Bulgarian startups and SMEs will now have easy access to contacts, training programmes and capital from Germany and around the world through the newly signed partnership agreement between Deutsche Börse Venture Network and the Bulgarian Stock Exchange (BSE). The Deutsche Börse Venture Network was founded in 2015 and is to date an ecosystem of 460 risky investors in 32 countries, which has managed to raise a total of 4.6 billion euros of funding for nearly 200 of its members. BSE will assist Bulgarian companies to access the network through free consultations and evaluation of enterprises with potential to become members of the German network. More information about this opportunity is available here.
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry maintains a large online database of business opportunities and puts interested parties in touch. The announcements cover all sectors and companies from all countries in the world. Bulgarian entrepreneurs can search for business or academic partners to manufacture, distribute, co-develop and supply products, ideas and services. The list of current offers is here.
By June 6, applications are submitted to the EIC Accelerator, which will support innovations building on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’). The initiative is under Horizon Europe 2021-2027. Companies and organisations in the above mentioned ares often need significant funding over a long timeframe before returns can be generated and the risks involved are too high (the so called ‘patient capital’). The programme is open to support the later stages of technology developments as well as scaleups. The technology must have been tested and validated in a laboratory or other relevant environment to a stage of high technological readiness for deployment. For further information, please visit the EIC Accelerator’s page here.
Yet another programme under Horizon Europe 2021-2027 is currently open to support early stage companies. This is EIC Pathfinder, open for applications until May 19th. Ambitious ideas for radically new technology and projects at low technological readiness for deployment are eligible. The proposals should meet the following characteristics: a radically new technology that has the potential to have a transformative positive effect on the economy and society, based on a radically new approach or scientific and technological breakthrough, as well as demonstration of a high-risk/high-gain research approach and methodology, with clear objectives. Detailed information is published on the website of the European Commission here.
If you are interested in more initiatives
Nearly 10,000 electronic services have been requested through the e-administrative services portal of the State e-government agency portal (DAEU) since the beginning of the year. The most frequently requested services are “Registration of jobseekers” at the Employment Agency, “Exemption of persons from vignette fees when using national roads” at the Social Assistance Agency, and “Granting of monthly targeted assistance in case of emergency or declared emergency epidemiological situation.”
The use of the System for Secure Electronic Delivery (SSE) of DAEU has also been increasing. In 2020, the system was available over 3 million times. The sending and receiving of electronic documents are done through a qualified electronic signature and timestamp of DAEU. The system also provides an e-registered e-mail, which is the electronic equivalent of the registered e-mail service, with a return receipt. Currently nearly 140 000 customers have been registered – individuals, administrative bodies, persons with public functions, and companies. The Agency reports that the average number of messages sent through the CES last year increased from 500 to nearly 2,000 per day.
The addition of electronic services to the egov.bg Portal continues. Since the end of last year, citizens and businesses have requested 12 new e-services provided by the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Sofia Municipality. Among them are issuing a permit to elaborate on detailed development plans, issuing sketches for real estate, issuing a construction permit, etc. Since the beginning of the year, 14 declarations under the Local Taxes and Fees Act related to ownership of vehicles, real estate, garbage collection and garbage collection, taxi transportation, etc., have also been available and can be submitted electronically.
Currently, 439 electronic administrative services are available through the DAEU Portal for centralized application. Most of them are for the central administration – 213. Another 170 services are for municipal administrations, 32 for specialized territorial, and 21 for the district.
United Bulgarian Bank now provides loans under relaxed terms guaranteed by the Fund of Funds (FoF) through the financial instrument “Loss-capped portfolio guarantee to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 crisis”, financed by Operational Programme Innovation and Competitiveness (OPIC) 2014-2020. The programme offers a guarantee of up to 80 % of the amount of each loan, as well as relaxed terms. Companies can benefit from the product to cover current debt obligations or as a working capital. Details can be found on the website of the bank here.
Loans under relaxed terms to SMEs are also available under the COSME+ Programme through Fintrade Finance intermediary. Startups and SMEs with social impact projects that need working capital or investment resource to develop and expand their business are priority. Details and application terms are listed here.
Enterprise Europe Network at the International Economic Relations Unit (IERC) of the Bulgarian Industrial Association in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg organise bilateral meetings during the World Expo 2020 in Dubai in 2022. Companies in the areas: sustainable development, circular economy, ICT, transport and logistics, innovation, industry 4.0, automotive and electronic mobility, life sciences and biotechnologies, eco-technology and eco-construction, environment and renewable energy, MICE and tourism, are invited to join. The bilateral meetings will take place from 24 to 26 January 2022. IERC provides assistance to Bulgarian companies that are interested in the event. Find out more on IERC’s website here.
Smart Manufacturing Matchmaking 2021 is a free to attend brokerage event for companies, research centers and representatives of public administrations engaged in smart production, industry 4, trends in institutional and urban innovation. The meetings will take place online in two sessions. The first will be held between 13 and 14 May, and the second – between November 17-19, 2021. Registered participants for the first session will have access to the autumn session. Requests for participation are accepted by 11 May 2021. Information and registration link can be found here.
The Cyprus company Loulis Mills has turned the first shovel of soil for its new mill production plant in the Sofia-Bozhurishte Economic Zone. The investment amounts to BGN 18 million and will create nearly 50 new jobs. The building will include premises for raw materials storage, a building for loading bulk flour, and an office area. The investment is expected to encourage Bulgarian export of flour production.
Bulgarian telecom operator Neterra has also started building a new facility. The building for its second data center – “Sofia Data Center 2” (SDC-2) is already under construction next to the first building of the company near the metro station “Mladost 1” and Sofia Airport. The data center will cover 1,400 square meters on four levels and be equipped with the latest generation of energy-efficient air conditioning systems to ensure lower electricity costs of the systems and an optimized price for customers. SDC-2 will provide a rich portfolio of telecommunications services with round-the-clock support. Sofia-based Neterra is an independent telecom operator for standard and complex services and projects in Europe with over 20 years of experience. The company maintains a portfolio of integrated global communication solutions based on the latest technologies for optical, IP and satellite connectivity. These include VPN and data networks, Internet access, construction and maintenance of satellites and more.
For the last year, DHL Express Bulgaria has expanded the number of its employees in Sofia from 400 to 450 people due to the increased volumes of shipments for processing. In Bulgaria, the company recorded double-digit growth in international deliveries. In 2018, DHL built its large logistics center near Sofia Airport through an investment of EUR 10 million. Over 10,000 square meters house a high-tech sorting system with a capacity of 3,000 shipments per hour, production lines and equipment for reading barcodes, checking weight and size, X-ray scanning of shipments, and more.
The Sofia office of Milestone Systems is also increasing its team with more R&D experts. The Danish company is an international leader in the production of IP-based video surveillance software. Due to the growing demand for Milestone products, the sales team for the Bulgarian market, CEE and Russia has increased since last year. The current company also plans to expand the research and development department by about 20 people. Currently, more than 160 employees are part of Milestone Systems in Sofia. The R&D center in Sofia is the second
The fourth edition of the guide “Sofia – Business Destination 2021” is available on the website of the Sofia Investment Agency. Current general economic profile, data on taxes, fees, investment incentives, workforce, education, transport, industrial and office space are just some of the comprehensive information that you can find in the guide.
Special attention to the impact of the global pandemic of KOVID 19 on all aspects of life and business in the capital.
Mobility, e-commerce, smart city, AI, fintech, gaming, digital media, healthcare, proptech are some of the sectors in which Sofia-based companies attract the attention of investors. Since the beginning of the year, several local startups have raised capital from investment funds. Here are several success stories of the teams that chose the Bulgarian capital as a place to set up and develop their products and services with local and global application.
Amygda Labs, a predictive analytics platform for industrial assets, has received an investment from ВrightCap Ventures. With the attracted resource the company will establish a technological team in Sofia, further develop its product and manage the operations with clients from the European markets. Amygda Labs was founded two years ago by a Bulgarian and a British and started with software that forecasts the need for maintenance of aircraft engines. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on international flights, the team decided to widen the software application to the monitoring of technical components in the space, railway and industrial sectors. The software uses AI and machine self-learning to monitor engines and predict potential anomalies and damage. The great potential of Amygda Labs is that it offers operational efficiency to customers during a pandemic, as well as the potential future application of risk assessment and tracking software for autonomous vehicles.
The Sofia-based digital insurance broker Boleron received an investment of a total of EUR 500,000. from two funds – “New Vision 3” (NV3) and “Eleven”. The startup company is developing a digital insurance platform that enables consumers to buy, receive and manage multiple insurance products in a frictionless and easy way and will use the funds to accelerate its expansion across the SEE region, as well as enable team expansion and product development.
NV3 also backed up the AI-powered digital twin platform MYX Robotics. The Sofia-based startup will use the funding to accelerate product development, support local and international business development, as well as grow the company’s team.
Proptech companyFantasticStay, a fast-growing technology startup for real estate and rental management, also received funding from NV3 fund. With an investment of 1.3m euros, the startup plans to expand its global operations and further develop its products and services.
Vitosha Venture Partners started the year with four supported companies, three of which are based in Sofia. These are Hobo – the first Bulgarian micro-mobility startup for shared travel using electric scooters; Eirene
The virtual event for companies that want to scale up their business.
28 April, 2021
9.15 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. (CET)
The Vienna Business Agency cordially invites established companies, startups and scaleups that would like to expand their business internationally to a virtual tour “Open Vienna – A
Thriving Startup Ecosystem”, as part of ViennaUP’21, to explore the city’s innovative spirit.
By attending this event, the participants will find out how can their business benefit from
the business location Vienna even in these challenging times.
The focus topics of this event will be:
The participants can register now for free at the event’s homepage: here, fill out their matchmaking profile and immediately start networking with other participating companies.
Among others, the participants will be able to network with successful Viennese startups and scaleups such as TourRadar, Kaleido AI or Gurkerl, to connect with the well-acclaimed fintech accelerator Elevator Lab and get a free consultation with experts of the Vienna Business Agency.
In support of the companies in Sofia listed below are several current opportunities for participation in growth and development programmes and B2B events.
The application for the Dare to Scale growth programme by the global entrepreneurial network Endeavor has started. The four-month programme focuses on businesses from all sectors that have passed their early development phase and are now in a growth stage. Partners in the programme are Post Bank, Software Group and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (EASME). Companies with up to 150 employees and a minimum turnover of BGN 200 000 for the past year can apply. They are expected to work on products or services that are already on the market and have potential for global growth. The interviews with the pre-selected enterprises will be held in May. The programme starts in September and will be held in hybrid format – online sessions and live events in Sofia, aimed at building skills in four main areas: management, marketing, sales, business planning and raising capital. Each company will have its own individual mentor from the Endeavor network. Applicationcan be submitted on the website of the programme here.
By 23 April, companies from the manufacturing and supply chain in the fashion industry, logistics, production, online trade and textile filelds can submit applications for participation in the B2B event Fashion Match Supply 2021. It will take place online between 26-30 April and will include seminars, discussions and free bilateral business meetings on a preliminary statement of interest. Registration can be made at https://fashion-match-supply-2021.b2match.io/. The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry provides assistance to companies that are interested in participating. More information is available here.
By 24 April, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (EASME) will accept applications for participation in ANUGA 2021 – the largest food industry exhibition in the world, held every two years in Cologne, Germany. This year, the forum is scheduled for 9-13.10.2021, but because of the complicated pandemic situation, fewer participants will be allowed. The international participation in the exhibition is over 50 % and for visitors – more than 80 %. The event presents global trends and innovations in the sector and provides opportunities for B2B contacts. EASME shall bear part of the costs for the participation of exhibitors from Bulgaria. For more information and instructions on how to apply please visit EASME’s webpage here.
Solutions Review ranked software co-developed by the Sofia team of the U.S. AtScale among the world’s top 14 data virtualisation tools for 2021. The product is a flexible platform that combines access to data from different locations where they are stored, as well as offers visualization and management of datasets.
Solutions Review is an American online media that brings all of the technology news, opinion, best practices and industry events in the field of Data Integration together in one place. Its list of 14 best tools globally was made based on research and evaluation by the editorial team, as well as the results of analysis of user sentiment through the web’s most trusted business software review sites.
Being present in the selection of the best data virtualisation tools globally AtScale falls among international leaders such as IBM, Oracle and SAP. The full list can be found here.
AtScale formed its team in Sofia at the end of 2018. The office in the Bulgarian capital is the first for the company outside the USA. The IT leader offers big data management solutions that help companies convert big datasets into business intelligence and intelligent analytics tool. The company is based in California and its clients include organizations like JPMorgan Chase, Toyota, Visa, Groupon, GlaxoSmithKline, CNN, Bloomberg.
EU Startup Nations Standard of Excellence will require the Member States to apply practices that encourage entrepreneurship and create a more favorable environment for start-ups. These include the introduction of a startup visa, facilitated company registration procedures and quick access to the local market, fully electronic communication between companies and administration, fast visa procedures for talents and entrepreneurs from outside the EU, incentives for experts to return to Europe, access to venture and equity capital, equal access to entrepreneurship, etc. The single standard also affords national and local institutions to establish regulations that provide an experimental environment for the development of city solutions by the companies, the so-called. “Sandboxes for innovation in a regulated environment”.
In Bulgaria, some of the practices have already been adopted. Access to capital in our country is supported by 14 venture and equity funds, which invest in companies from different sectors and at different stages of an enterprise. A Startup Visa has been introduced since mid-February, and at the local level, Sofia Municipality was the first to launch its Sandbox for Innovative Solutions programme. It tests pilot projects of the capital’s business for applicability in a real urban environment. However, Bulgaria has not yet signed the Declaration on EU Startup Nations Standard. The document was proposed during “Digital Day 2021” – a virtual event of the European Commission in cooperation with the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, which took place a few days ago. The declaration was adopted by 25 European countries and so far only Bulgaria, Hungary, and Croatia have not signed it. Member States are not obliged to adopt the Single Standard, but the Commission will expect those that do so to change some of their regulations over time or to introduce new good practices.
With the introduction of the EU Startup Nations Standard of Excellence, the European Commission aims to fulfill Europe’s potential to become the most attractive place for startups compared to global leaders such as the United States. With the establishment of proven practices in all countries of the continent, European startups will get better conditions, stay in the EU instead of moving their business to another continent, stimulate competition, technological exchange, scientific development, and more.
Read the full text of the Declaration on EU Startup Nations Standard here
For the 8th consecutive year, Innovation Starter is organizing the national competition Innovation Academy – Bulgaria Innovation Hackathon. Invest Sofia is an institutional partner of the event, and Senior Executive Officer Dr. Maria Hristova accepted the invitation of the organizers to be a lecturer and a member of the hackathon jury.
Innovation Academy is the largest public-private educational partnership in the country between organizations from the private, academic, public and NGO sectors. The project develops students’ entrepreneurial skills and supports their first business ideas with funding and mentorship. The Academy started in 2014 with two partner universities in Sofia, and to date 14 universities and training centers from all over the country are part of the initiative. Over 4,000 participants and more than 370 teams have been trained in the project so far.
Again, Innovation Academy 2021 will take place as a 24-hour hackathon, on June 4 and 5 in Sofia, at the Peroto Literary Club of the National Palace of Culture. The Finals will be broadcasted online on Facebook and YouTube. The winning team with the most creative idea will receive funding, provided by the European Investment Bank, and a visit to Brussels with the institutional support of the European Commission in Bulgaria.
Together with Invest Sofia, partners of the Innovation Academy 2021 are the European Commission in Bulgaria, the European Investment Bank, the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Sofia Water, part of Veolia, Aurubis Bulgaria, Coca Cola Bulgaria.
Team registrations are open by mid of May. For more information and application link, please visit the initiative’s website here.
The municipal enterprise Sofiaplan has published an analysis of the current situation and tendencies in Sofia’s economics. The analysis is part of an extensive study of the various aspects of the urban development of Sofia that will become the basis of “Plan for Sofia” – a plan for the integrated development of the city with the most high-priority projects in the following years.
The analysis shows that Sofia’s GDP is growing faster than the country’s, and the largest volume of foreign direct investment (28%) is allocated in the IT sector and outsourced services. Attention is also paid to the concentration of economically active population in the different regions of Sofia – the most economically active people live in Mladost (57.7 thousand) and Lyulin (61.8 thousand), and the least in Bankya (6 thousand) and Kremikovtzi (11.2 thousand).
According to the data, the dynamic development of services in recent years, and the emergence of large business and office areas in specific areas of the capital, lead to their outpacing development. For example, in Mladost, where there is a high concentration of class A office space and an inflow of foreign investments, over 13% of the revenues of the companies in the capital are generated. Another rapid development areas are Lozenets, Triaditsa, Vazrazhdane, Sredets and Vitosha. Other parts of the city are have more residential function. Such is, for example, the Lyulin district, which has the largest population and number of economically active people, but concentrates less than 3% of the companies’ revenues in Sofia.
The overview of Sofiaplan also includes an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities that lie ahead the capital. The points where the city can further develop its potential are attracting strategic investors who are a global leader in their market; expansion and delineation of new high class business and office spaces; more serious connection of higher education institutions with the industry and high-tech companies; greater influence of Sofia on the corporate map in the region through finding and communicating competitive advantages over the other capitals; development of the promotion of Sofia as an investment destination, incl. good coordination with neighboring territories, etc.
See the Sofia data infographics here, and the compiled document containing resumes of the analyses on the aspects of urban development, including the data on economics, has been published on the website of Sofiaplan here.