Over the past months, several international companies established business operations or expanded their current operations in Sofia. The city offers indisputable advantages that attract investor interest, and the decisions for additional investments show their long-term development plans in our country.
Sofia is the largest economic center in Bulgaria, producing 40% of the county’s GDP and 1/3 of the country’s exports. Over 50% of the population has higher education and a high level of foreign language proficiency. Compared to other destinations in Europe, Sofia offers low prices for renting high-end offices, low hourly labor costs, has a well-developed transport system both in the city and connecting other economic centers in the country, while Sofia Airport offers 1-3 hour flights to the biggest European capitals and cities. Sofia has also established an image of a regional ICT center with large units of global companies that have chosen the city as a place to develop key operations, often using it as a starting point to reach markets in Europe and Asia.
The following are some of the companies that have chosen Sofia to establish and expand their activities in areas such as logistics, business process management, blockchain, automotive software, industrial production, consulting services, and more.
DocuWare, the world’s leading company in business process management software solutions, has opened a technology consulting and customer service center in Sofia for the markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The company is planning a gradual expansion in the coming years with experts in areas such as cloud technologies, Java and .NET programmers, B2B customer service, and more.
The American fintech GreenBox POS also started operating in Sofia acquiring the Bulgarian card payment services company Transact Europe EAD for EUR 30 million. GreenBox uses its blockchain technology for secure payments and is about to secure market share in Europe through a deal for the Sofia-based company. Transact Europe is licensed as a financial institution, regulated by the EU, is a member of Visa, Mastercard, and the Chinese UnionPay, and is part of the SEPA euro payments program. All this provides it with a network for payments. Access to the European Economic Area will significantly expand the American company’s business in Europe, GreenBox POS stated in its official release.
The British Knight Frank, the leading consulting company in business and luxury residential properties, has also entered the Bulgarian market. The representative
At the invitation of the French-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIFB) Invest Sofia took part in a two-day event on the occasion of the start of the new business season. The meetings took place on September 14-15, at Grand Hotel Sofia, in the presence of members and partners of the Chamber.
New perspectives, future projects and important topics related to the French-Bulgarian bilateral business relations have been discussed at the event. CCIFB presented its new members, as well as expectations on the business environment in the country by the end of this year and in 2021.
French companies in Bulgaria want to expand their presence in the country. The French business is interested in investments in infrastructure, industry and services. The President of the French-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce Stephane Delahaye reminded that two new French companies established their presence in Bulgaria – Meridiem investment fund, a 49% participant in the Sof Connect consortium, selected as a 35 + 15 concessionaire at Sofia Airport and the French company BIC that officially launched its global account, HR and software service center in Sofia. Bulgaria should keep its talents and bring Bulgarians abroad back in the country so that French businesses can rely on skilled experts here, Stephane Delahaye also said in his welcome speech.
We would like to thank CCIFB for the opportunity to participate in the meetings.
The event “Financial Support for SMEs – SIMExpo 2021”, organized by the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA), will take place on 28 and 29 September. The forum is aimed at representatives of small and medium enterprises and start-up teams looking for accessible information about the opportunities for development through various financial and investment instruments. The program will include funding institutions, investment, and guarantee funds presenting their products to entrepreneurs and SMEs. Representatives of the bilateral chambers of commerce and industry and business associations and the trade attachés to the foreign diplomatic missions in our country will also take part in the event. The contact exchange will allow direct talks of business representatives and funding institutions to discuss specific opportunities according to the company’s individual needs.
The event is free to attend. For more information on how to get involved, please visit https://www.sme.government.bg/?p=55036
You can also arrange business meetings within the Smart Manufacturing Matchmaking 2021 – a three-day free online event organized by the Enterprise Europe Network at the BCCI. The focus is on data management and Industry 4.0. The event will be held entirely online between 17-19 November and will bring together companies, research centers, and representatives of public administrations. Register by 12 November 12 at the following link.
The call for project proposals is open under the LIFE program – the EU’s instrument for funding environmental and climate activities. Clean technology solutions can be submitted in four thematic areas: Nature and Biodiversity, Circular Economy and Quality of Life, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, and Transition to Clean Energy.
The program has a total budget of EUR 5.48 billion for 2021-2027 and offers growth opportunities for EU-registered public bodies, companies, start-up teams, and NGOs. LIFE will fund pilot projects or those of them close to a market outlet. The maximum amount of funding is 60% of the total project cost. Grants often range between EUR 500,000 and EUR 5 million and mainly target consortia of up to 5 partners from public authorities, companies, and NGOs.
The first open calls are available on the program website at: https://cinea.ec.europa.eu/life_en
By 21 September, you can register for free business meetings within the 2021 EEN Green and ICT Brokerage Event, including companies and experts in the green and ICT industry from Taiwan and Europe. The event is free and allows for scheduling 30-minute bilateral
Sofia is now among the Top 10 most attractive destinations in Europe for work and vacation (workation) according to the “The Best Cities for a Workation” ranking by the German search engine for vacation rentals Holidu. Our city ranks 7th among 66 locations. The portal has also made a global ranking where Sofia also hits a list of top workation destinations and ranks 16th among 147 cities in the world.
To compile the index, Holidu looked at the profiles of more than 150 cities surveyed for another ranking – the “100 best cities in the world” of the Canadian-American consulting company Resonance Consultancy, as well as data from other credible popular sources for tourist destinations, coworking spaces around the world, best places for digital nomads, etc.
The cities were evaluated according to a total of 10 criteria, divided into two categories: working conditions and vacation conditions. The opportunities that the locations offer in terms of internet speed (factor with the greatest weight for the final ranking), number of co-working spaces, price for coffee, average price of 2 beers in a bar, dinner outside, taxi per km and accommodation, number of sunshine hours per year, tourists attractions and things to do, number of photos on Instagram with the name of the city under a hashtag, etc.
According to the index for Europe, Sofia receives 30 points for average WiFi speed (for comparison, Valencia, Paris, Salzburg have the same number of points), the number of co-working spaces is 53 (with data from nomadlist.com and coworker.com), the city offers 598 things-to-do (with data from the world’s largest travel platform Tripadvisor), and the photos with the hashtag Sofia on Instagram are 4,197,864. According to Holidu, the three top locations in Europe are Lisbon, Barcelona and Budapest. In the global ranking, where Sofia ranks 16th, the leaders are Bangkok, New Delhi and Lisbon.
Holidu is a search engine for holiday rentals that allows its users to find the perfect accommodation and book for the lowest price. Its algorithm compares millions of accommodations from more than 1,500 providers and applies image recognition technology to detect and list the lowest price for a location. Holidu compiles the “The Best Cities for a Workation” ranking to offer new ideas on how to work remotely while really exploring new destinations without having to drain annual leave.
Sofia is included in the second edition of “Technology Cities of the Future 2021” ranking by fDi Magazine and TNW and climbs up one position higher than the pilot edition from June last year. The Bulgarian capital now ranks 19th in the overall ranking and ahead of cities such as Cambridge, Tallinn, Copenhagen.
The capital is also improving its position in the following categories:
In addition, Sofia retains the 17th position for “FDI Strategy”.
For this year’s edition of the ranking, data was collected and analysed for 76 locations across 31 European countries under five categories: Cost Effectiveness, Economic Potential, FDI Performance, Innovation and Attractiveness, and Startup Environment. The ranking for “DFI Strategy” occupies a separate part in the report of fDi Magazine and TNW.
“Technology cities of the future” marks the achievements of those European cities with the best environment for startups and technology and innovation investment.
Despite the economic challenges the world has been facing during the past year, London, Paris and Dublin retain their top position as Europe’s best tech cities. Other major technology centers such as Berlin, Madrid and Stockholm are making a big leap, several positions ahead of the previous survey, according to the Report.
The full document “Technology Cities of the Future 2021” is available here.
The ongoing Women TechEU is a brand new initiative of the European Union offering funding and mentoring to female founders of tech start-ups. The scheme aims to offer first-class mentoring to female-led start-ups in the earliest and riskiest stage of their development, providing them with an individual grant of EUR 75 000 and coaching by the EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS), under the new “Women Leadership Programme”.
Up to 50 tech companies will be funded under the first Women TechEU pilot call. Female founders of deep tech start-ups who hold a top management position (CEO, CTO or equivalent) in the company can apply until 10 November 2021. The company must be registered and established in an EU Member State or Associated Country for at least six months at the time of the submission. Submissions are open on the initiative’s website.
Women TechEU is part of a series of measures to boost female innovators and female entrepreneurship. Across Europe only 15% of innovative start-ups are founded or co-founded by women and raise less venture capital. Around 5% of venture capital goes to mixed teams and only 2% to all-female teams.
With the support of the Embassy of Japan in Bulgaria, the Japan-Bulgaria Business Association (JBBA) has already been established and operates in Bulgaria to promote and support bilateral business relations between the countries. Japanese companies have a strong presence in Bulgaria in industries such as automotive, information technology, pharmaceuticals, food, tobacco products and more. According to official data, in 2020 trade with Japan amounted to USD 225.2 million, an increase in both imports and exports.
The priority of the organization is to provide information on the investment climate and the legislative framework, practical support in establishing Japanese companies in our country, and promoting bilateral trade and cooperation to establish business partnerships. More information about the Association and the support it directs to business is available on the JBBA website.
Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce invites companies to participate in virtual bilateral meetings in the framework of Smart Manufacturing Matchmaking 2021, organized by SPIN – an Italian consortium and partner of EEN. The event will take place between 17 – 19 November and is suitable for companies in the field of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0. It will focus on Agriculture 4.0, artificial intelligence and machine learning for industrial applications, virtual,
Data are from the first in Bulgaria report on the HealthTech sector, issued by PrEXCELerator Bulgaria
Sofia-based companies have developed over 70% of all HealthTech solutions, according to data from BULGARIA: HealthTech Mapping Report 2021 – the first report in Bulgaria on the technology sector for medicine and healthcare. The analysis has been carried out by PrEXCELerator Bulgaria, and all the data have been collected and analyzed for two years in collaboration with Bulgarian companies and experts in the field.
The results from the Report have been calculated based on 74 Bulgarian HealthTech solutions (find more information on the scope of this technological area below). This is the number of tech solutions identified by PrEXCELerator Bulgaria as of 01.04.2021, representing 70% of the currently known ones (16.08.2021). Because of the extremely high percentage, the Report’s authors consider all conclusions as valid for the whole segment.
The document considers as a priority the technological solutions in medicine and healthcare, and, where explicitly indicated, it views the respective companies as legal units. This shows that a company has more than one tech solution in the field.
What characterizes the sector is that a significant part of digital solutions is developed by a single core of companies. Thus, more than half, namely 56% of all Bulgarian HealthTech solutions have been developed by only 13 companies from all in the ecosystem. There is seriality in the generation of solutions and the creation of outstanding corporate portfolios. This is an exceptional specificity for the sector and is not observed in the other technological sectors, annually surveyed by PrEXCELerator Bulgaria such as PropTech (including ConTech), Tourism Tech (including Travel Tech, Hospitality Tech), EduTech, Impact companies (businesses contributing to 17 UN SDGs), commented the experts from PrEXCELerator Bulgaria.
Key conclusions of BULGARIA: HealthTech Mapping Report 2021
Viewing technology companies from the perspective of the towns where they originated and operate, the results in the Figure below show that:
– Sofia is the principal city where 74.3% of all Bulgarian HealthTech solutions are created and operate;
– 16.2% of these solutions were created and operate in Stara Zagora, Kazanlak, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, and Pleven.
– there is no publicly available information about the place of establishment and functioning of 9.5% of the studied solutions
Digital solutions, built simultaneously with software and hardware, comprise only 15% of all Bulgarian HealthTech solutions. The combination of software and hardware
The industrial property market in Sofia registered an active first half of the year, in terms of leasing and development activity. Take-up volume in the second quarter reached almost 54,000 sqm, which is in line with the pre-pandemic period, according to data from the regular market review of the Cushman & Wakefield Forton consulting company. Most of the completions during the period are for own occupation, except for Phase 2 of Logistics Park RGS in Bozhurishte.
The properties under construction remain around 330,000 sqm, with almost 70% built-to-suit and owner-occupied schemes. The prevailing part of the new developments are warehousing and logistics projects of companies in the FMCG, home improvement, and food processing sectors. Prime rents in the logistics segment in Sofia remain stable in the range of 4.2-4.4 euro/sqm for mid-sized units, and 3.8-4 euro/sqm for premises above 10,000 sqm. The market reports increasing investor interest and is expected to remain stable in the short term.
The second quarter of 2021 brought a visible increase in the Sofia office market, with 53,592 sqm leased space. Thus, the total volume outpaced the 5-year average by 33%. According to Cushman & Wakefield Forton, however, it is still too early to say whether this is due to catching up after the slow search during the pandemic or the trend means the beginning of a stable recovery. Relocations and renewals remained the prevailing part of the transactions in the quarter, with many companies aiming to consolidate or improve their office positions. With 98,545 sqm obtaining use permits, total Class A and B stock in Sofia reached almost 2.190 mln sqm. The more significant new projects in the second quarter include Park Lane Office Center, NV Tower, and Garitage Park – Building 4. Rental prices remain stable at levels of 15 euros per square meter in business areas in the central part of the city and from 12-14 euro per square meter for the periphery near major boulevards.
The shopping center segment experienced a sluggish performance in terms of recovery. Most mall managers registered launches of new concepts and expansions of existing brands, rather than new tenant entries. Despite the series of lockdowns, the shopping centers in Sofia saw relatively stable vacancy rates, hovering around 6-7% in the last quarter. In general, the retail market remains driven by FMCG, sports goods, drugstores, and discount stores. The slight decline of shopping center
Sofia-based startup for unmanned cargo drones Dronamics has announced the first of several strategic partnerships aimed at international expansion in delivering shipments with Black Swan drones. Dronamics is partnering with the German logistics company Hellmann Worldwide Logistics. It will start delivering on the territory of continental Europe, where the regulatory environment allows operations throughout the European Union. The aim is to achieve faster deliveries at a competitive price, including short distances and the transfer of goods, which does not depend on long supply chains and the problems of potential blocking of shipments. The Sofia-based company’s big goal is to become the first to receive an operating permit for international drones throughout Europe. Days after announcing the partnership with Hellmann, Dronamics also announced they had signed a contract with a fourth airport in Germany – Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen (IATA: FDH). Thus, through the drone ports in these four airports, the startup can deliver shipments weighing up to 350 kg. to 14 million people at locations within 1 hour away of these destinations.
The Transpress transport and logistics company begins the construction of a new logistics center in the Sofia-Bozhurishte Industrial Park with an investment of BGN 10 million. The building is expected to be operational in 2022 and create 100 new jobs. The base will be 40 decares and will have a platform for handling goods, a zone for distribution of goods and supplies, 60 pumps, and an office area. The warehouse will be equipped with the latest generation of highly efficient and “green” lifting machines. Following the trends for transport development, charging power plants will be built, the company announced. The new center will perform transport and logistics activities for clients in the country and for international forwarding.
A year and a half after entering Sofia, the German Commerzbank doubled the team in its technology center and is now looking for another 150 specialists with Java, React, ABAP, others, business analysts, a team manager, and HR specialists, among others. Commerzbank is a leading international commercial bank with services for small, medium, and corporate clients. The experts here are responsible for digitalizing the entire banking structure of Commerzbank and for the development of applications for complete digitalization of the business processes for servicing the bank’s millions of customers.
In Bulgaria, the company is positioned not as a banking institution but as a technology company, and Sofia is its engineering center. A
Sofia Municipality is implementing a system for green energy production and smart services in the largest kindergarten in Sofia and Bulgaria – 76 “Sarnichka” kindergarten in Mladost. The projects are pilot and are part of the Sandbox for Innovation Program of the Sofia Municipality and its unit for digitalization, innovation, and economic development, “Innovative Sofia.”
The kindergarten has been equipped with solar panels installed on its roof, with which it will be able to produce electricity for its own needs. The photovoltaic system will generate up to 30% of the required electricity in an environmentally friendly way. The saved funds for electricity are expected to pay off the investment in about eight years.
The other innovation is the devices installed in the 20 groups of the kindergarten, which measure and show the air quality. The devices have indicators of relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and the presence of fine dust particles. Children will learn about the state of the environment from the reaction of an electronic canary, which will change its mood on the device’s display. The real-time information will help teachers and assistant educators by providing them with data on the state of the air in the bedrooms and study rooms and support children in developing habits and attitudes towards the environment.
The change of address services in Sofia will be possible entirely electronically, and going to a counter and being accompanied by a property owner (in case of rent, for example) will no longer be necessary. For this purpose, the Sofia Municipality has signed a contract for developing the pilot platform for e-services in civil status. The first service, available entirely online, will be a change of address, and by the end of the year, it will gradually be implemented in four capital regions. The first is “Studentski”, where the frequency of use of the service is the highest and will start in September. The other three regions are Vitosha, Sredets, and Slatina. In case of good results, the work process will be fully integrated into all regional administrations.
The submission of project proposals for the new edition of Sofia Municipality’s “Outside” program is open until 30 September. The program supports temporary art installations in an urban environment located on the “Mausoleum” site in the City Garden.
You can find the full information about the required documents, as well as all forms and declarations, here. The
Sofia Municipality has signed the contract for the development of the pilot platform for electronic civil status services. The first entirely online accessible service will be the change of address, and by the end of the year, it will be gradually introduced in four districts of the capital. The first one is “Studentski,” where the frequency of use of the service is the highest and will start in September. The other three districts are Vitosha, Sredets, and Slatina. In case of good results, there will be full integration of the work process in all regional administrations, announced Gencho Kerezov, Deputy Mayor for Digitalization.
Thus, change of address services will be delivered entirely electronically, and there will be no need to go to the counter and be accompanied by a property owner (in the case of rent, for example). The pilot phase aims to test the interaction and user experience for the citizens, Sofia Municipality explains.
The development of the platform will be implemented by Eurotrust Technologies. The project is under implementation with consulting assistance from the Bloomberg Philanthropy Foundation. It is part of the “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions” programme, which Sofia Municipality is implementing through “Innovative Sofia” – its digitalization, innovation, and economic development department and in partnership with “Green Sofia”. The Sandbox is Sofia’s programme for pilot projects for testing innovative technological solutions related to urban challenges, and it focuses on the environment, education, transport, e-government, entrepreneurship, innovation, and other essential topics for the city.
Regarding the development, testing, and implementation of a fully electronic process for changing the address registration, Sofia Municipality also concluded a Framework Agreement to provide the so-called “Cloud electronic signature” – remote electronic identification, replacing the standard electronic and handwritten signature. The service is entirely in line with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Commission and provides the user with the opportunity for identification without the need for physical presence in the office of an electronic signature provider (QES), counter for issuing a personal identification code or other. As part of the pilot phase of implementing an electronic address change, residents of Sofia will be able to identify themselves completely free of charge only with their mobile phone camera and a mobile app.
Employers in Sofia plan a 10% to 20% increase in salaries by the end of the year, a study by the ManpowerGroup Bulgaria HR company states. The data are from the first of regular six-month surveys of the HR company for the planned changes in the amount of salaries and additional benefits. The results cover 12 different sectors, and 66% of the surveyed companies are based in Sofia.
The expected increase in salaries in Sofia is the largest for the country, and similar growth is expected in Burgas and Varna.
The management of the surveyed companies expects this measure to be applied to most employees, not only to specialists in specific positions. The HR company’s observations show that teleworking as a standard practice leads to a reduction in the pay gap between and outside the capital. The trend is most pronounced among intermediate and highly qualified specialists in information technology, outsourcing, business processes, and consulting.
IT, trade, tourism, healthcare and pharmacy, the automotive industry, and manufacturing are the sectors with the most significant expected increase in salaries and benefits.
These are also the areas with the most substantial demand for specialists. According to the survey, 49% of employers plan higher wages in the manufacturing sector, 44% in trade and information technology, and 58% in consulting. The data are based on the responses of the 513 enterprises in the survey from all regions in the country.
At the national level – 76% of companies do not plan significant changes in additional benefits and/or bonuses, but no reduction is expected – only 1% of respondents said they plan such. ManpowerGroup Bulgaria also pays attention to the so-called “flexi benefits” practice – a growing trend among top employers to offer dynamic packages with additional benefits that allow employees to modify their social bonuses depending on their current preferences and needs by choosing from a preliminary setlist. Employees receive this opportunity well because of the various options they can rely on every month according to their current plans and needs.
Examine more labor market trends in the full document “Salaries and additional benefits – trends” of ManpowerGroup Bulgaria.