StartUP Conference 2017 – Ideas Rearranged
On March 25-26, StartUp@Blagoevgrad held its sixth annual StartUP Conference at the Carl Djerassi Theater Hall. Under the slogan “Ideas Rearranged”, the two-day event featured many prominent guest speakers who shared their experience on the difficult path to success that is heaped with personal failures.
Each day of the event featured talks by the invited professionals, followed by Q&A sessions and workshops on various topics such as public speaking, business process management, and the ways to successfully engage an audience by creating an outstanding presentation and small refreshment breaks. According to the StartUp@Blagoevgrad team, this year’s event included a thorough selection process of the candidates as the emphasis was put on people with practical experience in the business field in Bulgaria.
“I believe that the StartUP team managed to be well-organized and thorough in every little detail,” noted Plamen Dobrev, a third-year student. “They also succeeded in attracting a fascinating set of speakers.”
On Saturday, March 25, the list of speakers included Yuli Tonkin, founder of Not a Seminar, Boris Hristov, founder of 356labs, Leona Aslanova, co-founder of Innovation Starter, and Nikola Yanev, president of Start it Smart. They provided examples from both their personal and professional lives which served as the basis for their development, thus, showing that success is a complex and hard-attainable matter.
In his talk Tonkin emphasized on three traits, a formula as he put it, with the ability to change people’s perception on business and lead to success in every aspect of life. Those three comprise of having a clear vision of one’s true objectives, establishing a strategy that complements the pursuit of one’s dreams, and constantly improving the specific skillset needed for the achievement of the end goals. To elaborate, the clear vision of the objectives prevents people from spending substantial effort in something they do not like. When combined with thinking big, the latter provides the energy and drive for the purpose of the relentless achievement of the appointed goals. The strategy, apart from providing guidance in turbulent times, functions as the fixation point of one’s focus. The lack of it, however, leads people to do “random stuff” and eventually consumes them. The development of one’s skillset is a vital part for acquiring a better understanding of the field and, thus, forming better professionals. On a different note, Tonkin made a notable remark which stated, “instead of wanting more, be more and […] challenge yourself”.
Accentuation on failure marked Hristov’s lecture. Given his background and experience, he shared three stories of personal failure with the hope of leaving an impression in the attendees so that they do not repeat the mistakes he did. Hristov started off with a discussion on the demand to “educate audiences” so that they can comprehend their need of a better solution in terms of presentation preparation. The speaker noted that the problem rooted in the market’s inability to see the issue and his own fallacious assessment on this aspect. The moral that he drew from this story was that in the foundation of a business one should “Learn. Adapt. Execute.” in order to tackle such obstacles. From that point, Hristov then continued with speaking about the tricky nature of cooperation. Relying on others may hinder the growth process and even endanger a business’ existence. By his account, the best practice is to do things yourself and allow others to assist you, but not take over the implementation process completely. The third thing mentioned was a key element missing from the sales part of Hristov’s business model – building trust with customers. Presenting face-to-face, combined with the introduction of your past experience and clients, builds trust with current customers and “closes deals”.
The last speakers on the agenda for the first day of the Conference were Aslanova and Yanev. Aslanova developed her talk around the theme of innovation. She identified different types and methods of innovation which showed that the possibilities connected with modernization are limitless. Yanev shared ten lessons he picked up from life, appealing to the attendees not to take them as universal laws but rather recognize which apply to their character. Some of the lessons included, “persistence beats everything”, “life is a sum of ups and downs”, “set realistic goals and make them inspiring”, and “treat people with respect”.
On Sunday, March 26, the program opened with Danail Arapkuliev, Business Operations Manager at Proxiad Bulgaria, and also involved Vladimir Karamazov, actor and co-founder of Three Bears Entertainment, Grisha Karanikolov, co-founder of Sofia Debate Association, Georgi Kanev, marketing director at SkimProt, and Jordan Dabov, founder of Dabov Specialty Coffee.
“Real success comes from the quality of your relationships and emotions that you experience each day”, initiated his lecture Arapkuliev. As a term which is a key component of startups, the speaker distinctly elaborated on it before proceeding with the main topic of his talk – helping startups succeed. Amid the event, Arapkuliev put the general notion of a startup project under scrutiny, explaining what it is, what its aim is, and what dangers may accompany it.
Karamazov used his time to provide background behind the company’s establishment and explain what its purpose is. He shared that the goal was to make young people take the initiative and start attending the theaters, through the use of extensive advertising. The latter contained videos with whimsical content frequently posted on social media that created a buzz about upcoming performances. Karamazov then proceeded with giving an overview about one of the company’s biggest projects – National Tour 2016 which traveled over both big and small Bulgarian cities, and all the positive and negative things that he and his colleagues encountered during the course of the tour.
On a similar note, Karanikolov’s speech named “The Journey of Sofia Debate Association” went over the creation of his company and the ensuing results. He disclosed that debating is a discipline which gives access to a worldwide network of people and opens many opportunities.
To present his idea, Kanev first pointed out the main traits of the skimming process and the ways to prevent it. The concept behind SkimProt derived from skimming and promised a bright future. The idea of the product was to apply it over the magnetic stripe of the card and when someone tries to copy or read the information, only zeros are shown, and the hardware gets redirected to read that information from the EMV chip. However, as the plan started to unfold many obstacles arose. With the examples of how the company overcame those obstacles, Kanev summed his talk up by saying that unceasing pushing through is the fundamental characteristic of improvement.
In conclusion, Dabov shared his passion about coffee and the coffee business. The bottom line, expressed through the detailed talk on coffee, was that a profound understanding of the field one operates in and the love for what one does are the irreplaceable ingredients of a successful business.