Meeting the Bulgarian diaspora in the U.S.

BVCA met 450+ start-ups, investors and Bulgarian professionals in the U.S. at RE:TURN West Coast

In the past three years, the focus of the Bulgarian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA) has been to engage with the Bulgarian diaspora abroad. In Europe, we met 600+ Bulgarian professionals and foreign partners via BVCA on Tour. Bulgarian-based investors, start-ups, scale-ups, NGO organisations, policymakers and BVCA team travelled to European capitals to share success stories from the region and to inform about the country’s potential via data and statistics. BVCA on Tour was held in Vienna, London, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam in partnership with the European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group. It evolved to the initiative called RE:TURN with events on the West Coast and in partnership with the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF). See more at www.return.bg

RE:TURN aims to engage with Bulgarians abroad via three main channels: invest, give, work. Those three areas are carefully selected given the proven interest of the Bulgarian diaspora abroad in those three aspects, as well as the expertise of the organisations behind those sectors. RE:TURN gathered more than 400 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle in March 2019, where US-based Bulgarians and foreign professionals interested in the region met opinion-makers and successful businessmen from the country. The attendees were mainly Bulgarian entrepreneurs, investors and professionals based on the West Coast, but there were people from the U.S. East Coast, Europe and Canada attending the event.

Main speakers at the RE:TURN were President Rosen Plevneliev, BVCA Chairman, Evgeny Angelov, and ABF President, Nancy Schiller. The panellists at the three events included proven professionals with inspiring stories and engagement with the Bulgarian ecosystem. See fill list below.

We present topical takeaways from the panel discussion with the speakers.

U.S. vs Bulgaria
• Is it better to have your teams based in Bulgaria or the U.S.? On the one hand, it is better to invest in companies that are nearby, depending on where the venture capital fund is based. There is usually a preference for the business team to be based in the U.S.
• Bulgaria is becoming a bigger dot on the world map, especially in the tech sector. There is strong engineering talent in the country, as well as venture capital investors to support it. One missing link is the sales and marketing expertise. That is why most local fund managers work with start-ups to develop their non-tech skills and supplement their teams with business development talent.

Silicon Valley
• In Bulgaria, compared to Silicon Valley, it is easier to test ideas and find quiet time for your own path and ideas. Silicon Valley is very “noisy” and competitive. Yet, there is also an attitude of collaboration despite the competition.

Silicon Valley vs Seattle
• Seattle also has an incredible ecosystem – Microsoft and Amazon have their headquarters there and there is plenty of engineering potential, as well as available capital for investment.

Bulgarian VC ecosystem
• There is enough capital in Bulgaria and the region to support good ideas, which will triple in the next two years, according to BVCA data. More capital means more follow-on investments to support scaling up existing companies through collaboration with existing locally-based fund managers. This is good news for the Bulgarian ecosystem.

Advice for start-ups
• The secret of getting ahead with your idea is to get striated – the same goes for giving – start today and practice. There is usually a lot of struggle because entrepreneurs want to become big fast. There is a need for shift in mindset.
• Investors choose a start-up to invest in by a number of criteria; it is not only about documents but also people, team and integrity. When choosing a company, investors also look at impact and a team with the right moral compass.

List of panellists
Vassil Terziev, Eleven Ventures;
Bogomil Balkansky, Bulgarian Honorary Council in San Francisco;
Momchil Kyurkchiev, Leanplum;
Elina Halatcheva, BrightCap Ventures;
Dafina Toncheva, U.S. Venture Partners;
Stanislav Sirakov, LAUNCHub Ventures.
Larry Biehl, Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center;
Anthony Chrostov, ARC Academy;
Victor Penev, Edamam;
Zlatolina Mukova, NEVEQ Capital Partners
Ivaylo Penchev, Walltopia;
Maria Karaivanova, Madrona Venture Group;
Kalin Radev; Software Group;
Genoveva Christova, Ligna Group;
Ivailo Gospodinov, BlackPeak Capital.