The new 2020 edition of Startup Blink’s Global Ecosystem Ranking will include an updated profile of Sofia’s startup ecosystem and a case study about Sofia in the deep dive section of the report.
One of the world’s most comprehensive report ranking over 100 countries and 1,000 cities will be officially presented during two launch online seminars on Tuesday, 26 May – at 11.00 a.m. London time (13.00 a.m. Sofia time) and at 18:00 London time (20:00 Sofia time).
Vladimir Danailov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia for Digitalization, Innovation and Economic Development was invited to present Sofia during the first online seminar (at 13:00 Sofia time).
At the invitation of StartupBlink, Innovative Sofia (the Digitalization, Innovation and Economic Development department of Sofia Municipality) supported the process of compiling and updating the information and data about Sofia for the 2020 edition of the Global Ecosystem Ranking Report, read by tens of thousands of decision-makers and featured in over 1,000 articles to date.
The document will include a case study on our ecosystem in the deep dive section and a short overview of some of its main stakeholders – successful startups, coworking spaces, accelerators, etc.
Based on a preliminary algorithm, StartupBlink identified a few ecosystems where the lack of data is hurting their rankings, including Sofia. We believe that sharing information and spreading the word about Sofia’s ecosystem achievements is important for attracting partners and talents and for preventing brain drain.
StartupBlink is among the world’s largest platforms for startups and research centres. It manages dozens of communities around the world, including developers, public sector organisations, co-working spaces, accelerators and tens of thousands of entrepreneurs. The platform features modules for mapping and analysis as well as promotion. Once a year, it publishes a comprehensive global startup ecosystem analysis report, comparing information from more than 1,000 cities in 100 countries.
StartupBlink is working with dozens of stakeholders from the public sector on various modules including ecosystem promotion, mapping, and consulting. More information about StartupBlink and its reports is available on the press page with articles, including references from Prime Ministers, Ministers and Mayors around the world.
A Bulgarian team, part of the world volunteer initiative Air Collective, started the production of specially devised masks to be used in the fight against COVID-19. The volunteers are turning snorkeling masks into specially devised protective masks for medical workers and oxygen therapy masks for patients. Several hospitals in Bulgaria have received 150 masks and are already working with the equipment – the Alexandrovska University Hospital in Sofia, the Specialized Hospital for Active Treatment of Pulmonary Diseases Pernik EOOD, the Multiprofile Hospital for Active Treatment “Prof. Stoyan Kirkovich” in Stara Zagora, and hospitals in Sliven, Vratsa, Dupnitsa, Kyustendil, Blagoevgrad, among others.
Considering the current situation of a rapid rise in the number of medical professionals testing positive for the disease, the demand for supplies is increasing. So far, manufacturing and logistics have been possible entirely thanks to the team’s resources. However, to be able to respond to the increased demand and deliver equipment to more hospitals, the team is launching an official campaign to raise funds for the purchase of supplies and logistics. The team’s work continues to be voluntary.
What are the masks like
Adapting the snorkeling masks for medical staff is done by adding two anti-bacterial and antiviral filters to a new kind of nozzle. The oxygen therapy masks also include a medical pressure control PEEP-type valve and additional tubing. The materials allow for multiple disinfection with the methods available in hospitals.
Currently, the production capacity is 40 masks per day. Each mask costs between 60 and 200 leva depending on its type of use – by hospital staff or by patients.
The ambition of the Bulgarians in Air Collective is to raise funds of 11 000 Euro to produce enough equipment for Bulgaria for both protection of hospital staff at all levels and protection of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in Bulgaria. The funds will make the supply of equipment to all key hospitals in the country possible within a few weeks, and then the team will be able to proceed with the supply to smaller hospitals and hospitals outside of big cities that often lack resources.
How you can help
Funds are being raised through a
Four projects with Bulgarian participation were awarded at the hackathon EUvsVirus – the first Pan-European hackathon in the history of the European Union, organized by the European Commission and held under the patronage of Maria Gabriel. The initiative sought innovative solutions for coping with the consequences of COVID-19.
The platform Aidbind is the big winner in the Social & Political Cohesion category. Five out of eight participants in the team are from Bulgaria, the remaining three are from Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. Aidbind is an information platform that connects the units with a shortage of medical equipment in a working chain – hospitals, manufacturers, and donation campaigns.
The second place in the Health & Life category, Protective Equipment sub-category, was for Platex in collaboration with Romania. Platex are reusable protective masks from materials, specially treated for virus filtration. In collaboration with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the masks have been tested for virus filtration with a virus similar to SARS_CoV-2. The results show that the ordinary disposable surgical mask has a virus filtration of 36,90%, while a Platex has 90% virus filtration and is made of reusable materials.
The platform Qpon also ranked second in the Digital Finance category, Enable Crowd to Help Financially sub-category. Qpon is a gamified crowdfunding platform for discount vouchers for future use of favorite places of loyal customers.
The third place was won by the interactive solution Trust in Science in the Social and Political Cohesion category, Mitigating Fake News Spreading sub-category. Trust in Science is a platform for teaching people how to recognize scientific data from fake news. The team behind the project also includes participants from the UK, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Ghana, Canada, Poland, and Spain.
Find out more about the projects with Bulgarian participation which will help in the fight of the European Union and the world against COVID-19:
More about the platform in a video (in Bulgarian)
Description of the projects of all winners in the hackathon
The EUvsVirus hackathon gathered more than 21 000 programmers, engineers, and innovators from all around the world. For 48 hours their creativity, talent and knowledge led to the creation of the record number of over 2160 solutions for coping with the COVID-19 crisis, and 117 solutions were awarded in the six main categories and subcategories.
There were over 300 participants from
The Sofia-based company for nanocarriers EnduroSat attracted an additional investment of $362 000 from the Bulgarian VC company Neo Ventures, according to SeeNews.
EnduroSat was founded in 2015 and designs and builds nanosatellites flying in the lowest orbit around the Earth. The company also works on inter-satellite connections and connections with terrestrial devices and data transmission. Two years ago, EnduroSat launched its first own nanosatellite to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.
The Sofia-based company has over 75 clients from five continents, over 150 components in orbit, and has generated 1,9M leva revenue during the last year. Its office in Sofia has a team of 45 engineers.
This is Neo Ventures’ second investment in EnduroSat. The fintech company Trading 212 and the video game developer Imperia Online have also invested in the company. In 2017, EnduroSat received funding of 1.2M Euro from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme.
Neo Ventures is a Bulgarian open-end venture capital fund aiming at companies in their early stage of development. So far the company has invested in over 30 startups which it later provides with business support for planning and scaling.
The Financial Times included 12 Bulgarian companies in FT1000 – its report on Europe’s fastest growing companies in 2020. The report has been compiled in collaboration with Statista for a fourth consecutive year. Eight of the included Bulgarian companies are based in Sofia and operate in the sectors of technology and consulting services.
A total of 268 of the companies listed in the FT1000 2020 report were also featured in last year’s edition, and 90 companies have been included in all four editions. The profile of the companies this year reflects the ever growing importance of the technology sector and startups with innovative solutions. They are represented by 189 companies. With the addition of fintech and e-commerce to the group, the sector’s share increases to 259 companies, which makes for over 25% of all of the fastest growing companies in Europe.
Among them are eight companies based in Sofia – 7 in the technology sector (Xtream Codes, Mobile Wave Solutions, Botron Software Solutions, LEAD Consult, B EYE EOOD, Accedia) and one in the fintech sector (Qaiware). The remaining four Bulgarian companies in the list are from the agricultural sector (Trans and Trade 1, Varna), the energy sector (S&G Solar, Blagoevgrad), consultant services (Next Consult, Sofia), food and beverage (Bulchicken JSC, Sevlievo), and industrial goods (Smart Design 2006, Varna).
Most of the top-ranked companies are based in Germany, Italy, the UK and France, with these four nations accounting for about 70 per cent of the overall ranking. London retains its lead as the city with the greatest number of fast-growing companies, followed by Paris and Milan, while Warsaw and Vilnius make the top 10 for the first time.
А chatbot on the site of Sofia Municipality will provide you with important information about the current situation related to COVID-19.
Skilly the Chatbot answers questions and provides up-to-date information and data from official sources – Bulgarian state and municipal institutions, as well as Bulgarian and international organizations.
You can communicate with the chatbot by asking it open-ended questions or by choosing from the list of frequently asked questions on various topics such as:
The system responds instantly, 24/7. It also provides articles, presentations, infographics, and videos related to COVID-19.
We would like to express our gratitude to the Sofia-based Abilitics for supporting the Municipality free of charge with the integration of the chatbot and for helping us “teach” it information related specifically to the urban environment and the situation in Sofia, so that the system could be of maximum benefit to the citizens of the capital. Abilitics’ Skilly is based on artificial intelligence and allows the chatbot to adequately communicate according to the needs of a specific team, audience, or topic. Skilly is constantly improving its “skills” and allows for continuous update of information.
In support of the joint efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Sofia and in Bulgaria, the Sofia-based IT company Sirma Group Holding developed and provided the innovative app Medrec:M free of charge to Sofia Municipality.
Medrec:M is a last generation mobile app designed to collect data and monitor the citizens’ current health status. The main features of the application allow users to:
– monitor vital health indicators
– early diagnose specific symptoms
– share health-related information confidentially with a physician through the MedRec-m.com platform
– receive news, related to COVID-19, as well as health-related news and information specifically tailored to the user
Through the app, citizens can record their symptoms and receive an analysis of their current health status to help medical professionals provide a more accurate diagnosis and find a more appropriate therapy.
You can share your data with a healthcare professional in two ways – by automatically generating a link to your selected and analysed symptoms, or directly through the physician portal Medrec:M Monitor. A healthcare professional registered at the platform can directly access the information you allow them to. You can also send a temporary access link with your data to specialists, who are not registered at the platform. As a next step, the GP or the medical specialist may recommend treatment. Thus, the consultation takes place via remote monitoring through the platform without the patients visiting a healthcare facility.
The information provided by the citizens is voluntary and is accessed by healthcare professionals only after their explicit consent. The aggregated anonymous data can also be used to help monitor the evolution of the epidemiological situation in the country. The availability of reliable statistical information guarantees better information and protection of citizens’ health.
The product integrates AI elements. The technology will ensure that the users are well-informed and will assist physicians in providing better diagnoses and treatment.
Sirma Group Holding’s Merdrec:M is a part of a comprehensive platform for modern healthcare – the Sirma Medical Suit. The solution is one of the strategic products of the company and aims to offer a long-term solution, providing access to data for remote or in-patient medical consultation, as well as tracking of socially significant chronic diseases.
Medrec:M is built on another top product of the company – Diabetes:M, which Sirma provides to all of its over one million customers worldwide for free during the pandemic. The diabetes
The international platform StartupBlink has included two Bulgarian solutions in its global Coronavirus Innovation Map – a map of innovative solutions from around the world aimed at dealing with COVID-19. These are the Sofia-based Micar 21 and the DIYVentilators platform.
The map includes hundreds of innovations and solutions from around the world that help both people and businesses cope with and adapt to the new daily life that the pandemic has imposed on us.
The biotech company Micar 21 has created a drug molecule that counteracts two proteins of COVID-19 – CCR5 and CCR7.
The second Bulgarian project is DIYVentilators – an open platform for doctors, engineers and citizens who collaborate in providing free designs for respirators that can be assembled anywhere in the world where there is a health department in need. Participants learn from each other, and any hospital experiencing a shortage of respiratory equipment may choose the best design for them, depending on their on-site materials and resources.
StartupBlink is the world’s largest platform for startups and research centres. It manages dozens of communities around the world, including developers, public sector organisations, co-working spaces, accelerators and tens of thousands of entrepreneurs. The platform features modules for mapping and analysis as well as promotion. Once a year, StartupBlink also publishes a comprehensive global startup ecosystem analysis report, comparing information from more than 1,000 cities in 100 countries.
The Sofia-based DEV.BG, which develops the largest IT community in Bulgaria, has attracted a new investment of 200 000 Euro from SiteGround – also a Sofia-based website company.
Today, the DEV.BG community includes over 20 000 members. DEV.BG has developed 15 groups of specialists in different domains. The community maintains a directory with the IT companies in Bulgaria and organizes a number of monthly-recurring events to continuously develop the community’s expertise in areas such as the Internet of things, machine learning, blockchain, business development, financing and starting-up of an IT business. Part of the company is HireHeroes.bg – the first platform of its kind for recruitment of IT specialists which focuses on the employees’ needs, rather than the employers’ needs.
SiteGround’s investment is not the first one for DEV.BG. At its launch in 2016, the company received 50 000 Euro and support for its business development by business angels. The newly received funds will be used to expand the network of IT specialists and professional events, as well as for the development of the HireHeroes.bg platform. SiteGround will receive 10% of DEV.BG’s shares in return for the investment.
SiteGround is a web-hosting company founded in 2004 in Sofia. It serves over 2 000 000 domains all over the world offering shared hosting, cloud hosting, and specialized servers. Over 200 people work for the company in its offices in Sofia, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, and Madrid.
Less than two years after its start, the Bulgarian fintech startup Payhawk raised a new investment of €3M. The seed round was led by the Western European Earlybird Digital East Fund, the Berlin TinyVC, and leading experts from the financial sector. The new funding will be used mainly for the expansion of the company’s activities to Germany where it already has an office. Development activities and technical support remain in Bulgaria.
Payhawk was founded in 2018 by former employees of Telerik. The fintech provides software and personal debit cards that automate the management of any type of business expenses. The platform allows chief financial officers and business managers to control the expense process from one place, process billing documents, integrate their accounting software, and gather real-time reports and analyses. Payhawk’s solution allows for easy integration with banking systems.
The company operates in 14 countries and serves over 1000 corporate clients. The company has offices in Sofia and London, and since recently in Berlin. Currently, it has a team of 18 employees and plans to double this number within two years.
This is the second big investment for Payhawk. In 2019, the company raised funding of € 500 000 from Eleven’s second fund. The total funding raised by the company from outside investors totals €3.65M.
In 2018, Acronis opened its new office in Sofia, establishing a European R&D center for cyber protection, AI and blockchain projects. Sofia Investment Agency has been partnering Acronis in the process of establishing operations in our city. The international leader in cybersecurity and hybrid cloud solutions started its business with a team of 20 people. Almost two years later, more than 200 people work for the team of the company in Sofia.
Stanislav Protassov, co-founder at Acronis, shares with us what makes Sofia the place to launch a successful business and to develop local solutions with global application.
Acronis opened its office in Sofia in 2018, establishing a European R&D center for cyber protection, AI and blockchain projects. Why Sofia?
It was a considered decision. We actually spent three years on research to find an ideal base in Europe. For this purpose, apart from Bulgaria, I personally visited Malta, all the Baltic countries, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. We have been looking for a good talent base, taxation system, cost of living, economy level, and public safety. Eventually, we picked Bulgaria over the other European countries.
We chose Bulgaria due to the country’s location, its status as an EU member, and the fact the local economy has good potential for future growth. Also, at that time we already had laid down the foundations for opening a local office — a 12-year partnership with T-Soft, a software engineering company based in Sofia, which Acronis had recently acquired. This partnership was a good base to start with.
Within two years, our team has grown from 20 to over 200 people. We are on track to become the largest Acronis R&D location and expect to grow up to 1000 people in the next couple of years.
Would you say that the talent in Bulgaria (in Central and Eastern Europe in general) is equipped with the skills for the tech industry? How did this affect your operations and how is it important for your business?
The level of engineering education in the Western, Central and Eastern Europe, and in Bulgaria in particular, is traditionally good. There are many good universities, and graduates are highly qualified. At Acronis, we are developing innovative products, so we are looking for talented and exceptionally qualified specialists. Collaboration with universities is one way of getting those talents.
Having an R&D presence in universities is beneficial for both universities and
The software company ATPCO specializing in the development of software for ticket price formation and retailing, and various corporate tools for the aviation industry, will open its new office in Sofia, the company announced. It will be its only office in the EU and will start with a team of 5 people. The team will be led by Boyan Hristov, who has previously worked on various projects with ATPCO. The new office plans to expand its team to 15 people by the end of 2020. This decision is motivated by the company’s vision of Bulgaria as a rapidly developing technology market with qualified specialists.
The Bulgarian office will be working on the development of the Next Generation Storefront (NGS) system, the company’s new standard which allows better presentation, selection, and search of the products of the airline companies by the customers.
ATPCO works with more than 430 airline companies worldwide and delivers 99% оf the fare-related data in the industry. The company is owned by 15 of the biggest airlines in the world including Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, American Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta Air, Lufthansa и United Airlines. ATPCO now has offices in Dulles, VA, where the company is headquartered; London, UK; New York, NY; Miami, FL; and Singapore. You can read the full announcement on the company’s website.