The status of the Bulgarian start-up market

Following to his presentation at Open Coffee Athens XXV, Martin Linkov of Favit writes about the status of the Bulgarian start-up market, paving the ground to cooperation across our communities.

photo from flickr and user cobalt
photo from flickr and user cobalt

Talent

Though the hard times and the constant problems with funding and outdated programs, Bulgarian universities and high schools are still able to lay the grounds for further development of very talented developers, designers, entrepreneurs. It is enough to mention Viktor Antonov – the chief designer of the Sierra Studios to get an idea of the work we can deliver. However, due to the economic situation and the business climate in Bulgaria most of the Bulgarian developers and designers tend to:

a) outsource their work to companies like HP, IBM, Gameloft, C3i, Cisco or those of the hosting industry like Aplus.net (the one I started my IT career from with more than 200 employees in its best days) , Hostway, etc.
b) freelance their skills mainly via GAF and EUfreelance.com, GetaCoder, etc.
c) which is and the best case – outsource their work and perform extraordinary on positions as low as technical support (customer care) and develop some small projects (sites) in their free time, while eventually gain enough clients and stick to b) but freelancing to the local market

Developers and Designers are considered as high paid positions, however due to the different standards between Bulgaria and Greece, their typical monthly wage is even less than the “Genia of the 700 euro”, starting from as low as 500 euro/mo and growing depending of the position and the company to 800 euro, 1000 and very slightly above the 1000 euro mark (in most of the cases).

Funds

NEVEQ – a fund founded in 2005 with 22 mln. euro for investments in tech companies. The fund gradually increased its capital to 32 and is moving close to the 40 now. Some of their projects include Lessno – “Less Money, No Hassle” – a search engine for cheap flights worldwide (initially invested 3 mln in 2007, second round of 1,5 mln in October 2008, 2 more mln in July 2009, now control 100% of the start up, due to problems with the management) and FinAnalytica, a company for estimating and prognosis of financial risk, with a 5 mln. investment in March 2008. The fund currently has 7 companies in its portfolio, including Semantic Search Company OntoText and an innovative Data Center Builder one. Future plans of the fund include investing 5 mln. for four new companies, 2 in Southeastern and 2 in Western Europe.

Other funds with interest to Bulgaria and the region are GED, Global Finance, Balkan Accession Fund, Bancroft, ARX (the new DBG), Mid Europa Partners, as well as the purely tech funds 3TS Cisco and Advent.

Community

The Start Up community in Bulgaria is pretty small and new. However, due to good university policy in that sphere, it gets a lot of support from the Sofia University and the Technical University in Sofia – including rooms to held conferences, speakers.

For the last 3 years the Start Up seminars have been held for about a day and this year we had the first Start Up IT seminar with speakers from the industry, lawyers, business angels, and a few wanna-be investors. The Nova Tech competition is also an important event for the community. The start up community is gathered around the Startup-bg.org website with its subsites of Init Lab – a coding event- and the newly founded Marketing Lab – a marketing experiment lab.

Cooperation

In Bulgaria the Ruby on Rails community is getting a lot of traction and organizing a lot of events for coders, why don’t we bring this to Salonica and make it an Autumn Code Camp for example? Or organize a truly Open Coffee with participants from Bulgaria, in Sofia, Salonica or anywhere in between? In October we will have the first Mozilla Dev Garage too, may it’s a good idea to might held one together. 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6 comments

  1. I am a Ruby on Rails programmer in Thessaloniki. The last two years I am thinking of starting an initiative that will help form a community for Ruby on Rails developers, that among other things would hold local training events and other stuff. Maybe something like what you describe could serve to kickstart this initiative.

  2. An Open Coffee event with participants from Balkan countries is a very good thought. Thessaloniki seems the ideal place for such event since it is in the center of the Balkan Peninsula and has the necessary infrastructure (airport, railway station and etc).

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