Day One Of Colorful Thinking
On Saturday, March 28, the fourth annual StratUp@Blagoevgrad conference started in the America For Bulgaria (ABF) Theatre. Throughout the whole day spirited and innovative people took the floor to share their entrepreneurial experience and leave the guests a little food for thought.
The conference was opened by this year’s hosts Anastas Pushkarov and Ivan Hristov. Mirela Dineva,Vice President of the StartUp@Blagoevgrad Club and Deyan Slanchev, President of the club, also welcomed the guests.
First on stage was a former graduate of AUBG, Elvin Guri, co-founder of the consumer finance institution JetFinance International. The topic of his speech was innovation and its variety.
Guri distinguished two types of innovation – disruptive and incremental. Disruptive innovation is one that changes the whole market by creating something entirely new, “it took Thomas Edison to change people’s minds,” he said as an example. While incremental innovation is one that improves the existing market without bringing any radical changes.
He believes that right now Bulgaria is not a place from which big changes can emerge; however, with incremental innovation people can make a difference. “Don’t change the world, but improve it every day, little by little,” Guri added.
Next on stage, with a rather distinctive performance was Rennie Popcheva, founder of the platform Embrioo.com. After showing her video presentation which conveyed the message to be courageous, believe in oneself and not be afraid of failures, she persuaded people from the audience to come on stage with her.
Nine young enthusiasts joined her without knowing what is going to happen and then gave an improvised performance accompanied by Madonna’s song “Give It To Me”. By doing this, Popcheva demonstrated that people should have the courage to jump into the unknown, improvise and have fun with what they do. People should pursue what they love and not be afraid chasing their goals, “If you have plan B, plan A will never succeed. Put your efforts in plan A,” she concluded.
After the attractive lecture of Popcheva and a quick coffee break, Galin Zhelyazkov took the floor talking about how to start a business while still studying.
He had his first company at the age of 16 and after two years he sold it to the Bulgarian national telecom. Zhelyazkov stressed upon the importance of knowing yourself, your interests, skills and values and then pursue the thing that you really enjoy doing. He outlined the creative steps which a person should surpass to start a business. After having an idea, people should put serious effort on developing the business plan, marketing strategy, funding and exit strategy.
Angel Sultov, part of the audience, asked “How did you manage to strike a balance between private life at 16 and doing business?” As a reply to the question, Zhelyazkov said “I just loved to work and to make StartUps.”
The next guest speaker, Ivaylo Hristov, established the Bulgarian-Danish company Komfo. He talked about how to develop your business from zero to a successful one.
One of the most important steps is to gather the right team with whom to work. The next one is having your idea, “for me starting your own business is like jumping from a plane and sewing your parachute while falling down.” Hristov stressed upon the message that people should be determined in their work, take actions and never stop learning. However, people should be careful and smart not to overwhelm themselves, “StartUp is a marathon, not a sprint.”
During the workshop Avgustina Pasheeva (Investment Manager at VoiVoda Ventures) and Chris Georgiev (Board member at StartUp Foundation) busted some myths about startups, few of which were: needing an experience to start a company, effortlessly gaining your first customers, and the idea that “failing means you aren’t cut out to be in this game.” Pasheeva ended their presentation by saying “try until you succeed.” Afterwards, a small competition for solving the Rubik’s cube took place.
Another guest speaker to appear onstage was Stoyan Dipchikov, founder of Despark. Dipchikov started his company as a startup along with his three other friends when most of them were just 18.
He pointed out the that fact they were all young, ambitious and getting along well with each other played a major role in their path to success. Dipchikov stressed the importance of productive teamwork, thus suggested choosing quality over quantity when choosing your team members. He summarized his philosophy on business with a quote by Edward Abbey, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
Next under the spotlight was Petar Goryalov, CEO and founder of DreamersDo. The topic of his lecture was next generation entrepreneurs. The key ingredients for starting a business are to have vision, enthusiasm and values.
People should work with all their senses and transform their energy in actual ideas. People should take action and challenge themselves to do the things they are afraid of doing. “What would I do if I had one week to live,” is the question that Goryalov asks himself everyday and inspires him to work even harder. He emphasized that entrepreneurs should think about how they transform while accomplishing their ideas and what message they want to send to the audience. Goryalov finished with the question, “What symbol portrays you as a person?”
After a short coffee break and solving the Rubik’s cube competition, Anton Panayotov introduced himself to the audience.
Panayotov is an investor with more than 16 years of experience in the field and spent most of them in the USA. Basing on his experience, he revealed the key ingredients to success: talent, motivation, expertise and knowhow.
“Motivation should be more complex than just money,” Panayotov commented. When asked about his decision to return and do business in Bulgaria, Panayotov replied that he missed the comfort of his homeland but also felt that his ideas would be more influential here. Shortly after arriving onstage, he surprised the guests and organizers of the event by awarding the first three people who managed to solve the Rubik’s cube 500 leva each.
Right after Anton Panayotov, the last speaker for the first day of the event, Svetlin Nakov, took the stage. Nakov is famed for founding Telerik Academy and the new Software University.
He considers the latter one a product of a long trial and error process which has been going ever since his first attempts at entrepreneurship happened. This way Nakov learned that a person needs more than just proper technical skills to start a company.
His startup ideas revolve around education which is a result of his frustration with the Bulgarian educational system. Despite his fascination with teaching, Nakov explained as a response to a question from the audience that he had no intentions to offer subjects unrelated to computer science at the University.
He encouraged the members of the audience to do whatever they are good at and always look for new career opportunities. “A good business idea is one that the customers need and are willing to pay for, one you are inspired by,” Nakov concluded.
“I think the first day was quite good, the speakers were amazing and there was a really nice atmosphere in the hall. I think the audience enjoyed it and that’s the most important,” Mirela Dineva said at the end of the first day.
StartUp@Blagoevgrad continued today, Mar. 29, with more inspiring guests. The first lecture started at 10:10. To see the full schedule you can click here. You can read more about it from AUBG Daily tomorrow.
This article is the joint effort of AUBG Daily’s owls Rumina Mateva and Marina Penkova.