Entrepreneurs in Bulgaria: finding the way

Jul 01, 2013 1 Comment by

Strictly RSVP

Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, is the starting place for many visitors to reach Bansko. But right now of course it’s much more than this.

Like many cities, the drive from Sofia airport can be less than inspiring. Let this not put you off the capital. Spending time in Sofia is for business as well as pleasure for me. I see it the hub in Bulgaria where really amazing ideas can be tested, invested in and implemented.

And it’s not just about being low cost.


What is Bulgaria offering to entrepreneurs?

In short, Bulgaria is not a 21st version of Silicon Valley.

And nor should it try to be.

But just as we see Berlin attract talent from elsewhere, I can envisage the time when more highly skilled people will want to work in Bulgaria. Oh, and there’s plenty of  snowboarding, skiing, mtb, hiking to be had a stone’s throw from the centre of Sofia.

If a vibrant music scene is important, then there is a plethoria of international acts putting Bulgaria on their tours. (recent years the ones I remember, Elton John, Sade, Jessie J, Jay Z, Metallica, Guns ‘n Roses and numerous festivals — including the Bansko Jazz Festival.  Not forgetting too the Opera Fest (Bansko) and many others (see eventim.bg for info).

I digress…


Start up action; the wheels have started turning

Yes, the start-up eco community really got going in 2012 and is now motoring ahead rapidly. Various start-up funds, mostly funded by the EU, have been operating here for a while. Eleven, an Accelerator Venture Fund is based in the old Vivacom building, has seen some interesting businesses develop. Then there is seed capital from LAUNCHhub that has made substantial €200,000 investments here.

Some of these have gone on to raise €1m later elsewhere. From nothing this is a good start and big for Bulgaria.

There was a sizeable, and seemingly determined, group of entrepreneurs. Quite motivational.

My story started in 2011 when I was invited to be a mentor with CEED, a mentorship programme. It was at that time that I realised how much the entrepreneurship landscape is changing here. There were attendees in the group who possessed a huge amounts of initiative and drive. From nothing, successful businesses were being created.

Then after several visits to mingle with the start-ups at Eleven’s (eleven.bg) offices during 2012 I felt expanding ideas was something I was keen to start. The run up to the ski season, and the season itself, came and went. Then, in May 2013, I found myself sitting in the NDK (National Palace of Culture), in Sofia. I was there to learn more about the entrepreneur world in the Balkans at the BKVF (Balkan Venture Forum).

Here there were various accelerator funds, seed funds and venture capital funds. Things are getting really active.

Some start ups and some existing businesses, for second stage funding, are experiencing every chance to grow. The energy I read about in Silicon Valley was here, but different.

The conference worked for me by listening to the pitching sessions of many new businesses. Investor comments on the pitch, business plans and so on were thought provoking — but not always easy for the enthusiastic entrepreneurs to hear.

My interest in this world has remained secondary to my main activity here on Bansko Blog, but my Bulgarian technical business partner and I are and were keen to find out more.


Networking, learning and understanding

So this week is a big one, with Techcrunch coming to Sofia. The hugely respected John Biggs will be here for what I expect will be a very informative session. It’s today, 1st July from 19:00. More info here: https://techcrunch.com/2013/06/23/reminder-lets-rock-out-in-the-balkans/.

Then on Wednesday is the British Business Evening held at The British Embassy’s Underground Club, 9 Moskovska Street. See the flyer. Strictly RSVP. More networking opportunities for all businesses and open to all British entrepreneurs-in-waiting.

Whilst I am a member of the British Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, the meeting there tend to have a content geared to the established large business world. So this is an event I wanted to involved with. Frankly one of  the best ways to netwerk is run an event! My passion for Bulgaria’s business and start-up future grows.

I am therefore keen to play a role in connecting more and more people looking to start businesses in Bulgaria.


Bulgaria as a tech-hub

Whilst there are pros and cons of anywhere, Bulgaria has the advantage of being within three hours flight of most capital cities of Europe and enjoys not just a competitive tax regime (10% corporate and personal taxation) challenges, but low costs in most things — especially office space  at around €7 per m2 for grade A. Or why not have a desk and network at the Betahaus space in Sofia?

Low cost residential rents, lower labour costs and general living costs complete the cost story.

But this is not any reason for Sofia to become a hub — like London or Berlin. Its has to offer something interesting and new. So far I like the, realism, modesty, creativity and ability.

Overall, I find it’s a great place to test ideas. The development of the Bansko App and others has been down to this fact.


Want to know more?

  • Entrepreneur.bg
  • Balkanunlimited.org
  • Seedcamp.com
  • Eleven.bg
  • Betahaus.bg

Contact me to be added to mailing list for invitation to the next British Business Evening in September. UPDATE: Great evening, lots of contacts made.

Please feel free to make comments below


Events, Living

About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

One Response to “Entrepreneurs in Bulgaria: finding the way”

  1. MartinGembel says:

    My background is accountancy and international trading.
    I see a lot of opportunities in Bulgaria. Unfortunately I can not read the language and do the bookkeeping and taxe bymysleves. Doing the business I understand 🙂

    Is there a relaibale Bulgarian bookkeeper who can work for Bulgarian Prices?

    Is there a forum where I can ask questions and get in touch with the right people?



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