The Bulgarian startup ecosystem has a new online arena where individuals, teams or organizations with an entrepreneurial mindset can step on the scene, connect with others, and participate actively in everything that happens in this vibrant environment. The website is named StartUp Navigator – a platform that aims to provide visibility and to facilitate the connection between people with new ideas, startups and businesses, startups and talent[M1] s, startups and mentors, accelerators, non-governmental organizations, administration, co-working and all other stakeholders in their journey of being entrepreneurs. StartUp Navigator is a project of the Association of the Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs /ABLE/. The organization launched the first beta version of the platform in June. The second and current one was released at the end of August and it already has more than 400 registered organizations and individuals.
What distinguishes the platform from similar ones in Bulgaria is that it is not profiled on startups in a specific business area, being wide open instead for all industries and all stakeholders along the entrepreneurship chain. If someone has an idea and wants to start a business, they will be able to find support at every stage of the project – from co-founders or mentors, or even professionals, from whom to receive additional training, to getting an investment, then accelerating the idea in order to reach a larger scale and to go beyond the borders of Bulgaria as an established and stable international company. “We are aware that the participants in the entrepreneurship ecosystem know each other absolutely well, but our goal is to attract more participants from the periphery of this society who stand out there with their idea and should dare to start,” this is how Venetzia Netzova, project leader of the initiative and part of ABLE Bulgaria, explained in an interview in the Bulgarian National Radio the core idea behind the platform.
The Navigator has free access and registration. The platform has developed several categories to help registrants find and pin their place on the map of the Bulgarian startup ecosystem. During the registration or later on, anyone can filter to their profile exactly where they are in the ecosystem: an idea, an investor, an accelerator, a mentor, a freelance, a media, a research and development lab, a government or non-governmental organization, a co-working space or other. They can also state the industry, the stage of development, city
Sofia 2018, Events in August
Several events, part of the “Sofia – European Capital of Sports” programme will take place in Sofia this August.
The traditional Vitosha Run, a race from Sofia’s city centre to the highest peak on Mt. Vitosha, the Cherni Vrah Peak (2290 m above sea level) will take place on August 26th. On the next day, August 27 the traditional 66th cycling tour of Bulgaria begins in front of the National Assembly.
Meeting with Chinese companies at BCCI, August 18
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the sub-council of the Tianjin province to the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade organize a meeting with Chinese companies to visit the country in order to familiarize with the business climate and investment opportunities in Bulgaria. The delegation will represent the sectors: construction and eco-production of building materials, security and cabling systems, production and processing of aluminum, bicycle and electric bicycle production, parts and components for machine building and electronics, plastic products, organization of exhibitions and fairs, and others. Companies willing to participate in the meeting shall fill in a registration card by 15.08.2017. Participation is free of charge. Full information can be found on the BCCI website.
DEV.BG all in one – 12 speakers, 2 tracks, 1 day, 26 August
A meeting of the largest user group of IT specialists in Bulgaria will be held in two rooms of SoftUni Software University. The event “DEV.BG all in one – 12 speakers, 2 tracks, 1 day” will bring together 12 speakers on two parallel tracks, held in 1 day. All events are free but require preliminary registration. More information and a participation request link can be found here.
Ideas – this is us, 6th Edition will be Held on September 1-4
The sixth edition of the biggest forum for social entrepreneurship and innovation “Ideas – this is us” will be held September 1-4. This year, the forum is under the heading “Digital Innovation: choose your social innovation tool”. The event can be attended by pupils, students and young professionals looking to develop creative projects that solve real issues of social significance. Registration is open until 09.08.2017. More information can be found on the organizers’ page www.oib.bg
Forum “Career in Bulgaria. Why not?”, September 5
At Inter Expo Center the 10th edition of the biggest Bulgarian
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 tournaments will be organized for all those who want to compete in gaming tournaments such as CS: GO, League of Legends, FIFA and many more. Aniventure Comic Con will present some of the best graffiti artists from around the globe with many master classes and workshop areas for visitors.
Everything about the festival, tickets and registration for the tournaments can be found on the site of the event.
Several events dedicated to “smart cities” are forthcoming in the next few months in Sofia. A series of meetings will be held on the initiative of the Dutch Embassy in Bulgaria and in partnership of the Dutch ICT (Technology) Cluster in Bulgaria and the Innovation Starter Innovation Agency. The series is called the Dutch Innovation Café (Smart Cities Series 2017) and aims at providing space for sharing the experience of innovative ecosystems in the Netherlands and Bulgaria, and to create partnerships between startups and well-established companies from different industries.
The first meeting was held on June 22 with Adri Wischmann, founder of the Internet of Things Nederland. Lecturers were also other guests from the Netherlands – the leading country in the field of green and sustainable technology development, as well as representatives of three Bulgarian startups working in the field of smart cities – Tickey, Melissa Climate, Veloxoft and Hawk Eye Innovations.
Meetings aim at fruitful dialogue between the public sector, NGOs, business and individuals and organizations with proven experience in building working solutions behind the concept of a “smart city”. It includes sustainability of the living conditions and the environment; optimization of energy, resources, time and processes; urban design that provides good user experience (UX) and not only looks good but also works well for a comfortable daily life of residents as well as overcoming the negative effects of urbanization.
Adri Wischmann, founder of IoT Nederland (Internet of Things Nederland) HERE
Yerun Van Herthum, Human Resources Director at Strypes HERE
Lubomir Yanchev, Founder of Melissa Climate HERE
Dimitar Dimitrov, Founder of Tickey HERE
Alexander Penev, co-founder of Veloxoft HERE
The largest information and consultancy network in Europe Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) just launched the pilot phase of its newest online platform NIR-VANA. The project aims to develop online services that will help small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to innovate together with external partners, often referred to as open or collaborative innovation. Innovation advisors will provide services during the entire innovation process through the online platform where SMEs can collaborate, co-create and co-participate in innovation projects with other SMEs, experts and researchers from all over Europe.
Several innovation support services are currently available – video lessons, each lectured by an expert in the field, videos, articles, publications, practical activities and a self‑evaluation questionnaires. Participants will be both guided and assisted during the process of learning the concepts corresponding to each lesson. After completing each task, the participants can share their solutions in the forums of the platform and the system will allow them to both see the solution that an expert has suggested for each task and share their conclusions with those colleagues that may be active in the forums. The open courses cover the following subjects:
NIR-VANA targets SMEs, Innovation support advisors and researchers and consequently will develop an online solution based on training that will not only consider new and existing technologies and platforms but also the innovation culture in SMEs and their ICT readiness.
The project is based on the Open Innovation concept – an innovation strategy by which companies go beyond their internal boundaries when designing and developing Innovation projects. Combining internal and external knowledge and skills appropriately, these companies are open to share and integrate/acquire ideas with a number of collaborating stakeholders (consumers, users, employees, other companies, technology centres or research institutions, universities…). Cooperations built in such a collaborative
For the third time Junior Chamber International Bulgaria (JCI Bulgaria) distinguished the 10 most prominent young people of Bulgaria. The project is part of the world-famous format The Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP), which every year aims to distinguish young people, leaders in various areas. The initiative has been held since 1938 and has distinguished celebrities such as John Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Jackie Chan, and others. The distinguished young Bulgarians for 2017 will also compete in the TOYP global competition. They are as follows:
Business, Economics and/or Entrepreneurship – Venelin Dobrev
He is among the founders of the online media Uspelite.bg – portal for positive news, initiatives, personalities. Venelin works at the Agency for Regional Economic Development in Stara Zagora on international projects for policies and instruments for the introduction of innovative business models and new technologies in small and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas in Europe and for the promotion of the use of green technologies as a tool for sustainable development and environment protection.
Political, Legal and/or State affairs – Peter Mladenov
Participates in the recommendation making Committee for fighting HIV/AIDS, in 2015 receives a mandate to participate in the UN Sustainable Development Negotiations on Youth Affairs, is a member of the UNESCO International Working Group on Health Education. Has been proclaimed by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS as progressive young leader of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Academic Leadership and/or Achievement – Alexander Lukanov
Associate Professor at the University of Mining and Geology in Bulgaria and at the University of Saitama, Japan. His scientific and academic activities are focused on innovation in the field of nanotechnology. He has more than 50 author’s scientific publications and 3 textbooks for students, a number of international scientific scholarships and awards.
Cultural Achievement – Ilian Lyubomirov
Author of “Night is Action” – the best-selling poetry book by a Bulgarian author for the past 25 years, co-founder of the literary platform Letters of flesh and founder of the “Valeri Petrov” Art Academy.
Moral Leadership and/or Environment Protection – Hristo Blajev
He is chosen to be in the ranking because of his contribution to popularizing the reading of Bulgarian authors. Creator of the book blog Knigolandia and the Facebook group “What do you read …” – the most popular group of readers on Facebook, and is currently editor at Ciela Publishing House.
Humanitarian and/or Voluntary Leadership – Pavel Kunchev
The sixth season of the Start It Smart pre-acceleration program ended with 6 teams presenting their projects to audience and investors at the end of the program from a total of 12 startup companies that have been approved for training this year. The organizers noted several differences over the previous years – the type of the projects, the number of participants and the character and location of the event.
The prevalent in this edition were hardware projects, most of which had a ready-made prototype, first-time customers and with a good preliminary research and argumentation about the need for the products on the market. Applications were cut in half in comparison with previous years due to the organizers’ different approach this season – a participation fee was introduced, and this narrowed the applicants down to those who were really motivated and presented strong projects and valuable ideas. During the 10-week program, start-up entrepreneurs were constantly accompanied by specialists and mentors who trained them on topics that are key to the successful development of a business idea – customer relationships, business planning, team building and funding opportunities. As in previous years, the teams that completed the Start It Smart pre-accelerator program have become part of the Bulgarian entrepreneurial organization and will have access to the network of contacts of the organization.
Start It Smart 2017 Finalists
Twinray – with the development of a self-charging electric airplane with short wing spread.
Cуcle Point – with an innovative bicycle lock system without padlocks or chains.
SmartCup – with a cup-adviser prototype for better oral hygiene; the product is based on the Internet of Things technology and allows the toothbrush cup to collect statistics and give tips for better tooth care.
Mom Instead – with a product for parents with young children – a platform for hourly care on call from the right people with experience.
The Student Network of Bulgaria – online platform that connects and unites all students in the country.
One Question – with a platform for experts from different fields where they discuss professional themes, ask questions and get an online response.
This year there was something else new – the venue. For the first time host of the event was Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC), a new workspace at “Sofia Tech Park” which opened in the spring.
Microsoft Innovation Center, the first innovation center of its kind in Bulgaria and
On July 5, the first Bulgarian geostationary communication satellite BulgariaSat-1 reached its orbital position. The facility is an investment of BulgariaSat, which is part of Bulsatcom Group. The satellite was launched by the US technology giant SpaceX of billionaire Elon Musk on June 23 from a rocket platform at NASA’s Kenedy Space Center in Florida.
If the tests are successful, the satellite will start broadcasting in August. BulgariaSat-1 will provide television and communication services on the Balkans and other European regions. According to BulgariaSat, the facility will have life and fuel for more than 20 years and Bulstatcom will be able to repay its USD 230 million investment in about 10 years. The investment has been implemented with a credit from the US export credit Eximbank and a consortium of European banking institutions led by Deutsche Bank – London and Citibank, Raiffeisenbank and KBC.
Bulsatcom will use 46% of its satellite capacity for its own broadcasting mainly in Bulgaria and Serbia. The remaining part of the satellite capacity will be leased.
Walltopia, the Bulgarian climbing wall company, has successfully completed the implementation of one of the largest centers for sports and leisure facilities in Innsbruck, Austria. The total climbing area is 5700 square meters, of which 3000 sq. m. are indoors, and the highest walls in the center are 17 m. Climbers will be able to choose between 800 different routes. The facility has a capacity of 350 people climbing at the same time.
See the full story behind the biggest climbing gym built ground up at once – 6377 sq.m / 68 641 sq.ft of plywood… https://t.co/eB8JWltgbx
— Walltopia (@WalltopiaBG) July 5, 2017
From design to construction, the team of Walltopia stands behind the building process of the facility. Next year, Innsbruck is expected to hold the World Cup in climbing.
On June 19, InnoEnergy, supported by the European Union for Innovation and Technology to the EU, opened the application procedure for the third edition of the PowerUp! competition. Innovative projects in the sustainable energy sector from Central and Eastern Europe can take part in the funding competition. The program is interested in ideas that could have global impact and may contribute to the environmental protection. The application deadline is September 11, and the winners will receive cash prizes of EUR 20 000, EUR 10 000 and EUR 5 000 for the top three places, and access to the prestigious accelerator program KIC InnoEnergy Highway Accelerator to further develop their businesses. The winners will be announced in November. The competition provides contact with key partners and potential clients, which is a key factor in the highly regulated energy sector, and it is of great importance that the business model is validated successfully not only at national but also at international level.
Requirements for participation
PowerUp! 2017 is open for start-ups established no more than two years ago, with a developed prototype. The program is in the lookout for already formed teams and among the prerequisites is the companies to have the ambition to develop their innovations at an international level (respectively the idea to be globally applicable). On the website of the competition you can find description of all application steps, as well as an online application form. If you have any questions regarding the competition, you can also contact Cleantech Bulgaria, a non-governmental organization that coordinates the competition at a local level. The Bulgarian teams will compete with projects from 22 other countries from Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Turkey, Estonia, Ukraine and others.
The selected applicants will go through a number of training sessions and workshops before the big final of PowerUp! 2017 in Budapest in November. Thus the teams will be given the opportunity to develop their business skills, to establish international contacts with other companies in the field of sustainable energy. From September to November, all selected participants will be trained by foreign mentors and business specialists.
Last year, a total of 99 startups applied for the competition. 10 of them reached the big final in Warsaw, including two startups from Bulgaria – the Hybrid Gyrocopter project powered by Electro Engine – ultra-light gyrocopters with
Bulgaria went up 4 positions in the Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-2017 of the World Economic Forum. According to the organization’s assessment, our country ranks 50th out of 138 countries in terms of business development conditions. The report points out that problem factors for the business are corruption, inadequate training of staff against business needs and infrastructure problems. The indicators with positive trend include Strength of investor protection, Extent of market dominance, Effect of taxation on incentives to invest, GDP growth, FDI and technology transfer, Fixed-broadband Internet subscriptions, Country capacity to attract and retain talent. On its 50th place Bulgaria is ahead of several European Union countries – Greece (86), Cyprus (83), Croatia (74), Hungary (69), Slovakia (65), Romania (62) and Slovenia (56).
The three most competitive economies in the world remain those of Switzerland, Singapore and the USA. In top 10 are also the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, Japan and Hong Kong.
Overall, the World Economic Forum’s assessment is that the growth of the global economy remains weak and many countries report poor productivity growth and high income inequality. A closing of the economies is registered, which has a negative impact on competitiveness. Another key conclusion is that reconsidering of business processes and investing in innovation are just as important as infrastructure, human skills and market efficiency.
The report states that the world is on the verge of the Fourth industrial revolution with a rapid introduction of technology in all sectors, which changes the world around us and the way we begin to perceive the “human”.
The complete report can be read here, and the indicators for Bulgaria are on page 130.
Last month the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic and Demographic Policy Valeri Simeonov announced planned simplifications in the procedures for hiring specialists from outside the European Union via the so called “EU Blue Card”. Part of the document requirements for candidates will be removed and employers will no longer be obliged to publicly announce vacancies.
According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the biggest number of specialists from non-EU countries are hired by the ICT sector. A total of 55 out of 67 blue cards issued in Q1 2017 were for positions in the ICT sector. Some of the other areas include education, construction, manufacturing, hotel and restaurant management and health care. The biggest number of blue card recipients for both permanent and seasonal labor and for all sectors come from Ukraine, Russia, China, Moldova and Macedonia.
For 2016, the most work permits for foreign citizens were granted to US specialists. A total of forty “blue cards” were issued to US citizens; mostly school teachers and athletes, followed by Serbia – 33, Turkey – 23, Russia – 16, Canada – 15, Tunisia – 14 and Ukraine – 13. A total of 70 blue cards were issued specifically for European countries outside the EU, mainly for Ukraine and Russia.
The EU Blue Card is issued for up to 1 year with the possibility of renewal if all the necessary conditions continue to exist. The forthcoming changes in the hiring procedures of foreign specialists are expected to make it easier for employers to find qualified foreign workers when the local market proves insufficient.
Since June this year, Bulgaria has its first interurban main road with full charging coverage for electric vehicles. The road from Sofia to Kulata, the busiest route to Greece, is secured with 3 charging stations. This makes the road to our southern neighbor possible for every serial electric vehicle. A new rapid charging station in Sandanski has been opened as this is the second station on the route after the one in Blagoevgrad. The third location is on the main road E79, at the parking lot of “Seas Cars – Sandanski”. The infrastructure was built by eMobility International through its integrated Eldrive platform. The company aims to develop the electromobility on the Balkan Peninsula by building a network of rapid charging stations (DC) and standard stations (AC) in urban environment and along the major main roads of Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Greece and Albania.
The stations allow rapid charging in accordance with the two industry-approved standards – CHAdeMO for Asian manufacturers and CCS – used by most European manufacturers. The stations have a power of 50 kW DC and allow the charging of the mass electric car models in less than 30 minutes.
By the end of 2018, the company plans to build charging stations along other major interurban arteries in the country. At present, Eldrive’s charging points for electric vehicles are 32, of which 8 are rapid-charging. The stations are located in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Blagoevgrad, Albena and Damianitsa. You can find an interactive map with the charging locations on the Eldrive’s website. Payment for the charging service is done after an online registration on the website and can be done via mobile phone as well.
While the number of electric vehicles was insignificant five years ago, it reached 2 million in 2016. Currently, China is the largest electric vehicle market with a 40% share of sold electric vehicles worldwide, according to data from a report of the International Energy Agency (IEA). This is double the number of electric cars sold in the USA. At the beginning of June, the number of public charging stations there was 16,038. In the USA, the sharp increase of the number of charging stations for electric cars and hybrids began in 2011, when Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt entered the market. Today, there are some 650,000 plug-in hybrids in the USA. Only Tesla Model S exceeded 100,000 units sold since the