The Ingredients of Business Success
Are you ready to give up on your dream after failing? What are the main qualities you need in order to become successful in a business endeavor ?
Those were some of the questions asked and answered at the traditional StartUP@Blagoevgrad Open Coffee event on Oct. 8, 2014. Students, professors and fresh new businesses joined forces to accommodate a discussion session on the challenges and benefits of owning a business.
“In every problem you should see an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try to improve yourself,” Anastas Pushkarov and Teodor Stoyanov, current fourth-year students at AUBG, said.
They opened the discussion session with a short presentation of their experience at the Summer Entrepreneurship Program in the U.S. over this past summer.
The most important qualities of an entrepreneur and the fear of failure were the main topics of interest on the part of the audience. Pushkarov and Stoyanov pointed out that the belief in your ideas and preparation were some key elements to the success of any enterprise. “Our goal was to prepare a business idea in order to solve a problem of the society and then to develop it through the stages of the Entrepreneurship Program,” they said. “Then we had to present it in front of investors in the Silicon Valley.”
Some of the startups at the Open Coffee were at the idea development stage and others were already fully functional companies, but needed students help in further expanding and/or developing their current markets. The participants in the session were Robopartans, CLS, Parktrik, Staefit, The Videonauts, Wanderant, Biottery, PazarenDen and Instructor.bg. A number of them were created by former or current AUBG students.
Biottery was the first company to present. Teodora Toneva, gradaute from the AUBG class of 2011, was the startup’s formal representative. She presented the concept of organic food, quite new to Bulgaria, and explained the concept behind the first energy drink the company will release in approximately a month.
“The ingredients are chia seeds, lemon, honey and a little bit of love,” Toneva said.
AUBG students will be assisting the company in the launch of the product in Bulgaria, France, The Netherlands, and possibly the U.K.
Wanderant was next with a bit more unusual presentation – a Skype video with one of the co-founders, Vanya Pesheva.
“We are trying to make all the information that currently exists on the Internet regarding travels more discoverable and more actionable,” she said. The startup needs assistance from students in terms of improving the customer experience and possibly expanding its range.
Parktrik was next in line, with Olaf Guikema, the company’s current marketing adviser presenting. More information on the company will be available in a separate session for Prof. Petkov’s marketing research students on Oct. 16. They will assist in improving the company’s goals and product delivery.
“Education is a dirty job but somebody has to do it,” Kiril Mitov from Robopartans said. This startup has had considerable success in inspiring children in the field of technical sciences. Engaging students, illustrating complex abstractions through the use of robots and games proved to be quite effective over the years. Now, the biggest challenge they are facing is how to grow further.
In terms of a successful business strategy, Mitov said that building “products and services in-house, that people are willing to pay for” as opposed to relying heavily on outside funding is a proven positive factor. Prof. Andonova’s business strategy students will be assisting the company into further developing its successful practices.
AUBG alumnus Teodor Dimitrov presented COS Technology – a firm producing green energy, wind turbines and hydro energy power plants. The current focus is on solar panels, installation, and preparation for the construction of the actual plant. Dimitrov emphasized “COS provides cheap labor and has a very simple revenue model, reaching 20% less than the average industry level.”
The Open Coffee continued with presenting the projects of five ambitious groups of participants in the upcoming AUBG Start-Up Challenge, taking place on Oct. 17, when their ideas will be exhibited in front of the Board of Trustees.
The first enthusiast was Steven London, a first-year student. His 15-people team is developing a board game, “a global strategy one,” combining economics, governments and politics all in one. What is peculiar about the game is its digital application. London humorously replied to a question from the audience, concerning the underdeveloped market for board games in Bulgaria, : “Well, then, we’ll just have to force it.” He added that AUBG is a nice start, considering that everybody in the community speaks English.
Another participant in the Open Coffee was AUBG alumnus Georgi Vasilev. He presented “PazarenDen,” an interactive platform for shopping planning which targets bargain seekers. The website aims to provide Bulgarian customers with the most updated information, when it comes to shopping. Possible users are households with lower income, as well as well-provided-for individuals who are unwilling to spend a lot on certain goods. The basic version of the platform will be a search engine, while the premium one will have more features, such as website tracker and a shopping basket for a modest fee.
The purpose of the next startup which presented, the Health and Fitness Club at AUBG, is to help society become conscious about its health. One of its creators, Teodor Dimitrov, mentioned the paradox between “the poor health of our generation -the first one expected to live less than its parents” and the fact that we rely on the most advanced medicine and abundant information. Starting locally, at AUBG, the focus will be on open consultations on nutrition and exercise, followed by the launch of a website as a social experiment, providing accessible information by knowledgeable people.
The “sweetest” startup brought to light was Staefit. Its creators – Dervis Kanina, Klajdi Sallaku , Marlind Maksuti and Johan Baguca claim it will change the perception on nutrition by its zero-carbs, zero-sugar products. Maksuti, put emphasis on the fact that 76 per cent of the people are health conscious and half
of them know they should avoid sugar, but they do not.
“Diabetes is a huge health issue that big corporations seem to ignore and ‘wash their hands’ using artificial sweeteners that actually increase insulin levels,” he noted. “In contrast, Staefit products are high in fiber, substitute gluten for an egg-protein and sugar for stevia extract, which results in half the caloric amount, but more nutritional value.” Maksuti indicated: “the more people know what sugar makes to your body, the more successful our startup will be.”
The last presentation was that of another AUBG alumna – Bilyana Vacheva. The idea of The Videonauts is a website that gathers small and medium advertising companies and freelancers that have awesome ideas and an understanding of the environment. Hopefully, the young entrepreneurs will launch the platform in two weeks and customers will be offered a 30 per-cent-less-than-average price for video advertising. The company is planning to go international and overcome its biggest challenge; grow the community of freelancers without losing the quality.
After the presentations, students had the opportunity to meet the company representatives in order to share their feedback or ask any questions of interest.
“I was impressed that so many companies were ready to present their products and ideas in very short time and very successfully for that matter,” Dobrinka Irvine, a fourth-year student at AUBG, said. “I really like the presentation on The Videonauts, their idea and the way they plan to do business. I think cooperation between students and startups is a very good idea; it helps students get a glimpse of what they could do after graduation if they are interested in their own business.”
This article is a joint endeavor of AUBG Daily’s owls Rali Ilieva and Stella Zlatareva.