Over the past decade, several startups located in southeastern-European countries— Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia Slovenia, Romania, and Kosovo—have caught the attention of worldwide venture capital fund managers and private equity investors. Indeed, thousands of startups have lured hundreds of millions of dollars into the region to fund software applicable to cryptocurrency trading and blockchain development, AI technology, fintech and marketing. Certain startup ecosystems of southeast Europe, particularly Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria, are thriving.
Over the past few years, startups from these three countries demonstrated a knack for attracting capital, accumulating over USD $500 million in funding. This is partially because these three countries are part of the European Union, making it easier to secure capital from other EU countries as well as the US. Also, large numbers of people working in or wishing to work in this industry have buttressed startups. Indeed, Romania boasts the largest number of tech workers in the region at just over 300,000, while some analysts believe that the ICT sector will account for about almost 1/5 th of Bulgaria’s GDP by 2025. Slovenia, a small country with a population of just over 2 million people, has over 25,000 ICT workers. These countries all rank in the top 50 out of 208 countries in the world with the fastest internet speed, providing workers who believe the most advantageous future career is one in technology with high-quality and reliable connectivity. Several successful startups originating from these countries exemplify this mindset.
While Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria have a variety of startups, ranging from exploratory phase to having secured series-D funding, each country possesses a very notable one. Romania’s UiTech, a robotic-process automation software firm, is one of the most valuable startups in Southeast Europe at over USD $7 billion. Two major software developers, Telerik and Dynamo Software, hail from Bulgaria; US companies recently acquired them for USD $262.5 million and USD $50 million, respectively. It is Slovenia, however, that titillates the intrigue of blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
Launched in 2017, blockchain powered CargoX presents a method to processes Bills of Lading (BLs), shipping documents that inform ownership and transfer details of the goods being shipped, using the Ethereum blockchain. CargoX’s innovative blockchain application aims to make BL processing, which currently can take several weeks, fast, efficient and safe. Industry leaders are taking notice of CargoX: in 2018, it won grand prize at the IRU World Congress Startup Competition and the website EU-Startups ranked it among the top ten of Europe’s most promising blockchain startups.
CargoX is not the only blockchain firm to emerge from Southeast Europe. Bulgarian startups are applying blockchain technology to a variety of uses. Colibra implements blockchain to find clients optimal insurance policies, Jarvis helps users manage their personal finances with a blockchain-based program, and Minirium Network provides blockchain as a security force that shields user data from large companies.
A new tech era has started in Southeast Europe, and it poses some questions. Will ICT workers and professionals prefer to work for blockchain companies? How will the shipping industry react to CargoX’s disruptive technology? However, this is for certain: several Southeastern Europe based startups are embracing blockchain technology which goes beyond the scope of just cryptocurrency trading.