Krum Hadjigeorgiev is co-founder and CEO of the Bulgarian software development outsourcing company Melon.
Melon is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, a member of the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM) and the Bulgarian Web Association (BWA), and has won a number of awards, including the Software Development award at E-volution Awards 2016 organized by Forbes. Melon is running offices in Macedonia, Belgium and Austria, but still, most of the company’s staff is located in Sofia delivering cervices to customers from all over Europe and the USA.
Please tell us briefly about your investments in Sofia? What does your company do in Bulgaria and outside?
Melon is a software development company delivering outsourcing services to customers all over Europe and the USA. We’ve been around since 2000. We set up business in Sofia as all the founders are from the city. We have been growing here since, but also for the last few years we’ve been running offices in Veliko Tarnovo and Skopje. Still, Sofia is where most of our 160+ people are and that will be the case going forward.
What motivated you to invest in Sofia?
As locals, this was the natural choice. Still, our business is our people and when it comes to software engineers, Sofia is the one city in Bulgaria with the largest, fastest-growing and most vibrant community of IT and software professionals. We’ve seen our sector grow and flourish. We somehow got together with peer companies into our software association BASSCOM and mostly helped each other face the common challenges as a community and sharpen our competitive edge through fair competition for talent and clients. We love the city’s growing greener and more European. The airport is 10 minutes away from our office, which brings Europe to a mere 2 hours from most places our clients operate.
What are the advantages of investing in Sofia?
The biggest advantage for companies like Melon to invest in Sofia is the growing community of great software engineers and IT professionals. The city has great schools as well as private academies to create new talent which our industry needs. It has the infrastructure and the spirit to keep these people in and give them the opportunity for good quality of living and professional growth. The city is growing and improving.
What sort of disadvantage have you faced so far?
Air is bad. Probably one of the worst in EU capitals. This needs to change, and soon. The judicial system is still sub-par and needs some heavy reforms. Hiring and firing should be easier – this will improve competitiveness and create more jobs long term. The city should put much more energy and funding in making our schools and universities competitive on a EU level. The rest will follow.
How do you estimate the overall business climate in Sofia today?
It’s the best Bulgaria has, but it is far behind what we see in Western Europe. To be fair, for companies which are mostly export oriented, business climate is somehow a lower priority. What we need the most is a city which gives zero reasons for top talent to leave and find good life or better pay elsewhere.
Judging from your business experience, do you think that local and foreign investors see our capital as a more or less homogeneous business area, or are there still a lot of hurdles?
Again, the IT sector is somehow capsulated and a bit detached from the Sofia business community per se. There are hurdles and there are entrepreneurs working hard and thinking creatively and overcoming those. Software companies, startups and technology centers are flocking in Sofia for years now and the trend is positive. They come here for the talent, for the competitive cost of business, but also because we are EU, which is a big deal.
What needs to be improved in order to increase the number of new investors both from Bulgaria and abroad?
Sofia can do much more about marketing itself inside and abroad. This is something we lack or witness being done inconsistently. Sofia needs to come up with a more crisp and focused value proposition about verticals and domains that it wants to be associated with and nurture them.
When you look at Sofia and the country as a whole, as a Bulgarian investor, what attracts or surprises you most?
We have to stop promoting Bulgaria and Sofia as cheap. That’s what always comes as a negative surprise to me. Cheap is not the way we should position ourselves as we’re small. Building more value, being more competitive internationally and becoming an innovation hub is where we should focus. Think Switzerland, Israel, Ireland or Estonia.
You should ask foreign investors about positive surprises. We are somehow used to all of those and don’t get very surprised when we see them. We enjoy them every day 🙂
Name your top 5 favourite things in Sofia?
Vitosha Mountain and the Parks
The young entrepreneurs and the startup community
The yellow cobble stones
The great food