SEAF launched the Trans-Balkan Romania Fund (TBRF) in January 2001 to invest in promising small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country. At the time, Romania faced a deepening economic recession, characterized by rising unemployment and an underdeveloped middle economy. Nevertheless, Romania contained a growing faction of highly motivated and growth-oriented entrepreneurs poised to help their country develop a more diverse and sustainable economy. Despite the abundant opportunities for entrepreneurship, small businesses in Romania lacked access to essential growth capital to expand their business. Recognizing the potential for growth among Romania’s SMEs, SEAF, through our regional umbrella fund, the Trans-Balkan Fund launched TBRF to address this gap in available financing.
The formula proved extremely successful. Through its dedicated local team, TBRF identified 11 fast-growing SMEs for its risk capital financing and direct business assistance. TBRF’s portfolio of Romania companies included a premier supermarket chain, a leading software solutions developer, and an electronic parts distributor.
In December 2008, TBRF exited its final investment in Romania, completing its term two years before the fund life term—rare for private equity in emerging markets—and with excellent results. With its final exit, TBRF became SEAF’s first fully exited fund in Central and Eastern Europe. As the best performing country dedicated fund in Romania, the fund’s exceptional results placed it in the top half of the top quarter of the best performing venture capital funds operating in Europe. At the same time, TBRF’s investments achieved significant developmental results throughout the country.