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Who is Out There: Stories From The Tech & Digital Diaspora

The Bulgarian Tech & Digital Diaspora has many faces and not all of them appear in the media stream ©BVCA
The Bulgarian Tech & Digital Diaspora has many faces and not all of them appear in the media stream ©BVCA

As media, we often publish stories because there are new announcements about -investments, exits, awards, events etc. This is how media works, but often enough interesting and valuable stories remain unwritten. Last Christmas we decided to start collecting stories of inspiring Bulgarian individuals and professionals abroad and share them without any special occasion. And here are the first three. As we believe some things are better seen from distance, we asked them what would make them come back and join the rising tech sector and what they want to see in Bulgaria in five years.

 

Lilia Stoyanov, the Blockchain Professor

Lilia Stoyanov started her career as an auditor with EY and later became General Manager & Chief Financial Officer of Bulgarian fintech Company Skrill, later acquired by Paysafe, and Director PTP Europe at Coca – Cola Enterprises. In 2008, she left Sofia because the headquarters of both companies were in London and instantly fell in love with the city. She is now CEO of a whole different tech business. Her management advisory company Service Optimizer emphasizes on advising M&A deals in the fintech industry, business transformation and startup funding. Transformify Recruitment Platform, another company of hers, was founded in 2015 and combines HR-tech, fintech and AI to empower recruitment and secure payment transfers to employees and freelancers. Just a few months after the company was launched it got backed by Richard Branson and Virgin Startup and joined the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition of the EU Commission. Two years ago, Lilia Stoyanov received an invite from Zigurat Business School in Barcelona, Spain to join them as a professor and teach blockchain, fintech, payments and business transformation in the financial services industry.  Last but not least, she is an expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission and Entrepreneur.com contributing author.


What is the most valuable lesson you learned abroad?

Everything is possible. It is a matter of perseverance, meeting the right people and being ready to pay the price to make your dreams come true.


Do you keep contact with the Bulgarian tech & startup ecosystem?

Not really. I am rarely in Bulgaria.


Is there anything that would make you come back/ something that makes you not consider this at all?

After living in Seoul and London, I am in love with the very big, fast-paced cities that are full of opportunities and never sleep. Living in Bulgaria is not appealing. Sofia is too small and slow-paced.


What is the Bulgaria you want to see in 5 years?

Politically stable with trustworthy legal system and predictable tax policy.

 

+++ Check also our Video: What Makes Some of Those Talents Come Back+++

Raiko Toshev, the Robomaster

The first time we met Raiko Toshev was because of a project called InMoov – an open source project for 3D printed humanoid robot, which attracted hundreds of academics and enthusiasts throughout the world. Everything around InMoov was started back in 2012 as a side project of the French sculptor Gael Langevin and formed a great community around the self-learning robot whose parts are all printed via small-scale desкtop 3D printers. Raiko Toshev is a PhD and lecturer in industrial management in the Finnish University of Vaasa and joined the movement in 2014 with printing two plastic hands together with his exchange students. Today, the based in Vaasa humanoid already has its legs printed out and might soon be able to walk on its own.  Prior to Finland Toshev has graduated from the Sofia University in Management Information Systems and Business Administration and worked in IBM Bulgaria. His PhD studies made him leave Bulgaria in 2005 and stay in Finland, but he is still connected to the local academic tech sphere.  

What is the most valuable lesson you learned abroad?

How to work with different people and multiple cultures.

Do you keep contact with the Bulgarian tech & startup ecosystem?

I’m involved in some projects with Sofia Tech Park. Currently we are working on a VR demo, but cannot disclose any details.

Is there anything that would make you come back or something that makes you not consider this at all?

I would come back, if I had the opportunity to manage Sofia Tech Park for a comprehensive salary  

What is the Bulgaria you want to see in 5 years?

Some progress finally, competent people get decision power, fair share of finance and freedom.

 

+++Read Also: Connecting The Diaspora Dots+++

Nina George, The Thames Valley connection

Nina George is an economist and former senior project manager for the Bulgarian branch of UniCredit who left Sofia and moved to London 15 years ago due to family circumstances. Prior to that, in 2001 she founded the first International Association of Professional and Business Women in Bulgaria and initiated Coalition of Balkan Business Women Associations five years later. In the UK George established a consulting company NG Consulting with focus on investment and business development consultancy and Project Management. Then she started another venture part of this business – Elminaco, a marketing and publishing arm, which issues a monthly business magazine – London Business News. Her latest project is a magazine supplement focused on presenting the Bulgarian technology sector to their counterparts in the most dynamic business area in Britain – The Thames Valley.

What is the most valuable lesson you learned abroad?

Whatever the circumstances, keep your dignity, be professional, be a good person. This is what will make you a respectful member of the society wherever you are. This is how all of us can contribute to the process of creating a positive image of our homeland. As we all know the image of our country reflects on everyone especially when we are abroad.

Do you keep contact with the Bulgarian tech & startup ecosystem?

I am looking forward to expand my contacts with the Bulgarian tech & startup ecosystem as part of our idea to present the Bulgarian tech sector in Britain.

Is there anything that would make you come back or something that makes you not consider this at all?

There are many reasons that could make expats return to their home – personal, professional or patriotic. Home is always a sweet home.

What is the Bulgaria you want to see in 5 years?

I would be very happy if in five years time when I walk to the streets to see a smiling faces with eyes radiating fulfilment, content and self-esteem.

 

Read also:

Why Bulgarian VCs like the Diaspora so much

Which were the most exciting diaspora deals and investments of 2018

Why entrepreneurs come back to Bulgaria after the Valley?

We encourage you to send us more of those stories to office@trendingtopics.bg

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