Consulting and auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published in early March the complete results of its second survey among business leaders in Bulgaria, part of the 20th annual global survey of the company. The survey was conducted among 103 top managers of leading Bulgarian companies and the global survey comprised a total of 1 379 men and women at leadership positions from 79 countries worldwide.
Here are the main conclusions of the survey.
Bulgarian CEOs are optimistic about the development of the world economy, technology and business in 2017. Every third believes that the global economic situation will improve over the next 12 months. In general, we are more optimistic compared to the rest of the world because as many as 90% have declared confidence in their business growth in the next three years. The evaluation of the leaders worldwide also seems more optimistic than expected in view of some unexpected events in 2016. More than half of the survey respondents (51%) are very confident in the mid-term perspectives for their companies, compared to 49% last year, while 38% are very optimistic about the growth perspectives in the short run, compared to 35% last year. In Bulgaria this percentage is even higher – 41% of business leaders are very confident in the short-term growth perspectives of their companies.
Bozhidar Neychev, managing partner of PwC for Southeast Europe, said in an interview that the results do not mean that our executives are more naive than their peers abroad. They are facing some main concerns that leaders accept as existing threats. They include the unstable economic growth and global uncertainty. In Bulgaria the future of the Eurozone replaced over-regulation as a major threat and noted a significant increase compared to last year – from 42% to 78%. Therefore, a few CEOs talk about potential growth through mergers and acquisitions, as they rather rely on organic growth, which is defined as moderate realistic optimism.
In terms of human resources, 48% of Bulgarian business leaders expect the number of their employees to go up in the next 12 months. Globally, there are concerns that new technology will eliminate some jobs and will increase unemployment, but in Bulgaria this concern is not relevant yet. Bulgarian businessmen said that despite technological progress, they still need more people and appreciate more skills that cannot be performed by machines. 83% of Bulgarian CEOs admit that it is
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) published a survey among the members of the Chamber on their opinion about the level of education and the demand of the companies for personnel by specialties. The results also include proposals for improvements in the education sector.
Employers once again evaluate the quality of training of university graduates in Bulgaria as unsatisfactory. Nearly two thirds (61%) believe that students need additional knowledge. Employers consider that the main problems are related to specific professional skills and teamwork. The lack of entrepreneurial thinking and approach to work are also a problem, as well as the limited practical knowledge – it is hard for graduate students to put theoretical knowledge in practice.
The main shortage of specialists is in the field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and economics. The survey also shows lack of medium level staff with specialized skills, such as turners, miller, grinders, fitters, etc. – activities which could not be compensated by the appointment of engineers. More than 70% of the survey respondents expect that in the next 5-10 years professionals with technical education will be needed and 35% – people with economic education.
Some 41% of employers have trained additionally the young people employed by them due to gaps in their education. When they can’t find sufficiently trained staff with proper qualification, most companies invest in training of current employees or hire new employees they additionally train. Only 4% have been looking for opportunities to appoint people from other countries, and every tenth company has invested in technologies which eliminate the need for a job position for the respective activity.
The proposals of employers to improve the qualification level of the staff in Bulgaria include:
– more practical training and correspondence between the university specialties and those demanded on the labor market
– independent external evaluation of students’ knowledge
– funding of specialties should be according to the quality of education, not according to the number of students
– state quota students should be required to work in the country a certain number of years in order to reduce the outflow of personnel
– rewriting of lecture material, so that it is in line with the modern scientific achievements
– dual form of education yields good results and should be introduced in more schools
The same issues and recommendations have also been included in another document – Volume 2 of
BAIT Awards 2016 were presented in a very strong competition of candidates in all categories this year. Mobile applications, educational initiatives and innovative projects in the IT field spring up both from developed business structures, developing small teams and high school classrooms.
According to the change in the regulation for the Special Award no applications were submitted and the award was bestowed by decision of the jury by internal nominations. Two new categories were also introduced: “Significant corporate ICT project” and the Internet of Things (IoT) category. In addition, in a move to support the activity of the younger generation, BAIT decided to extend the current “Student Award” category – in “Youth Award” in which students, who have created their own development or product in the field of information and communication technologies could also participate.
A quick look at the presented ideas undoubtedly proves that we are part of the global excitement on what the future will be in a world evolving at a very rapid pace and where the “Internet of things”, artificial intelligence and virtual reality completely change the format in which we study, work and live.
Below we present a short description of the applications for the IoT category, which is a new category but with a very close competition, the Entertainment software category, as the gaming industry is developing very dynamically in our country and across the world, and for the Startup category because the good new ideas should be supported on their path of growth to successful business development.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The award was presented to a group of young students from the Technical University in Sofia for their project Adept – a comprehensive IoT platform, inspired by the project of NASA, by which the space agency is looking for a solution to improve the way astronauts train in space. The Bulgarian development Adept is a device composed of two easy to grip parts, which may train over 90% of the muscles in the body and is connected to the Adepth Health iOS application that gathers detailed information and determines how many calories should be consumed a day, what is the current fat quantity in the body and what is the maximum power of each major muscle group. The app also provides complete information about the quality of certain food after scanning the barcode on the packaging. It is integrated with
Every day we come across new mobile applications that entertain, inform or facilitate the user’s’ everyday life. iHELP can do more than that because the app can save lives. Its software creates a network for mutual assistance and brings together families, friends, first aid personnel, medics, firefighters and most of all – ordinary people who are able to give first-aid assistance or want to gain life-saving skills and get prepared to help people in need of emergency assistance.
The project iHELP Bulgaria is managed by Hristo Hristov, who learned about the application during a startup exhibition in the UK in 2013. After six months of negotiations with the author of the idea – a Slovenian entrepreneur, Christo grabs the opportunity to develop iHELP in our country. In the case of emergency, any person with the mobile app installed on his mobile phone can instantly alarm the 112 system (or 911 and 999 in other countries), and with just a click to alert family and friends, and people in the iHELP network. All users within a radius of 500 meters receive SOS alarm that someone close to them needs help. iHELP allows also alerting for another person who is in trouble. The program can guide you with brief instructions for life-saving actions until the arrival of the medical team. It can also track the location of the closest defibrillator.
The app does not replace the functions of the state emergency systems. It just aims to cover the critical few minutes that can preserve someone’s life, until the emergency signal is processed and the ambulance arrives. “Unfortunately, the state’s’ resources are not sufficient all the time and too often we hear about cases in which ambulances are delayed more than 20 minutes. A man without a pulse and breathing starts dying after the third minute, in another 7-8 or so – he is not alive. Our goal is to respond to a critical situation up to the third minute when a volunteer-savior can reach the person in need and try to keep or save his life until the arrival of the emergency team.”, Christov says.
Since 2013 Christo has managed to create a large network of volunteers and has trained more than 900 children to provide first aid. He has a university degree in engineering but his true calling is that of an entrepreneur. At just 29 he was listed in the
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)
In case you need more details on any of the listed investment projects, please contact email@example.com
Sofia-based online shopping platform provider StoreGecko has signed a partnership deal with the US e-commerce provider BigCommerce, the company announced in January.
StoreGecko’s services will be offered by BigCommerce as one of the exclusive applications that will help online stores around the world to manage their products more quickly and easily.
StoreGecko was established in 2014 in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
In 2015, StoreGecko was selected from a pool of 700 companies to receive 100,000 euro financing and entered the mentoringp programme offered by the European accelerator Startupbootcamp in exchange for 8% of its equity.
StoreGecko will be able to offer customers individual e-commerce solutions under its agreement with the US platform. Entering the US market will require faster development and expansion of the team, the founder and CEO of StoreGecko, Jan Andersen, said.
For the 11th year in a row, Bulgarian Investment Agency (BIA) will recognize the most significant investment projects in Bulgaria. Sixty three companies are nominated for “Investor of the Year” 2016 awards.
The jury (print and digital media, representatives of the Ministry of Economy and representatives of the Bulgarian Industrial Association) will assess the performance of 63 companies from all industries. BIA awards aim to honour companies that have demonstrated significant development through effective and sustainable investments, the implementation of high technology solutions and human capital development.
Nominations were submitted by the Chambers of commerce, municipalities, and the regional administrations.
“Investor of the Year” is given in the following categories: Investor of 2016, Green Investment, Business Expansion Investment, Innovative Businesses, Investment in Нuman Сapital, Merger / Acquisition Investment, Successful Startup, Bulgarian Municipality 2016, and Social Investment.
The “Green Bull” statuette winners so far include “ABB Bulgaria”, “Lufthansa Technik Sofia”, “Hewlett-Packard Bulgaria”, “Trakya Glass Bulgaria”, “Agropolychim”, “Solvay Sodi”, “Asarel Medet”, “Devnya Cement”and “Liebherr-Hausgeräte Marica”.
For the third year in a row Innovation Explorer Bulgaria and Economedia challenged Bulgarian business and academia to think creatively and to strive for a better future. On February 23, 2017, at Sofia Event Centre twenty lecturers from around the world talked about creativity, open and disruptive innovation, social innovation and developing new products. Practical workshops were also on the agenda. The topics this time are Agile Development Training and Forward Future Thinking and how this method is beneficial to the business.
The Forum focused on the debate for the future design of the world and how emerging and exponential technologies can be used for social good and how the areas of Space, Education and Economy are transforming the borders of community values and fostering innovation processes for well-being.
Speakers this year represented The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, eMAG, Systematic Inventive Thinking, Cleantech Bulgaria, Telenor Group, Bulgarian Venture Capital Association, Eicorn Enterprise Ignition, Microsoft CEE Multi-country Europe, PwC and many others.
Find speakers’ bios, titles of talks, workshops and the full agenda at Innovation Forum Bulgaria´s website.
The pre-accelerator program “UniStart” will soon select the participants in the third edition of its program for young entrepreneurs The training will last six weeks in March and April in CowOrKing by Puzl. The program aims to introduce the participants in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bulgaria and give them access to valuable mentorship and good examples from already growing companies. Teams (or ideas) that want to participate in the program will have to be presented live on UniStart BootCamp, on 18 and 19 February. Only 10 selected teams / ideas will qualify for the full training.
“UniStart” is a full course in entrepreneurship – from the idea to its transformation into a profitable business. Over 20 experienced mentors and professionals in entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and sales will mentor the teams that will qualify for the program this year .
The courses in March and April include introduction in Business Model Canvas, Lean startup, Bootstrapping, MVP and how their implementation can accelerate the development process of a startup business as well as workshops in strategic and critical thinking, project management, teamwork and presentation skills.
At the end of the program the participating teams will meet with potential investors.
Up to now over 20 teams were granted access to the program in its past two editions. Among the startups that have passed the program is MyTeletouch, which won the award for a successful startup in the IoT ceremony of Central European Startup Awards (CESA) – Bulgaria.
Find out more at UniStart website.
Webit.Festival Sofia will gather world leading movers and influencers in innovations, business, politics, and education in support of entrepreneurship, sharing of expertise and experience and innovations for a better life. This year’s event will be held on 25 and 26 of April in Sofia Tech Park under the patronage of Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and the European Commission.
Webit.Festival Europe 2017 will bring together some of the most influential politicians and experts shaping the agenda in the world today, Thomas Filibek and Martina Larkin, global brand director of Havas Worldwide Jason Dzherinovich and General Manager of Digital Europe John Higgins.
On 12 parallel stages, influential speakers will share their vision on global topics such as automation technology, the AI and IoT invasion, the new balance between governments, employers and employees, the future of Europe, and Smart cities and how to build them.
Start-up companies will once again be the focus of Webit, as generators of innovations in the area of smart cities.
This year Webit.Festival Europe 2017 will again include Founders Games Competition in its agenda. Founders Games will promote 100 startups that will compete for a prize of up to € 500,000.
The event provides an unique opportunity to meet global speakers and over 5,000 visitors from 80 countries.
Webit enables business opportunities at global scale and ignites the growth of the local ecosystems, inspires and empowers them and creates a platform for dialogue between policy makers, enterprise, and entrepreneurs. The festival will connect top leaders from the business, governments, academia and startups who re:Invent the future of the world. You don’t want to miss it!
In its 7th annual edition, Europe Backpacker Index ranks 56 of the continent’s most popular cities from the cheapest to the most expensive, says the tourist portal PriceofTravel. This year Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria is listed as number 1 in the list as Europe’s cheapest travel destination.
How the Backpacker Index works:
Each city index is calculated on one night in the least expensive hostel with a good location and good reviews, two public transportation rides per day, one famous attraction per day, three meals per day, three cheap, local beers (or glasses of wine) each day as an “entertainment fund” or other kind of entertainment for non-drinkers. In this calculation Sofia ranks at the top with a Daily Backpacker Index of BGN 43.75 or $24.04 a day.
PriceofTravel reviews the city as: “Sofia remains a fantastic bargain among European capitals, with a very pleasant city center that is quite welcoming of foreign tourists. Prices of nearly everything are very cheap, except for inbound flights from other major cities. For this reason, Sofia is out of the way for anyone who isn’t doing an extensive tour of the region. Don’t expect any major checklist attractions, but you can expect a surprisingly lovely urban experience at shockingly reasonable prices.”
In top ten cheapest destinations Sofia is followed by Krakow, Bucharest, Belgrade, Budapest, Sarajevo, Kiev, Cesky Krumlov, Warsaw and Zagreb.
Another report ranked Sofia, Bulgaria as the cheapest holiday destination. On February 11 the airport transfer website Hoppa released its annual report on the cheapest and priciest holiday destinations in the world. The report was published in Business insider. The average cost of a one night stay in 84 destinations around the globe was compared to produce the ranking. The total cost per person includes the split cost of a hotel room, a meal for two with a shared bottle of wine, a shared 3km taxi ride, as well as a coffee, a cocktail, and a beer each. According to the report on- day stay in Sofia will cost $47.69 per person, while the most expensive place to visit in Hoppa´s list, Johannesburg, South Africa with cost $69.58.
SOFIA AI SUMMIT was held for the first time in Bulgaria on January 26. The Artificial intelligence forum was initiated by the fast-growing software company hacker.works and Sofia AI – a global community of startup companies and researchers in the field of artificial intelligence, focusing on the importance of AI technologies, their added value for business, and what impact to expect in the near future.
The event is part of the network “CITY AI” – the largest international community of people focused on the primary and secondary effects of the development of artificial intelligence. Sofia is one of the first cities to become part of the network that, six month after being founded, has already spread to 20+ cities, from Hong Kong to New York.
“By 2025, the economic effect of artificial intelligence will reach 50 trillion USD according to a report by McKinsey, and a recent study of The Oxford University states that in the next 25 years, 47% of all existing jobs in the US will disappear”, said Lino Velev, CEO of hacker.works.
See full video record from Sofia AI Summit. A second event – Sofia AI Summit Vol.2 is coming on April 11. Book your seat.