In September 2022, SupportNinja finalized its expansion in Romania, beginning operations. Since then, it’s been all good news! Our new Ninjas jumped right into the fray of outsourcing, leaving customers happy and impressed left and right.
We’ve also added new members to our business teams as well, such as marketing and HR! Fun fact: I, the author of this article, am one of the new additions of last autumn.
So, I might be a bit biased around this topic – just enough that it’s still all factual! Alright, let’s get into why SupportNinja chose Romania!
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You might’ve read somewhere or heard from someone that Romania is the “Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe”.
The whole association with Silicon Valley started because of the second largest city in Romania, Cluj-Napoca. Cluj is the main tech hub of the country. Will you find New York-style skyscrapers in Cluj? Nope! But, that’s true for Silicon Valley too, isn’t it?
Instead, there are “old town”-style structures that would make you think you’re in the cultural centers of Germany or France. To contrast that though, big cities like Cluj have also adopted the “IT-style” architecture, if you will: “glassy” buildings, tall offices, and minimalist buildings with “clean” facades. There’s a little bit of everything.
Romania’s modern “IT person”
When you picture “Silicon Valley”, do you think of a person wearing an unzipped hoodie, cycling through the streets? Yep, that’s Cluj (despite the lack of actual cycling infrastructure). And let’s not forget the messenger bag over their shoulder; although backpacks are more popular here.
Would this picture not be complete without some big tech brands having offices there? Such as Microsoft, Google, or Amazon? No problem – welcome to Cluj, they’re there!
That is Cluj, and those are also the other big cities of Romania – like Brașov, Iași, Timișoara, or the capital, Bucharest (no, not Budapest, but the mistake is mostly a laughing matter).
SupportNinja’s expansion in Romania
What do all of those stereotypical IT people have in common? They’re shockingly good at IT things! Jokes aside though, Romania, and especially Cluj, went through a big “IT boom” after the 1989 anti-communist revolution.
Nowadays, Romanians are very interested in, and quite skilled at tech and at foreign languages, making the country ideal for outsourcing; more on that later. However, those were the 2 main reasons why SupportNinja opened its doors here.
Aside from business, Romania is also cited as being an attractive tourism destination.
From the oh-so-famous “Dracula’s Castle” (Bran Castle), to equally-cool-other-castles (like Peleș), to a ton of hiking opportunities and natural habitats, primeval forests, the Danube Delta, a mix of architecture styles, and the hearty, high-calorie, RIP-your-diet, very delicious (100% unbiased) home cooking style local cuisine.
Surely as a result of all the things listed above (and others), Romanians are quite welcoming folk to visitors and foreigners; making us great customer service candidates! I believe you’d be hard pressed to find a tourist who didn’t come across some random Romanian that wanted to fill them up with food and alcohol as a gesture of their good-will. Mind you, consenting to this treatment is often seen as optional.
If you’re planning a visit, make sure to bring ample amounts of garlic, silver-plated weapons, and sharpened stakes. You never know…*hiss*.
- Romania is compared to Silicon Valley thanks to Cluj-Napoca, the second biggest city in the country, undisputed national IT epicenter, and unofficial capital of Transylvania.
- Cluj has roughly 320,000 inhabitants (as of January 2022).
- 20,000 of them are full-time employees in the IT sector, with roughly 60,000 people doing some sort of work related to the IT sector.
- The market value of Cluj’s IT sector is estimated at $1,000,000,000!
- There are around 1,400 IT firms in Cluj; small, medium, and enterprise level.
- In 2019, Cluj’s per person GDP was ~$31,000, higher than both the capital of Poland, and the second largest city of the Czech Republic.
- In November 2022, the average salary in Cluj was 20% higher than in Bucharest, Romania’s capital.
- Cluj is also home to a number of outsourcing companies – Cluj residents are experienced in customer service, tech support, data entry, and other professional services.
- Romania was the #1 country in Europe in 2020 where high school pupils were learning at least two foreign languages (99%). The first one was English, with the second most often French or German, with Italian and Spanish as less popular choices.
Those are pretty much the quick facts about why Romania is now the “Silicon Valley” of Eastern Europe. Now, let’s get into the 4 main areas that make Romanian talent shine.
In today’s globalized world, any western society with aspirations of development must know its “lingua franca”. And, in Romania, we mostly*** do!
In 2019, EF Education First, a global education company, did a worldwide study around the English proficiency of non-native speakers (100 countries, 2.3MM people, median age of 23 years). They ranked Romania 16th, and classified it as having “high” proficiency.
This placed Romania as the #1 best English speaking country in Eastern Europe. What’s more, EF tied in the level of a country’s English with its amount of research & development. The higher the level, the more researchers were found per million people.
Now before you start Googling, let us be the first to say that there’s conflicting data too. For example, in 2016, Eurostat (statistical office of the EU) found that ~36% of Romanians knew one or more foreign languages. This might sound lower than you’d expect considering the previous bit.
***Here’s the thing – in Romania, it matters a lot where you’re asking “do you speak English?”.
We only have around 10 really developed cities, such as: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Timișoara, or Brașov. In those places, a majority of the population knows at least some English. Usually, people under 55 – 60 years old speak better or advanced English.
However, we have very many smaller cities, bigger/urbanized villages, and also just plain old villages – English isn’t very popular there. But, none of the big companies are there either. So, it balances out.
The “Silicon Valley” comparison started because of Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second biggest city as of 2022, the unofficial capital of Transylvania, and the biggest IT hub of the country.
Its business scene is currently dominated by multinational tech & services companies, but dozens of thriving Romanian businesses also call Cluj their home.
For example, in Cluj, you’ll find both NTT Data (a global IT innovator with HQ in Tokyo), as well as AROBS, a 100% Romanian IT company, with a fiscal value of around $31MM, and ~600 employees.
Here’s another trivia bit: did you know that flights from Dubai are tracked in real-time, from Cluj?
AirportLabs, an IT product development company, was founded by a Cluj native, and now has offices in both Dubai and London (roughly $3MM fiscal value and ~50 employees). Their innovative software solutions help solve critical needs of globally-known airports, such as Heathrow Airport in the UK.
Bitdefender is also present in Cluj – a Romanian global leader in cybersecurity technology, and creator of Bitdefender Antivirus, considered to be the best antivirus in the world.
This ongoing internal brain gain for Cluj has prompted very many global brands to set up shop. For example: Endava, Bosch, Emerson, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, HP, Porsche, and the list goes on!
Cluj natives are really not happy about the ever-increasing car traffic though.
It won’t sound very glamorous but…money! After the anti-communist revolution of 1989, people wanted to build a better, plentiful life for themselves and their children. IT was the obvious future-proof choice for many. IT universities and alternative IT learning methods became very popular.
Even back in the late 90s, Cluj was already home to IT pioneers who, aside from fixing software bugs, also had to fight off many neighbors asking them to fix TVs, mobile phones, or basically any other tech.
Because IT delivered on the promise of being a gateway to a better life, more and more people got into it. Some pursued a formal education path, while others learned by themselves, through experience, or through various courses.
IT is also very popular because it enables a remote work, flexible lifestyle.
Multilingualism in Cluj and Romania
Cluj is home to the country’s best university (per the Ministry of Education), “Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai”, or UBB for short. Natives of the capital (Bucharest) often like to argue about this fact. As a UBB alumni myself though, I really can’t see their point.
Currently, UBB has 19 faculties to choose from, among which are the Faculty of IT and Mathematics, and the Faculty of “Letters”. The latter is focused on modern languages, and ranked among the first 100 – 150 language faculties in the world!
There are 5 other universities in Cluj too, and in 2020, the city had over 90,000 university students, 6,000 of which were from abroad.
Overall, right now, 25% of Cluj’s residents are university graduates, not counting the abundance of people from other cities that moved to Cluj.
About 3,300 students are learning IT in Cluj at UBB. Other universities from Cluj also offer IT programs though, so the number of IT students is in fact bigger. Roughly 3,000 students are learning modern languages at UBB, such as English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
So, as you can see, Romania’s only becoming more multilingual. Foreign languages have also become core subjects in the Romanian education system since first grade.
English is mandatory to learn from primary school, and from secondary education, pupils must pick a second language too. In 2020, Romania was #1 among European countries where high school students were learning at least 2 foreign languages.
I like to say that complaining is like a national Romanian pastime that brings us together. You see, we complain to one another a lot – so, we had to get good at listening as well.
And what do you know, that’s an essential skill for working in customer service, tech support, or really any type of job that involves interacting with a customer.
Pair that with an inclination towards foreign languages and modern tech (especially in the young(er) workforce), and it makes sense why global players are outsourcing here.
You’ll find customer care specialists across all of Romania’s big cities actually, not just Cluj. So, it became the perfect place in continental Europe for SupportNinja to spread its roots.
The company already has more than a dozen Romanian Ninjas for our service lines, business teams (like me!), and we’re actually looking for new colleagues for various positions right now!
We have this saying that goes like “if they throw you out the door, enter through the window”. It emphasizes a national spirit of “keep on keeping on”.
Romanians are generally creative thinkers, having the smarts to solve problems even in ways that weren’t that obvious. It’s kind of a heritage of a culture that went through constant struggle throughout time (that escalated quickly).
It just so happens that for the last 30 years, we’ve applied those smarts to the IT sector. And, it worked out!
In 2020, 1 out of 4 Romanians were employed full-time at multinational organizations, which were mostly headquartered in either Germany, France, or Italy.
Right now, Cluj is generating the biggest economical buzz, but there’s great potential for all big cities in Romania to become the next “Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe” too.
And there you have it
It all started with a desire for better lives in 1989. As Romania started to open up and western companies began calling it their home, IT just developed naturally.
The 90s themselves were the gateway to the modern world of today, with technology and digitalization being the main driving forces behind…everything!
Many Romanians pretty much understood that becoming tech-savvy and learning major languages were the tools for fulfilling that desire of a better life. Students at every level of education learn more about tech and become more multilingual everywhere.
Romania’s workforce and cultural mindset is “prime real estate” for development. As such, both foreign and national tech companies will keep expanding, because it just works.
- IT and Cluj: the industry that transformed a city
- Romania 2022 population number census
- Romanians and the English language (EF study)
- Romania 2023 population education census
- Where are Romanians employed at?
- Romania’s best universities
- Cluj’s GDP in 2019
- UBB Faculty of Letters
- UBB students statistics
- Antivirus top choices for 2023
- Europe foreign language learning statistics
- Cluj - technology hub
- 12 Reasons Why You Should Visit Romania
- 20 Things to Do in Romania in 2023: Popular, Cool and Unique!