Some companies appeared on the horizon with ambitious goals and enviable growth, while others ended their existence by merging with competitors or into larger corporations looking for ways to enter new markets. In 2022 over 300 IT companies joined DEV.BG’s Job Board. In this second part of the article about what happened in 2022, we will focus on some more achievements of Bulgarian tech companies.
Who else attracted capital
Last year, the SeedBlink platform, which aims to facilitate joint investments in European startups, started operating in the country. Thanks to it, some Bulgarian companies managed to mobilize over EUR 2.5 million. Dronamics and Alcatraz AI are among the main beneficiaries. SeedBlink expanded its presence in Central and Eastern Europe and now operates on a European scale. The platform is available to local investors, and it provides information and resources in Bulgarian.
There is a very promising Bulgarian company – QuarkXR, in the field of mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR), which managed to secure over BGN 1.7 million in funding from Bulgarian, Romanian, and other European investors in November. Its main financial backer is the Bulgarian fund Vitosha Venture Partners, which supported the company with over EUR 700,000. In addition, again in November, QuarkXR, together with another Bulgarian startup, Efemarai, whose activity is in the field of testing and development of machine learning models, joined the prestigious accelerator program of Bosch – Bosch Startup Harbour. The areas covered by this program are smart thermo technologies, innovative solutions based on connected smart sensors, energy efficient green technologies, circular and hydrogen economy, metaverse and physical products with embedded AI & ML technologies.
And beyond the borders of Bulgaria, but again with local participation, Calliper, a London-based startup co-founded by Kosta Kolev, received USD 1 million from one of the largest and most famous venture capital funds in the United States and in the world – Sequoia Capital. The company is also supported by the Bulgarian venture capital fund LAUNCHub Ventures.
Petar Gruev, co-founder of Tapline, also had a successful 2022. The digital financial platform Tapline, which provides SaaS companies with initial capital in exchange for future sales, raised EUR 31.7 million in a primary seed round. As part of this project the Bulgarian fund Impetus Capital contributed about EUR 100,000.
The local startup SAT Health, which works in the field of data analysis and digital solutions in healthcare, attracted investment of EUR 3 million for growth from InvenioPartnersFundISCSp, a venture capital fund in Southeast Europe. SAT Health will use the investment to enter new markets in the region, as well as to develop new products and services.
Mergers, reshuffles, newcomers
One particular deal overshadowed all the others in the sector in the past year. One of the largest local IT companies, STEMO, underwent a metamorphosis in May – the well-known telecom operator A1 Group acquired 100% of the company’s share capital with the aim of developing its portfolio for corporate clients in the field of IT infrastructure system integration, network connectivity, cybersecurity, and software development and implementation.
The American company MarketStar, on the other hand, acquired the local agency for sales of technological products Out2Bound. Its activity is related to outsourced sales of software and its team of salespeople works for technology production companies.
When it comes to new projects, it’s not always necessary to talk about new faces. Some of the established names in Bulgaria’s IT sector, such as Stefan Bumov, co-founder of HeleCloud, Alexander Stankov from Paysafe and Plamen Tsekov, a member of the board of directors of ScaleFocus, joined forces at the end of October to lay the foundations of the GigsRemote project – a remote work platform that will connect freelance specialists with companies from all over the country.
Enview, founded by Krasimir Piperkov and San Gunawardana in 2015, which deals with analysis of three-dimensional geospatial data, became part of the American Matterport for USD 71 million.
Leanplum, a cloud services company founded by Momchil Kyurkchiev, whose largest offices are located in Sofia, was acquired by its main competitor, CleverTap. The newly merged company is expected to generate over USD 100 million in profits next year. A serious expansion of the Bulgarian team of the company is also anticipated. Kyurkchiev’s plan is to turn Sofia into the second largest engineering center after Mumbai. Meanwhile, Sciant, created by Angel Mitev and Evlogi Georgiev in 2016 and dealing with IT solutions for business, acquired the Albanian software company ReSolutions, in the expectation that this will lead to a massive expansion of the team and deployment of the range of services offered.
The Bulgarian IT consulting company TBI Info will soon have a new name – Sirma InsurTech, after being acquired by SIRMA Group Holding in 2022 due to growing interest in projects for digitizing the insurance business on a regional and global scale. The two companies, now united under one umbrella, aim to take advantage of shared activities such as software development and implementation of innovative technological solutions for insurers and optimization of the overall service.
Swedish software services provider Beetroot AB, a branch of Beetroot Ecosystem, announced the acquisition of the Bulgarian software development company South Gate Tech. South Gate Tech was created by Kamen Bochev in 2018 and its activity is in the field of data management, digital transformation, and software consulting. Bulgaria is already the second most important and large-scale service center in Beetroot’s ecosystem in Europe.
And finally, the American company ResultsCX, which provides CXM (customer experience management services), announced its entry into the European market through the acquisition of the Bulgarian outsourcing company 60K, which provides services in the field of digital commerce, financial services, and insurance technologies to American, British, and European clients and has over 1200 employees in its offices in Plovdiv and Sofia.
Some international companies entered the Bulgarian market
There are also international companies that took their first steps towards entering the Bulgarian market over the past year. One of them is the global e-commerce platform Sellavi, which was created in Israel and operates in 27 countries, serving over 70 million users per month. The company makes an initial investment of EUR 7 million to establish itself in Bulgaria and expand its services.
There was good news in the first quarter of 2022: one of the largest payment institutions in continental Europe, the fintech company iBanFirst, announced the opening of its first office in Bulgaria as part of its initiative to expand into Southeast Europe. iBanFirst develops an online banking platform through which companies can make quick transactions in over 30 currencies and minimize currency risks through a hedging option.
The Ukrainian software company Sigma Software opened two offices in Bulgaria in 2022. The first one emerged in Burgas last summer, with its main goal being to provide a convenient place for the company’s employees fleeing the military action in Ukraine, while the second one was created at the end of August as a classic expansion that aimed to attract 50 new employees. The Bulgarian offices are managed by Nikolay Penev.
In October, a second Ukrainian software company opened its first Bulgarian office. AcademyOcean develops a platform for corporate training, and to expand its business, it founded an office in Sofia and began recruiting employees. The company was founded by Vladimir Polo in 2017 and its product, already used in 30 countries around the world, is something similar to a personalized alternative to platforms like Coursera.
Merkle, one of the largest companies in the consumer experience technology sector, entered the Bulgarian market in April. The technological giant is part of the Dentsu Agency Group with over 13,000 employees and offices in over 50 countries. In Bulgaria, Merkle will unite the teams of Isobar Commerce and Live Area, where over 300 employees will work to create top-level consumer experience strategies. The company plans to expand its teams by at least one third in 2023.
In August, ProductLead, a Romanian content marketing company that recently entered the local market, started an exclusive partnership with the leading Bulgarian media company Sportal Media Group. Together, they will create influencer-generated content with a new generation of targeted audiences through the new product Social Display, which debuted for the first time in Bulgaria.
Information technology has become a kind of refuge from major economic upheavals in Europe and around the world. The chronic shortage of fresh talent, as well as regional insecurity, are sources of concern for the sector, but for the time being it appears that the Bulgarian IT sector is ready to meet the challenges and emerge from them stronger and more successful than ever. It remains to be seen whether the unpredictable political situation in the country will affect the pace at which new global businesses enter Bulgaria and help develop the market. One thing is clear – no matter what happens in the world and in our country, the march of technology continues, and innovative solutions never stop.
See the first part here: What happened in the IT sector in 2022? (part one)