The investors behind Silicon Forest, the co-working space and hub located in Cluj-Napoca, are looking to expand their operations in Romania less than one month after officially opening their first location.
Over EUR 250,000 was invested in Silicon Forest, a 6-storey building that has a total leasable surface of 1,350 square meters.
Gabriel Rusu, one of the founders of the project, says that the development focus will remain in Cluj-Napoca. Going forward, the company plans to operate a network 3-4 buildings in the city in a bid to build a community of start-ups primarily in the tech field.
Founders of Silicon Forest are also looking at the Romanian capital and other smaller cities.
He says that Bucharest is the first expansion city after Cluj Napoca, because the “money is there.”
“The investors see the development path as Cluj Napoca, Bucharest, then smaller cities,” Rusu told BR.
Asked about the competition in the city, he said that there are some four locations with larger surface for co-working. The founder says that Baia Mare would be a smaller city where a location with 40 co-working spaces could work.
Silicon Forest opened its doors on June 28 with an initial occupancy rate of 25 percent. Some 50 freelancers and companies in the IT&C were among the tenants.
By the end of September, Silicon Forest forecasts that 90 percent of its space will be occupied. The location has a total capacity of 170 places and the average monthly cost per person stands at EUR 160.
“When it will be fully occupied, the IT sector will have a share of around 80 percent,” said Rusu, who is also CEO of Mejix, a software development company. The rest will be covered by companies from various fields such as HR, legal and finance.
At present, the investors in Silicon Valley are looking to buy the building that hosts their first location. The deal is valued at around EUR 2 million and Rusu says the funding for the purchase comes from the US-based partners in the project.
Boaz Gilad, founder and CEO of Brookland Capital and Guy Praisler, Dine Market CEO, are also founders of Silicon Forest. Brookland Capital is a real estate development and investment firm specializing in the acquisition and development of real assets primarily in Brooklyn, New York.
The co-working sector in Romania is a niche sector growing at an accelerated path. For start-ups and freelancers, doing business from a co-working space works better due to the higher flexibility and smaller costs.
This year, Romania had 88 co-working spaces per 1 million inhabitants, according to report by Fab Lab Iasi and Pin Maps. This places Romania among the highest growth markets in Central and Eastern Europe. By comparison, Bulgaria has 58 spaces for 1 million inhabitants, while Hungary and Lithuania have 79 and 44 spaces respectively. The leading market in the region is Poland with 340 co-working spaces for 1 million inhabitants.