Funding BEC’s Education Initiatives

Free enterprise, to be successful, must be “demand” driven, not “product” driven. Once demand for a solution to a problem is identifiable, products will be developed to satisfy it.

If we look at education from this perspective, we should address the following questions: 

      – Where is there the “demand” for education? 

      – Who benefits from creating an “educated population”? 

In other words, “what’s the market for educated people?

Obviously everyone benefits to some degree from education: students, society, the economy and virtually anyone wishing to expand their range of choices as they go through life. But it’s also true that different beneficiaries of education value differently what is taught.

Because Bulgaria is at the bottom of the EU, economically speaking, entrepreneurship education – which teaches people how to start and grow businesses that then hire employees, provide needed and desired goods and services, then create profits which can be re-invested to expand existing, or create new businesses and employ more people – is a form of education that is valued by businesses, NGOs, governments… basically anyone seeking to hire intelligent and productive employees.

We are facing a future of robots attending to our life-sustaining needs, self-driving cars taking us wherever we may want to go, artificial intelligence, problem-solving using every piece of data known to man, right at our fingertips, whenever we want. Given this reality, what will our future be like? What skills must the employees of the future have to make them “employable”?

To prepare Bulgarians for such a future and help them elevate their standard of living, and, indeed, the economic well-being of the entire country, the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) has introduced to Bulgaria a number of innovation and entrepreneurship educational initiatives during the last year.

From the Teenovator course in 4 Sofia High Schools and the University Innovation Fellows program in 5 Bulgarian Universities, to the Varna Free University Master’s in Entrepreneurship class aimed at students with some business background to Pragmatic Marketing and Business Building workshops for sustainable business managers, BEC has brought world-class curriculum and instructors – most with successful business experience – at little or no cost to the enrollees. This year, BEC is introducing entrepreneurship to the arts community as well, by sponsoring the Idea Academy in Sofia, the first arts school in the entire Central and Eastern European region aimed at helping students develop careers in the arts.

In addition, BEC has made the blended, on-line/off-line My Own Business Institute course (MOBI) – customized to the realities of the Bulgarian ecosystem – available free to anyone who wishes to enroll. (Details of these courses are explained in Appendix A).

And more privately created and managed education initiatives are planned to be introduced in Bulgaria by BEC for this year!

Funding BEC: Q & A

Given that employers are the largest market for innovation and entrepreneurship education, BEC’s education initiatives should be the products organizations buy to meet their demand for qualified employees.

Let’s answer a few questions:

  1. Who is education’s market?

Employers: Businesses, NGOs, government, arts organizations 

  1. What type of education is most employable?

For businesses, NGOs, government, the arts: Entrepreneurship, finance, soft skills, leadership/teamwork, best business practices 

  1. How do education supporters benefit?

Through Promotion: Names of donors included on BEC’s education initiatives and education and promotional materials to advertise a company’s adherence to customer-admired common values, thereby generating product/service support.

Through attracting employees by exposing them to work/career opportunities: promoting common values between employers and employees, creating case studies used in BEC curriculums, employee mentors trained and assigned to various BEC initiatives (such as Teenovator, MOBI, IDEA, UIF)

Through leverage: Every student has one or two parents, aunts and uncles, grand-parents, cousins, and friends thereby enabling donor companies to stimulate wide-spread product acceptance and customer loyalty by creating a feeling of trust, support and gratitude with the student who – as recipient of this supportive relationship –  may then influence the buying behavior of his/her family and friends.

Note: Supporting a cause like education is more cost effective than paid-advertising in developing product acceptance and repetitive usage. Less money is required and better results are achieved: loyalty, trust, 3rd party referral benefits, long-term impact. (Google We First and read of Simon Mainwaring’s success in creating a social consciousness brand for customers like Nike, Sony, SAP, CocaCola, Toyota.)

  1. Who should BEC solicit for program funding assistance?

The following organizations: American Chamber of Commerce Bg, US Embassy, Bulgaria Economic Ministry, Sofia Business Park tenants, Mayors’ offices, VC Industry, Social Media Industry (LinkedIn).

Certain industries might benefit more from different initiatives:

MOBI: Financial institutions (Banks and Insurance Companies).

TEENOVATOR: Consumer product Companies (fast-food companies and coffee shops).

IDEA: Web developers, off-line/on-line marketers, Gaming Companies, Video, Movie Studios.

UIF: Software/Hardware, restaurants, athletic equipment/apparel.

5. How much should BEC ask from potential donors?

Any of the following: A percentage of payroll, revenue, profits or “highest bidder” approach (for various levels of promotion) or an annual BEC Support Education Club membership fee (see item 6 below for membership incentives).

Example: Assuming BEC asks for a donation of 10% of a company’s advertising budget (0.7% of gross income)*, the size of the “ask” will be relative to a company’s gross income:

Gross Income           Advertising Budget              BEC Ask

$  1,000,000        $    70,000                                $   7,000

    5,000,000              350,000                                  35,000

    7,500,000               525,000                                  52,500

  10,000,000              700,000                                  70,000

  15,000,000            1,050,000                                105,000

      Offer donors Naming Rights: A donor’s name may be put on a variety of BEC’s education initiative components. Examples of naming opportunities and ask amounts are:

      Professors’/teacher’s positions: the VFU MiE “VMWare

      Professor of Entrepreneurship” for BEC’s Master’s Class; 

      UIF’s “VMWare Champion” ($50,000)

      Mentors’/teachers’ roles: MOBI’s “VMWare Mentor”,

      Teenovator’s “VMWare Fellow” ($25,000)

       Class Titles: MOBI – the “VMWare My Own Business Class”;

       Teenovator’s “VMWare Business Club” ($100,000)

   Scholarship Sponsors: IDEA Academy’s “VMWare

   Scholarship”; VFU’s MiE “VMWare Scholarship” ($8.000)


  1. Where does BEC Start?

BEC makes a presentation to education’s customers, like AmCham members, in which BEC describes the benefits of a relationship with BEC.

For example, as a reward for their involvement, BEC will organize and present workshops addressing topics business groups identify as important to them, such as:

A “Third Space Thinking”, 3-day Workshop presented by Dr. Ernie Wilson from University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication focusing on the 5 soft skills Ernie’s research has identified as the most important for businesses to attract and nurture if they want to succeed. (See Appendix B for an introduction)

A “Leadership & Team Building”, 3-day workshop conducted by Dr. Jamie Williams will address coaching techniques that build teamwork and collaborative behavior within an organization to achieve corporate goals.

A “Developing a Viable Tourism & Hospitality Industry in Bulgaria”, 3-day workshop taught by American Hospitality Industry expert Bob Burke focusing on techniques and strategies Bob has used to support restaurants, hotels and tourism around the world.


*Average small business spends 7-8% of gross income on advertising; larger companies (over $1,000,000 in sales) spend 5-7% on average (depending on mark-up and rent). Example: if a company has gross income of $200,000/year, it is expected to spend $14,000 – $16,000 on advertising. A company with gross income of $1,000,000 might be expected to spend $50,000 – $70,000)

Appendix A: BEC Education Programs

1) Pragmatic Marketing – professional education for entrepreneurs in technology companies

Between March 14-16, 2018 Sofia hosted the first Pragmatic Marketing event in Bulgaria. It was a 3-day educational program – which took place at Telerik Academy in Sofia – attended by 32 selected participants from a broad range of industries. The course was geared to helping technology companies identify their customer base and pragmatically market to them based on real life experience.

The Pragmatic Marketing Experience is the top educational course in its field. Numerous employees of Google, Amazon, Facebook and other successful companies integrate the “Pragmatic Marketing” model throughout their organizations. To date there are 100,000+ individuals trained in over 25 countries. 

2) Business Builder Class by Norman Winarsky

Presented at Sofia Tech Park in October 2018, the workshop was a summary of entrepreneurial processes that have successfully created, developed, and sustained many breakthrough companies, as well as helped participants develop their own ideas for a breakthrough venture – ventures that can have lasting and positive impact, touching millions of lives. These ventures are based on technology and business models that impact markets ranging from medical devices to satellites to robotics to clean water.

Breakthrough ventures are distinguished from other ventures in virtually every aspect: the team, the investors, the board, the value proposition, scalability, investing, sustaining the venture through continuous innovation, and more. The examples are based on the experiences of Norman Winarsky, Past President of Stanford Research Institute Ventures and the “father” of “Siri”.

3) VFU Master in Entrepreneurship (MiE) Program

MiE is a two-semester graduate-level academic program begun in October 2018 for active professionals and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria and the CEE region designed to develop entrepreneurial mindset and shape skills needed for effective initiation, and execution of entrepreneurial projects across market, non-business and social contexts.

The MiE Program is the leading and most impactful program activating entrepreneurial potential in the entire CEE region, bringing together the best curriculum, the most experienced instruction and participation from successful entrepreneurs from the United States; and is a fully EU-accredited course. 

4) My Own Business Institute (MOBI) – Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, California 

Begun in June 2018, MOBI’s popular blended online/live courses teach new entrepreneurs how to start a business and experienced entrepreneurs how to grow a business.  Through video, audio, and text, in addition to live student/mentor weekly meetups, our students learn how to pick a business, how to finance it, how to build clientele, and how to create a successful team.  MOBI students come from all over Bulgaria and represent every kind of business imaginable.  

Each of the 2 courses, STARTING BUSINESS and BUSINESS EXPANSION, is comprised of individual sessions. Students can take them at their own pace without the constraints of weekly deadlines. Our program offers them the freedom to focus on the areas that require more of their attention while letting them move at an accelerated pace when they are able. Visit BEC’s website ( and explore all the course content. 

Also, view the following promo for MOBI on YouTube: /

5) University Innovation Fellows Program (UIF) – Stanford

UIF program began in July 2018 with an intensive week-long training class at Stanford for professors chosen by their universities to become Innovation Champions; followed by a 6 week online course for 4 students chosen by their peers to gain skills to be leaders and “innovation activists” at their schools. 

Professors from Sofia University, Varna Free University and Management University attended the training session in July and organized their respective student Innovation Fellows so they could begin their training in October.

6) Teenovator: High School Entrepreneurship 

    The Teenovator Program began in October 2018 and empowers high school students at 4 High Schools in Sofia to become successful by teaching skills that can lead them to economic independence and self-sufficiency. The training provides hands-on experience and interactive activities, such as practical exercises, teamwork, collaborative projects, games, and contests.

    The program is a two-year curriculum for students in the 10th and 11th grades. During the first year, students’ focus will be on critical thinking skills, creativity and innovation. The second year the students will explore successful practices and learn the invention cycle while launching their own entrepreneurial activity. 

     The participants will also meet with successful entrepreneurs and compete for grants to finance their own entrepreneurial plans. 

7) The International Design & Entertainment Arts Academy (IDEA)

The IDEA Academy Bulgaria, beginning in the spring of 2019, is a new professional learning center for digital and traditional arts, combining brand development, marketing and start up education, to help students gain comprehensive knowledge of the video, film and game industry. IDEA is building on the success, resources and good practices of its sister school, IDEA Rome.

​Courses cover a wide variety of topics, such as videogames, 3D graphics and concept design, cinema set design and storyboarding, 2D animation, 3D animation and illustration.

IDEA Academy Bulgaria will help artists from all around the world to develop their talent and potential through our high level teaching standards. The academy, located in Sofia, will work to develop Bulgaria as a regional center for digital arts and creativity of tomorrow.

Appendix B

What Skills Do Businesses Need to be Successful?

To smart, entrepreneurial leaders, problems are seen as opportunities… opportunities to use our imaginations to come up with innovative solutions.

Difficulties may arise, however, when we try to turn a solution into a viable business strategy, we may tend to rely too much on our passion, perseverance, self-reliance and judgment to birth our baby. To ignore the opinions and criticism of others – and single-handedly try to defy the odds of failure – is to destine us, all too often, to that fate we try so desperately to avoid. Success in transforming our solution into a sustainable business strategy actually requires us to incorporate all that we don’t know, all that is outside of our protective and all too comfortable womb. 

True, a break-through technology may, on occasion, catapult our business into becoming a successful company. But for most of us, unless we develop and utilize soft skills and build a diverse team who knows how to work together and apply those skills to the common good, our creative solution may miss its target or never see the light of day.

Developing soft skills requires Third Space Thinking: a communication-driven methodology to frame and solve problems thereby enabling organizations to achieve success. 

Third Space Thinking, or TST, is based on research conducted at the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at USC led by Dean Ernie Wilson. TST identifies five attributes which are critical to success in today’s complex world and were discovered after a 3-year process of analyzing the responses of 1,800 global business leaders (IBM, Google, etc.) when asked just two questions:

  1. What skills are you looking for when you hire people?
  2. What skills are you looking for when you consider promoting them?

The sooner we learn to identify the 5 core attributes discovered by the 3rd Space research, the better the chance we will avoid attracting and hiring the wrong people. And, if we find that our own skill set is lacking in one or more of these attributes, we will know the qualifications to especially look for in new hires to offset our personal inadequacies.

So, what are these 5 core attributes?

  1. Adaptability: Are you comfortable with ambiguity? Can you be flexible in the face of change? History is full of mistakes made by brilliant people, wed permanently to their own creations and suffering from tunnel vision: like Thomas Edison, thinking AC (alternating current) could never replace DC (direct current) or that wax cylinders would never be replaced by a flat disk to produce the sound of music; or Ken Olson of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), certain that PCs were a “dumb idea”, and deciding to devote his company’s attention to what he knew – mini-computers, which meant competing against IBM; or, sadly, John Scully firing Steve Jobs and assuming for himself the role of Chief Technical Advisor of Apple!
  1. Cultural Competence: Do you have a cross-cultural intelligence? Are you capable of working inclusively and respectively with others of various cultures and orientations? If your company is to be successful, it will likely have to market its products and services “across borders” to different places inhabited by different cultures with different customs and values. Can you learn from another’s mistakes?
  1. Empathy: Are you capable of understanding and accepting others’ priorities and perspectives by engaging in active listening? Are you reflective in your responses to questions and able to integrate these insights into more effective problem solving? Empathy leads to trust and loyalty: the two most valuable attributes a business could ever want from its employees… and its clients!
  1. Intellectual Curiosity: Do you possess a hunger for knowledge that fuels ever higher levels of learning and performance? Does your emotional maturity keep pace with your intellectual appetite? If the dynamic and complex world in which we all live doesn’t make you wonder – wonder where we’re going, and what our contribution to the future will be – then nothing will! Looking towards a future of robots attending to our life-sustaining needs, self-driving cars taking us wherever we may want to go, artificial intelligence that provides us every piece of data known to man, right at our fingertips, whenever we want. What will our future be like?
  1. 360-Degree Thinking: Are you able to take a holistic, multi-dimensional, and analytical approach to problem-solving? Are you able to convert information into insights and “connect the dots” between disparate data points so that things make sense? Will everything be provided to us by a replicator like in Star Trek? Will 3-D printing be able to replicate each one of our vital organs; should one need to be transplanted? We should always be looking toward the future: where are we in the economic cycle; what new innovation will make a popular product today obsolete tomorrow; will crypto-currency be the next big thing, eliminating the need for financial institutions to mediate commerce? Let’s face it: change “is in the wind” all around us, and we must decide, “Am I going to be disrupted by it, or be a disruptor?”

You are all on a path to grow successful businesses. But there is no way to foresee all that lies in your path as you try to reach your goal. Assuredly, there will be both pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises along the way.

But if you and your team are armed with the proper skill sets – such as those embodied in Third Space Thinking – you will improve dramatically your odds of getting there by knowing how to avoid the many pot-holes you’ll encounter along the way and be able to capitalize on unanticipated good fortune.  

         TST skills will enable you – and your business – not simply to survive, but to thrive!

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