The European Investment Bank (EIB) will support Sofia in the implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia. Sofia, with the support of the Fund of Funds, signed a contract with the EIB for a grant of consultancy support for the development of the conceptual projects identified in the Strategy, as well as for the development of a methodology for the evaluation of projects related to digitalization and smart cities.
This was announced by the Mayor Ms. Yordanka Fandakova and the Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Investment Agency Mr. Vladimir Danailov at an event that outlined the guiding principles, goals and next steps for implementing the Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia.
The event was attended by the chairman of the Sofia City Council Mr. Elen Gerdzhikov, the head of the EIB Group’s office for Bulgaria Mr. Andreas Baikos, and nearly 100 representatives of the local ecosystem that participated in the preparation of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia. The development process of the Strategy was coordinated by Sofia Investment Agency.
EIB will provide advisory services for the following steps of identification and evaluation of smart city projects and the development of a methodology for the evaluation of digitalization projects in various areas of urban life, incl. the assessment of the projects’ preparedness and sustainability. The aim of the advisory services is to help build on the indicative activities set out in the Strategy, which are currently at an initial conceptual stage and are in the first three priority areas – e-municipality, mobility and utilities.
“More e-services, optimization of the internal processes and services to citizens and business, the use of innovative urban solutions, as well as working together with the IT sector – these are key priorities for me in the coming years,” said Ms. Yordanka Fandakova. In her words, digitalization will give the city more order, more publicity, better control, better speed and will favor local IT solutions, attract foreign investment, enhance the quality of life and it is a vehicle for economic growth.
“I am happy that the European Investment Bank will support this very important project for Sofia,” said EIB Head of Bulgaria Andreas Beikos in his address.
“We view digitalization as a broader process, encompassing not only the Municipality and its services, but the entire urban environment. We see digitalization as an economic development tool. Last but not least, digitalization activities can be part
Financial Times just published an article titled Bulgaria attracts record tech investment. The publication states data on foreign investment to Bulgarian software and ICT, foreign greenfield investment and top sectors for foreign investment since 2015.
Bulgaria received a record amount of foreign investment in software and ICT services in 2018, with at least 16 projects valued at $240m, mostly in Sofia, the article sais.
The ICT sector had sales of $3.2bn in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 45 per cent, according to the International Data Corporation. It has more than 12,000 companies, of which 90 per cent are in Sofia, where they employ 50,000 people.
The publication cites the opinion about the business environment of foreign companies such as Acronis and Genius Sports that have already established their centers in Sofia and refers to what Cait O’Riordan, the FT’s chief product and information officer said, at the new centre’s opening: We looked at a number of locations across Asia, Europe and the UK before choosing Bulgaria. Sofia’s longstanding reputation as a centre for technical excellence, alongside its pedigree in data and artificial intelligence and its emergence as the technology capital of the Balkans, made it an irresistible destination.
The new Labor Market in Sofia 2019 report is available for download from investsofia.com.
Some of the key points from the report:
Vladimir Danailov, Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Investment Agency, participated in the Smart Cities discussion panel of the program of the international AI&I conference, which took place on November 26, 2019 in Sofia Tech Park. The forum was organized by Ikonomika magazine, Economic.bg and Bulgaria’s Digital National Alliance (DNA) and is Bulgaria’s first ever event aimed at bringing together large technology corporations with the startup business community, academia and the public sector to discuss formulas for successful and ethical introduction of artificial intelligence into daily management.
The panel, led by moderator Assoc. Prof. Boyan Zhekov, included representatives from the Ministry of Interior and companies developing products and services in the field of smart urban solutions such as Develiot, Vivacom, Theoremus and Syscom Engineering.
The panel focused on the challenges facing cities and their possible solutions through the introduction of digital technologies.
In the discussion, Vladimir Danailov highlighted three major factors that make digitalisation important to cities. It frees up resources and increases productivity, which is especially important for cities with low unemployment (such as Sofia – 2% unemployment rate); enhances services for citizens and businesses and supports data-driven decision-making.
“We believe that the success factors for the digitalisation activities of Sofia are that citizens and businesses should be the focus and they should collaborate together with the city to improve the quality of life and economic development,” said Vladimir Danailov.
In this respect, the implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia, which was prepared with the support and methodology of the European Commission by the team of Sofia Investment Agency, is crucial. The strategy recommends the following:
1) Opening the city to the local technology sector and turning the city into a market maker for the IT sector in the first four priority areas: mobility, utilities, e-governance on the demand side and the technology sector on the supply side;
2) Establishment of a unit in the Sofia Municipality to coordinate the activities of digitalisation and smart urban solutions in coordination with business, development centres and citizens;
3) Regulation of data exchange processes and creation of data policy to stimulate the start-up sector and innovations.
The conference also touched on other issues such as the growing impact of AI in financial services, AI against human intelligence, the point where AI will surpass humans – from the perspectives of leading speakers from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Rimac Automobili, and
At a meeting with business representatives organised by magazine and club ‘Business Lady’, Sofia’s Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and Sofia Investment Agency’s CEO Vladimir Danailov presented the tools and activities with which Sofia Municipality supports small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Sofia.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the economy in Sofia: 97.7% of all companies in Sofia are SMEs. They generate 70% of the city’s production and 63% of the workforce in Sofia are employed in the sector,” Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said at the meeting. According to her, these figures are a recognition of the good business climate in the city and the consistent work towards improving the conditions for starting and developing a business.
In order to promote small and medium-sized businesses in the city as one of the main sources of jobs and economic growth for Sofia, the Sofia Municipality works with a specific unit, the Sofia Investment Agency, to help investors grow their businesses in the city. Thus, the metropolitan municipality is the first in the country with its own investment agency.
Among the instruments that Sofia Investment Agency uses to prop up the local business, our CEO Vladimir Danailov pointed out the support we give to startups and SMEs to compete internationally; our assistance to make the most of the various grants and instruments; the Accelerator Startup Sofia program of the Sofia Municipality to support start-up entrepreneurs. He also pointed to our work on the City-to-City programs for cooperation with other European cities such as Vienna and London, which enables us to support businesses with information, bilateral business delegations, contacts with business communities in partner cities, financial instruments and others.
Startup World Cup, a global startup pitch competition with a $1,000,000 grand investment prize, will return to Bulgaria co-hosted by Global Tech Summit – the leading technology event in Eastern Europe.
At the invitation of the organizers, Nadia Soultanova, Head of Investment and Business Development at Sofia Investment Agency, will join the expert jury of the regional competition.
The jury members in the Bulgarian edition also include Momchil Elenkov (Viber), Vesela Kalacheva (Chair of BAIT), Sinisha Djukic (COO of Bosch Software Innovations), Svetlin Nakov (SoftUni) and other experts in the technology sector, media, entrepreneurs and top managers.
Startups interested in global exposure, mentorship from global investors, and significant prize money are encouraged to apply for any of the Startup World Cup 2020 regional competitions.
The final pitches will take place in Sofia on December 10 in the National Palace of Culture as a part of Global Tech Summit.
The application form will be open until December 6, 2019. All startups can apply directly on the website Startup World Cup Sofia or by email at email@example.com. All the winners of the regional competitions will participate in the Grand Finale in San Francisco on May 22, 2020.
Prior to the Grand Finale in San Francisco, the winners of the regional competitions in Europe will also take part in a continental championship with a chance to win $500,000 investment prize from the local sponsors.
Thousands of startups from all around the world applied to the 2019 competition. Winners from 36 regional events across six continents pitched their startups at the Grand Finale in San Francisco in May 2019. The Vietnamese startup Abivin beat all competitors and took home the $1,000,000 investment prize. Abivin leverages artificial intelligence to drive its logistics optimization platform. The Canadian startup Klue, which provides competitive intelligence software for enterprise sales teams, won the second place. The US-based Sonavi Labs, which develops smart stethoscopes, came in third.
Prior to the Grand Finale in San Francisco, the winners of the regional competitions in Europe participated in a continental championship, the Startup World Cup Summit in Prague. The winner of that competition, Mimbly from Sweden, won a $500,000 investment prize from the local sponsors, Up21 and Air Ventures. Mimbly has developed a cleantech solution for wastewater from laundry, saving money and water, and reducing microplastic pollution.
The local sponsor of Startup World Cup is Innovation Center that offers
At the invitation of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), the Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Investment Agency, Vladimir Danailov, commented on the data from the Agency’s third annual ‘Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report’ 2019.
Listen to the interview (in Bulgarian). For English translation, read below.
On the phone, to talk about the opportunities Sofia offers as a tourist destination, we have Vladimir Danailov, he is the CEO of the Sofia Investment Agency. Hello Mr. Danailov!
How is Sofia positioned among other capitals in Southeastern Europe? What are the reasons for the increase in the tourist flow and the overnight stays in the city?
Sofia is becoming an increasingly recognisable tourist destination. If we look at the factors driving this growth, these include the increasingly better connectivity, as flights connect
Sofia with dozens of new destinations every year. In the last four years, we have 50 new destinations that connect the capital to various cities around the world. Sofia is considered one of the safest cities for tourists, we have a very rich cultural calendar, Sofia Municipality
also diversifies its initiatives every year, we have over 30 international events in Sofia that attract foreign tourists and we think that the Bulgarian
Presidency [of the European Union] also attracted a large audience , who then spoke about Sofia. These are some of the main factors that determine the growth of tourism in Sofia in recent years.
Is the second place in terms of tourist growth in Sofia realistic? What percentage is the annual increase?
It’s realistic, yes. According to one of the rankings, that of Mastercard, the growth is 15.2%, which puts us second among European cities. Sofia is opening up to tourists. Every year we increase the tourist attractions in the city. The capital is becoming more connected, economic
development is also among the factors contributing to the more intensive flow. So the place in the ranking is absolutely deserved. Cities like Lisbon and Paris are behind us. Sofia is doing very well.
From which markets are our guests and what is the average stay of a tourist? How much does a tourist spend in the town for the cost of accommodation and stay in the city?
We heard a moment ago from our German colleagues. German tourists are really one of the main audiences for the city. They are number two in terms of
BalREc – the most influential real estate conference platform in Bulgaria and the region – was held in two halls and with 10 thematic panels.
More than 400 professionals participated in the forum on November 7, and over 60 distinguished experts from Bulgaria and Europe participated in panel discussions on the state and investment environment of key market segments: offices, retail, residential, industrial and logistics areas, hotels, proptech.
Among the experts invited to participate in the forum’s program was the Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Investment Agency, Vladimir Danailov.
In the panel “Office Space Market 2019. Perspectives and Growth Potential of the IT/BPO Industry”, he noted: “Since the beginning of the year we have worked with over 70 companies with an interest in investing in Sofia. They are no longer just talking about low costs, but about engineering talent, added value, about the environment we have and is developing rapidly. Companies that we couldn’t even dream of before now have their sites in Sofia and today we are proactively inviting them to invest in the city.”
The forum started with an opening address by Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria in 2012 – 2017. In his address, he noted that Bulgaria is seeing sound and sustainable economic growth, banks are doing well, and the evaluations and forecasts of international organisations are positive. He pointed out that even if the slow growth of the major European economies is reflected in our country, Bulgaria is well enough positioned to overcome such a period without a crisis, but rather a correction in expectations due to over-supply in some segments.
In the panel “Real Estate Invеѕtmеnt Outlооk – Bulgaria and CEE 2019”, the executive director of Forton|Сuѕhmаn & Wakefield, Michaela Lashova, drew attention to the interesting trend of increasing Asian investment in Bulgaria. She also noted the fact that the rental levels in Bulgaria are lower compared to the region and the return on investment – higher. According to the company, 45% of the investments are in offices, and 25% are in retail space.
Posts with highlights of all discussions in the forum can be found on the Facebook page of the organizers The City Media Group, and a photo gallery of the event can be seen here.
Every year participants from around the world gather in Lisbon for the world’s largest technology conference, according to the Financial Times.
This year 70 469 participants from 163 countries gathered in Lisbon, including over 1 200 speakers across 22 stages, 2000 start-ups and 2500 media.
Sofia Investment Agency was there for the first time meeting partners and colleagues from across the world.
Our Head of Business Development Nadia Soultanova took part in the panel discussion ‘Gothenburg and Sofia: Complementing Ecosystems’ at the invitation of Business Region Göteborg and Business Sweden at the Sweden Co-lab.
The similarities and the differences between the ecosystems of our cities and countries are such that we can be partners in innovation.
Sweden is interested in collaborating with Sofia-based companies and is looking forward to seeing more companies open offices there. Gothenburg’s areas of strength in ICT are in embedded systems, infrastructure & cloud, mobile technology, microwaves, visualization & gaming.
The Mobility X Lab in Gothenburg helps young companies with pioneering ideas by offering mentorship and access to competence, networks, tools and insights from leading subject matter experts, as well as workspace. The Lab’s partners are leading Swedish companies like CEVT, Ericsson, Volvo Cars, Volvo Group, Veoneer and Zenuity. The Lab is hosted by Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg.
We would like to express very special thanks to H.E. Ms Helena Pilsas – Ahlin, Sweden’s Ambassador to Portugal and Ambassador to Bulgaria until 2016. It was a great honor to have Ms Pilsas Ahlin with us during the panel.
Web Summit in Lisbon is arguably the hottest tech conference in the world and the biggest in Europe. The Summit is a highlight on the event calendar of tech professionals, enthusiasts and visioners from around the world.
The second edition of Sofia Game Night took place on November 2nd in Sofia.
Sofia Game Night explores and expands the concept of games: from the entertaining computer, board and role-playing games, through e-sports, the game development industry and cosplay to the intersection of art, politics, education and social experiment.
The organizers of Sofia Game Night – Goethe-Institute and Game Dev Summit – prepared an exciting program in over 30 locations across Sofia, dedicated to gaming, anime and manga, board games, and including competitions, music and performances, and special events for children.
The Invest Sofia team was happy to join the ‘Games Made in Bulgaria’ Expo at the kind invitation of the organisers. We joined over 30 Bulgarian companies, independent studios and developers of board and computer games, and presented the development of creative industries in Sofia and Invest Sofia’s activities at our own stand.
Creative industries are among Sofia’s priority sectors, and Gaming is among the fastest-growing creative sectors with highest added value. We were glad to gain first-hand experience about its development, to meet game designers and game developers and receive their insights about Creative Sofia, as well as to get acquainted with some classic titles and new, never seen before games.
We thank the organizers from Game Dev Summit for the invitation!
Creative Sofia in Figures
– Creative industries account for 6-8% of Sofia’s economy, which is above the EU average
– Ubisoft, Gameloft and SEGA, some of the biggest global gaming companies, have studios in Sofia
– The gaming sector in Sofia experienced a 127% growth of value added between 2008 and 2015
– There are over 35 gaming companies in the city, most of which are indie studios
Sources: Observatory of Cultural Economics and Sofia Municipality; Game Dev Summit.
Photography: Lina Krivoshieva
The third edition of the annual report Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report is available for download from our website.
Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report 2019 takes a close look on the tourism sector in Sofia as of September 2019. The aim is to provide potential investors and all stakeholders interested in the development of the tourism sector in Sofia with comprehensive and accessible information.
The document presents an overview of the latest data, analyses and reviews of the key tourism indicators, as well as current statistics on Sofia Airport aircraft movements, the number of tourists by country of origin and by the purpose of their visit, the accommodation capacity of the city, the development of the urban environment in Sofia, the potential of the MICE industry, and the most important trends in the sector today.
Sofia Tourism and Air Transport Market Report 2019 is prepared by the Investment and Business Development Department of the Sofia Investment Agency.
Here are some of the key points from the report:
On behalf of the Bulgarian Trade and Economic Affairs Office in Ljubljana, Slovenia (STIV – Ljubljana), we invite Sofia-based start-ups from all sectors to apply for participation in a conference dedicated to Industry 4.0 to be held on November 19th and 20th, 2019 in the city of Velenje, Republic of Slovenia. The conference aims to facilitate meetings of start-ups in the Southeastern Europe region with leading corporations based in Slovenia. The participating companies are over 20 this year, including Gorenje, Kolektor, Iskratel, Skaza, BSH, Akapovič, SAP, among others.
Meetings will be held between company managers and representatives of pre-selected start-ups to discuss future opportunities for collaboration. The business is interested in start-ups in phase 2 and with developments in Industry 4.0 (digitalization, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, etc.).
The costs for accommodation and transport of the companies selected after registration are fully borne by the organizers. Bulgarian companies who wish to register must fill in the following code in their application: I01STARTUPBG.
More information about the event can be found at https://www.future40.si/. You can also call 00 386 40 234 220, Ms Sedina Sarajlic. If necessary, companies can also contact STIV Ljubljana via tel. +386 30 719 197 or e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org, Ms Mariana Chavrakova, Head of STIV – Ljubljana.