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BVCA at Innovation Explorer conference

Evgeny Angelov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), gave a keynote speech at this year’s Innovation Explorer Forum. He set the tone by sharing success stories from the Bulgarian business and start-up community.

Evgeny reminded the event’s participants that Sofia has been ranked third in Europe as a leading accelerator city. In recent years, over 4,000 business plans and ideas have been presented and vetted, resulting in more than 250 successful investments. In the past 3 years, there were more than 50 entrepreneurial conferences and workshops in Bulgaria. An increasing proportion (over one third) of Bulgarian start-ups are being founded by non-local teams, making Bulgaria a regional hub, attracting talent from more than 11 different nationalities. While most of those companies are at an early stage of development, Bulgaria already has a number of success stories in innovation in a range of sectors.

Evgeny reassured that Bulgaria has the human capital needed to develop successful, innovative companies. The country has been ranked third in the world for the number of IT professionals per capita. The economy is export-oriented, as seen by the many multinational firms, which have large outsourcing and R&D operations in Bulgaria.

Over the last few years, the Bulgarian IT industry has been pivoted from being engaged primarily in outsourcing activities to focusing on R&D related work. In terms of technology, Evgeny shared the success story of the start-up Telerik, which was sold to Progress Software last year for more than $260mn, making it one of the biggest transactions in the region.

Evgeny went on to explore the examples of local innovation with a global reach. He mentioned FootballScout — a Bulgarian start-up that is currently working with UEFA and Adidas to create a social platform for professional football players and enthusiasts.

In terms of services provision, Bulgaria has continually been voted one of the top outsourcing destinations globally. Many outsourcing companies have been acquired by larger multinational groups, creating impressive growth opportunities.

In terms of niche products, Evgeny mentioned Walltopia as the global leader in indoor climbing walls exporting to over 50 countries. The company holds more than 50% of market share in the U.S. and Europe.

In addition, International Power Supply plays an important role in disrupting the energy industry. Another excellent example of Bulgarian innovation is ProViotic – the first vegan probiotic, which has been endorsed by Harvard Medical School and Oprah. These are just a few of the remarkable examples of innovative Bulgarian businesses, driving the growth of the local economy, as well as the technological development of the region.

Evgeny concluded his speech with an invitation to everyone to network with peers at the Forum and to enjoy the city of Sofia.

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