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“Why Sofia” with Genoveva Hristova-Murray, co-founder of MISSIA23 – the first createch space in Sofia

MISSIA23, the first of its kind Createch* hub in Bulgaria, opened doors in Sofia on April 23. The new venue for creative people in Sofia takes up 4 floors, with an area of 2,000 square meters. MISSIA23 is a multifunctional space, a common area for creativity and technology aiming to develop the full potential of talent and companies in the creative sector in the capital, to help their ideas and business growth, both here and in foreign markets.

The hub starts operations with the offices of 6 companies, a co-working space for 15 people, 3 rooms for events with a total capacity of up to 200 seats, a conceptual shop for application materials and handmade products, an incubator, a talent academy, a lab space for testing and prototyping, recording and video studios.

MISSIA23 will be the local contact point and the venue for initiatives with international partners to develop the creative sector in Sofia and to help it acquire know-how, implement ideas and internationalize the business. The focus will be on design, interior, visual arts, advertising, animation, music and cinema.

 

*Createch is the umbrella term used to cover the emerging genre of activities in which technology enables creativity to produce new value-added products, services or experiences – and vice versa. Compared to the similar hybrid categories of FinTech or HealthTech, Createch is in its infancy. It is not hard to discuss future scenarios in which Createch could lead to new products and start-ups in multiple categories, as well as add value to established players and the wider economy.

The first companies of MISSIA23

Partners in future initiatives and with their offices in MISSIA23 are Here and there, an organization supporting Bulgarians with experience and education abroad and working for their return to Bulgaria, LaunchLabs, the Reach for Change Foundation in Bulgaria, Bulgarian-British Business Association (BBBA) and last but not least, the Bulgarian team of Idea Academy of one of the most successful Bulgarians – Anthony Hristov, art director of PIXAR for productions such as Wall-E, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles 2, which aims to create an animation academy in Bulgaria and to attract people who worked for Star Wars and other emblematic film productions as lecturers. Anthony Hristov has developed such an academy in Rome, and now Sofia will also enjoy one.

International partners of the initiative

MISSIA23’s main partners and contributors are The Landing, a co-working space at MediaCity UK in Manchester; Bulgarian Innovation Hub – the innovative hub created by Bulgarians in the Silicon Valley, with the idea to create a bridge between the Bulgarian business and people who want to invest in Bulgaria; GITA Center – Georgian Agency for Innovation and Technology, part of Georgia’s Ministry of Economy; as well as the Vienna Business Agency, which actively supports the development of the creative sector, both through programs for the companies in Vienna and initiatives that target markets outside Austria.

Thus, MISSIA23 is turning into the Sofia hub for close cooperation in the creative sector with companies from Tbilisi, Vienna, San Francisco and Manchester (for now, but the network is further growing). Entrepreneurs from these countries will be able to come for joint projects here. In addition, creative initiatives of Bulgarian companies will be implemented in Georgia, Austria, the USA and the UK.

 

The founders of MISSIA23 are Genoveva Hristova-Murray and Anelia Kasabova – creators of Ligna Group, a fast-growing and progressive company in the furniture industry, which has worked with dozens of clients in Western Europe for the last 15 years. Genoveva is the President of the Bulgarian Furniture Cluster and Chairperson of the Bulgarian Business Clusters Association. Both women won the Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 award and the European Commission Award in Brussels. Genoveva is a lecturer from CREATE & GROW – Creative Sofia meets Creative Vienna, and in December 2017 they were on the cover of ForbesWoman magazine.

The mission of MISSIA23 is to establish an environment in Sofia that brings together the creative, intelligent and talented people of the creative industry in an international and friendly environment so that they could be challenged, motivated, supported, trained and inspired.

Genoveva tells us why MISSIA23 opens doors in Sofia.

Why did you launch MISSIA23?

Because when Ligna Group started looking for a strategic path forward, we realized that, in order to be competitive in the long run, we need to create value, the so called creative value. We found out that we can attract other people around us as a magnet to create design, content and value together. As soon as the repair works of the building of MISSIA23 started, people who I believed were missing in Sofia, began to appear, obviously they were just waiting for someone to create a place for them here and bring them together. Such person is Anthony Hristov. Everybody was just waiting for someone to create an environment for the ecosystem.

Our personal motivation to develop design has brought us together with people who share the same views with whom to create a common place for development. We are convinced that the creative industries supported by technology are the future, including for the Bulgarian economy. Because in the world, the “economy of experience” is the next wave that will come after the whole technological boom. This is the future. Sofia and Bulgaria, with their latest achievements in outsourcing and technology, have gathered many talents. But after we have learned how to work to deliver products and services, it is now time to learn to create content. This is the mission of MISSIA23.

Foreign partners from various fields are working together in MISSIA23. What attracted them to the project in Sofia?

Sofia has strengthened its image of a leading outsourcing destination in Europe, more than half of the people in the engineering sector are women. This is a lot of talent lacking in other countries. In the technology sector, we are an environment of leading international companies, such as Bosch, HP, VMware and many others. Sofia has the reputation of an interesting place for investment with its location, talents and an increasingly attractive living environment. It is an attractive place for foreign investors and we see this in our contacts with international partners. But after outsourcing we need to start creating our own content as well. We also convinced them through examples of people who have returned to Bulgaria and already want to create products and services here.

What kind of people and teams are suitable for this space?

Progressive, with unique ideas, who believe that elsewhere they will be considered strange, even crazy for their bold ideas. Ambitious people who want to be part of the future. The idea itself is not that important, people are important. Any idea could die if you do not have the right person to support it.

Did you have any obstacles while implementing the project?

MISSIA23 is a type of project that you are starting to build without knowing exactly how, but you know that you have to finish it. We faced with a shortage of professionals from the construction sector, not as a number of possible contractors but as a quality and attitude towards the implementation of the project. It turned out that despite the construction boom there are not enough qualified teams in Sofia. Thank God, though hard, we found the best one. We did not have any other serious obstacles.

What specific improvements can be made to the business climate in Sofia in order to develop the creative sector in particular?

It’s no accident that we see the change with creating new places, a new home of people sharing the same views and having creative ideas, where they can communicate with each other. Often people do not know how to implement their idea. Here comes our role, creating a startup accelerator to help them get knowhow and experience on how to start, including how to proceed when it comes to inevitable activities such as accounting.

The creative sector in our country is very fragmented and everyone is focused only on their own business. The main goal of MISSIA23 is to provide a place where people can collaborate with leaders and experienced people to show the way to implementing ideas.

How would you compare the investment climate in Bulgaria with other markets you have experience in?

It’s safe to say that there is already capital here, there are investors looking for new projects to invest their money. There were only foreign investors before, now we also have Bulgarian companies looking for projects to fund. We turned the trend and started to create sustainable growth and a competitive environment for local companies to develop the economy. Startup companies just need more courage, not the usual national psychology. Once we believe in ourselves, we will be able to create this kind of environment – of those who are brave, confident and dare to act.

What to expect from MISSIA23 in the coming months?

Our first event is emblematic – the 10th anniversary of the Association of Animators in Bulgaria – this is a community of over 2 900 members. In the period May 7 – 12 MISSIA23 will host master classes, short films, workshops for children and a party with prizes.

At the end of May, Reach for Change will kick off the new season of their campaign THE CHANGE.

We will host workshops with Georgian and Bulgarian designers in May and June, with the aim to establish contacts and support the implementation of projects for international cooperation.

Furthermore, our ambition is to organize academies and workshops for children during the summer and year-round to develop creativity in the youngest.

At the end of the year our CREATIVE SOCIAL CLUB – the icing of the cake in the MISSIA23 project – will open on the roof of the building.

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