INTERVIEW: Endeavor looking to expand its activity across SEE

INTERVIEW: Endeavor looking to expand its activity across SEE Momchil Vassilev, CEO of Endeavor Bulgaria

SOFIA (Bulgaria), April 28 (SeeNews) – New York-headquartered non-profit organization Endeavor intends to expand in Southeast Europe, where it already has an affiliate office in Bulgaria, Momchil Vassilev, CEO of Endeavor Bulgaria, has said.

“Endeavor is focusing on Southern Europe as markets in the region have limited support infrastructure for entrepreneurs, as opposed to Northwestern Europe, where such mechanisms have already been established at a national level,” Momchil Vassilev told SeeNews in a recent interview.

Endeavor, which currently operates in 27 countries, selects and supports high-impact entrepreneurs who have the potential to grow promising SMEs into companies that create hundreds of jobs and generate significant revenues. In 2016, these entrepreneurs generated more than $10 billion (10.9 million euro) in revenue.

Endeavor Bulgaria, founded in June 2015, has since then selected seven Bulgarian entrepreneurs from 5 companies.

The Bulgarian market has great potential, as its limited size requires companies to expand to foreign markets at a very early stage and thus, the ones who tackle the related problems successfully, have a much greater chance of establishing themselves as market leaders in the future, Vassilev said. This accounts for the increased flexibility and creativity demonstrated by those companies in the later stages of their development, he explained.

Examples of companies, who have adopted and benefited from the Endeavor model, attracting financing and establishing valuable international contacts, are SoftGroup and Biodit. The two Bulgarian companies became part of the Endeavor network in 2016.

SoftGroup offers an end-to-end mass serialization software and hardware solution for the pharmaceutical industry, while Biodit develops innovative biometric systems for security and access control with applications mainly in the hospitality, insurance and automotive industries.

The Bulgarian market has no lack of entrepreneurial activity, however it is at a much earlier stage of development in comparison to other countries from Southeast Europe, such as Romania. This is partially due to the limited foreign direct investment into Bulgaria, when compared to other countries.

The big challenge for the Bulgarian entrepreneurial ecosystem is now to combine and coordinate its efforts towards attracting more capital, both via EU funds and foreign investors, as well as to help foster entrepreneurial culture within the developing companies, Vassilev added.

A key precondition for Bulgaria to attract the interest of foreign investors is the improvement of the country’s image as a market capable of offering interesting projects. A good example is the country’s IT sector, which is held in high regard among foreign investors due to its past and several successful projects launched in recent years.

As part of the efforts to promote Bulgaria as an investment destination, Endeavor Bulgaria was selected to host in October one of Endeavor’s eight International Selection Panels (ISP), which is the final step in Endeavor’s rigorous selection process and will gather an internationally esteemed group of board members, mentors and entrepreneurs. In parallel, Endeavor is organizing a conference that will bring together leading executives and major entrepreneurs from around the world.

Also, Endeavor Bulgaria has pledged to broaden the portfolio of the entrepreneurs it works with to sectors other than IT, and is currently in talks with companies from the pharmaceutical, construction, agriculture and other sectors.

Among the main challenges that the Bulgarian authorities will have to tackle in order to assure entrepreneurial ecosystem’s development, is overregulation, Vassilev noted. Although efforts to that end have been made, they are still insufficient, he added.

Another key growth driver that must be actively pursued is improving mass education, Vassilev opined. And despite businesses trying to make do with their own efforts, achieving a level of mass education which provides a solid foundation for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to step on requires a coordinated approach at the governmental level.

($ = 0.9159 euro)

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