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Cluj, the Silicon Valley of Europe – As Seen By a French Journalist

Paris MatchAfter visiting Cluj and the offices of a few local ITC companies, Jordan Pouille – a seasoned French freelance journalist, reports his direct impressions and experience in an article published in Paris Match (a well-known French language weekly news magazine that covers major national and international news), on the 22nd of October 2014.  As a fine observer of the environment and a trained critical eye, Jordan seizes the underlying opportunities of the ancient Roman citadel and  gives a strikingly suggestive title to his article Cluj, la Silicon Valley de l’Europe” (Cluj, The Silicon Valley of Europe)

He not only made public an already rumored label of Cluj-Napoca, but also associated other epithets that put a mark on the city and its local ITC community. For instance, in his introductory phrase, Jordan resumes the facts in a simple and eloquent manner:  “Since Romania’s accession to the European Union, in 2007, this student city from Transylvania (A/N: Cluj) has become the eldorado of IT offshoring“.

After depicting an everyday image from the historical center of Cluj-Napoca, the journalist points out the aura that Cluj-Napoca has: “In a city showered by the miracle of full employment, the first religion is information technology. Twenty thousand Romanian engineers deal with the development of thousands web sites and applications, most of them French and British origin.”

Getting into the depths of the ITC community from Cluj, Jordan Pouille inspects both the start-up locations and the headquarters of larger businesses. The reality of the two worlds is well captured. The motivation of the ITC entrepreneurs is well contoured: you get the chance to put your services and capabilities on the global market with minor costs: “…his employees do not pay the income tax: this is a fiscal advantage reserved for the Romanian high-tech industry”.

On the other hand, the journalist also understood how the cake gets to be shared among the players: “In Cluj, several outsourcing mastodons get the greatest contracts. IQuest, Evozon, Epitech, Codespring, Pentalog… These companies bearing barbarian names build applications for tablets, e-commerce web platforms and dedicated internal software for the big European companies.” While reading the lines from the interviews with some business owners, mostly having some connection with the French culture and community, the reader can distinguish between the rashness reality of the start-ups willing to dart out from the crowd and the reshaped reality of the established SME’s fighting to attract resourceful skills and talent.

Another interesting phenomenon that results from mr. Pouille’s investigation in the Cluj-Napoca ITC environment is the path followed by high-end software engineers and that undertaken by low-end IT professionals.  The two major universities from Cluj-Napoca strive to impose a cult of elitism and excellence, while the economic realities pressure the labor pool to accept a compromise between instant financial gratitude and post-poned uncertain wealthy professional careers. Prof. Sergiu Nedevschi (professor of Information Technology and vice-rector of the Technical University form Cluj-Napoca), a prominent figure of the local  academic community explains his point of view to the French journalist: “These start-ups must stop acting like vampires sucking our youngsters from the university system in favor of their low margin activities.” He sustains his opinion with concrete examples and continues: “I want to form engineers capable of solving problems, of building equations starting from their knowledge. Our youngsters deserve more than becoming vulgar code writing machines.

As a final remark, the week that the French journalist has spent in Cluj meeting business owners, employees in ITC, students and professors was definitely revealing for shaping his vision about the city. The manner in which he tried to incorporate the contradictory aspects of the socio-economic environment must be appreciated.

The full article may be found online in the Economie section of the Paris Match official website, in French: http://www.parismatch.com/Actu/Economie/Cluj-la-Silicon-Valley-de-l-Europe-Roumanie-637664

Some of the tags used by the author are debatable, but they are raising awareness on a location that has been on the radar of ITC investors and monitoring agencies. The associations and comparisons made by the journalist make room for discussions and further investigations.

The facts and figures may speak by themselves, but there is always more than that! That is why we always suggest our potential customers to first come and visit the city, meet the team and have their own idea about what is going on here.