StartUp Weekend Blagoevgrad 2015
Sleepless nights, constant work, and lots of fun – this was Startup Weekend 2015.
The event, organized for a second time by StartUP@Blagoevgrad, lasted for three days, from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15 and gathered more than 70 young enthusiasts willing to measure their entrepreneurship skills and to develop a company in just 54 hours.
On the first day of the event, the participants presented their ideas and the teams were formed. The actual work, though, started the next morning and did not stop till the presentations on Sunday. During the process, the teams were constantly guided and supported by professionals in the sphere of entrepreneurship.
This year’s mentors were:
- Alexander Dourchev, AUBG professor and owner of All Channels Communication,
- Veneta Andonova, AUBG professor with a strong interest in entrepreneurship,
- Simeon Prusiyski, web developer with experience in the field of project management,
- Georgi Prusiyski , web developer with experience in product development processes and techniques,
- Alex Tokmakchiev, art/design director at Puzl,
- Georgi Ivanov, the CEO of Enhancv,
- Murry Ivanov, the founder of Metrilo,
- Kaloyan Yankulov, entrepreneur and web designer, who worked on projects for Microsoft, Samsung, Sky, and many other companies.
The facilitator of the event was Dwight Gunning, who came from Amsterdam for the event. Gunning, who works as a freelance software engineer, has already been to more than 20 Startup Weekends around the world.
However, for him this one distinguishes itself from the rest. “The main difference here is that there are so many really enthusiastic and talented students,” he said. “This is the first time I come to an event where virtually all of the participants are either present students at university or recent graduates. We had some high school kids here.”
Gunning was also impressed by the work of the young entrepreneurs. “This is amazing! And it is really cool to see that they are involved and coming with great ideas,” he said.
On the last day of the event, after finishing with the development of their ideas and consulting with the coaches, the surviving 10 teams presented their business projects before the public and the judges. Each of the teams had five minutes to present and three minutes to answer questions. The winners were selected by a five-member jury consisting of Alexander Dourchev, Radoslav Rizov, Stoyan Angelov, Simeon Prusiyski, and Georgi Prusiyski.
The wining team of the second Startup Weekend in Blagoevgrad is Toby. Toby is an online platform for renting and buying wooden toys for children between one and four years old. Its aim is to avoid the cluttering of toys in the house and to help parents reduce the money they spend on toys, which their child usually forgets after a week.
The team was awarded with two weeks of office space in Beta house, tickets for the Startup Weekend in Varna, an Xbox and much more. “I am still getting chills just thinking about what we did in less than 54 hours,” said Georgi Dobrev, a second-year AUBG student and one of the members of Toby. “To be honest I was skeptical about winning from my first participation in the StartUp, but wow, did my team grind on tirelessly during all those sleepless hours.”
ARkube placed second. The team introduced a mobile game that can be played in different realities. Its slogan was: same game but multiple ways to play it. Before the beginning of their presentation, the team gave some members of the public a piece of paper, which after they scanned with their phones, allowed them to try the game on their phones.
The bronze medal was given to 16 and Working. The team consisted of three enthusiastic 17-year-old students, whose goal was to help Bulgarian teenagers between 16 and 18 to work legally. Their aim is to connect minors and employers and to help both of them find their perfect match.
The greatest surprise of the event was the decision of the judges to give not one, but two special awards, since they were very impressed by the work and the enthusiasm of the participants. One of the prizes was given again to 16 and Working and the other to Muni.Money, whose project was the creation of a platform that facilitates payments through PayPal.
The special awards are provided by the CowOrKing Space and include two weeks of free and full access to the facilities there. Moreover, the teams will be working together with professionals from different spheres and will have the chance to receive valuable tips and feedback while developing their business ideas.
However, for all of the participants the event was a victory. Although not all climbed the winners’ podium, they all gained valuable knowledge and practical experience.
“We all worked really hard. I’ve never thought that we could achieve so much for only two days, but we did,” said Yordan Karayankov, one of the participants, who is a fourth-year AUBG student.
“For me, Startup was one challenge – from nothing to something,” commented Ivan Parmakvov, a recent AUBG graduate. “During these two days I learned more about entrepreneurship as a whole – about how to develop an idea, how to create a business model and how to attract the attention of the potential consumers.”
The article was a joint effort of AUBG Daily’s Owls Maria Paskaleva and Sabina Peycheva.