The connections between the innovation hubs in Bulgaria and Austria are getting stronger. After the two capital cities Sofia and Vienna signed an agreement to jointly support startups and Trending Topics opened up a Bulgarian newsroom, now the Viennese investment consultancy i5invest is also expanding.
Led by Austrian valuation expert Herwig Springer, the company, which specializes in startup investments and Merger&Acqiuisitions deals, launches its Bulgarian operations in partnership with local consultancy Simbula. Georgi Natchev will lead the local activities. Natchev, who is originally from Bulgaria and moved to Vienna in 2011, has been with i5invest for three years. Prior to that, he was part of the business development team of WeAreDevelopers – the prominent IT conference, which Markus Wagner,the founder of i5invest had backed.
„A vibrant tech cluster“
“Bulgaria is a market we have been watching already for some years and we decided to put a foot on the ground with a local presence, join the emerging local ecosystem and support tech companies in the growth phase”, Herwig Springer, CEO of i5invest stated. The local tech ecosystem is growing at a high pace – more and more startups with traction, foreign investors such as Financial Times, Uber, Viber, accelerators and new funds. Bulgaria is slowly evolving to the tech hub of South Eastern Europe and is also well connected to the global tech picture. The expansion of i5invest, which has its four other locations in the US, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria, is another step forward.
“Bulgaria has excellent IT specialists and a vibrant tech cluster. Both tech transactions and foreign investments in R&D point towards intense Tech activity and we at i5invest are very happy to work more with the region”, said Georgi Natchev, the Bulgarian lead of i5invest. According to him the Austrian and the Bulgarian ecosystems are similar and face the same challenges.
i5invest is a consultancy group of serial entrepreneurs, business angels and corporate development experts active between Europa, the US and partly in Asia. The company is focused to assist IT and tech companies in the scale-up phase to find the right investors and strategic partners globally. The company has launched operations in Vienna in 2007 and has since then been part of several exits like iTranslate ( acquired by Tinder owner IAC) and Smartbow ( sold to largest animal health company Zoetis). i5invest has already established its brand as a partner of scaling tech ventures within the Austrian market. According to Natchev the company is specialized in 13 different verticals.
So far, the only institutionalized supporter focused on scale-ups has been the local branch of the global entrepreneurial network Endeavor. Endeavor Bulgaria was founded in 2015 and has so far managed to identify and guide through the selection process 24 local entrepreneurs who are already part of the network and growing their businesses on global scale. Among the selected entrepreneurs from Bulgaria are Raicho Raichev, founder of cubical satellites startup Endurosat, Julian Sofroniev, founder of biometry venture Biodit, and the founders of HelloHungry, a food delivery startup, acquired by Takeaway for 10M in 2018 – Vladimir Davchev and Zornitsa Chugreeva.
Another company with a global network like i5invest might even accelerate the process of scaling local tech venrtures.