.

“We have this dual strategy of backing local champions as well as contenders for global markets as well. 20 years ago you had to be in Silicon Valley. Now, Transferwise comes out of Estonia, UiPath comes out of Romania. And that was even before the pandemic.”

Sertoglu concluded: “So we now have fresh capital, coming on the heels of a very successful first fund, which we’re keen to deploy. We’re calling all the opportunities, seeing very ambitious, strong teams coming out of the region. And we have 200 million euros to focus on these types of opportunities in the region.”

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #central-europe, #ceo, #computing, #eastern-europe, #estonia, #europe, #germany, #intel-capital, #london, #romania, #selectminds, #software, #tc, #transferwise, #turkey, #uipath, #wayfair, #yemeksepeti, #zynga

Calling Bucharest VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Bucharest and Romania will capture how the country is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d like to know how Romania’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

The deadline is January 22, 2021.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Romania, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your country next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every country on in the Union for the Mediterranean, so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

(Please note: Filling out the survey is not a guarantee of inclusion in the final published piece).

#corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #money, #private-equity, #romania, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital

Romania’s Leader Is Tested by a Close Election

Prime Minister Ludovic Orban will need to maintain his alliance with a smaller party to stay in power after a surprisingly tight race.

#elections, #orban-ludovic, #politics-and-government, #romania

German Phallus Statue Vanishes From Mountain, Then Reappears (Sort of)

The authorities are stumped by what happened to the wooden phallus, a popular Instagram stop for hikers. Along with all the monoliths, it has been quite a month for mysterious public art.

#bavaria-germany, #kubrick-stanley, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #romania, #social-media, #utah, #wood-and-wood-products

‘Collective’ Review: When Tragedy Consumes a Nation

The shocking Romanian documentary “Collective” revisits a 2015 fire that killed scores of people and brought down the government.

#bucharest-romania, #collective-movie, #documentary-films-and-programs, #fires-and-firefighters, #nanau-alexander, #news-and-news-media, #politics-and-government, #romania

Central Europe Suffers as Coronavirus Surges

The Czech Republic, with the highest transmission rate in Europe, closed schools, bars and restaurants. In some countries in Central Europe, there is a critical shortage of doctors and nurses.

#bucharest-romania, #budapest-hungary, #bulgaria, #central-europe, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #czech-republic, #disease-rates, #europe, #european-union, #gazeta-wyborcza, #gdansk-poland, #hospitals, #hungary, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #orban-viktor, #oxford-university, #pew-research-center, #politics-and-government, #prague-czech-republic, #romania, #shutdowns-institutional

They Crossed Oceans to Lift Their Families Out of Poverty. Now, They Need Help.

As the pandemic destroys paychecks, migrant workers are sending less money home, threatening an increase in poverty from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to Eastern Europe and Latin America.

#bangladesh, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #foreign-workers, #guatemala, #labor-and-jobs, #migrant-labor-non-agriculture, #poverty, #remittances, #romania, #third-world-and-developing-countries

‘The money is still there,’ says APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt

APX is an early-stage accelerator in Berlin, but it’s not quite your average accelerator — it’s essentially a joint venture between giant European publishing house Axel Springer and Porsche, the German automaker. Earlier this month, we sat down with APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt to discuss what makes APX different and how it’s weathering the coronavirus pandemic.

Rheinboldt has quite a bit of experience as both an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Alando.de, which was acquired by eBay in 1999 and donation platform betterplace.org in 2007. In 2013, he became CEO of Axel Springer Plug and Play and during his time as an investor, he put money into companies like N26, Zizoo, Blogfoster and Careship.

“We started APX because Plug and Play wanted to become more of a platform for matchmaking between startups and corporates,” Rheinboldt said when I asked him about the project’s origin. “We, the team, enjoyed investing in early-stage companies a lot and Axel Springer also enjoyed investing in early-stage startups a lot. So we decided to stop investing in new companies Axel Springer Plug and Play. We had invested in 102 companies — and focus[ed] on finding interesting teams to invest in with a new company that we needed to found.”

Image Credits: Dominik Tryba

Rheinboldt took this discussion to his boss, Mathias Döpfner, the current CEO of Axel Springer, who encouraged him to find another shareholder. “If it’s only us, you might have to do what we want — and maybe you don’t want that,” he said Döpfner told him. In looking for a partner, Rheinboldt approached the Porsche family, which he had met at some of his previous investor events. The family was looking to diversify its portfolio, so after a few more meetings, including a presentation at Porsche’s leadership summit, the two companies decided to get into this business together.

One interesting thing Rheinboldt noted — and this isn’t so much about the Porsche family as a general observation — is that family offices are often resistant to getting into venture capital, at least in Germany.

#9, #albums, #axel-springer, #belarus, #berlin, #careship, #ceo, #ebay, #entrepreneur, #europe, #extra-crunch, #films, #funding, #germany, #it, #market-analysis, #n26, #play, #plug-and-play, #poland, #porsche, #romania, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #zizoo

Farm Workers Airlifted Into Germany Provide Solutions and Pose New Risks

Stymied by borders closed by coronavirus restrictions, German farmers decided to fly thousands of seasonal workers into their fields.

#agriculture-and-farming, #airlifts, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #eastern-europe, #germany, #immigration-and-emigration, #migrant-labor-agriculture, #politics-and-government, #romania, #shutdowns-institutional

Uber subsidiary Careem to slash workforce by 31%, suspends bus transport app

Careem, the Dubai-based ride-hailing and delivery company that was acquired by Uber last year, is cutting its workforce by 31% and suspending its mass transportation business due to affects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs will affect more than 530 employees. Employees who are laid off will receive at least three months severance pay, one month of equity vesting, and where relevant, extended visa and medical insurance through the end of the year, according to the company’s blog post announcing the reductions.

“We delayed this decision as long as possible so that we could exhaust all other means to secure Careem,” Mudassir Sheikha, the company’s co-founder and CEO, wrote in a blog post Monday.

Careem started in 2012 as a ride-hailing company aiming to compete with Uber rival in the Middle East. In recently years, Careem has diversified its business, expanding into credit transfers, food and package delivery and bus services. Uber bought Careem in March 2019 for $3.1 billion.

Since the COVId-19 pandemic hit, Careem has seen business fall by more than 80%, Sheikha said.

The company made the cuts to preserve the business and its vision to create a consumer-facing “super app” that offers a suite of lifestyle services, including a digital payment platform and last-mile delivery. Those reductions will also affect some previously announced products, namely its mass transportation feature called Careem BUS.

“The economics of the mass transportation business have improved but remain challenging, and at this time, we need to accelerate our investments in deliveries and the Super App,”  We believe Careem BUS is a much-needed offering in some of our core markets, and I predict that the service will reappear on the Careem Super App in the future.” 

The announcement comes just hours after Uber Eats said it will shutter its on-demand food business in several markets, including in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine. Uber Eats said it will transfer its business operations in the in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem  platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” according to a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

#careem, #carsharing, #companies, #covid, #czech-republic, #dubai, #egypt, #food, #middle-east, #on-demand-food, #romania, #saudi-arabia, #sharing-economy, #tc, #transport, #transportation, #uber, #ukraine, #united-arab-emirates, #uruguay

Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine.

It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

“These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds.

An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or second position in all Eats markets — which means it’s leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others.

Earlier this year, for example, Uber pulled the plug on its Eats offer in India — selling to local rival Zomato. Zomato and Swiggy hold the top two slots in the market. (As part of that deal Uber took a 9.99% stake in Zomato.)

Uber Eats rival, Glovo, also announced a series of exits at the start of this year — as part of its own competitive reconfiguration in a drive to cut losses and shoot for profitability. It too says its goal is to be the first or second platform in all markets where it operates.

The category is facing major questions about profitability — with now the added challenge of the coronavirus crisis. (Related: Another player in the space, Uk-based Deliveroo, confirmed a major round of layoffs last week.) tl;dr, on-demand unit economics don’t stack up unless you can command large enough marketshare so it looks like the competitive pack is thinning as it becomes clearer who’s winning where.

In a statement on the latest round of Eats exits, Uber said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Uber Eats in Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Uruguay, and to wind down the Eats app and transition operations to Careem in U.A.E. This continues our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our top Eats markets around the world.”

The discontinued and transferred markets represented 1% of Eats’ Gross Bookings and 4% of Eats Adjusted EBITDA losses in Q1 2020, per Uber’s filing. 

“Consistent with our stated strategy, we will look to reinvest these savings in priority markets where we expect a better return on investment,” the filing adds. 

The Uber Eats spokesman told us that the exits do not sum to any change to the ‘more than 6,000 cities’ figure for the unit’s market footprint — which Uber reported earlier this year.

Asked which markets the company considers to be priorities going forward the spokesman did not respond. It’s also not clear whether or not Uber sought buyers for the shuttered units.

Per Uber’s filing, Eats operations will be fully discontinue in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine by June 4, 2020.

Uber Rides operations are not affected, it adds.

A source familiar with Uber also said the changes will allow the company to focus resources on new business lines — such as grocery and delivery.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the on-demand food delivery business as usual in many markets — with convenience-loving customers locked down at home so likely to be cooking more, and large numbers of restaurants closed (at least temporarily), putting a dent in the provider side of these platforms too.

At the same time there is a demand upside story in the groceries category. And last month Uber announced a tie-up with a major French supermarket, Carrefour, to expand its delivery offering nationwide. It also inked other grocery-related partnerships in Spain and Brazil.

Grocery delivery has been seeing a massive uptick as consumers look for ways to replenish their food cupboards while limiting infection risk.

While other types of deliveries — from pharmaceuticals to personal protective equipment — also potentially offer growth opportunities for on-demand logistics businesses, which is how many major food delivery platforms prefer to describe themselves.

#apps, #brazil, #careem, #czech-republic, #egypt, #europe, #food-delivery, #india, #logistics, #middle-east, #on-demand-food, #on-demand-food-delivery, #online-food-ordering, #romania, #saudi-arabia, #spain, #uber, #uber-eats, #ukraine, #united-arab-emirates, #uruguay, #zomato

Ford temporarily suspends production in North American factories

Ford said Wednesday it will temporarily suspend production at its North American factories through March 30 in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe — even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,”  Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

The move will have a widespread effect on the automotive industry and the region, causing suppliers that make parts for Ford to close down, or, at the minimum, suffer a slowdown.

Ford said it will work with UAW on “restart” plans as well as putting in place additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus. One of the top priorities is to find ways to maximize social distancing among plant workers – both during work hours and at shift change, when large numbers of people typically gather at entry and exit points and maximizing cleaning times between shift changes, Ford said.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

Ford also temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant building Wednesday morning after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19. The company said it is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building. The plant, like the others, will halt production through March 30.

Ford’s closures in North America follows a decision to shutter factories in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany as well as its Craiova facility in Romania. Earlier this week, Ford asked all salaried employees — except those performing business critical roles that can’t be done off site —to work remotely until further notice.

On Sunday, the UAW along with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles formed a coronavirus task force to work on ways to protect worker and lessen the spread of the disease.

#afl-cio, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #cologne, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ford, #germany, #henry-ford, #industries, #north-america, #president, #romania

Closed Borders Within Europe Unleash Congestion and Chaos

Hungary became a bottleneck as angry travelers staged sit-ins on a major road, backing up truckers carrying goods and other traffic for miles.

#austria, #bulgaria, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #germany, #hungary, #orban-viktor, #poland, #roads-and-traffic, #romania, #serbia, #trucks-and-trucking