Top 3+3 business destinations

24.11.2018   |  Business Travel

The famous business publication Forbes provides, on its website, an updated list of friendly countries towards entrepreneurs and other businessmen. I have visited a few of these countries, reason for which I’m taking the liberty to nuance the comments of Forbes, as follows: 

Top 3 Developed Economies

  • United Kingdom. It is a well-known global financial center and Forbes rates it as being the third European economy after Germany and France. With or without Brexit, British economy is strong because agriculture and extractive industries are strong and Brexit will change fewer things than one might think.
    My advice: Find time also for museums if you go to London. I have never seen things more organized and easy to grasp than there. For students, entrance is free. You can make donations at the British Museum or the National Gallery. As much as you can.
  • New Zeeland. It is far, but has had economic growth for decades on end. A few dozens of years, it was a mainly agricultural economy depending on the British Empire, but the New-Zealanders have managed to solve the problem in the meanwhile. As the engines of the economy run smoothly, you would need serious resources to start a business. On the other hand, as far as red tape is concerned, everything would go just fine.
    My advice: Take some time for the local culture and nature. If you don’t understand the role and influence of the Maori tribes on the New Zeeland’s economy, you have lost a lot both personally and financially.
  • The Netherlands. Everybody knows that it is a country where you can indulge yourself, but by far fewer people know that it is the sixth strongest economy in the European Union with a great deal of exports. Officially, the Netherlands undergoes an austerity period, regulated by public policies. As compared to Romania, this configuration is by far more promising.
    My advice: If you get to Amsterdam, visit Rjksmuseum. You don’t have to be art lovers. Just try and see how bourgeoisie, that is business, is born. 

Top 3 Less Known Countries

  • Estonia. You may know that the country had joined the European Union three years before Romania, in 2004. It is even more likely that you have heard that it is a highly computerized country. In terms of business, this means that many Romanians move their businesses there and pay taxes also there, by the so-called e-residency. The process can be easily initiated here.
    My advice: In general, use all the online facilities regarding the bureaucracy and the related aspects. You will save serious money, which you would otherwise spend on lawyer, accountant, paper and printer. I have never been to Estonia, but if you want to make a comparison, just pay an invoice via the Romanian Post. There the conversations are still conducted in ROL (Romanian Old Lei).
  • United Arab Emirates. I have already written in detail about the economy in Dubai and the rest of the Emirates. The business facilities are numerous, but the legislative framework is somehow volatile. In any case, the Emirates are a territory in which money circulates. All you need is know exactly what you want.
    My advice: Apart from malls and the like, we don’t deal with an exceptional tourist destination. Look for medium comfort, because the average is very high in the Emirates. Avoid extravagant spending, because these are more than welcome in the Gulf.
  • Romania. As a native of this place, I only note the presence of my country in the Forbes top, ranking 43rd at the date of this analysis. The good news is that we are ahead of Bulgaria, Thailand or Turkey. The economic picture presented by Forbes is far from pretty. Still, if we have a look as if at a mirror, we have reasons to believe it is not that bad.
    My advice: My advice wouldn’t be useful in the given context. Still, I like doing business and pay taxes in Romania. If I were a foreign investor, I would be cautious enough to rely on a good local team in respect of the support departments, from Legal to Human Resources. We all know the rest.
Octavian Pătrașcu  |   24.11.2018   |  Business Travel
Octavian Patrascu Alternative Investments

Why Millennials are choosing alternative investment routes

16.12.2019   |  Capital Market  |  Fintech  |  News  |  Tech

It used to be the case that one would have some money, and they would go to an advisor who would then, in turn, research different markets and make a recommendation. That person would charge their client a fee for managing the money and a success fee should the placement of funds generate a profit. While the former would vary from, generally, 0.5% to 2% (with the rule being that you pay less when you place more money), the latter could go to up to 20% of your profits. And while, in the old days, one would pay for the work the advisor does behind the scenes to research and get top-notch information in a market, the alternatives nowadays no longer justify paying such high prices to place one’s money. The advisor is slowly being replaced by a user’s own research, online investment management companies, or even Artificial Intelligence.

The price for investing your money has also gone dramatically down, with the rise of more and more digital companies using advanced software to analyse data and generate attractive portfolios. 

Stock market investments are also an attractive alternative. However, without experience in the field or a fee-hungry advisor, this can prove to be a problematic choice. The issue is two-fold: on the one side, picking the stocks to “bet” on can be extremely difficult, as it takes serious market research to identify the potential long-term champions; and then, of course, there is the approach that some companies might skyrocket when they are launching new products or tapping into a new market. However, this comes with significant risk, as overnight success is rare, and massive failures have been generating headlines since before we can remember.

One could think that actively investing one's own money is a bold move, but the old-fashioned “keep your money in the bank” option is now a money-losing option.

It’s been 12 years since the modern financial sector started to show its weaknesses, and 11 since the sequence of events that started with Lehman Brothers collapsing nearly destroyed the world economy. The new reality is one of lack of trust in the banks from the younger generation, and of negative interest rates. Yes, in many countries it actually costs you money to have banks take your placements. 

As such, it is no wonder that it actually makes sense to find alternative ways to protect and expand one’s wealth. However, there is one significant risk that one should always consider: while not being tied to big institutions such as banks is what has made these alternatives attractive to younger generations in the first place, the downside to that is that, if anything were to happen to them, they will not have an entity behind them to bail them out, which poses an increased risk to customers. As such, research and caution are highly desirable.

Over the last 2-3 years, the shared economy model, championed by the likes of Uber, has been adopted in more and more industries, including the financial one.

More and more platforms are offering the option for people to create portfolios using small amounts of money, relying on the power of the crowd to create strength when put together.

So, here are a few of the options that are out there, and a bit on how they work:

  • FinTech is always an exciting field. Have a look at players such as Robinhood and Sofi.com, which offer lending, mortgages and investment to categories of people who would not always qualify for support from a traditional bank.
  • Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) uses marketplaces or platforms to match borrowers (people) lenders (also people) - see Mintos, Grupeer, Peerberry, Lendermarket. Those interested can “buy” a share of a loan on the platforms.
  • Startups: new and exciting startups are in the news almost daily. Two of the ones that have piqued my interest are forgeglobal.com, seedrs.com. If you have a more serious amount of money to invest, getting “in on the action” at ground level can be incredibly rewarding, both in terms of supporting an entrepreneur who’s just starting out, as well as potentially getting a significant return for your investment. But, as with everything, make sure you do your due diligence and ample research in the space you are about to invest in.
  • If you want to go industry-specific, there are now marketplaces for investments in real estate. Don’t have enough money to buy and flip a piece of real estate? That’s okay. You can pair up with other investors, crowdfund and get involved that way. Crowd Estate, for example, promises 17% annual returns. 

Please note that I am an investor in some of the companies I have mentioned in this article. This article is not meant to provide investment advice, it is merely an investor’s perspective on alternative investments available. Capital at risk.

Read full article
Image about Startups, Tech and conferences.

8 startup and tech events worth attending

19.11.2019   |  News

If you’re a startup or scale up founder, or if you are working up to launching your idea, events can be useful to see how others do or dit it. It’s useful to see what worked and what didn’t for successful entrepreneurs, how they think, their approach to business.

It can take a  lot of time and energy to attend business events, and the gains aren’t always immediate, but success doesn’t happen in isolation – entrepreneurs need a certain vibe and energy to keep going, they need networks, need to be connected to their markets, their competitors and  their peers.

I go to a few events every year, and I choose those where I am likely to see new ideas put into action,  meet smart people and explore different sectors. I do focus on my key areas (property, fintech and medtech), but I keep my eyes open for what’s going on outside of there areas too. So here is what’s on my list currently.

  1. Central European Startup Awards – happening this week in Bucharest!

Conflicting agendas mean that unfortunately I’m not going, but I’ll follow it with interest.

This is a regional program run by the Global Startup Awards. In Romania they’ve partnered with Impact Hub, one of the biggest co-working spaces and entrepreneur networking platforms. Annually, they select and award startups in tech / web industries. After the national phase of Central European Startup Awards competition, the winners of each of the 10 countries (Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary) participate in a  regional competition, whose winners are announced on November 21st in Bucharest.

2. Disrupt Berlin – 11-12 December, Berlin, Germany

Organised by TechCrunch, Disrupt Berlin showcases emerging trends in the business of technology and is a great place to meet or find information about game-changing founders, startups and technologies.
There are a multitude of conferences, workshops, networking opportunities and companies from all aspects of tech, but focused in on several category tracks. I'm looking this year at Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, BioTech/HealthTech, Blockchain and FinTech, but there are a few others.

3. Bucharest Tech Week – May 2020, Bucharest, Romania

5 days of conferences hosting international & local speakers, and a B2C gadgets and tech expo. Conferences are focused on innovation (seems to be an umbrella theme, which can fit anything these days though), HR, some coding conferences but also Fintech.

4. Wearable Europe - 13 - 14 May 2020, Berlin, Germany

Conference and exhibition focusing on wearable technologies, applications, and their commercialisation progress. The conference is part of the IDTechEx Show, a series of synergistic events on Printed Electronics, wearable, sensors, IoT, graphene & 2D materials, energy storage, electric vehicles.

5. EU-Startups Summit – 28-29 May, Barcelona, Spain

Some of Europe’s hottest startups and successful European entrepreneurs - over 1,500 founders, startup enthusiasts, corporates, angel investors, VCs, and media from across Europe. The two-day event is a great opportunity for networking, and a meeting point for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors who are aiming to build international tech companies.

6. London Tech Week - 8-12 June 2020, London, UK

A 5 day technology and innovation marathon, with events on connecting global markets, cybersecurity, digital transformation and innovation, for startups and scaleups.

7. Webit Festival Europe - 17-20 June 2020, Valencia, Spain

A huge event, Webit is a B2B and B2C festival and tech fiesta: 15.000 delegates, 450 speakers, 1,500 selected startups, 500 investors, international media.

With specialised summits for many verticals, I particularly am interested in the summits for health, fintech and blockchain. Other summits focus on cybersecurity, mobility, growth, future of food, or digital entertainment & media.

8. Techsylvania – 20-23 June 2020, Cluj, Romania

One of the biggest tech events in CEE, Techsylvania has tens of events, workshops, keynote speakers and panels. It can be very informative and great for networking and for benchmarking ideas, because it has almost 4.000 attendees - engineers, founders, investors, executives and CEOs of IT & digital companies, banks and startups.

There is a startup competition at Techsylvania too, Startup Avalanche, for early-stage startups, which get to meet international VCs and investors as they compete for the Grand Prize – €100,000 investment.

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Octavian Patrascu Alternative Investments
16.12.2019   |   Tech

Why Millennials are choosing alternative investment routes

It used to be the case that one would have some money, and they would go to an advisor who would then, in turn, research different markets and make a recommendation. That person would charge their client a fee for managing the money and a success fee should the placement of funds generate a profit. While the former would vary from, generally, 0.5% to 2% (with the rule being that you pay less when you place more money), the latter could go to up to 20% of your profits. And while, in the old days, one would pay for the work the advisor does behind the scenes to research and get top-notch information in a market, the alternatives nowadays no longer justify paying such high prices to place one’s money. The advisor is slowly being replaced by a user’s own research, online investment management companies, or even Artificial Intelligence.

The price for investing your money has also gone dramatically down, with the rise of more and more digital companies using advanced software to analyse data and generate attractive portfolios. 

Stock market investments are also an attractive alternative. However, without experience in the field or a fee-hungry advisor, this can prove to be a problematic choice. The issue is two-fold: on the one side, picking the stocks to “bet” on can be extremely difficult, as it takes serious market research to identify the potential long-term champions; and then, of course, there is the approach that some companies might skyrocket when they are launching new products or tapping into a new market. However, this comes with significant risk, as overnight success is rare, and massive failures have been generating headlines since before we can remember.

One could think that actively investing one's own money is a bold move, but the old-fashioned “keep your money in the bank” option is now a money-losing option.

It’s been 12 years since the modern financial sector started to show its weaknesses, and 11 since the sequence of events that started with Lehman Brothers collapsing nearly destroyed the world economy. The new reality is one of lack of trust in the banks from the younger generation, and of negative interest rates. Yes, in many countries it actually costs you money to have banks take your placements. 

As such, it is no wonder that it actually makes sense to find alternative ways to protect and expand one’s wealth. However, there is one significant risk that one should always consider: while not being tied to big institutions such as banks is what has made these alternatives attractive to younger generations in the first place, the downside to that is that, if anything were to happen to them, they will not have an entity behind them to bail them out, which poses an increased risk to customers. As such, research and caution are highly desirable.

Over the last 2-3 years, the shared economy model, championed by the likes of Uber, has been adopted in more and more industries, including the financial one.

More and more platforms are offering the option for people to create portfolios using small amounts of money, relying on the power of the crowd to create strength when put together.

So, here are a few of the options that are out there, and a bit on how they work:

  • FinTech is always an exciting field. Have a look at players such as Robinhood and Sofi.com, which offer lending, mortgages and investment to categories of people who would not always qualify for support from a traditional bank.
  • Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) uses marketplaces or platforms to match borrowers (people) lenders (also people) - see Mintos, Grupeer, Peerberry, Lendermarket. Those interested can “buy” a share of a loan on the platforms.
  • Startups: new and exciting startups are in the news almost daily. Two of the ones that have piqued my interest are forgeglobal.com, seedrs.com. If you have a more serious amount of money to invest, getting “in on the action” at ground level can be incredibly rewarding, both in terms of supporting an entrepreneur who’s just starting out, as well as potentially getting a significant return for your investment. But, as with everything, make sure you do your due diligence and ample research in the space you are about to invest in.
  • If you want to go industry-specific, there are now marketplaces for investments in real estate. Don’t have enough money to buy and flip a piece of real estate? That’s okay. You can pair up with other investors, crowdfund and get involved that way. Crowd Estate, for example, promises 17% annual returns. 

Please note that I am an investor in some of the companies I have mentioned in this article. This article is not meant to provide investment advice, it is merely an investor’s perspective on alternative investments available. Capital at risk.

Read full article
24.11.2018   |   Tech

10 technological trends in 2019

The top 10 technological trends of 2019 include, according to consulting company Gartner, exotic notions, such as “digital germs” or the software programmed by the artificial intelligence. The top also includes relatively better known technologies, such as Blockchain or quantum computing.  (more…)
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Octavian Patrascu Alternative Investments
16.12.2019   |   Capital Ma...

Why Millennials are choosing alternative investment routes

It used to be the case that one would have some money, and they would go to an advisor who would then, in turn, research different markets and make a recommendation. That person would charge their client a fee for managing the money and a success fee should the placement of funds generate a profit. While the former would vary from, generally, 0.5% to 2% (with the rule being that you pay less when you place more money), the latter could go to up to 20% of your profits. And while, in the old days, one would pay for the work the advisor does behind the scenes to research and get top-notch information in a market, the alternatives nowadays no longer justify paying such high prices to place one’s money. The advisor is slowly being replaced by a user’s own research, online investment management companies, or even Artificial Intelligence.

The price for investing your money has also gone dramatically down, with the rise of more and more digital companies using advanced software to analyse data and generate attractive portfolios. 

Stock market investments are also an attractive alternative. However, without experience in the field or a fee-hungry advisor, this can prove to be a problematic choice. The issue is two-fold: on the one side, picking the stocks to “bet” on can be extremely difficult, as it takes serious market research to identify the potential long-term champions; and then, of course, there is the approach that some companies might skyrocket when they are launching new products or tapping into a new market. However, this comes with significant risk, as overnight success is rare, and massive failures have been generating headlines since before we can remember.

One could think that actively investing one's own money is a bold move, but the old-fashioned “keep your money in the bank” option is now a money-losing option.

It’s been 12 years since the modern financial sector started to show its weaknesses, and 11 since the sequence of events that started with Lehman Brothers collapsing nearly destroyed the world economy. The new reality is one of lack of trust in the banks from the younger generation, and of negative interest rates. Yes, in many countries it actually costs you money to have banks take your placements. 

As such, it is no wonder that it actually makes sense to find alternative ways to protect and expand one’s wealth. However, there is one significant risk that one should always consider: while not being tied to big institutions such as banks is what has made these alternatives attractive to younger generations in the first place, the downside to that is that, if anything were to happen to them, they will not have an entity behind them to bail them out, which poses an increased risk to customers. As such, research and caution are highly desirable.

Over the last 2-3 years, the shared economy model, championed by the likes of Uber, has been adopted in more and more industries, including the financial one.

More and more platforms are offering the option for people to create portfolios using small amounts of money, relying on the power of the crowd to create strength when put together.

So, here are a few of the options that are out there, and a bit on how they work:

  • FinTech is always an exciting field. Have a look at players such as Robinhood and Sofi.com, which offer lending, mortgages and investment to categories of people who would not always qualify for support from a traditional bank.
  • Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) uses marketplaces or platforms to match borrowers (people) lenders (also people) - see Mintos, Grupeer, Peerberry, Lendermarket. Those interested can “buy” a share of a loan on the platforms.
  • Startups: new and exciting startups are in the news almost daily. Two of the ones that have piqued my interest are forgeglobal.com, seedrs.com. If you have a more serious amount of money to invest, getting “in on the action” at ground level can be incredibly rewarding, both in terms of supporting an entrepreneur who’s just starting out, as well as potentially getting a significant return for your investment. But, as with everything, make sure you do your due diligence and ample research in the space you are about to invest in.
  • If you want to go industry-specific, there are now marketplaces for investments in real estate. Don’t have enough money to buy and flip a piece of real estate? That’s okay. You can pair up with other investors, crowdfund and get involved that way. Crowd Estate, for example, promises 17% annual returns. 

Please note that I am an investor in some of the companies I have mentioned in this article. This article is not meant to provide investment advice, it is merely an investor’s perspective on alternative investments available. Capital at risk.

Read full article
ADGM
01.11.2019   |   Capital Ma...

Attracting investors: Romania versus The World

Over the last decade, I've built my professional life as an investor, focusing on 3 key areas: financial services, real estate and tech startups. I’ve participated in the setup and development of two major fintechs, and after those two successful exits I’m now directing my resources into building a new enterprise in this area – the Key Way group. 

I've started, participated in and developed companies in Romania, as well as Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Dubai and South East Asia. I'm constantly looking for new segments, new markets and new opportunities, and therefore I interact regularly with the regulator institutions and official agencies in various countries and  markets. 

The most recent example is the GCC area (Gulf Cooperation Council - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia).  I  started to research opportunities in that area at the end of 2018 -  more specifically, the United Arab Emirates, which are establishing themselves as one of the most dynamic markets in the world.

The whole experience of working with the official institutions there was a great example of how to attract and encourage investors! ADGM, the Abu Dhabi Global Markets regulator, was established quite recently and I was absolutely impressed with their professionalism.

To start off, I researched the local market regulators online. The information was clear and easily available: I contacted them online, via their website and LinkedIn accounts. They responded promptly, and in only a few days, we set up a series of meetings with the financial markets regulators in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai!

The ADGM gave me full support and very clear, detailed information on what and how I need to do to obtain a trading licence in financial services in the UAE. I met with representatives from both the ADGM registration department (where all new businesses have to register before they acquire a licence for online trading) and from the FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority).

They were very clear on the procedure, steps to follow and criteria we need to meet, which is a fantastic help for an investor on a new, highly regulated financial market.

In a few days I started the onboarding procedure - everything happens online, everything is digital, everything is set up for maximum ease and transparency.

They set investors up for success, but they make sure they vet them thoroughly as well! A "user friendly" approach does not mean lower standards, quite the opposite - they made sure I meet all commercial and business criteria, they assessed my financial, capital and business status and previous experience, and checked references from markets in which I operated previously. 

We went through a process of  very rigorous assessment and due diligence, and several meetings where I detailed our business plan and long term vision. Professional but friendly - you feel welcome, encouraged and supported as an investor. 

Furthermore, their “enthusiasm”, or appetite for new business, equaled mine! They’re happy to welcome new businesses, they work hard to attract them and to set them up for success. I was very impressed that they genuinely appreciate the fact that investors, however big or small, choose their market to set up a company. 

I’d love to see this same level of energy, hard work and appetite for business in my home country, Romania.

While other jurisdictions welcome investors and work hard to create the framework for development and success, I often feel that the Romanian regulators, for financial markets and not only, start from a default position of suspicion or, at best, indifference. Investors are regarded with thinly veiled (if at all veiled!) suspicion and distrust and sometimes downright hostility, you almost feel guilty or embarrassed to be successful financially. 

I hope to see this mentality change in Romania, because I, as well as most Romanian entrepreneurs I know, really want to make our country a top choice for investments,  not just in outsourcing and services. We want to make Romania known for its know how and creativity.

I think Romanian regulators  should remember that their whole purpose of existence is to enable business, not hinder it. And as investors, especially once we see best practices from other jurisdictions, we need to remind them of this reality.

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21.01.2019   |   Business T...

Romania seen through foreign investor eyes

I am a Romanian businessman, but I consider myself lucky for being born in a time when business became borderless. In other words, I’ve been interacting with non-Romanian partners for almost 10 years. So, since this text is in English, you are surely interested in a short list of my foreign partners’ perceptions of Romania. Warning: most positive things have a downside.  (more…)
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26.11.2018   |   Business T...

Japanese Business Dictionary

Last summer, Japan and the European Union signed a historic free trade agreement, regarding food products, cars and long lasting development products, among other things. There is a new ambassador in Bucharest and we do no longer need a visa for the short term trips to Tokyo or Osaka. Most certainly, Japan is a country full of opportunities and I have started by sorting out the famous problem of Japanese business etiquette. Here are a few recommendations I've verified from several sources:  (more…)
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