The new member of Business Angels Europe, Growceanu, is a digital angel platform that combines the social interaction of angels (and startups) within a digital environment. BAE speaks with one of its co-founders, Ciprian Man, from Romania.
From zero to angel network: starting Growceanu
“In 2017 we realized Romania’s budding startup ecosystem very much needed some people who would invest in startups without the bureaucratic hooks attached to public funds (which weren’t actually plentiful). Our small group had been talking about it for well over a year, and all of us realized that what we wanted was to be business angels, and, in fact, we were already behaving as such.
What we also realized, though, was that it was difficult to do it on our own. We hadn’t really seen what angel groups look like. The ones active in Romania weren’t really visible (Tech Angels was quite reserved at the time). We didn’t have a recipe.
The ‘How?’ question took a really long time to answer, and was only answered in full during the ESIL programme. Philippe Gluntz and Brigitte Baumann, especially, gave us the insights and understanding of what a good angel group does and what a good business angel network looks like. ESIL ultimately played no small part in getting us off the ground.
Next, we set up our group, and did 6 investments in less than two years. And then we upgraded the concept from group to platform and we nearly tripled that number.”
From Angel Network to Platform
“We realized that, because we were fresh at this and we were learning best practices from ESIL and BAE, we could optimize our processes really well. Things were running smoothly and we were constantly immersing ourselves deeper into what made an angel group run well.
In talking to other groups we realized that, even though people really appreciated the network and the social interaction in many groups’ meetings, there was a general problem: they really missed the structure and the process.
We decided to do something about it! So we combined our insights into a platform. We started working with tools and integrated those which worked best.
Step by step, we realized that what we were building could be something more like a platform, and eventually we started working on an app. Then we realized we had built something valuable, and decided to open it up to other people.
Of course, we also looked at the business case on this, to see whether it was worth investing in it ourselves. The conclusion was clear: Yes, it’s worth it!”
“In our platform we automated everything that could be automated. We have a backend (were all of the founders are connected, the information about investors and startups is centralized, and a lot of work happens). The front end is the investor app. Further down the road, we are looking at an app for startups also.
Growceanu has created a structured framework for personal interaction among investors and between startup and investors. For example, in the pitching session, we never only score, we also give feedback.
You do the pitch using the platform. Investors provide feedback through the app. The next day, the feedback goes directly to the startups. Startups are flabbergasted by the speed! They are telling me this rarely happens, if ever!