Author: 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, more connected world. The overall technological change we experience in the last two decades is without exaggeration breath-taking – from online shopping, to online education to telehealth to name just a few major areas of life which are currently going through a digital reborn.
Often the most active and often game-changing players behind the digitisation of our lives are technology startups. From Amazon, to Uber, to Netflix and many more known and unknow ones are constantly grinding, driving change and turning inside-out whole industries.
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 its robust startup community, have grown into thriving entrepreneurial cities more recently. 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 5 main components that make a city attractive to technology startups:
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 inflow of young and entrepreneurial people, especially graduates from the country and abroad.
Plovdiv has a nascent tech startup ecosystem, which is just emerging from the long traditions of an excellent local tech education and 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 is up & 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 very high. A location’s affordability for employees and startup founders is crucial for a new business’s bottom line. Anything that cuts cost significantly, such as cheaper office space, accommodation, 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 comparing 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 a like well-hidden gem in Europe where you could work, live and enjoy yourself with 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 fomenting 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 strong technical domain focus provides all the necessary prerequisites for the development of software R&D centres, knowledge-based process technological outsourcing and centres of expertise.
The city already has a well-developed network of modern research centres, 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, always has been in the shadow of Sofia in Bulgaria regarding investment and funding opportunities, however the city has a compelling story to tell being under looked, but not less worthy.
Emphasizing the local element in your startup’s story and offering plenty 2nd city advantages of being based in a lower cost, less competitive and less distraction’s location could prove very appealing to potential investors once they further discover the local scene. The global tech scene if full of examples of second-best cities becoming a magnet for tech startups and tech investors – Austin, Manchester, Turtu, Linz to name the 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 real advantage which must be heavily underlined.
Moreover, founders tend to like places which are good for settling as well, as once they move into the next life stage and start creating families – Plovdiv is a beautiful, safe and very family-friendly city too. This makes the transition natural and easy keeping the entrepreneurs happy & satisfied offering them all they need in that stage too.