Investor Profile: Dragos Anastasiu
"Investing means believing in the future and joining a team that I enjoy working with."
Dragoș Anastasiu is one of Romania's most successful entrepreneurs and a source of inspiration for young people who dream of opening their own businesses. His name became very well known after years of being an investor in the show "Dragon's Den", but also through the successful businesses he has been involved in over the years, especially in the leisure, travel and tourism industry.
What does "to invest" mean to you?
I'll try to be brief: Investing means believing in the future and joining a team that I enjoy working with.
When did you start investing and why?
I started investing in 1995 when I moved back to Romania from Germany. Initially, I invested in my only company, which over time became 20. Between 2008and 2013, I participated in "Dragon's Den" TV show and made my first investments in other companies as a business angel. I invested in ideas that I liked and thought could add value to society. The logical step then was to risk my own capital on my ideas (and the teams built around them) or on the ideas of others.
Do you only invest in start-ups and companies?
All the money invested goes to companies, but I have a portfolio that is sufficiently diversified by those companies. I do not invest in the stock market or cryptocurrencies. That does not mean I refuse to invest in the stock market; it's just not my cup of tea, as I prefer my own direct risk.
What inspires you when choosing companies to invest in?
I have often been asked which business area I like more: the answer is that I invest in people, regardless of the field of activity. It's important to find people with similar values, who are smart, fearless, and believe that customer feedback should take precedence over money. If you follow these principles in your investments, you will be successful regardless of the field of activity. Everyone is inclined to invest in areas that are known and well understood because it makes it easier to confirm the level of confidence.
I invest in people and especially in the areas I feel close to.
Recently, you invested in Epic Visits. What were your main motivations?
First and foremost, it was the team and the fact that it is an area I know quite well. I strongly believe that Romania has fantastic tourism potential, not necessarily with the obvious seaside and winter sports offers - here there is strong competition from the surrounding countries - but mainly in the "experience" area, which includes eco-tourism and cultural tourism; I believe that we can compete in the latter area, even on an international level.
This is the proposal of Epic Visits: offer experiences that are better remembered by tourists. This way they will come back, not necessarily to the same place, but through the same platform.
Why do you bet on the team of Epic Visits? How long have you known them?
First of all, the fact that there are four founders convinced me. Considering that in Romania it is not uncommon for even two founders to fight, I find it quite extraordinary that four founders who have worked together for more than two years believe in the same idea.
I knew Raluca Jianu since she founded Ferestroika, a project I deeply admire. Bogdan I met through Raluca, and Mihai Bârsan I have known for quite a while because he was involved in many entrepreneurial projects and also worked as Marketing Manager in a well-known Romanian company.
They have a good mix: one of them is IT, two others have experience in marketing, and the fourth is a smart head in operations.
How do you plan to support Epic Visits in the future?
Since I have a lot of experience in entrepreneurship and tourism, I think I can open the doors they need, and I can boost the confidence of users and affiliated tour operators. If money is needed, I can support them in that regard as well. Last but not least, I will help them not to lose focus. I offer them my energy and they reciprocate it as well, and that is fulfilling and invigorating.
Do you have any advice for someone who is entering the world of investing in startups for the first time?
Invest for passion and joy, not for the money. Money comes as a natural consequence of doing something you love. I like to say that they should learn to work with other people's money, to be intrapreneurs because it's a shame to waste your own money in a country where there are many already existing companies starving for people with initiative. It's not pointless to lose your own money, because the learning curve will be much steeper; but it's not really necessary.
Most startups fail all over the world, but not so much in Romania because our market has so much potential. You have to keep in mind that you can fail, but that's not the end of the road: it's important to get back up quickly and continue your search.
What's a no-no for a beginner investor?
The opposite. You should not rush into anything, you should not be money-oriented, you should plan for the long term, and you should not be opportunistic. I do not believe in making a quick buck - for example, I have watched cryptocurrencies blow up out of nowhere, but I can not relate to that.
From your perspective, what is SeedBlink's role in the ecosystem?
Excellent idea - it encourages young people. The banking system in Romania is quite complicated, but seed capital and experienced people who can instill confidence in entrepreneurs are needed and more than welcome.
Sometimes in tech investing, I do not quite understand some of the valuations; I worry about what could happen in this ecosystem if some beginners are given too much optimism. But knowing the people behind SeedBlink, I am sure they are aware of those facets as well, and I trust that things will be done well. Think big, dream big, but be realists. SeedBlink and other folks like them (and me) have a non-restrictive role in helping visionary entrepreneurs move forward in an organized way without running out of steam.
What investment under 100 have you made recently and how does it impact your quality of life?
There are two areas where 100 euros is very welcome:
personal development - books, newspapers, magazines, subscriptions. Before the pandemics, I did not have the slightest idea what Netflix was, whereas now I follow daily series about doctors or economics.
relaxation: spa visits, massage, a few hours of "me time".
Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. A final thought for the readers?
The thought I am spreading as much as I can these days is that Romania has a great potential that has not really been exploited in the last 30 years. I sincerely hope that we will uncover it in the next 30 years, and to that end I have recently launched a think tank; more on that shortly!
Nothing can be done without people, and the most important thing with people is their mindset: how they see things and approach challenges. I believe that we all need to work on our "mindset revolution" with everyone we can influence (family, friends, colleagues).
It all starts with confidence, a feeling that should also be the starting point for investors, in a country where we all have a suspicious mentality. When I am asked why I have been successful - if what I have achieved can be called a success at all - it is because I have instilled confidence. All investors should be able to grant trust, and that way even the non-investors will want to invest, not because of the money, but because they trust the investable people and ideas. My whole life has proven to me that when you have trust in something, things come back tenfold. Money too.
More about Dragos Anastasiu
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By Bianca Iulia Simion
PublishedAugust 11, 2021