Nikolay Mutafov is co-founder and CEO of Accedia – a successful Bulgarian company and one of the fastest growing in the technology sector. Five years after the establishment of the company in Sofia, Nikolay still believes that “…if put into the right business field, your investments could turn to be more cost effective than those made in other regions.”
Please tell us briefly about your investments in Sofia? What does your company do in Bulgaria and outside?
My biggest investments within the borders of Sofia and beyond are all the resources that my business partners and I have put into founding and developing Accedia. It all started in 2012 when 4 software developers decided to come together and set the beginning of a successful collaboration. Today, 5 years later, Accedia is a well-established Bulgarian company specializing in IT consulting, software development outsourcing and complex end-to-end solutions. We develop software innovations for both SMEs and large enterprises and we are driven by being a leading IT solutions company where technology experts are inspired to create.
What motivated you to invest in Sofia?
I was lucky to be born and raised in the capital of Bulgaria – the city offering the biggest opportunities for both self and business development in the country. So, I never really thought about investing somewhere else or fleeing the country. I had always had the ambition to set up my own business locally and it was my dream of running an IT company that motivated me to pursue that goal. I must admit, though, that I couldn’t do it alone and finding the people who shared my dream and interest prompted me to make that first step.
What are the advantages of investing in Sofia?
What’s best about investing in Sofia, I believe, are its employees – qualified, friendly and open-minded people who are hardworking and dedicated to their jobs. Despite the great competition in the IT sector, the IT academies and educational institutions in Sofia create some of the best software developers and there is a profusion of talent. It’s no coincidence that Bulgaria goes up in global innovation and ICT rankings each year and that well-known companies like VMWare, IBM, HP, etc. operate great part of their business in Sofia. Moreover, the social life in the city enables you to make connections effortlessly which has a major impact on building long-lasting partnerships. Other things I consider as advantages are the low taxes, the time-zone and the high-quality of networking services, allowing for prompt and easy communications with foreign clients. The ethnic tolerance and the beautiful nature are just the additions that make our investments even more worthwhile.
What sort of disadvantage have you faced so far?
The things I and my colleagues encountered while setting up Accedia are not essentially disadvantages but challenges that every new business got to face at some stage. The biggest one for us was to find a way to attract those highly skilled employees and make them stay for the long run. This is also related to the great competition, so I guess that if we hadn’t had clear strategy and idea for our business, we would have faced a very difficult time outperforming the market. I’m sure that those who work in the IT sector know what I’m talking about.
How do you estimate the overall business climate in Sofia today?
In my observations, both as an ex-employee and presently an employer in the IT sector, I have been witnessing a huge progress in the development of this specific sector in Sofia. Today you’ll notice technology companies emerging rapidly and yet, the greater the competition has become, the better influence it has had on the overall business climate. Managers have become leaders and the way we all think about running a business have shifted drastically. We came to realize that we need to help each other in order to succeed, and today we’re more open to collaboration opportunities and new partnerships than ever before.
Judging from your business experience, do you think that local and foreign investors see our capital as a more or less homogeneous business area, or are there still a lot of hurdles?
Again, talking specifically about the IT sector, I think we’re on the right track! There is still a lot to be done to speed the business progress and development in most fields but I believe that our capital proved that it should be looked at as a more homogeneous business area.
What would you point out specifically in terms of business climate improvement for investors who are already operating in Sofia?
In terms of business climate improvements, I think we should pay special attention to the high- level of corruption in the country. However, it’s up to us to make that change and in our role of business owners, we are the ones who need to take actions and stop allowing such liberties.
What needs to be improved in order to increase the number of new investors both from Bulgaria and abroad?
As I already mentioned – first, we need to eliminate the corruption as much as possible. Then comes the state administrative processes which should be more efficient and flexible, and not at least is the need of e-government and new set of laws and rules that cannot be violated.
Another significant aspect is the image of Sofia – improvement in infrastructure could really contribute to a much more favorable business atmosphere in the city. Moreover, I believe we need more organizations like Invest Sofia to spread the word of our country, in general, as a great investment destination. This also concerns all Bulgarians who succeeded abroad!
How much does the investment climate in Bulgaria stand out in comparison with the progress made in other countries in the region?
The investment climate in Bulgaria is well-known for its outsourcing services, price per value and the high-quality execution of all solutions. By working with a number of local and foreign start-ups and investors, we keep up with the latest business trends and operation models, and that helps us exchange experience and continuously improve. Compared to bigger and more developed countries, the investment climate in Sofia doesn’t stand back in any way. On the contrary, if put into the right business field, your investments could turn to be more cost effective than those made in other regions.
When you look at Sofia and the country as a whole, as a Bulgarian investor, what attracts or surprises you most?
What pleasantly surprises me is that the number of start-ups and investors has increased in recent years and the competition among companies reflected in higher salaries and, thus, better lifestyle in Sofia. Referring once again to the IT sector, I believe we have achieved that balance between receiving a great return on investment while offering the best to our employees.
How do you feel about Sofia and Bulgaria as a place to live – transportation, food, travel, prices, education, medical services? *you could skip this one or make a comparison with other countries you’ve lived awhile, studied, made business
I had the chance to visit many countries, explore their culture and try their traditional dishes, but there is no food as delicious as that in Bulgaria! What’s more – our product and services prices are comparably decent! Regarding education and medical services, we’re a little behind compared to other European countries and the government should really focus on changing that as well.
Name your top 5 favourite things in Sofia?
The social life
Arena Armeec – I hope to see more stadiums and sports arenas to open doors in near future!