Our country is the second most attractive location in Southeast Europe for foreign startup companies setting up overseas offices, shows data from Dealroom.co – the Amsterdam-based global provider of data and intelligence on startups and tech ecosystems. The agency’s annual report ‘Startups & Venture Capital in South Eastern Europe 2022’ explores the state of VC investments in the region and was presented during an event organized by the Bulgarian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA).
According to the study, Bulgaria ranks third in density of startup companies (right after Romania and Greece). It is the absolute leader in number of locally-based funds – 18 in total. Our country is considered one of the leading investment hubs in SEE as local funds make investments not only in local companies but also in promising startups in Romania, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, etc.
The analysis features a number of Sofia-based companies of Bulgarian founders, as well as the names of foreign companies that have chosen Sofia to set up their overseas offices. Among them are the first Bulgarian unicorn Payhawk, Gtmhub, Dronamics, Spark, Nexo, Hyperscience, The Recursive, Software Group, Alcatraz AI, Nuvei, Paysafe, Hopper and many more.
The report also notes that VC investment in startups across the eleven SEE countries now exceeds $1.3 billion (as of Q3 2022). This is an all-time record and more than the previous three years combined. For Bulgaria, new funds raised in Bulgaria reached $251 million over the past 18 months, more than any previous period since 2012.
More data on our country and the SEE region is available in the full report ‘Startups & Venture Capital in South Eastern Europe 2022’ by Dealroom. You can download it from the BVCA website here: https://bvca.bg/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/SEE-Report-2022.pdf
Only a day after Bosnia and Herzegovina got candidate status for EU membership, the Mayor of Brčko Municipality Esed Kadrić, together with representatives of Brčko’s city administration, arrived on a one-day official visit to Sofia. The delegation was received by the Mayor of Sofia Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova. Opportunities for cooperation and joint initiatives between the two municipalities were discussed. The guests presented to Mrs. Fandakova the administrative structure of Brčko and the incentives that Brčko district provides to local and foreign investors. The main purpose of the working meetings organized by Invest Sofia was to exchange best practices and discuss potential partner initiatives between Sofia and Brčko.
“Although Sofia and Brčko are situated in two neighboring countries, we communicate more often with European institutions than with each other. This is why such visits are very useful,” Nikolay Stoynev, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Sofia Municipal Privatization & Investment Agency said during the meeting. He presented the EU programmes and projects that Sofia Municipality has been working on in recent years and good practices for dealing with urban issues that Sofia has already overcome. Within the current programming period, the Municipality of Sofia has implemented more than 50 European projects worth more than BGN 2.5 billion, of which BGN 1.8 billion in grant financing.
Potential initiatives in the field of tourism were also discussed. The Municipal Councilor and Chairman of the Permanent Commission for International Cooperation and Tourism, European programmes and projects, Ekaterina Yordanova, presented Sofia’s experience in promoting the city as a tourist destination, as well as various initiatives in the field. Anatoly Iliev, Municipal Councilor and Chairman of ‘Sofia – European Capital of Sport’, presented the initiatives and international events taking place in the city.
Our final discussion was devoted to business support mechanisms. Nikolay Tsenkov, Manager at MGFSME, spoke about the activities of the Municipal Guarantee Fund for SMEs, its projects, and the challenges faced by the institution. Head of the Investment Analyses Department at Invest Sofia, Viktor Gusev, presented the economic profile of Sofia Municipality and the Agency’s activities. During the talks, Invest Sofia undertook the initiative to coordinate future relations between Brčko and experts from the Sofia Municipality. Along with the Mayor of Brčko Esed Kadric, the meetings in Sofia were visited by the Chief Officer of the coordination Unit for the Brčko district at the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as
On December 9, Sofia Event Center hosted the Conference “Bulgaria in the Eurozone: Advantages and Opportunities” organised by The Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, “DIR.BG” and the Confederation of Industrialists and Employers in Bulgaria.
The event gathered institutions, policymakers, employers, founders and managers of small, medium and large enterprises, financial institutions, experts from the non-governmental sector, media, academic community representatives, investment agencies, and many more. At the invitation of the organisers, Invest Sofia also took part in the event – Viktor Goussev, Head of the Investment Analysis Department at the Agency joined the attendees.
In four and a half hours and three panel discussions, the event managed to outline what has been done so far and what lies ahead regarding our country’s accession to the Eurozone and the adoption of the euro as the national currency. The experience shared by experts from the Board of Directors of the Bank of Slovenia and the Croatian National Bank was particularly valuable. Slovenia is among the newly joined countries to the Eurozone, and Croatia will become part of the Eurozone from January 1, 2023. Both countries have gone through the process that lies ahead for Bulgaria and shared good practices and challenges to look forward to.
Former finance and economy ministers from the last 20 years discussed the prospects for financial stability and economic growth. A special panel presented the perspectives of employers, businesses and trade unions regarding incomes and expected benefits for the business.
The event managed to address the perspectives of institutions, businesses and citizens on what all this means for Bulgaria, as well as outline best practices in preventing speculation and inflation.
The conference was streamed live. A video recording is available on the event website here and the DirBg channel here.
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a co-organizer of the IoT Solution World Congress Brokerage Event, which will be held between January 31 and February 2 in Barcelona and between February 7-9 online. The event provides B2B opportunities with partners in IoT, AI, Digital Twins, Augmented Reality, 5G technologies, Cybersecurity and their applications in production, smart factories, energy, smart cities, mobility, healthcare, etc. Find out more details here.
We remind you that the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce Industry regularly updates its landing page dedicated to current funding opportunities and open calls.
The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) has launched a series of meetings between Bulgarian entrepreneurs and heads of the Trade Economic Section at Bulgarian Embassies in foreign countries. The sessions are part of EASME’s EXPORT HUB BULGARIA initiative that aims to increase the export potential of Bulgarian enterprises. The next meeting is on December 14th and will be hosted by Petar Moysov, Head of the Trade Economic Section at the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Riyadh, KSA. Companies interested in opportunities to enter this market can register for free via the registration form here. The registered participants will also receive information about upcoming meetings with representatives of Trade & Economic Offices at Bulgarian Embassies abroad.
The Fund of Funds announced that it is granting an additional resource of BGN 700,000 to its financial intermediary SIS Credit, which manages funds under the financial instrument Risk-Sharing Micro-Finance Facility. The investment period has been extended until 31.12.2023. Companies and self-employed persons, including enterprises whose owners are from vulnerable groups such as those unemployed for more than 6 months, young people aged 29 or less, people with disabilities, as well as social enterprises, can apply for funding. The loans are granted under relaxed terms, for investment loans or working capital loans in the amount of BGN 5,000 to BGN 48,895. Under this instrument, the Fund of Funds works through a total of three financial intermediaries. A link to these institutions and details for this type of financing can be found here.
On December 13 and 14, information days for funding opportunities in 2023 under the Horizon Europe Programme will be held. The opportunity is suitable for ideas and projects in the following areas: food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment. The calls that will soon be open
Invest Sofia started a partnership with WHISP LTD – a software company operating in the field of the administrative relocation of foreign talent. At an official meeting, Maria Hristova the CEO of Invest Sofia and Greta Stefanova – Manager of Whisp Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Cooperation.
Whisp Ltd. provides specialized HR software and services in areas such as
relocation of foreign employees in Bulgarian companies, Blue Card issuance for foreign employees, seasonal personnel, administrative processes of getting access to healthcare upon relocation, as well as assistance in restoring health insurance entitlements of Bulgarian citizens after a long stay abroad.
Whisp Ltd. will assist Invest Sofia in investment inquiries regarding local legislation in the relocation of foreign employees, guidance and consultations regarding the health care system and the transfer of health insurance entitlements for foreign employees, assistance in legal procedures for relocation of employees without Bulgarian citizenship, etc.
Considering the expertise of our organizations, we believe that Whisp Ltd. will be a valued partner in our network especially when it comes to new non-EU investors in Sofia. A few days ago, the regulation for issuing a Startup Visa for Bulgaria was officially promulgated. The Visa will grant quick access to long-term residence in our country to entrepreneurs from third countries who want to develop high-tech and/or innovative projects in Bulgaria. The new regulation will give entrepreneurs from non-EU countries the opportunity to attract foreign experts, who will bring new skills, technologies, and practices, enrich our business ecosystem, and create new jobs. Our future cooperation with Whisp Ltd. will give us the necessary expertise to facilitate the entry of new investors in Sofia by providing fast consulting for legally compliant procedures when relocating talents in Sofia.
According to the Agreement, Whisp Ltd. becomes part of our partner network under the Sofia IS initiative, launched by Invest Sofia to provide integrated free-of-charge services to investors in the city. Almost 20 local and international independent companies are now part of Sofia IS. With their expertise and ours, we manage to provide tailored services covering all the necessary initial activities while exploring Sofia as a business destination until the actual setting up of business operations in the city. Our full-scope services cover extensive and in-depth information, analysis, and reports; financial and legal consulting; labor market and human capital; office, commercial, and industrial real estate; administrative procedures, coworking spaces and much more.
Revenues of the companies operating in Bulgaria’s outsourcing sector rose by an annual 22.4%, which is almost a double increase compared to the previous year, the annual report by Bulgaria’s Association for Innovation, Business Excellence, Services and Technology (AIBEST) and SeeNews says. The industry has added a record 10,000 new jobs, and thus the number of employees in the sector reaches nearly 90,000. The most active investors in ITO and BPO companies in our country are Great Britain, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands, and 81% of the central offices of such companies are concentrated in Sofia.
The data was presented at an event at the Grand Hotel Millennium Sofia. AIBEST announced key highlights from the report days before the official release of the full edition. In addition to presenting findings from the study, part of the event were also a panel discussion and a networking session, in which our colleague Viktor Gousev, Head of Investment Analysis Department at Invest Sofia, took part.
More key findings for the sector
For the 2021 survey, data from 774 companies with activities in the field of business services and technology were analysed. For the first time, the report features R&D centers as a separate subcategory. The other two categories are ITO (outsourced IT services) companies and BPO (business process outsourcing) companies.
Operating revenues for 2021 reach 4.225 billion euros and the industry contributed to the country’s GDP nearly 6%, with the Association expecting it to rise to 9% by 2025.
So far, the number of employees has grown by an average of 3,000-4,000 people per year, while in 2021 a new 10,000 positions were added, which is a record increase. According to AIBEST, the industry has the potential to attract more workforce and the professional opportunities in the sector are still one of the main incentives for young people returning to Bulgaria. Another factor that has a bearing on the number of employees is the hybrid and remote work model, which expands the opportunities for employers to hire people outside the cities where companies have operational offices.
Salary expenses increased by an average of 22% and reached a value of 2.1 billion euros, 11.4% of the total salary expenses in the Bulgarian economy and 8.6% of social security contributions.
Bulgaria is strengthening its image as a center for high-tech added value services in Europe.
We expect more data within days when AIBEST will
The team of Visteon Electronics Bulgaria discussed specific funding opportunities with EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture and Education Mariya Gabriel during a meeting organized by Invest Sofia. The CEO of the Agency PhD Maria Hristova, and the Head of the Investment Analysis Department, Viktor Goussev, also took part. The company received a “Green Card” from Invest Sofia at the beginning of November. It is one of the global leaders in the design and development of high-tech products and systems for the automotive sector. Visteon is creating in Sofia a new laboratory for innovative products in the field of car electrification and driving safety. An expert Bulgarian team will be dedicated to the R&D activities. At the meeting with Ms. Gabriel, Visteon’s management presented its plans and latest development. The European Commissioner discussed with Visteon current funding programmes and open calls that may help the company find additional investments for its future plans.
In Sofia, Visteon Electronics has an engineering center – the leading and largest for the company in Europe, and the expertise of the local team ranks it not only among the most trusted tech hubs of Visteon but also globally. With a team of over 700 engineers, Visteon in Bulgaria manages the entire product cycle. Currently, over 250 global and regional high-tech projects are locally designed, developed, and tested for world leaders in the automotive industry.
The “Green Card” received by Visteon Electronics Bulgaria is the 11th since the beginning of the year when Invest Sofia launched its new initiative in support of investors and start-up companies in the city.
For the fourth time, Biotech Atelier organized a special edition event on the topic “Water and Biotechnologies”. At the invitation of the organisers, Kristin Dermendzhiev, Chief Expert at the Investment Analysis department of Invest Sofia, attended the event along with more than 270 participants from 110 companies and 16 speakers.
This year’s focus fell on Antimicrobial Resistance, Water Treatment, and Water reuse.
On 15th November 2022 lecturers with different expertise gathered to speak on these
important topics in the water sector, with experts from companies and institutions joining to listen from all over the world.
By this, Biotech Atelier continues following its goal to bring start-ups, innovative companies, and
larger businesses in biotechnological development to share details about innovative
technologies and best practices that can be applied in the water sector. The satellite
event “Water and Biotechnologies” is growing with each following edition. We are glad we had the chance to be an institutional supporter of the event.
The speakers presented keynotes on topics such as Water and antimicrobial resistance,
Water use, management and challenges in urban areas, Antimicrobial resistance in water: explore, measure and monitor, Wastewater treatment and water re-use, The Digital Watershed™ and Watershed Health: Corporate water strategy and digital innovation for impact, Residual antibiotics in water, Water and EU Regulations, Closing of Water & Biotechnologies and more.
Video recordings from all the sessions will soon be available on the YouTube of Biotech Atelier here.
A series of meetings for the participants in the Bulgarian delegation to Poland have just started. The Bulgarian delegation will visit institutions, organizations, and companies in Warsaw and the Polish city of Bialystok. The Chief Executive Director of Invest Sofia, Dr. Maria Hristova, is also part of the delegation. She will present the economic profile of Sofia, the opportunities for business in the city, and the services and incentives we assist foreign investors.
The meetings will last until November 25 under the organization of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Bialystok. So far, we have visited Medgal – a Polish company that designs, manufactures, and sells medical products for bone surgery and orthopedics. We visited the R&D and production site of the company. AC S.A. is yet another company we visited. It develops innovative products and energy management solutions for the electromobility sector.
We also spoke with representatives of the Bialystok Regional Chamber of Commerce at an official meeting at the Chamber and attended a seminar on topics related to resolving conflicts between entrepreneurs through economic arbitration.
In the upcoming days, we will visit the University Cultural Center in Białystok, the Polish Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw, and the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Poland. Part of the agenda is a discussion on possible cooperation between Poland and Bulgaria in the field of vocational training to improve the professional competencies of adults working in Polish and Bulgarian enterprises.
Together with us in Poland are experts from BCCI, representatives of the Arbitration Court at the Chamber, heads of business associations, and Bulgarian companies.
Invest Sofia is on a visit to Poland as part of a business delegation organized by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry between 21-25 November 2022 in the capital Warsaw and in the Polish city of Bialystok.
The bilateral meetings and networking events are co-organised by the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of the city of Bialystok. The agenda includes meetings with local partners, including institutions and companies according to the areas of interest of the participants in the trade mission.
Dr. Maria Hristova, CEO of Invest Sofia, is part of the Bulgarian delegates. Experts from the BCCI, representatives of the Arbitration Court at BCCI, presidents of business associations, non-governmental organizations and Bulgarian companies interested in business opportunities with partners from Poland are also part of the mission to Poland.
According to the preliminary programme, during the four days in Poland, we’ll visit the University Cultural Center in Białystok, attend a seminar on the topic “Economic arbitration – a method of resolving disputes between entrepreneurs”, meetings with Polish companies organised by CCI in Bialystok, a discussion on the topic “Organization of the international Academy of Vocational Training to improve the professional competences of adults working in Polish and Bulgarian enterprises”, as well as meetings at the Polish Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw and the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Poland.
The autumn afforestation season of the New Forest of Sofia – 2 in the village of Negovan has begun. Saplings, shovels, and gloves are provided on-site. Citizens of Sofia who want to get involved in afforestation activities can do so during the weekdays and on weekends until November 20. The new forest near Negovan is the second afforestation initiative of the Sofia Municipality that aims at creating a green belt in the city suburban areas. Find out more about the initiative here.
Citizens and guests of Sofia now have access to new free wi-fi zones in three of the city’s parks. Two of the zones are in South Park – next to the entrances from Byala Cherkva Street and Nishava Street. The other two are in Borisova Garden and the Doctorska Garden. After logging into the wi-fi zone, users will see a webpage with upcoming cultural and sports events across the city. In addition, an innovative solar wi-fi bench has been installed in South Park with smartphone chargers w and free access to wireless internet while walking or working outdoors near the bench.
The restoration of the mineral bath in Bankya has been completed and the building has opened its doors to visitors. Its authentic appearance has been preserved and the thermal and wellness areas are now available for the citizens and guests of Sofia. Its authentic appearance has been preserved and the thermal and wellness areas are now available for the citizens and guests of Sofia. In October, the building received the Grand Prize in the fourth edition of the Bulgarian Architectural Awards 2022, organized by the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria (CAB). The award is for the preservation of cultural and historical heritage.
The central mineral bath “Bankya” was designed by a Munich architect. For a long time after its construction in 1911, it was the most modern spa building in Bulgaria and one of the most remarkable baths in Europe. The Sofia Municipality started its restoration in 2018. The bath is open to all who wish to visit it every day from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
According to Cushman&Wakefield Forton, the share of employees who returned permanently on-site remains smaller than expected. A balance between remote and on-site is expected only in mid of 2023. In Sofia, there is an increased interest in shared office spaces. The supply in the segment exceeds
The Sofia-based agrotech Nasekomo is now part of the NetZero Future50 report for CEE prepared by PwC. Produced in partnership with Wolves Summit, the report highlights the next generation of climate technology startups that have the potential to help reduce emissions. The Bulgarian agrotech utilizes the incredible biological abilities of the larvae of black flies (the so-called Black Soldier fly) to turn organic waste into protein animal food. So far, Nasekomo has received several investments for growth: from two of the fund managers of the Fund of Funds – Morningside Hill and New Vision 3, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Innovation Norway, and others.
The tech sales development company Out2Bound has announced its acquisition by the US B2B company MarketStar. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The new company will operate under the name MarketStar Bulgaria. All four Bulgarian founders will continue to manage the local operations, and the team in Sofia will increase significantly. MarketStar was founded in 1988 in Utah, USA, and has a European hub in Dublin, Ireland. Sofia is the second destination for the company in Europe and will provide MarketStar with the opportunity to further expand its operations. MarketStar Bulgaria will further development of Out2Bound’s SalesPro educational programme, which trains young sales experts. The new American owner will also upgrade the Bulgarian company’s software product to optimize its services to customers across the world.
Equity investment company BlackPeak Capital will support the telecom services provider Telelink Infra Services with EUR 8 million. Telelink is present in markets such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and many countries in Central and Eastern Europe. With the investment, the company will continue its rapid growth rate and allocate the funding towards M&A deals with smaller competitors across Europe. The rapid digitization in the EU countries has for several years already resulted in an increase in the demand for telecommunications services, and infrastructure players such as Telelink are some of the biggest investors in the construction of new infrastructure.