On May 12 -13, 2017, the #BG10xEU Hackathon took place in Sofia Tech Park on the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of Bulgaria’s membership in the EU. The event was initiated by the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality; and Sofia Development Association, Software University, Webit Foundation, UPNETIX and the British Council in Bulgaria formed the core of the organizing team.
The Hackathon lasted 24 hours with 49 registered teams counting more than 350 participants interested in IT, programming, design, multimedia and marketing. Of all the starting teams, 34 managed to develop a minimum viable product and presented demo versions or prototypes of their solutions to the jury. Eight teams made it to the final and presented their ideas to the jury and the public.
The first prize in #BG10xEU Hackathon – 10,000 lv. and a voucher for presentation at Webit 2018 – was won by team Prizma for a prototype of an application for direct translation of camera-captured text to sign language with the possibility of recognition and translation of different languages. Because sign languages are different in different countries, contestants have provided the possibility of translating text from one language to a different sign language.
The second prize – 5,000 lv., provided by the Sofia City Council, was awarded to the team of the startup BrainHUB lab for the development of an application for real-time speech translation, including an educational platform for the learning of the sign language. The demo of the application called “Velar” showed successful visualization and recognition of basic gestures. The contestants also presented a wrist bracelet prototype, capable of solving this problem.
The third prize in #BG10xEU Hackathon – 3,000 lv., provided by the Sofia City Council, was awarded to one of the youngest teams – Dzham vrata – vrata dzham for an Internet platform for sharing problems in the urban environment in Sofia and opportunities for solving them both by the municipality and the citizens.
Sofia City’s Special Prize “Green Sofia” of 5,000 lv. was awarded to the 1Tree team for an augmented-reality (AR) game for web and mobile in which users can plant and take care of virtual trees at the place of trees that are actually missing from the streets of Sofia. The objective is to raise awareness about places where once have been or should be trees, but they are not planted yet. The project involves
The second edition of the Central European Startup Awards – Bulgaria for young entrepreneurs and start-up companies is forthcoming. Winners will be elected in 12 categories and the nomination of candidates has already started. Candidate teams must submit their applications by May 31 at the CESAwards website.
Nominations are accepted from ten countries – Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. By the end of the month, applications are accepted at national level. Those wishing to join CESAwards 2017 have the opportunity to designate a nominated company or nominate their own business, and the categories are: Best FinTech Startup, Startup of the Year, Best Newcomer, Best IoT Startup, Best Smart City Solution, Best Biotech Startup, Best AI Startup, Investor of the Year, Founder of the Year, Best Accelerator Program, Best Social Impact Startup and Best Coworking Space.
After the nomination period closes, successful Bulgarian entrepreneurs and representatives of the startup ecosystem will identify the best start-up companies and projects in each of the categories. From July 17th to August 10th, the general public will also be able to vote on the competition site where all nominations will be posted. The best distinguished participants in the national round of CESAwards – Bulgaria will be determined in September. In November, they will compete in the big finale in Sofia against the finalists from the other nine countries.
In Bulgaria, The initiative is organized by the Association of Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE). The competition is part of a series of events in Central and Eastern Europe, but this year’s grand finale will be held in Sofia in November. The initiative aims at linking the business and ideas of young entrepreneurs precisely from these countries and removing the boundaries between entrepreneurial ecosystems in the region.
Nominations can be submitted to the contest website.
Deloitte announced the results of its research into the potential of software technologies applied in the financial sector (FinTech) in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The report was commissioned by the UK Department of International Trade and includes Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
According to the report, the FinTech sector in Bulgaria has the lowest market value among the other surveyed countries – only 39 million euros, while the market valuation of Poland, the leader in this indicator, is 856 million euros. However, Bulgaria is rated as a country with great potential, and payments are given as an example of a market segment with many opportunities, where innovative technologies are expected to penetrate more and more dynamically. Thus, Bulgaria is in sync with the other CEE countries where people are increasingly embracing new methods to operate with money, such as the wider use of contactless payment methods, including innovations like host card emulation (HCE), which allows for contactless payment by phone.
Among Bulgaria’s strengths, the report lists the low government debt, the steady growth in the IT sector, the country’s increasing competitiveness and low labour costs. The small domestic market and the relatively low percentage of people using the Internet are mentioned as weaknesses. The forecast for Bulgaria entails the development of the banking sector with a focus on mobile technologies, CRM systems, digitization of services and models for data processing and analysis. In terms of percentage of the population which uses banking services, Bulgaria, with 63%, is placed second to last ahead of Romania. The highest share of people use banking services is in Slovenia and Austria – 97% in both countries.
The Bulgarian payments market will grow a lot in the future, Deloitte predicted. A potential obstacle could be the low level of smartphones penetration which could delay a widespread use of mobile technologies in the sector. Still, also in our country the FinTech industry is taking advantage of the general trend for people to give up paying cash and to turn to alternative methods of payment. The report gave an example of an innovative product in digitalisation, particularly in the insurance sector, and it belongs to a Bulgarian company – INSIS of Fadata – a software product used in more than 30 countries. In 2015, Fadata was valued at 20 million euros and acquired by British insurance company Charles
“A hub”, the first space for social innovation in Bulgaria was opened in Sofia. “A hub” will provide a common space for non-governmental organisations and businesses to launch common initiatives aimed at social change and improving the environment in which we live.
The Hub has been created on the initiative of the Listen Up Foundation with the support of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) and the financing for the first year of the project is provided by TELUS International Europe.
The management team of A hub is ambitious to work for the creation of active dialogue and long-term partnerships between the business, the civil sector, institutions, universities and society. The goal is to enable the business to actively participate in the sustainable development of the civil sector, to be involved in civic causes, and to come up with more successful solutions that will reach more people.
The management team of the social innovation space includes Xavier Marcenac, President of TELUS International Europe, Nadia Shabani, Director of the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and Ashod Derandonian, Chairman of the Listen Up Foundation.
More about the initiator organizations:
The Listen Up Foundation was set up in 2014 to improve the quality of life of deaf people in Bulgaria. The main goal of the Foundation is to provide equal access to information, communication, quality education and professional development of people with hearing impairment in Bulgaria through information technologies. The Foundation is in a process of development of an online platform for equal access that currently includes two modules for video relay and speech-to-text services.
The Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) was established in 2001. For more than 16 years BCNL’s mission has been to support the development and implementation of laws and policies aimed at developing the civil society, civic participation and good governance in Bulgaria. BCNL is a partner of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and a founder and partner of the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL).
TELUS International Europe is a leading provider of BPO and ITO service, which has been providing business processes outsourcing services since 2004. The company employs more than 3500 people in Europe in the territory of 7 centers in Bulgaria, Romania and the UK. Globally, TELUS International provides innovative business outsourcing services with over 25 000 employees worldwide, including Canada, the USA, Europe, Latin America and the Philippines.
Bocconi University will start a Master’s program in Bulgaria. SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy is one of the most elite universities in the world and is officially ranked by Financial Times as the sixth best place in the world for business education.
Bocconi will conduct the “Finance, Banking and Real Estate Management” Master’s program for senior executives in partnership with the American University in Bulgaria.
The program will be launched in mid-October this year and will last between 14-16 months. It will consist of 16 modules and will take place entirely in Sofia with classes held in English. Graduates will be awarded two diplomas – from SDA Bocconi and the American University in Bulgaria. Both diplomas are recognized in Europe and the United States. The lectures will be held at weekends, making the programme suitable for working managers. The cost of the program will be EUR 22 500. It is common practice for companies to invest part of the amount for training. The university will also work with banks with preferential credits for education.
According to American University’s acting President Dr. Steven Sullivan, the joint master’s program will enable the candidates not only to build a career but also to build the new Bulgarian economy.
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) published at the beginning of May results of a survey conducted among companies and industry structures on business and investment climate in Bulgaria. The survey results also include specific proposals to boost investment in the country.
More than 80% of all respondents gave an excellent or good score for the corporate and income tax rates as well as for the financial stability of the country – both having biggest impact on the business and investment environment in the country. Negative assessments concern education and the legal system.
The companies’ priorities for this year mainly relate to the search for new markets – for 86%. Second comes the investment in employee training – for over 2/3 of respondents.
To the question “What are the three most urgent changes in the business environment that can encourage you to invest more?” the respondents listed the following recommendations: E-government becomes reality, education empowers the business with the right staff, tax breaks measures and a lower social security burden. In order to encourage investment, companies also believe that monopolies should be removed, and the competition improved, including the activity of the state regulators – Financial Supervision Commission, Commission for Protection of Competition, Commission for Consumer Protection.
Compared to the results of a similar survey in 2015, the sharpest improvement was visible in business’ assessment of the country’s financial stability (positive estimates of 83% in 2017, 35% in 2015), and a deterioration is mostly visible regarding the fees collected by the administration (2017: 48% positive estimates, 2015: 64%).
On May 11, SIA presented the investment opportunities in Sofia and how the Agency could help investors successfully set up a business in our capital to delegates from the Republic of Egypt.
Nadia Soultanova, head of Investment Department of the Agency, gave a presentation on the foreign investment opportunities in new and high value industries, presented data about the state of the ICT sector and other priority sectors in Sofia, and the increasing number of tourists and of passengers traveling through the Sofia airport.
Company representatives from the Arab Republic of Egypt asked a number of questions concerning the operational costs and the tax system in Bulgaria, the availability of startup incubators and accelerators, the issuing of working visas to ICT specialists from outside the European Union, etc. Among the attending companies were EBKOT For Development & Tourism Co. S.A.E, which develops tourism projects, Investia Venture Capital, a venture capital and direct equity investment company, Polyserve Group – the leading company for manufacturing phosphates fertilizers and sulphuric acid, Tam Oilfield Services – exclusive representative of major worldwide manufacturers in the oil/gas and refinery industries, and a provider of technical services, Polymers for EVA & Rubber, which manufactures rubber articles for the shoes industry, Manapharma – exclusive provider of specialised products for a number of international pharmaceutical, cosmetics and chemical companies, RadaResearch, the leading Egyptian, privately owned marketing research and Public Relations Company.
The meeting was held on the initiative and with the cooperation of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The presentation was also attended by Her Excellency Ms Manal Yehia El Shinnawi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Bulgaria.
Few days later, on May 15 and 16, 2017, Тhe Trade Office of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Sofia organized a multisectoral economic mission in Sofia and Bourgas with over 20 Belgian companies interested in the Bulgarian market. As part of the delegation’s program on May 16, a meeting was held between representatives of some of the companies participating in the mission, the Sofia Investment Agency (SIA) and the InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) to present the investment opportunities in Sofia and Bulgaria.
The meeting took place at the initiative of the Trade Office of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Sofia in the hall of IBA and with the assistance of Sofia Investment Agency. The representatives of the Belgian
On April 25 – 26, Sofia was the digital capital of Europe within Webit.Festival Europe – the largest event for digital economy and technology in the region. In the heart of the festival’s exhibition area, the Sofia Investment Agency’s team organized an area where the festival’s guests were welcomed to learn of the opportunities for business in Sofia.
To make a special presentation of the city and in line with the festival’s theme, we branded the tent so that when scanning with a mobile device different areas in the tent an augmented reality video about the capital would start. The video started by scanning the tent wall, the entrance poster, and small real chocolate bars branded with the Invest Sofia logo.
The augmented reality in our tent was done with the help of iGreet, who were guests in our area and presented the capabilities of the AR technology that they develop for different media and bring into use in different business areas. The other companies joining us were the young team of Sofia Tech AI Lab with control of robots via brain waves, Robopartans, who demonstrated how children learn to build robots, NeoFeedback – with biofeedback technology that teaches us to voluntarily manage unconscious processes in our body with a computer game and two sensors on the hand, and Tickey – with their project in the field of urban mobility.
We are delighted that the innovative ideas of these young teams attracted great interest among the festival guests and they established contacts with potential customers and partners for the promising technological solutions they are developing. “Two things were extremely helpful to us,” said Trayana Vukadinova from NeoFeedback. “On the one hand this was a reality check of our product – reactions of specific type of audience and visitors, method of presenting the product itself, opportunities for development in the future, financing opportunities, access to different markets, etc., and on the other hand – new contacts, including ideas for joint development of complementary services not connected with the core product, based on the biofeedback technology we use.”
Outside the festival’s exhibition area, Webit’s visitors could choose between 12 parallel conferences, including the Dev Summit, the Digital Transformation Summit, Marketing & Innovation Summit, Digital Economy Leadership Summit, IoE Summit, Health & Wellbeing Summit and the Smart Cities Summit which was under the patronage of the Mayor of
The famous English business magnate, investor and philanthropist Richard Branson will visit Bulgaria to present a business lecture. The event will be held on May, 19 in Hall 1 of NDK.
Sir Branson will deliver a public speech, encouraging entrepreneurs in Bulgaria to believe in their own success and find ways for making it happen. The main topics will include:
Richard Branson started his first business venture at the age of sixteen – a magazine called Student. At the age of 20 he set up a mail-order record business. Two years later, in 1972, he opened Virgin Records. At the age of 30 he set up Virgin Atlantic airlines.
Today Virgin Group controls more than 400 companies. For 66-year-old businessman work over 60 thousand employees in 50 countries. In 2002 he was listed in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. In January 2016, Forbes listed Branson’s estimated net worth at $5.2 billion.
On March 20, the cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking announced he is going to go to space on board Richard Branson’s spaceship. “Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic, and I said yes immediately”, he said.
Richard Branson’s spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, hopes soon to carry people into space on commercial missions.
In a post on his blog few weeks ago, Branson discussed the overwhelmingly positive effect of gender equality for business, and ways to break down the “entrenched hierarchies” where women are so frequently overlooked for high-level positions. He says one solution is to empower women to start their own businesses right from the get-go.
Here are some of Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson’s most famous quotes:
The event is organised by Archventure, Ltd., tickets are already on sale. Partners: National Palace of Culture, InvestBulgaria Agency, Bulgarian Chamber
At a conference dedicated to the regulatory environment for the collaborative economy, experts and representatives from Wien commented on the European agenda for the shared economy – how to protect consumers, reduce the grey zone and protect the existing market operators. The attendees agreed on the fact that local municipal administrations are not able to resolve the taxation problems without common EU standards and synchronised policies.
Thomas Reindl, Chairman of the municipal council in Wien said that if shared economy model is not properly applied it may further encourage unfair competition. Reindl remindеd the case of misuse of personal data by a US shared platform. Clemens Hempel, Head of “Economy, labour and statistics” in Wien municipality stressed on the fact that the collaborative model is not a new trend for Austria but in the digital environment where the shared services are prospering we need to encourage a regulatory environment that allows new business models to develop while protecting consumers and ensuring fair taxation and employment conditions.
Airbnb’s case in Amsterdam was given as a good example and a working model. Airbnb holds almost 80% of all accommodation rentals in Netherlands. Amsterdam signed a memorandum stating that the online marketplace is obligated to pay tourist taxes, and the longest rental period is 60 days for one year period.
The CEO of Invest Sofia, Vladimir Danailov also attended the conference. The collaborative economy model provides new opportunities to unlock the full potential of the citizens and the use of assets. First, we need to very carefully analyse the social and economic impacts from the shared economy in Bulgaria. This will helps us identify the best rules and policy recommendations for state regulations, Vladimir Danailov said.
Original article: Nedyalkova, Devora. “EU regulations for the shared economy to protect consumers”, 24 hours. Sofia, 12 March 2017.
By the end of the year Sofia will launch a public bike rental scheme.
Four hundred bicycles at 33 different locations in the city will be available for residents and visitors of the Bulgarian capital, announced Deputy Mayor of я аTransport Evgeni Krusev. The rental options will include a 30-minute free rental, and hourly rental of up to 1.60 lv. per hour (the public transport ticket price).
Full day cards for 6 rides, weekly bicycle rental, and monthly membership cards will also be available.
The bike docking stations will be concentrated in the central areas of Sofia; will be available 24/7 with a pre-paid card, or through the “Nextbike” mobile application after scanning the QR code on the wheel to unlock the bicycle.
The app will also provide information on the location of the nearest docking stations.
The bike stations are mobile and can be relocated in case of city-wide events, traffic congestion or construction works.
In addition, each station will be a Wi-Fi network hub. If the bunks are full, the user will be able to leave the bike near the station and the app will automatically end the rental period.
The public rent-a-bike system is part of Sofia Municipality’s efforts to introduce clean and energy-efficient sustainable mobility options in the city.
Over 20 countries in Europe use bicycle-sharing. Worldwide public bike sharing systems are available in 50+ countries on five continents, including 712 cities, operating approximately 806 200 bicycles at 37 500 stations.
The pioneering city for bike-sharing was, not surprisingly, Amsterdam. In 1967 the group Provo painted 50 bicycles in white and left them in downtown Amsterdam to be used for free.
Among the best European cities for cyclists today are Copenhagen (about half of Copenhagen’s residents use bikes on daily basis), Eindhoven, Strasbourg, London, Nantes, Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin.
Standard & Poor’s has reaffirmed Sofia’s long term credit rating – BB+ with a stable outlook. The credit rating of Bulgaria is also BB+. As a rule, no municipality can have a credit rating higher than that of the country. The rating agency takes into account the measures aimed at stabilizing the municipal companies, the financial stability, financial results, high liquidity as well as Sofia’s large-scale capital programme. The capital program 2017 is BGN 435 million – that is 35 million more than the previous year. The amount includes funds under EU programmes.
The affirmation of the BB+ rating is a prerequisite for attracting investments to the city.
To present new investment opportunities in the capital, Sofia Investment Agency organized a meeting with commercial attaches, bilateral chambers and economic affairs counselors on March 10th. The Agency presented latest data about the investment climate in Sofia and several projects for new investors – the construction plans for North Park and West Park, the restoration projects for the old baths – Gorna Banya and Ovcha kupel and a project Chepintsi, 8 km from the city centre.
The Agency presented Investment Promotion Certificate Class C and a list of municipal properties scheduled for privatization as part of the Annual Municipal Privatization Plan 2017. The full presentation is published on our website (Links to ppt or maps and full lists)
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