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Cluj, the new centre of Europe?

Setting up shop in Romania: not really a self-evident move for a young tech company. And yet—one year after the fact—we couldn't be happier with our office there. The traditional idea one might have of Romania certainly doesn't apply to Cluj. Discover how this city in Transylvania grew into one of Europe's biggest tech hubs in no time at all.

In April, we celebrated the first birthday of our office in Cluj-Napoca (commonly known as Cluj), Romania. In its first year, the team there grew from five to fifteen people. No wonder: this Romanian city is developing at a breakneck pace, perfect for an innovative tech company. A while ago, we wrote about what sides of Belgium appeal to our Romanian team. But isn't it about time we discovered the new centre of Europe?

Fountain in Cluj
Fireworks in Cluj

European Silicon Valley

Cluj is sometimes dubbed the European Silicon Valley. It's in Transylvania, in the northwest of Romania. The past fifteen years, things have been moving quickly for Cluj. Now, it boasts over 300 tech companies and more than 11,000 people working in the tech industry. In addition, the historical city centre houses 11 universities getting the young talent trained and ready. The housing market is skyrocketing (50% growth compared to last year) and initiatives for young people and huge festivals are popping up all over the place. Cluj is booming, which was also noticed by Wall Street Journal.

If we ask developer Ionut how he feels about Cluj, he doesn't need many words: “the best city in the world. Even though I come from a village that's only 150 kilometres away, Cluj is really something else. You can find anything here, in such a small area. No, I never want to leave." His colleague Vladimir concurs: "In Cluj, there's an enormous group of young, motivated developers. We're constantly pushing the envelope. It's fantastic to be living here right now." Cluj's gigantic potential is also getting noticed internationally: in the past few years, the city won such prizes as “The Capital of Tolerance" (2014 – Eurostat) and “European Youth Capital" (2015 – European Youth Forum).

Capital of courtesy

Even though everything in Cluj is all about progress, fortunately our colleagues are sticking to one great tradition. Software Manager Andrei tells us spring is all about women. On Valentine's Day, female colleagues get flowers as a surprise. Ten days later, there's the Romanian version of Valentine's Day, Dragobete. That day, men often give women a small present. And in March, there's International Women's Day. “We got flowers and lunch again," says our test lead Andreea, beaming. “There are 5 women and 10 men in our office, so we're a minority, but we don't mind at all!"

The new Tomorrowland

And Cluj has even more up its sleeve: since 2015, people organise Untold, a music festival which, that very year, dethroned Tomorrowland and Sziget as the best festival in Europe. “You can easily compare it to Tomorrowland," say both Andrei and Ionut, proud. This year, the festival is expecting a quarter of a million visitors. And you know what? A ticket costs about a hundred euros—no big deal, you might think, that's the same price as Tomorrowland—but here, it's for four days. Electric Castle, a festival that takes place in and around a castle on the outskirts of town, also comes heartily recommended. And here, too, the headliners aren't half bad! It's obvious, Cluj likes a party.

And that's awfully convenient: so do our Belgian colleagues. They're all champing at the bit to discover Cluj. Who knows, this summer all of us may be dancing together to the beats of the Romanian Tomorrowland.