Bulgaria’s position in the ranking of the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index is moving upwards for the sixth consecutive year. In the Global Index 2017/2018 Bulgaria is 49th out of 137 countries included in the ranking. Bulgaria started from 74th place in 2011 and last year occupied 50th place. The climb up to 49th place takes us ahead of Latvia (54), Slovakia (59), Hungary (60), Cyprus (64), Romania (68), Croatia (74), Greece (87) and Serbia (78). The Czech Republic and Poland lead the ranking for the CEE region, taking 31st and 39th place respectively, while this year Macedonia is not included in the Index because of insufficient data.
The slight upward climb is mainly due to the improvement of the macroeconomic environment, including the indicator for improving investor protection. Bulgaria’s rating here is above the average for the EU and North America. A slight decline was reported in indicators such as institutions, infrastructure, primary education and health care. The weakest areas of our economy are corruption and inefficiency of the state administration.
The WEF ranking is based on 114 indicators, divided into 12 groups, including institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, labor market efficiency, technological readiness, innovation, etc. All of them determine each country’s average performance rating and potential for prosperity. The value of each indicator is formed under a scale from 1 (poorest) to 7 (strongest performance) and together they give the overall average rating of the country. Bulgaria’s overall rating this year is 4.46 (compared to 4.44 last year). The leader in the ranking is Switzerland with a total score of 5.86, while the lowest placed country in the list is Yemen with 2.87.
Doing business in Bulgaria
Bulgaria reports best results on the budget balance indicator taking 6th place in the Index. Other indicators that we rank high with are government debt, investor protection, and technological indicators, such as access to broadband Internet services.
It is no surprise that we get lowest scores for independence of the judiciary system, fight against organized crime, transparency of policies, protection of physical and intellectual property, efficiency of taxation, ability of the labor market to attract and retain talents.
Top-performing countries – almost unchanged
For another consecutive year, Switzerland remains the leader; the second place is taken by the United States, which switched places with Singapore. No new names appear by the end of the
At the end of September, the international IT company Endava opened a new office in Sofia, thus making the first step towards stable expansion of its team in Bulgaria. Strengthening its delivery capability in Central Europe, Endava entered the Bulgarian market at the end of 2016, through its merger with the software development company ISDC. The company announced its intention to increase the number of employees over the next three years. Currently Envada operates with 70 local developers, aiming to grow to 180 by mid of 2018, and up to 400 by the end of 2020.
The new office space spreads over 2 floors with the total area of 2,200 square meters in the newly-built Millennium Business Center in the very heart of the city. The workplace has 14 conference rooms, coffee and lounge areas, game room, library and parking places.
— Endava (@endava) September 22, 2017
Envada’s headquarter is in London and operates with 14 offices worldwide with nearly 4,000 employees working with some of the biggest names in industries such as Technology, Telecom, Insurance and Banking. Currently, the international IT company boasts a revenue of over 115 million pounds.
Endava considers Bulgaria as a strategic hub for the IT services it renders. “With over 50,000 IT professionals and 2,000 IT graduates per year, Bulgaria is a strong IT hub, and Endava considered this location due to its engineering talent, excellent English language skills, good connections to European capitals, and good fit for the delivery of IT projects in North America, Europe and the Nordic countries. ”, the official press-release sais.
Envada’s local team consists of developers, architects, test engineers, Java, .Net, Scrum specialists, mobile application specialists, automation testing specialists, business analysts, and more. The Sofia office will further strengthen the network of Endava delivery centres in the region, together with the teams in Belgrade, Bucharest, Chisinau, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi, and Skopje.
The Austrian Cargo-partner is constructing a modern logistics center near Sofia International Airport, scheduled to open in the beginning of 2018. The investment of 15.3 million euro will create more than 20 new jobs. The international transport and logistics provider plans to build the new logistics center in Sofia as part of the company’s strategic investments into strengthening its worldwide warehousing capacities.
The new logistics center will contain 22,000 pallet slots on more than 16,500 m2 of storage space as well as 2,000 m2 of office space. This new facility will be added next to the 10,000 m2 logistics facility which the company has been operating since 2015. The location near Sofia International Airport provides direct connections to the metro station and railway line as well as easy access to the motorways Trakia (A1), Hemus (A2) and Struma (A3).
The warehouse will be especially suited for the storage of oversized cargo and spare parts and will include a customs bonded warehouse. The facility will have a special area for the storage of foods and other temperature-sensitive goods with a temperature range between +10 and +20°C. Value added services offered at the new warehouse will include packaging, labeling, delivery and returns.
The Austrian company Cargo-partner was founded over 30 years ago and generated a turnover of 555 million euro with 2,588 employees in 2016. “After starting the construction of our modern iLogistics Center near Vienna Airport, the new warehouse in Sofia is the next important step in the expansion of our logistics capacities throughout Europe.”, Cargo-partner CEO Stefan Krauter says in the official press release of the company.
South African property investment fund NEPI Rockcastle reached an agreement to acquire Paradise Center – the largest retail center in Sofia, for 252.9 million euro. This is a record high price for a real estate in Bulgaria. Earlier this year NEPI acquired another shopping mall in Sofia – Serdika Center together with Serdika Office building, for a total price of 207.4 million euro.
The company’s official statement for the transaction said: With a growing population of over 1.32 million inhabitants, Sofia is the economic and cultural centre of Bulgaria and an attractive head office destination for international companies. Benefitting from a developing infrastructure and strategic location, Sofia is a major hub for international railway and automobile transport, with three Pan-European corridors crossing the city. During the last couple of years, Bulgaria’s economy has shown robust growth, with GDP growth of 3.6% in 2015 and 3.3% in 2016. Growth is forecast to remain strong at 2.8%-2.9% per year in 2017-21 (compared to a forecast growth of 1.4%-1.5% in the European Union), as domestic and external demand continues to increase (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit).
With a total area of 82,000m2, Paradise Center is the largest retail centre in Sofia. The centre is located in the wealthy southern part of the city, which is undergoing strong development. Paradise Center is located at the intersection between two main traffic arteries, it has 1 900 parking places available and direct access to Vitosha station from M2 metro line. The trade center welcomes 10 million visitors annually. Apart from the major national and international tenants, the centre has also a strong food and entertainment area, sport areas, a playground, cinema and a congress center.
The acquisition strengthens NEPI Rockcastle’s position as the largest listed retail real estate company in Central and Eastern Europe (“CEE”), and together with the acquisition of Serdika Center earlier this year, its presence in the Bulgarian market. The fund is the leading retail owner in Romania and has strong positions in Slovakia and Croatia.
Two month ago, in August, another South African investment fund acquired another trade center in Sofia – Serdika Center shopping mall together with Serdika Office building, for a total price of 207.4 million euro.
In 2016, Bulgaria was the country with the second biggest increase in airport passengers (15.2%), after Iceland (29.9%).
The total number of passengers at Sofia Airport increased by 21.8% in 2016, compared to 2015, from 4 088 943 to 4 980 387 annually.
The rapid expansion of low-cost carriers was the major factor behind the double-digit increase in number of foreign tourists in Sofia and the city becoming more and more popular destination for city breaks. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance, more than 56% of the foreigners that visited Bulgaria in 2016 arrived with a low-cost flight.
More detailed data on the passengers and flights at Sofia Airport is available in the full version of the “Sofia: Tourism and Air Transport 2017” report, published on the website of Sofia Investment Agency in the Market Data and Analyses section.
The hotel market in Sofia has been demonstrating a stable growth in number of arrivals, number of nights spent and revenue from nights spent since 2009. The trend was especially visible in 2016 and is expected to continue in 2017.
Increased occupancy drove an increase in RevPAR, though it remained one of the lowest among the European capitals.
The average daily rate (ADR) in Sofia for 4 and 5 star hotels was EUR 46 and occupancy reached 45%, continuing the trend for consistent growth.
For the period 2013 – 2016 ADR in 4 and 5 star hotels increased with a steady rate of approximately one Euro per year and occupancy grew from 37% to 45%. The revenue in 2016 was EUR 49.5 mln. However, both ADR and occupancy rate in Sofia remained one of the lowest on the continent.
More detailed data on the capacity of the accommodation in Sofia is available in the full version of the “Sofia: Tourism and Air Transport 2017″ report, published on the website of Sofia Investment Agency in the Market Data and Analyses section.
Don’t Miss Out in Sofia in September:
Forum “Career in Bulgaria. Why not?”, September 5
At Inter Expo Center shall be held the 10th edition of the biggest Bulgarian career forum for Bulgarians abroad. The Forum gathers Bulgarians abroad with over 100 employers, in order to present the variety of professional opportunities in the country. The purpose of the event is to give Bulgarians living or studying outside the country the opportunity to return to Bulgaria, start their own business or non-government organization and meet with Bulgarian entrepreneurs. The seminar, which will be a part of the forum, will be broadcasted live online. Participation is free of charge but requires a preliminary registration here.
Business conference Business in the City: Explore | Share | Grow, 8-10 September
Business conference Business in the City: Explore | Share | Grow is a 3-day business conference focused on the main aspects of doing business and achieving sustainable growth in the modern city. Approximately 250 managers and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria and abroad will attend the event, and 9 guest speakers from international companies will give presentations. Part of the agenda of the conference are trainings and workshops, networking and Gala dinner with the speakers. Speakers, topics and passes – on the website of the conference.
Aniventure Comic-Con Bulgaria, 9-10 September, Inter Expo Center
The world-famous Aniventure festival for comic books, anime culture, gaming and graffiti will take place in Bulgaria for the first time, uniting forces with the ComicCon event, which is new for Bulgaria, but well-known to every fan of the comic culture around the world. The event will be held on September 9 – 10 at the Inter Expo Center in Sofia. Among the key guests of the festival are Tom Wlaschiha, who played one of the key roles in the Game of Thrones series, stars from the Vbox7 and HBO series, world-famous Cosplay stars and comic book authors. Guests of the two-day event can watch or take part in the traditional Cosplay and art competitions, anime and manga zones, k-pop, board games, lectures and panels with foreign guests and many new attractions for the event. Furthermore, a gaming zone of 2500 square meters will be built during the event which will be the largest gaming zone in Bulgaria so far. It will host some of the best Eastern European gamers on its big stage. In addition, high-prize
The 13th edition of the “Innovative Enterprise of the Year” is now open for applications by Bulgarian companies which have successfully developed and implemented innovative solutions. The awards are organized by the Applied Research and Communications Fund and Enterprise Europe Network – Bulgaria, with the support of the EU. The initiative aims at promoting innovative products, processes, services and practices in the activities of Bulgarian enterprises. The deadline for submitting applications is October 15.
There are eight categories: Market Leadership, Quality of Life, Green Innovation, Innovation Management, Social Innovation, Innovation in the Creative Industries, Innovative Start-up and Innovation for Talent Development. The condition for participation is that the innovation has been developed and implemented over the last three years. The official award ceremony will take place in the first half of December of this year, during the 13th edition of the National Innovation Forum.
How to apply for the contest:
You can register for free on the website of the event in order to get a personal account for application access. Once the access is received, the companies may submit their applications for one or more categories by filling in the portfolio and describing their application in the specified application form.
In the last year’s edition of “Innovative Enterprise of the Year” a total of 50 applications were submitted, and the winning companies included Dolly Media Studio for the latest technologies for production and post-production of video content; “Electrosphere” – the company that introduced the use of atomic clocks in musical engineering; “Software University” with award in the latest category “Innovation for Talent Development” for quality solutions in training of IT staff in Bulgaria; The start-up company Tickey Mobile Solutions (Tickey), which develops a comprehensive e-ticketing system for public transport; Proznanie Academy, which creates an author’s methodology for distance learning and virtual classroom VEDAMO; and “Sintal MM”, a manufacturer of dental alloys on nickel and cobalt basis. You can learn more about the finalists and the 2016 ceremony here.
A total of 32 Bulgarian companies compete in the Central European Startup Awards (CESAwards 2017), which aims to distinguish the best businesses in the region. The competition deadline for voting for local winners among the finalists announced on the CESAwards website expired on August 23. At local level, the initiative is led by the Association of Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE).
Along with the public voting, an expert jury was also assessing the finalists. Its members include Leona Aslanova, founder of Innovation Starter Box, Rumyana Trencheva, Regional Executive Director of SAP, Viktor Koskonel, Executive Director of Sodexo Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov, Senior Entrepreneur and Lecturer at the Center for Economic Strategies and Competitiveness, Philip Genov, Vice President of Unicredit Bulbank, Momchil Vassilev, Executive Director of the enterprise network Endeavor Bulgaria and Dilyan Dimitrov, Founder of Eleven Venture Capital Fund. Voting by a wide audience was the eighth vote for the assessment of the seven-member jury, which chooses the winners on a national level that will qualify for the regional round.
This year there were 12 categories. In the local race the fiercest competition was for “Best Newcomer” – for companies with up to two-year background which have made the biggest progress in the development of the company, the innovations created and the impact of their product or service. In an interview for Bloomberg TV Bulgaria, Denitsa Simeonova from ABLE said that this year the applications were mostly from technology companies with platforms or technological products that use artificial intelligence, the Internet of things and Big data.
Here are the Bulgarian finalists in the categories:
“Start-up of the Year” – Connecto.ai; Coursedot; IGreet; Prospecto Group; Reputize
“Best Newcomer” – ClaimCompass; Connecto.ai; Coursedot; iGreet; Reputize
“Best Social Impact Startup” – EuroPATC; farmhopping; JAMBA; Red Paper Plane
“Best Smart City Solution” – Narcine
“Best Biotech Startup” – Biodrinks Ltd; Green Corp; Micar Innovation; NutriGen
“Best Fintech Startup” – KLEAR LENDING; Property Club; Virtual Broker; World VIP Club
“Best IoT Startup” – App Lighthouse; Bee Smart Technologies; Navigato; Pro Smart Ltd.
“Best AI Startup” – Centroida; Connecto.ai; Maj.io; Transmetrics; Trevor Labs
“Founder of the Year” – Yulian Sofroniev (Biodit), Vicho Dimitrov (iGreet), Adel Zakut (clippings); Vladislav Simov (Domestina); Vladislav Mihaylov (Birlibam)
“Investor of the Year” – DigiMark Ventures; LAUNCHub Ventures; Unicredit Venture Hub
“Best Accelerator and Incubator Program” – Start It Smart | Pre-Accelerator; UniStart; Cleantech Bulgaria
“Best Coworking Space” – Cosmos Coworking Camp;
On a dedicated event in London, Microsoft announced the launch of a new initiative – AI for Earth, which aims to detect and develop artificial intelligence (AI) projects that will help solve important issues related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change. AI for Earth plans to grant $2 million in innovative projects which include the use of Microsoft services and products. Another goal of the initiative is to access interesting startups, researchers and organizations and their insights on AI development, accuracy and efficiency.
To make AI for Earth more accessible the program will give to all participants access to Microsoft Azure compute time and its data science virtual machine offerings on Azure. It will also provide training and education what AI tools are available, how to use these tools and how the tools can help meet specific needs – through general session trainings on single issue areas, as well as through training for grantees.
The initiative has already supported 3 ongoing projects. Find out their stories and more information on how to join AI for Earth at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/aiforearth.
For the first time ever, the WorldBusiness Angels Investment Forum opens its doors to Start-ups, Scale-ups and High-growth businesses. BABA – Bulgarian Association of Business Angels to lead the selection process.
On 19 – 20 February 2018, angel investors will come together in Istanbul at the annual meeting of the World Business Angels Investment Forum 2018: THE TAKE INVEST SUMMIT with the goal of creating new ways for start-ups, scale-ups and high-growth businesses to access finance and help next generation of great companies move forward. The selected companies will have exposure to highly qualified angel investors, family office executives, co-investment fund managers, angel investment group directors, corporate venture executives, accelerator executives, techno park investment directors and venture capitalists.
Those interested are invited to apply not later than 29 September 2017.
Download the application brochure – Bulgaria for more information.
Following “Fintech Accelerator”, the program of Raiffeisen Bank International, another financial institution launched a contest for innovative developments in the field of fintech solutions. In August, Unicredit, in partnership with the international accelerator ABC, announced the first Central and Eastern Europe hackathon for software specialists and fintech developers. Those willing to take part had to complete the participation form until August 24, and the hackathon itself will take place on September 2-3 in Ljubljana. Participants who offer the most innovative software solutions in the field of finance will receive funding of up to EUR 10 000.
Of all applications from the region, only 80 participants will get access to the hackathon – individually or with a team. On-site teams of up to 8 people will be formed to jointly seek solutions to specific case studies related to the new PSD2 payment directive which entitles EU financial institutions to provide direct access to customer accounts if they have given their preliminary consent. The experts will have to offer solutions on how to use customer account information to create value for customers and the bank. In addition to funding of up to EUR 10 000, the best ideas will also be presented to the Unicredit Management Team for Central and Eastern Europe.
Almost at the same time of the Hackathon in Ljubljana, the semi-finals for the fintech accelerator of Raiffeisen for CEE – Elevator Lab – will take place. According to the competition’s schedule, distance pitching sessions will be held between September 5-6 to identify the 15 finalists who will go on to present and develop their ideas in Vienna.
The total number of applications from around the world for this contest reached 336. A total of 13.4% of them comes from fintech startups from Austria, 27.1% from CEE countries, and the rest are from Western Europe, Asia and the United States. Most applications are submitted within the Payments and Transactions field, followed by Trade and Investment, SME Banking, Database Analysis, RegTech and Office of the Future.
The accelerator has received applications from all 14 countries in the CEE region. There are 8 companies registered for participation from Bulgaria, thus ranking the country 4th in number of projects together with Poland. Of all the 14 countries in the region, it is only Hungary with 13 projects, Romania with 11 and Slovakia with 9 applications, which stay ahead of our country. On