At the initiative of Sofia Municipality ‘Startup Sofia Accelerator’ starts its activity in support of innovative, start-up and social entrepreneurs on the territory of Sofia Municipality. Its goal is to support entrepreneurs or startups for a period of 3 to 5 months in their process of preparing for application for funding from banks and investors.
The initiative will be implemented with the participation of the Municipal Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises (MGFSME), the Europe Program and Sofia Investment Agency.
Sofia Municipality has also announced the establishment of a Consultative Council in support of SMEs through financial instruments to Mr. Doncho Barbalov, Deputy Mayor of the Finance and Economic Activity Division. The Council for Encouraging Entrepreneurship will primarily aim to implement the policies of the municipality to support small and medium-sized businesses through financial instruments and stimulating entrepreneurship in the capital.
In the last month of the past year, Eurostat published airport traffic statistics covering nearly 150 airports in the EU based on annual data for 2017. Sofia Airport ranked 63rd in terms of passengers carried and Bulgaria is among the first five countries by growth of passengers carried.
In 2017, a total of 6.5 million passengers passed through Sofia Airport – a 30% growth on 2016. The highest number of passengers came from the European Union – 5.3 million. Passengers from non-EU countries totaled 820 000, and Bulgarians were some 270 000.
According to data at national level, Bulgaria is among the top five countries with the largest increase in passenger flows. With a total of 11 million passengers travelling through the local airports, Bulgaria recorded an increase of 19% in 2017. Slovenia is holding the number one position in terms of growth of passengers carried with a 20% growth, followed by Luxembourg, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
All EU member states registered an increase in terms of passengers carried. The number of passengers at European airports grew by 7% year-on-year in 2017 to more than 1 billion.
The rapid development of Sofia Airport is related both to the considerable expansion of the volume of low-cost carriers and the economic development in Bulgaria in general. For the last three years, a total of 42 new destinations have been introduced at Sofia Airport, including new flights to, among others, Ljubljana, Baku, Nice and Malaga. It is expected that a new Beijing-Sofia direct line will be opened by 2020. Furthermore, new direct flights are expected to be introduced at the airport in 2019. Two of them are offered by the low-cost carrier RyanAir, which will launch the new Sofia – Kiev and Sofia – Crete lines in April.
The 2019 program of Cleantech Bulgaria and Climate-KIC for startups with ideas in the field of clean technologies, solutions for sustainable business and climate innovations is now open for applications. Climate-KIC Accelerator is the largest European entrepreneurial initiative for clean technologies to tackle climate change. The accelerator works in a network with another 24 EU countries, providing entrepreneurs with a unique international environment for mentors and investors. In Bulgaria, the program is being held for fourth consecutive year and has supported 24 companies so far.
Potential participants are welcome to complete the application form on the website of the accelerator no later than January 27 in order to apply for a place in the Climate-KIC Accelerator Program.
Bulgarian startups can now apply for a free participation in Start-up-Woche in Dusseldorf, Germany, part of the North Rhine-Westphalia meets Eastern Europe event that will be held on April 11, 2019. The event is organized by Enterprise Europe Network and NRW.International GmbH and is a result of the growing interest of Western companies to partner with Eastern European countries. At the meeting 25 Eastern European companies will have the opportunity to present their business ideas, plans and projects and get in touch with German companies.
The deadline for registration is February 28. More information is available here.
The Bulgarian Development Bank offers a EUR 300 million program under the Juncker plan to support micro, small, medium and mid-cap enterprises with up to 3 000 employees. The funding under the scheme is jointly provided by BDB and EIB within the framework of the ’Investment Plan for Europe’.
The commercial banks, partners under the program, shall receive loans of up to EUR 50 million to be further on-lent following their individual internal regulations. Additionally, BDB is ready to bear up to 100% of the risk under the loans to the Bulgarian enterprises.
Under this program, the companies shall be able to apply for new investment, project and related working capital financing from BGN 3 to 24 million, while the refinancing of loans shall be excluded. The interest rate shall not exceed 3.7% per year. The maximum repayment period is until 2032.
NEVEQ, one of the first private equity investors in Bulgaria, signed an agreement with the State Fund of Funds for financial resource management of EUR 19.1 million of public funds intended for the
Two of the companies, co-founding the first Health & Life Science Cluster in Bulgaria, have received awards at the ‘Innovative Enterprise of the Year’ contest. These are Micar Innovation and Printivo, which are both among the initiators and co-founders of the association, the Cluster stated.
This is the 14th edition of the ‘Innovative Enterprise of the Year’ contest at the initiative of the Applied Research and Communications Foundation and Enterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
‘Micar Innovation’ received the ‘Innovative Start-up Enterprise’ award for 2018. This is the third prestigious award for the company within a year after winning the 2017 Best Biotech Startup Award at the end of 2017 at the CESAwards and the CIDIC Special Award at the European Center for Economic, Academic and Cultural Diplomacy this summer. The latter also helped the company to enter the Roots Analysis Ranking of the 250 Global Companies in the Pharmaceutical Industry. This ranked the Sofia-based company among world-renowned names such as Sanofi, Merk, etc.
The founder of the company, which has created the successful platform for rapid screening and discovery of new drug molecules for preclinical research for a large number of diseases, is Dimitar Dimitrov, who in 2018 became Chairman and founder of the first Health & Life Science Cluster in Bulgaria.
Another founder of the cluster – Printivo, the innovative company for 3D bioprinting of human tissues, was the leader in the ‘Quality of Life’ category. In recent months, the company received a number of awards – it became a national winner and regional finalist at the CESAwards 2018 in Warsaw, and also received the CIDIC Award for the great social importance of the technology it has developed. Printivo is also the winner of BetaPitch Sofia, becoming a finalist at BetaPitch Global in Berlin in 2017.
The company’s creators believe that printing a whole human organ over the next decade is not an utopia. Currently, Printivo’s team is working to create 3D-printed live human bone.
You can learn more about the other enterprises awarded at the ‘Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2018’ national contest here.
The Health & Life Science Cluster was created in 2018 to establish and promote Bulgaria as a global center of innovation in the field of
Sofia’s business environment had another year of growth. Once again the capital was the richest region in the country, with the highest GDP per capita (2.3 above the average for Bulgaria), with a 40% contribution to the national economy and 52% of the attracted foreign investments in the country. Sofia and the region further strengthened their leadership position on the back of the success of many local and international companies and another year of record growth in tourism, outsourcing and the ICT sector.
Here are some of the most successful business stories in Sofia in 2018
ТЕLUЅ Іntеrnаtіоnаl Еurоре – the country’s largest BPO and ITO employer, announced its plans to recruit 2,000 new employees by 2020 at its hubs in Sofia and Plovdiv. Thus, the company, which currently employs more than 2,600 employees in the country, will increase its staff to nearly 5,000. The company’s management announced its growth plans at the official opening of the new head office of TELUS International Europe in the newly-built City Tower office building at Macedonia Square in Sofia.
Again in April, German global leading automotive parts manufacturer Веhr-Неllа Тhеrmосоntrоl (ВНТС) announced its intentions to increase its production capacity in Bulgaria by launching its fifth production line in its plant in Bozhurishte Economic Zone.
Another German investor in Bulgaria – supermarket chain Lidl chose Sofia to be its fourth location in Europe to open a high-tech IT development center. The unit will be in charge of IT solutions serving all markets where the chain also sells online as a complementary service to the physical location of the stores. Lidl chose Bulgaria among other European countries due to the availability of highly qualified IT specialists and the dynamic development of the sector in the country. The company also has development centers in Germany, Spain and Romania.
Magnetic sensor producer Festo (again German investor) announced an investment of EUR 25.6 million to build a new stepper and motors production unit in Sofia. Along with the construction of its third production unit in Sofia, the company intends to increase its workforce in Bulgaria to 2,000 employees by 2020.
The Coca-Cola Company officially opened its new regional Intelligent Technology Development Center in Sofia with an investment of BGN 1,374 million. The Bulgaria Center is now the 2nd largest IT center of the company in the world, the biggest one is situated in Atlanta, Florida, US.
At the invitation of Georgiy Poltavchenko, governor of St. Petersburg, to Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia, the Bulgarian capital took part in the VI St. Petersburg International Congress “St. Petersburg and the Slavic World”, held on November 28-30, 2018 in St. Petersburg.
Sofia was represented by a team of Sofia Investment Agency with a presentation during the plenary sessions of the Congress program. The city had its own information stand as part of the “Global and Regional Partners of St. Petersburg” exhibition under the three-day forum.
This year the International Congress was focused on the introduction of innovations and their successful implementation in urban life. As part of the participation of Sofia Municipality in the forum, Mr. Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, presented the business and investment climate in Sofia, as well as the development of innovations and their successful implementation in the city during the plenary session.
Furthermore, our team also participated in the international collective exhibition “Global and regional partners of St. Petersburg” with its own information and exhibition stand where our team provided information on Sofia’s innovative projects and was introduced to the potential opportunities for joint future projects with Petersburg and other participating cities.
We would like to express our gratitude for the fruitful discussions with the representatives of the St. Petersburg Technopark, Pskov Region Investment Development Agency, Tolyatti innovation region, St.Petersburg Cleantech Cluster, and Invest Finland – the investment agency of Finland.
During the stay, our team visited St. Petersburg Information and Analytical Center, providing information and analytical support to local authorities.
We also met with Mr. Alexei Silkin, Investment Management Director of the Committee on Investments of St. Petersburg, the organization that implements the city’s investment policy and works for the city’s positive business image for both Russian and foreign investors. Mr. Silkin expressed his willingness to establish partnership between Sofia and St. Petersburg. In addition, opportunities for future joint projects and initiatives between the two cities were discussed as well.
The team of Sofia Investment Agency would like to express our gratitude to the organizers of the Government of Saint-Petersburg and the Committee for External Relations of the city for the invitation and the warm reception.
In November, Sofia Investment Agency held three working meetings with representatives of the sectors of ICT, transport, utilities and city administration, aiming to identify the first pilot projects that will work for the digital transformation of Sofia. The local meetings are part of the European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge program, where Sofia will participate together with 40 other cities. The program aims to provide high quality consultancy services to the cities and help them build innovative ecosystems by deploying modern technologies.
During the discussions in November, we described 15 projects related to smart urban transport and traffic management, air quality, energy efficiency of buildings, efficient business model and smart allocation of resources provided by utility companies, digitization of data on use of public utilities and their tracking in real time, activities to support startups, to encourage risky investments, to attract international educational programs to the universities in Sofia, etc. Implementation deadlines, necessary resources, stakeholders, goals and expected results have been specified.
The generated ideas came in response to the main conclusions of the Sofia Assesment Report, prepared during the first phase of the project. According to the conclusions, the ICT ecosystem of the city is comprised of companies with a high level of technological competence and experience, allowing them to offer a wide range of products. The sector, however, is very export-oriented and currently it does not contribute sufficiently to the modernization of the local economy and urban life. The ecosystem’s further growth will depend on the creation of a local market and the demand for technological services that would enable ICT companies to develop a local environment for the creation and development of their products.
The pilot projects for Sofia will be discussed at the next academic meeting between the cities participating in the Digital Cities Challenge and the 6 mentoring cities in the program. The meeting will take place in January next year in Spain.
If you want to learn more about the project, you can contact Nadia Soultanova, head of the Agency’s Investment Analysis Department at email@example.com.
Our team would like to express its gratitude to the growing network of local stakeholders and European cities that have joined the project.
In 2019, Webit.Festival Europe will host one more separate event – Climate|Tech, aiming to address climate change related challenges, create dialogue between institutions, academia and enterprise and to pave the way to change.
By 2050, 2/3 of the global population will live in cities. More than 70% of the global demand for infrastructure over the next 15 years is expected to be in urban areas. According to a World Economic Forum survey, air pollution can prematurely kill 400 000 Europeans, not to mention the health costs and the new diseases like allergies in the recent years.
How cities develop is important both for their economic growth and climate security.
The current state of technology provides numerous solutions that can be put into action.
The goal of the Climate|Tech Summit will be to gather the enterprise leaders from different industries together and help them plan how to move away from the current Energy system to a new clean tech world.
In 2018 Webit.Festival Europe doubled its size and moved to a larger venue. The festival broke records with 10 000 attendees from 111 countries.
Sofia is looking forward to welcome many more next year. Webit.Festival Europe 2019 will be held on 13-15 May. Save the date!
Bulgaria gave up its 50th position to rank 59th in World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 ranking. The annual analysis assesses the conditions for business development in countries around the globe, based on the performance of 41 indicators, grouped into 10 sub-indicators: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting access to electricity, registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and settlement of business disputes, getting a credit, resolving insolvency and protecting minority investors.
Bulgaria was positioned 59th among a total of 190 economies, showing an improvement in some indicators but a decline in the overall score due to the faster pace of development in other countries around the world. At a maximum assessment value of 100%, our country reached 71.24% (compared to 71.91% last year) with an average assessment of 72.34% for the region of Europe and Central Asia (72.33% a year ago).
Just like in the 2018 ranking, our country performed best in terms of cross-border trade, taking the 21st position. Bulgaria has been keeping this position for the third consecutive year.
In terms of protection of minority owners, our country ranked 33rd, which is a good position in the overall ranking, but is lower compared to the scores for this indicator in the previous two years – 24th place in last year’s edition and 13th two years ago. The performance of the country in respect to enforcing contracts was also relatively good (42nd position this year, compared to 40th in 2017) and construction permits (37th position). A sharp decline was registered in the assessment of access to credit, where Bulgaria dropped from 42nd to 60th place. In terms of getting electricity, our result was higher (54.93 compared to 54.80), but compared to the scores of other Eastern European countries, Bulgaria fell behind – the Czech Republic was positioned 10th, Poland and Greece ranked 58th, while Bulgaria was 147th.
The leader in World Bank’s Doing Business ranking this year again was New Zealand. The other top ten countries with the most favorable business environment were Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong, South Korea, Georgia, Norway, the USA, the UK and Macedonia – the big surprise in the ranking due to its good performance and entering in the top 10.
The full report is
Bulgarian companies from all sectors can join ICAP Trade Exchange – the only data exchange network on inter-company payment behavior and credit discipline in Bulgaria. The program is developed by ICAP Group, one of the largest groups offering business services in Southeast Europe, which also has a subsidiary in Bulgaria for 11 years.
The program provides exchange and management of databases, commercial risk assessment, analyses of timely and untimely payments of companies and thus builds a reliable and dynamic online database with information on the payment discipline of the companies, for which the participants in the Program submit data to the Operator (ICAP). Companies with accounts can receive information about the ‘payment health’ of other organizations. Thus, the ICAP Trade Exchange payment register assists companies in developing their receivables management policies and is a tool for accurate measurement of trade risk when working with other companies, risk assessment for investments, etc.
ICAP Group has similar programs in 55 countries around the world. Each register, including the one for Bulgaria, has been developed in accordance with the specifics of the market to maintain an objective assessment of the payment profile of all registered users. In Bulgaria, the register has been working for over 4 years and maintains data on the payment discipline of 170 000 organizations.
ICAP Bulgaria plans to publish the “300 Companies with the Best Payment Profile in Bulgaria” ranking.
ICAP Trade Exchange specifically aims to add the profiles of more startup companies regardless of the sector in which they operate.
About ICAP Group
ICAP Group has a team of 1 300 employees worldwide and is one of the largest groups offering business services in Southeast Europe. The company has subsidiaries in Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Serbia, and after its acquisition by SEEF of Global Finance in 2007 it has become the provider with the broadest scope of business services in the region. The company offers a wide range of services and products that are grouped into 4 major categories: Credit Risk, Marketing Solutions, Management Consulting and Human Resources.
Bulgarian companies from all sectors may request a one-time consultation free of charge with a mentor from the International Business Alliance.Bulgaria (IBAConnect.com) networking business platform. This is the first of its kind global initiative and networking platform to build an international online business network with a Bulgarian connection. If you need to know more about the business environment and the opportunities to grow in a specific market outside of Bulgaria, experts can answer your specific questions, help you with information and guidance, and support you in the next steps of a possible business positioning in a foreign country.
In order to request an individual business consultation with an expert from International Business Alliance.Bulgaria, you need to sign up on the platform with a personal profile and / or a profile of the company you manage or represent. Once you create an account (s), you need to submit your request for consultation. The request can be submitted through the platform’s internal messenger at IBA.Bulgaria’s official profile or at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your request has to include the “IBAconsult1” code, the country you are interested in, the sector you want to enter, and a brief description of the specific questions you want to learn more about. Thus, the team of the platform will be able to connect you with an expert from the corresponding country with business experience in the specific market and sector.
The deadline for submitting requests under this first mentoring initiative for free individual consultations by experts from International Business Alliance.Bulgaria is December 31, 2018, with the first 10 entries being approved. It is important to know that if you miss the deadline but you are a member of the Alliance, you will have the opportunity to follow up on the next edition of the initiative.
About International Business Alliance.Bulgaria
The International Business Alliance.Bulgaria business platform was created by Bulgarians for Bulgarians and already brings together more than 660 professionals from 4 continents – Bulgarians living abroad as well as their foreign partners. A large number of the members are entrepreneurs with international experience and manage / or are part of / developed businesses in sectors such as information technology, creative industries, construction, tourism, trade, manufacturing, consulting, etc. The network aims to support business development with Bulgarian connection all over the world. The platform brings together active businessmen and companies, and also targets students and young specialists looking
Two Bulgarian companies were awarded among the best startups in Europe at the European Commission’s Startup Europe Awards. These are Enova for its water pollution monitoring system based on a new generation of biosensors and Biomyc for the development of an economical and biodegradable alternative to polystyrene from agricultural waste and mushrooms. The awards ceremony was held in Sofia within the framework of Startup Europe Summit 2018 – the EU policies conference that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, academicians, policy makers and major corporates. The event was held in Sofia for the first time on 14-15 November 2018, and was chaired by the Commissioner Mariya Gabriel .
134 companies from 16 EU and neighboring countries have applied for the StartUp Europe Awards. They were competing in 18 categories and went through an initial selection process and mentorship programmes for the further development of their projects.
Biomyc wins the Green Company category for a technology which reuses agricultural waste to produce an ecological composite material that aims to take over plastic foams. The company Enova won the Water category by offering the latest in specialized mechanical and process equipment, can design, installation, maintenance, and in specific cases, operation of premium wastewater treatment systems.
Among this year’s winners are startups form Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Luxemburg, Poland, Romania, Greece and Macedonia. Along with the other winners, the two Bulgarian companies will receive access to the mentorship programme Accelerator StartUp Europe, organised by the Finnova Foundation. The accelerator will grant them access to European funds to help the startups further develop their project and expand to foreign markets.
This year’s Startup Europe Summit focused on technological leadership, European financing and business growth. The event gathered in Sofia more than 500 leaders from the European startup ecosystem, including investors and entrepreneurs, to generate initiatives that can support the next generation of pioneers achieve success in Europe and beyond.
During the conference, a Joint Declaration Reinforcing the Central and Eastern European and Western Balkans Technological Entrepreneurship Ecosystem was signed by organizations representing startups from 14 European countries.
The new Joint Declaration outlines concrete commitments to help entrepreneurs in accessing funding opportunities and best practices, to release legislative burdens across markets and to promote the region as an attractive entrepreneurial ecosystem.