A rapid digitization in banking, a challenging time for the real estate industry and new opportunities for alternative startup financing were some of the main points touched upon.
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Filip Genov, CEO of F27 and co-founder of Sophia Lab is optimistic about the present situation.
“The economy is in a much better state than in 2008. The speed and capability with which it can restart is not comparable to previous downturns. The present crisis is changing the economy and introducing new business models.”
“The Fintech sector in the country is booming. The present situation will help us see the first distant banking business in Bulgaria within the next 18 months.”
He suggested that the country could look into implementing policies that encourage large corporations to work with Bulgarian startups.
The panelists included Natanail Stefanov, chairman of BESCO, the Bulgarian Startup Association and prominent innovators in the areas of coworking Thibaut Taittinger (founder of Puzl CowOrKing) and events Stoyan Angelov (founder of the platform Evedo).
Natanail added that while presently the Bulgarian state offers more support for innovations in comparison with the crisis of 2008-9, the existing plan can still be improved. He stressed the fact that the country can help startups through non-capital measures.
The main proposal is the voting of the Contractual Joint Stock Company, which is solves the option pool dilemma. Another proposed measure is for new companies and startups to be able to participate in public tenders.
You may find BESCO’s latest report and more details on the proposed measures here.
According to Georgi Pavlov, founder of Proptech.BG, the negative effects of the pandemic and lockdown measures are already felt in the real estate market.
“Real estate is one of the oldest and most traditional asset classes. The industry will be hit hard by the crisis. The capital available for R&D will be much less, which means that innovation will get slower, not quicker.”
Georgi has been working in the property sector for over 15 years, overcoming successfully few economic downturns.
“The world is moving at a much faster pace. A bet of mine is that every 10 years we will have a new crisis of a different time.”
The panelists broadly agreed on the importance of clear communication and a timely reaction for a company in challenging times. Otherwise a business may endure double the losses – as a result of Coronavirus restrictions and of a lowered productivity of employees.
For other sectors, such as AI/Machine Learning, the effect of COVID-19 is not as deeply felt.
One of the lead innovators in the space in Bulgaria is Humans in the Loop, is an award-winning social enterprise. It employs and trains refugees to provide data services to companies to train and test their ML algorithms. Its founder is Iva Gumnishka, a winner in the selection 30 under 30 by Forbes Bulgaria in the Social Entrepreneurship category. She said:
“Quite some refugees and migrants have been among the first to lose their jobs in Bulgaria. Our grain of sand is to organize a freelancing course in order to introduce them to online remote work and help them earn an income during these hard times”.
The webinar was an “Ecosystem” event, hosted by Tzvete Doncheva, a startup advisor and innovation consultant, who’s spent the last 2+ years working in London’s tech scene.
The event was in partnership with BESCO and Trending Topics, the first journopreneurial platform in CEE.
About the speakers
About Filip Genov:
Filip Genov is the CEO and Founder of F27 and has over 25 years of experience in banking, innovations, and technology. He has created and managed several 500+ million euro financial institutions. He is the Founder and MD of Sophia Lab, Chairman of the SEE’s Annual FinTech and InsurTech Summit. Filip is also a venture partner at NV3, an early stage Bulgarian venture capital fund
About Georgi Pavlov:
Georgi Pavlov was the Executive Director of Address Real Estate (2011-2019) and the Vice-Chairman of AG Capital, the largest Bulgarian property business group and has been a board member of the group for more than 10 years. He was previously Development Director at Stara Planina Holding, a large industrial group that is listed on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. He is the founder of Proptech.bg, a community that aims to bring PropTech companies, start-ups, industry experts and investors together.
About Iva Gumnishka:
Iva is a social entrepreneur passionate about connecting vulnerable communities to the future of work. At Humans in the Loop, she employs refugees and conflict-affected people in Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq for providing image and data labeling for Artificial Intelligence. She is a Columbia University graduate and part of Forbes 30 under 30 Bulgaria for 2018
Natanail is the Chairman at BESCO – the Bulgarian Startup Association. His personal mission with BESCO is to establish better communication between the startup community and institutions, so that an even friendlier business and investment environment is created, through legislation improvements, more effective policies, and specific actionable initiatives. Another priority is to promote Bulgaria as “The European Startup Incubator”. Due to its partnership network, BESCO supports companies based in Bulgaria to internationalize and innovate more effectively, sharing the experience, know-how, and contacts of its partners.
Stoyan is the Founder and CEO of evedo.co – A world ecosystem and marketplace for the event & entertainment industry. Stoyan is a serial entrepreneur with a lot of experience in the events industry, startups, and blockchain technologies.
Thibaut is a French serial Entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience in the property and startup space. Addicted to innovation and building communities, he founded Puzl CowOrKing in 2014, named the best IT Coworking space in the CEE region. Puzl fosters creativity and collaboration between its 600+ members.
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