Acceleration programs organized by the state, municipalities and industrial associations are trendy right now. These days Sofia Tech Park, Sofia Municipality and the private Bulgarian Industrial Association, all offer services that would help innovative companies and teams in the very early stage – financially or through mentorship. This is, on the one hand, a great sign that innovation and startup businesses are finally a focus for more stakeholders outside the tech bubble. In the same time, however, these efforts might seem uncoordinated and under-communicated.
What could be the consequences? Sometimes – no applicants, missed opportunities and resources inefficiently spent. Therefore, we decided to put those opportunities together.
The Mentorship Acceleration of the Industrial Association
This program is targeted at first time entrepreneurs with an idea and it provides mentoring. It’s part of SharOn, a European initiative that aims to equip people, who have ideas, with knowledge and skills on different product and business development methodologies. “We are targeting young entrepreneurs, even students, and also teams with ideas but no business plans. Startups are not our target audience as most of them have already been through acceleration programs – there are many of them right now. Companies are not the final goal. We want to do mentoring,” Liliia Martinez, manager of the free program tells us.
The program includes a three-day long Bootcamp, four months of mentoring on selected topics related to business processes and roles. It’s all round up by a demo day in Warsaw, where the best teams will have the opportunity to meet the international partners of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, and potential investors, the organizers say. During the program, participants should refine their ideas and create functional prototypes of services that can be implemented in the sharing economy.
So far, the deadline for applications has been extended three times (this time to March 28) and the program is expected to start in April.
Small support from the Sofia Municipality
Accelerator Startup Sofia is a project of Sofia Municipality that aims to help startups and social entrepreneurs from Sofia develop and present well-grounded proposals to potential investors and financial organizations. The pilot Edition will take place in two integrated parallel stages for four months – financing in the form of a competition program totaling €50K (between €1.5 and €5K per project) provided by the Municipal Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises. The program also includes mentoring and networking opportunities by Sofia Investment Agency.
The initial idea of the acceleration program is to feed projects and companies into another support structure – the Guarantee Fund of the Sofia Municipality. “We provide guarantees. Still, banks need to see any collateral so they can issue a loan. This is the reason to create the program – to give younger teams the opportunity to create something, even an MVP, that would be eligible for financing,” Nikolay Tsenkov of the fund says. In the pilot, 46 projects have applied, and most of them are eligible. The end of the month should announce the results. There’s a chance that there is a second season with larger initial grants, Tsenkov said.
The R&D accelerator of Sofia Tech Park
Sofia Tech Park, the state-owned technological park, is soon launching an incubation program for companies and teams that want to develop products in life sciences, green technologies, and ICT in general. The new program is open for applications on the national level and targeted at projects with at least 35% R&D, Mariyan Marinov, business development manager at Sofia Tech Park, told us.
The goal of the management is to host up to 60 tech companies, give them access to the laboratory complex. This would be a great opportunity, given the fact that so far only one startup has made it to the labs.
The incubation includes diverse consultancy services. In addition, the management of the program is negotiating with corporate partners and sponsors to offer teams and young companies some financial support in the first six months of operations.