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The ancient city of Plovdiv

A budding start-up hub

Now a budding start-up hub

Written by Georgi Tonchev

Your startup will bloom, or not – where it’s planted.
So why not look for good entrepreneurial soil and plenty of startup sun?

We increasingly live in a novel more digital, more technological, and connected world. The overall technological change we’ve experienced in the past two decades is without exaggeration breathtaking – from online shopping to online education, even telehealth to name just a few major areas of life which are currently going through a digital rebirth.

Often the most active and game-changing players behind the digitization of our lives are technology startups. From Amazon, to Uber, to Netflix, and many more known and unknown ones. They are constantly grinding, driving change, and turning whole industries inside-out.

That is why the best cities of the future will be the ones who attract significant numbers of such startups and this is not an easy pursuit – it is a very competitive landscape and Plovdiv has to work hard to position itself well and to become more attractive within the local and regional landscape.

Some cities, such as San Francisco and London, have a long history of entrepreneurship. Others, like Berlin and Barcelona with their robust startup communities, have grown into thriving entrepreneurial cities. What makes each distinct and diverse city such fertile grounds for entrepreneurship?

There’s no one secret to developing a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem. But knowing the traits that make a city entrepreneurial—and having a process for how to get there—can open the door to economic growth and mobility and take a city like Plovdiv from surviving to thriving.

There are five main components that make a city attractive to technology start-ups:

1. A supportive ecosystem

A city has to be supportive of its startup culture and entrepreneurship generally. That may express itself in the form of local government incentives for startups (e.g., tax breaks), the city’s embrace of diversity, the constant flow of young and entrepreneurial people, especially graduates from the country and abroad.

Plovdiv has a developing tech startup ecosystem, which is just emerging from the long traditions of excellent local tech education and a more mature software development service base. However, the underdeveloped local scene benefits exclusively from its small size, informal networking, and clear collaborative spirit between its members. It’s an up-and-coming place with lots of young energy, spirit, and ambition. Full of eager youngsters wanting to create something of their own.

2. A low cost of living

Although the prestige of living in places like London or San Francisco may be tempting, the cost of renting office space in those cities is immense. A location’s affordability for employees and startup founders is crucial for a new business’s bottom line. Anything that cuts costs significantly, such as cheaper office space, accommodation, and lower starting salaries will extend the “runway” the startup has before it runs out of money.

Plovdiv has an incomparable advantage in this respect as in Bulgaria is by no doubt the best value for money place, combining all the amenities of a big city in terms of education, health, cultural and social life, but on a fraction of the cost compared with most other European cities of a similar size and situation.

Furthermore, being affordable does not come at the price of quality of life, if anything the opposite is true, Plovdiv is like a well-hidden gem in Europe where you could work, live and enjoy yourself with a modest budget, but at the same time could virtually work on a global basis.

3. Higher education presence

The existence of nearby universities and colleges is another desirable trait for startups because these can provide interns for ventures and other supportive resources. Universities are also directly inspiring the growth of startups by actively encouraging them through new course offerings, workshops, R&D labs, and incubators.

Plovdiv with its 10 universities and other higher education institutions with a strong technical domain focus provides all the necessary prerequisites for the development of software R&D centers, knowledge-based process technological outsourcing, and centers of expertise.

The city already has a well-developed network of modern research centers, laboratories, and science institutes in mechatronics, food-tech, and biotech among others which creates a fertile ground for hiring high-quality talent and establishing commercial partnerships, both of high interest of budding tech startups.

4. Access to funding

It’s true that in the digital age, the pool of investors across the country is open to you no matter where you live. However, having some local funding options can only help.

Plovdiv has always been in the shadow of Sofia regarding investment and funding opportunities, however, the city has a compelling story to tell being underlooked, but not less worthy.

Emphasizing the local element in your startup’s story and offering plenty of 2nd city advantages of being based in a lower cost, less competitive, and less distracting location could prove very appealing to potential investors once they further discover the local scene. The global tech scene is full of examples of second-best cities becoming a magnet for tech startups and tech investors – Austin, Manchester, Turtu, Linz to name a few.

5. Desirable lifestyle

Finally, let`s not forget the lifestyle young entrepreneurs want to have. Living in a city with a good social scene, diversity, rich history and culture is not only preferable but a prerequisite for young professionals, founders, and entrepreneurs. Being able to blend work and play together in a cool city – affordable and diverse as Plovdiv is a real advantage that must be heavily underlined.

Moreover, founders tend to like places that are good for settling as well, as once they move into the next stage of life and start having a family – Plovdiv is a beautiful, safe, and very family-friendly city. This makes the transition natural and easy keeping the entrepreneurs happy & satisfied offering them all they need in that stage too.

Open Sofia and Highstreet Magazine partner up to support creative expression, local talent, and knowledge to the people. All in support of our communities. Originally published on highstreet.bg

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