Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Sofia, Bulgaria
As a Dutch entrepreneur in Sofia, the question I get asked the most is: „Why Bulgaria?”
I’ve been living and doing business here for five months already and I’ve gathered quite a lot of impressions. The question „Why Bulgaria?“ never fails to put a smile on my face and I’ll explain to you why by sharing my story with you.
What I do
Firstly, to give you an idea of what I’m doing, I’ll start off with some background information about my business:
TriplePro is a Marketing group that I co-founded in 2004. We specialise in the management of targeted campaigns that combine a variety of different marketing channels. Our strategies have a low overhead and are known to yield a high ROI. So far, the group consists of a Direct Marketing Agency, an Online Marketing Agency and a Call Centre. Our clients are big NPO’s, among which UNICEF, WWF, the Dutch government and hundreds of smaller SME’s across the Netherlands.
Over the course of 10 years, we have evolved from a start-up, established by students in a dorm room, to one of the leading organizations in the industry. We rank within the top 2% of Dutch companies with most employees and have raised over €50 million with Direct Marketing campaigns for different NPOs.
As we grew bigger, the logical next step for us was international expansion. Here in Bulgaria, we’re going to work on digital content creation, and export local organic food to Western Europe.
The process of choosing Bulgaria as the next country for expansion started out with simple research. We made a short list of countries within the European Union that would fit our company’s mission and vision. Bulgaria ranked quite high on it, based on various criteria. Frankly, it was not something I had expected, but based on my experience so far, I can easily say that we made a good choice. As with every new venture, there are also some rough patches – mostly, cultural differences and the distance to our Dutch headquarters, and although I have studied five different languages in school, nothing prepared me for Bulgarian and Cyrillic.
Financially attractive country
That being said, Bulgaria has a lot of advantages. Here, we’re able to expand our cultural awareness and diversify our business portfolio. If you’re an investor or entrepreneur, Bulgaria is a very financially attractive country. There are a lot of reasons for this, some of which I’m going to list:
– Good fiscal climate for investors – Bulgaria has one of the most favourable tax regimes in the European Union. The personal income tax is 10%, flat rate. Same applies to the corporate tax. In comparison, In the Netherlands this goes up to 52% and 25%, respectively.
– One of the most competitive costs of labour in Central and Eastern Europe – on average, Bulgaria has the lowest labour costs in the EU, but it strongly depends on the industry you are in.
– One of the most favourable office rents and low costs of utilities in the European Union – The only European countries, where the prices per m2 are lower, are Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia and Macedonia.
– The Bulgarian Lev has a fixed exchange rate with the Euro – Bulgaria will replace the Lev with the Euro in the near future.
All of these things are quite important for service-based industries. When you manage a business, operational costs are a big part of your overhead and potential profit. If you lower the operational costs, you can invest more in quality. This, in combination with the skilled workforce and the lack of currency risk, makes Bulgaria a highly attractive place for companies like ours.
Another awesome article: Entrepreneurship and Venture Community in Bulgaria: the Look Ahead
Even more benefits
There are also a lot of other practical benefits for us, such as:
- Well developed ICT-related sectors
- Many producers of organic products
- Almost everyone in the professional field speaks English
- Sofia has a booming start-up and creative scene
Bulgarians – the biggest advantage
Last but not least, the biggest advantage here are the people. Most of my experience with Bulgarians has been positive, and they never seize to amaze me with their friendliness. I’ve found it really easy to socialize and expand my network here. There are big events like Digitalk and TEDxBG, as well as more personal ones like the weekly Silicon Drinkabout and various events at Betahaus. More than once, the organizers would change the event language from Bulgarian to English on the spot, just because a foreigner joined. Gestures like this make you feel more than welcome.
Bulgaria has a lot to offer and this was the main reason for me to come here last January. Having spent already 5 months here, it is safe to say that not only the question „Why Bulgaria?“ makes me smile, but also the positive environment and all the great, talented people that I get to know on a daily basis.