Enrolment to begin into the second year of the exclusive entrepreneurship program in the Varna Free University
The program was designed by Silicon Valley lecturers with the support of BEC (Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center)
During the past year something new happened within the entrepreneurship field in Bulgaria. New graduates entered the field – the first ones who completed the Master’s program in entrepreneurship in Varna (a joint project by the Verna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar” and BEC (Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center).
The program is the paragon of the new mentoring model in Bulgaria to encourage young and talented people to work and develop within the country. The program utilizes educational materials based on courses in Stanford and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
The first 30 graduates successfully presented their projects before international investors and business representatives, among whom were Larry Biehl – an American financial consultant and investment manager, initiator and mentor of the program, Michael Marvin – one of the founders of Tech Valley in New York, as well as the Innovation Accelerator Bulgaria and BrightCap Ventures investment funds.
The startup projects inspired by the practical orientation of the Master’s program in entrepreneurship are already taking their first real steps in the business. Within two semesters the course transferred the best practices of Silicon Valley lecturers to Bulgaria, as well as the experience of world-famous entrepreneurs and practice.
The courses in the following academic year will again be taught by some of the most successful entrepreneurs with experience in deals in the USA, Bulgaria and the world. Among the Bulgarians who will be teaching, notable names of high managers with successful foreign careers stand out.
Michael Marvin, one of the founders of Tech Valley in New York, shared that he is teaching students of the opportunities that lie in taking full advantage of the entrepreneurship ecosystem potential when creating their products and services for the market. “You have brilliant young people in Bulgaria – encourage them!” he said.
The focus of this year’s education will fall on social entrepreneurship, which blends the resourcefulness of the business with a social mission, the skillful combination and balance of social and economic goals with a good understanding of the needs of people.
Partial scholarships will again be given to the best candidates by the Varna Free University and business in the region. The courses under the program are all taught entirely in English.
To apply for enrolment and to register, go to entr.vfu.bg
About the organizers:
The Verna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar” is the biggest private university in Bulgaria. It is an established academic center that educates Bulgarian and foreign students alike, giving them knowledge in fields prioritized in the country, and creates an internationally convertible and competitive scientific and academic product. Over ten thousand students study there under more than 67 Master’s and Bachelor’s programs and 29 PhD programs.
BEC (Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center) was created in April 2017 by a group of inspired entrepreneurs. BEC is a program by the InterCulture Foundation, an NGO located in the San Francisco Bay area in California. To this group of inspired people, among whom are Larry Biehl, Norman Winarsky, Vassil Terziev, Bogomil Balkansky and Dafina Toncheva, “entrepreneurship” is s verb and not a noun and also not a passive state but a dynamic process of constant development and construction.
Sofia Residence Hotel started a social project to help elderly people
One of the partners of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center is Sofia Residence Hotel in Sofia. Larry Biehl, the founder of the foundation, and the lecturers he brings from the United States often stay there.
The small boutique hotel offers comfort and coziness, emphasizing a personal touch when it comes to its clients. Recently the hotel manager, Svetla Ivanova, together with the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center, launched a social project aimed at supporting the lives of elderly people and people with disabilities. Recently, guests have become more and more demanding and they care about what the management of the place where they stay is. Only comfort and good services are not enough and the competition is great.
A new trend is for hotel staff to engage in social causes, such as in their spare time to help elderly people, people with disabilities, children in need, and others. The task of a good manager is to motivate her employees to participate in such projects. They donate part of their spare time free of charge, in the evening or on the weekend by working as volunteers, contributing to society.
In turn, more and more people prefer to stay in hotels whose management is dealing with such initiatives. Thus, staying there, they help them. Their money goes to this hotel, which, in addition to providing good services, also performs good deeds.
This is precisely the essence of the pilot project, which started at the beginning of 2019 at Sofia Residence Hotel. The campaign was opened in mid-January with a concert by Lilly Drumeva, attended by hotel owners, staff and many guests. Since then, Sofia Residence employees have spent many hours of useful work helping their elderly neighbors, people with disabilities, disadvantaged children and others.
Yuliana Milanova, for example, regularly reads books to a blind neighbor. Victoria Dukova buys groceries for a 92-year-old neighbor twice a week. Boris Barkev donates clothes and food to homeless people in the neighborhood where he lives. Vasya Asenova regularly cooks and cleans the house of an elderly man. Mimi Tseneva takes care of a 30-year-old boy suffering from schizophrenia. There are many examples.
The hotel director, Svetla Ivanova, regularly holds meetings with the staff, who share their experience and offer new ideas for useful work. Customers, for their part, understand these initiatives through a brochure in each room. There they can read in detail about all hotel social activities and make a donation.
In the United States, more and more hotels are following this trend. The Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center supports it and hopes that in Bulgaria, too, the hoteliers will go along this road.
The founder of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation, Larry Biehl, met the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev
On May 9, 2019, a meeting of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Rumen Radev, was held in Sofia, with Mr. Larry Biehl, founder of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation. There was also Mr. Michael Marvin, a leading technology entrepreneur and lecturer in the Foundation, as well as Margaret Krytzer, a financial consultant, founder of the foundation and Mr Biehl’s wife.
Larry Biehl presented the programs of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center which are currently being implemented in Bulgaria: a Master’s Program in Entrepreneurship at the Varna Free University, Teenovator a high school entrepreneurship program, entrepreneurship training for small and family businesses – MOBI – provided by the Santa Clara University, California, as well as business seminars and entrepreneurship courses conducted by leaders in IT entrepreneurship.
The highlights of the conversation were Creative Thinking, Soft Skills, Critical Thinking, Innovation, Artificial Intelligence, and more. Larry Biehl also told about his plans to visit Bulgaria with a group of adherents called VISTAGE to get to know Bulgaria for the purpose of developing new projects and investments. Larry Biehl set out his understanding of the work of the foundation in detail: integrity, goodness, justice, creative thinking, and other enduring human values.
The President has expressed support for these initiatives and is ready to support a future conference within 1-2 days whose topics will be proposed by Mr. Biehl, as well as funding.
At the cordial and warm meeting, ideas were shared, including interesting stories from the military careers of Mr. Radev and Mr. Marvin.
The Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center supported the first Teenovator program – entrepreneurship training for high school students
The Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation supported a new program designed to develop entrepreneurship at a high school level. It is called Teenovator and took place between October 2018 and May 2019. It was developed by the ProZnanie Foundation, Bulgaria, in collaboration with the Ustvarjalnik program in Slovenia.
Teenovator started in four elite Bulgarian high schools: Mathematics High School, High School No. 19, No. 105 and No. 32. The teaching began in October 2018. Eighty people in total started the education, fifty of whom continued and graduated. Teaching was held after school hours at 7h in the evening, once a week. The mentors were young people who had started their own businesses. Teenovator has all the licenses and permissions from the Ministry of Education and the Regional Inspectorate.
In January 2019, Teenovator organized a mid-term event called Startup Weekend. It took place at Sofia Tech Park and was opened by EU Commissioner Maria Gabrielle. Kids from all 4 schools had to form teams and present their ideas in front of judges.
The graduation day was on 10 May. Students had to form teams and present their ideas in front of judges. It was a competition between Bulgarian and Slovenian teams. A train of young Slovenians arrived the day before and the presentation was given in a hall near the central station under the patronage of the Slovenian Ambassador. The team which won was called Headstarter and it comprised students of the Mathematics High School. They had created a training and practice platform to connect students and business. On 24 June, the Mathematics High School team (8 kids) will travel to Slovenia. In September, they will attend an international competition under the patronage of the president of Slovenia.
The Teenovator program teaches how to develop soft skills. Students get different tasks which they have to master. For example, to take a photo with the mayor or do other jobs which are challenging and require creative skills. They have to overcome their fears, learn how to work in a team, create and develop a business idea, design a business model and plan for execution, learn how to pitch in front of investors.
Future of Teenovator: the goal is to expand the program into 25 more schools in the second year in Sofia as well as 5 schools in Varna. Teenovator is currently looking for funding and is hiring mentors. Please visit their website for more information: https://teenovator.bg/
Larry Biehl awarded by the Research and Application of New Information and Communication Technologies Center (RANICTC), Varna Free University
The founder of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) Foundation, Mr. Larry Biehl, was awarded a certificate of merit in support of the training of young talents from the IT-field of the Varna University of Economics. The prize was awarded personally by Professor Georgi Zelenkov, founder of the Research and Application of New Information and Communication Technologies Center.
The Fund to support talented students was established 6 years ago by Georgi Zelenkov, Director of the newly-created Research and Application of New Information and Communication Technologies Center (RANICTC), and Professor Avram Eskenazi, a lecturer at the university and a member of the Expert Council at RANICTC.
The purpose of the fund is to support talented students from the Varna University of Economics in the majors of “Informatics” and “Business Information Systems”, who have demonstrated excellent results and remarkable achievements in the field of information and communication technologies.
Fund proceeds are used only for the financial support of talented students.
The idea of creating the fund was inspired by the work of Professor Tsani Kalyandzhiev – a scientist, public figure, humanist and first rector of the Varna Commercial University – now the Varna University of Economics.
In the letter accompanying the donation he made to build the Varna Commercial University building he wrote:
„However, as much as one is lost in the mist of personal happiness, one cannot help but think about higher purposes from the bottom of one’s soul and about the good of the public, to which one owes one’s existence and success“.
Believing that it is time to look beyond the mist of personal happiness, we created this fund to revive the donor spirit. Different people – IT leaders, business people who graduated from the Varna University of Economics, and many others who are in one way or another connected with the university and who share the belief that we are working for a noble cause, have joined us. Contributors who believe that the awards given have less of a financial and more of a spiritual dimension. They believe that the rewarded students will remember this and at some point in their life they will feel the inner need to contribute and help the University and those who follow their path.
This year, one of the major contributors to the fund was Mr. Larry Biehl, a friend and partner of the Varna University of Economics, who received a donation certificate and an invitation to attend the awards ceremony scheduled for December 3, 2018, in Hall 1 of the Varna University of Economics.
Every year, the fund presents a nominal prize of BGN 1000 in the name of “Mois and Ilko Eskenazi” (their names are related not only to the history of the University but also to the history of the city of Varna) and two prizes of BGN 800.
Candidates are selected by a special procedure by the Expert Council of the Research and Application of New Information and Communication Technologies Center and the awards are presented before the Student Feast, by the Rector of the University, at a special ceremony.
Larry Biehl handed diplomas to talented students from the Varna Free University (VFU)
On May 17, Larry Biehl took part in the graduation of 175 bachelors and masters from the Faculty of International Economics and Administration of the Varna Free University. During the solemn ceremony, he handed diplomas to masters who achieved the greatest success during their studies from the Data Science majors; European administration and project management; International Finance and International Politics and Security. In his greeting to the alumni, Larry Biehl urged them to set high goals and make the next important step in their lives: “from success to significance.”
Larry Biehl’s meeting with leading companies from Varna and the region on “Mentoring – Small Investment, Big Return” was held later that day. The President of VFU “Chernorizets Hrabar”, Assoc. Prof. Krasimir Nedyalkov, gave Larry Biehl the honorary diploma of the university for his contribution to the development of the new educational model and the creation of a supportive entrepreneurial environment for young people.
Over 20 companies in the IT sector, road and building construction, chemical industry, services, banks, etc. listened, with great interest, to Larry Biehl’s narrative about the creation and development of an entrepreneurial environment in the Silicon Valley. He paid great attention to the model of mentoring of talented students and startups. Larry Biehl also shared the progress of Master of Entrepreneurship, a joint project of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center and Varna Free University.
The founder of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation (BEC), Larry Biehl, is to visit Bulgaria again in May
The founder of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation (BEC), Larry Biehl, is to visit Bulgaria again in May. This time the reason is his Master’s program in Entrepreneurship at the Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar” supported by the BEC through the participation of leading Silicon Valley lecturers. Among them are Michael Bigham, a pharmaceutical giant and investor, who developed some of the most powerful medication to fight cancer and latest generation of antibiotics, Michael Marvin, a technological guru who has developed more than 100 start-ups on the East Coast, and Larry Biehl, a leading financial expert and consultant, university lecturer and book author, who knows the whole history of Silicon Valley. Larry has managed and invested the money of some of the wealthiest people in California, many of whom come from the technological sector. Larry Biehl has visited Bulgaria many times, starting various projects in the areas of entrepreneurship, education, social services, archeology, tourism and culture.
Since creating InterCulture, Inc. (IC) and InterCulture Foundation (ICF) in 2008, Larry and his wife, Maggie, have traveled throughout the world to discover ways in which these organizations could fulfill their mission. The purpose of both is to create “common space” between disparate cultures in a “culturally competent” way. When Larry identifies a place that could benefit from “common space creation”, he creates a program, such as the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) in Bulgaria. Larry has worked as a Financial Advisor and Investment Manager for wealthy individuals for over 40 years, founding Bailard, Biehl & Kaiser, inc. with two classmates after graduating from the Stanford Business School in 1969. He co-authored two books and a college textbook, Personal Money Management, SRI and McMillan, 6 Editions (1972-1990) and a self-help book, Personal Profit Series, Dow Jones (1976-1977). Larry has experience working with many non-profit organizations: Alister MacKenzie Foundation, Heart to Heart Foundation, Esalen Institute’s Project for Economic Growth (Russia), Western Folklife Center, American Prairie Foundation, and the da Vinci Society.
Leading American Pharmaceutical Expert to Visit Bulgaria in May
In May 2019, Bulgaria will be visited by one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world pharmaceutical industry – Michael Bigham. He has held managerial positions at some of the largest pharmaceutical companies and developed cancer treatment medication, as well as some of the newest and strongest antibiotics. Michael Bigham is a true guru in the pharmaceutical and medical industry in the USA. Additionally, he is a very successful businessman, entrepreneur and investor.
Pharmaceutical expert Michael Bigham is to visit Bulgaria between May 15th and 20th, 2019, as part of the American lecturers to teach at the Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar” under the Entrepreneurship Master’s program. Others include Michael Marvin, a leading technological expert and entrepreneur in the IT field, and Larry Biehl, the foundation’s boss and a financial expert.
Michael F. Bigham was appointed Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Paratek Pharmaceuticals’ Board of Directors in October 2014. Mr. Bigham has more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. From January 2003 to November 2015, he was a general partner at Abingworth LLP, a leading international investment group dedicated to life sciences and healthcare. In November 2003, Mr. Bigham became part time Executive Partner at the firm. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors of InMediata and has held several directorships, including at Avila Therapeutics (where he was also the founding Chairman and CEO), Magellan Biosciences, Portola Pharmaceuticals, Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Avedro and Valeritas.
Mr. Bigham was formerly Vice Chairman of Corixa Corporation, a publicly traded biotechnology company, and was President and Chief Executive of Coulter Pharmaceuticals, a publicly-traded oncology company, until it merged into Corixa. Previously, he was an early employee at Gilead Sciences where he served in various capacities, including Executive Vice President of Operations and Chief Financial Officer. Before joining Gilead Sciences, Mr. Bigham was a Partner at Hambrecht & Quist where he became Co-Head of Healthcare Investment Banking. Mr. Bigham received his B.S. from the University of Virginia and qualified as a C.P.A. before completing his M.B.A. at Stanford University.
Leading IT expert and entrepreneur, Michael Marvin, to visit Bulgaria for a second time in May
Michael Marvin, a leading entrepreneur in the field of technology, is to visit Bulgaria between May 11th and 16th, 2019. He will be part of a visit by American lecturers who will teach at the Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar” as part of the Entrepreneurship Master’s program. This isn’t his first visit to Bulgaria. In 2017 he was part of the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center’s team and participated in various conferences and seminars. Michael Marvin is a real giant in the IT industry. He has founded and developed more than 100 technology companies and is the creator of Tech Valley, the East Coast equivalent of Silicon Valley. He was also an adviser to a $1.4 billion Equity Fund, has occupied managerial positions and been a Board Member in prestigious companies.
Mike Marvin has been actively involved in starting and/or growing more than 100 technology companies – and investing in many of them – over the last 30+ years. He was a founder and first CEO of a startup that went public 7 years later and was ultimately sold to a Fortune 500 company. Also, Mike was an adviser to a $1.4 billion Equity Fund, where he screened the companies to be funded and served on their Boards. He also Founded and helped manage a seed capital fund that invested $10,000 – $100,000 in startup companies concentrated within a 60-mile radius of great universities (Rensselear Polytechnical Institute).Throughout his career, Mike has been a CEO, Chairman of the Board, Board Member, Advisor, and/or an Investor with numerous technology companies located in New York, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, and Canada.
An Event Co-organized by BEC Gathers nearly 500 Bulgarians on the US West Coast in early March 2019
The Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) in partnership with the America for Bulgaria Foundation (www.us4bg.org), The Bulgarian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (www.bvca.bg) and President Plevneliev’s Solutions for the Future Foundation, organized a major outreach to the Bulgarian diaspora on the US West Coast, in an initiative named RE:TURN.
The partners joined efforts to engage the Bulgarian diaspora in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, in order to invest in Bulgarian starts-ups or VCs, give back to select NGOs, or consider coming back to Bulgaria.
Among the participants in RE:TURN were well-known and respected professionals: Bogomil Balkansky (former Vice President of Google), Momchil Kyurkchiev (Co-founder of Leanplum), Nancy Schiller (President of ABF), Rossen Plevneliev (former President of Bulgaria), Genoveva Christova (President of Ligna), Vassil Terziev (Founder of Telerik), Ivan Dimov (Executive Director of BEC), Larry Biehl (founder of BEC), Evgeny Angelov (chairman of BVCA), Anthony Christov (Founder of IDEA Academy), etc.
Anthony is a showcase of a Bulgarian who after a successful career as Art Director for Pixar, creating award-winning films such as Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, decided to come back to Bulgaria in order to establish IDEA Academy. Set to open doors in September, IDEA will offer courses in game and visual effects design, cinematography, and entrepreneurship.
In March 2019 BEC provided a grant to IDEA Academy to help kickstart the organization.
For more on RE:TURN, please read ABF’s newsletter: https://www.us4bg.org/newsletter/april-2019/
Another group of Bulgarian teachers trained at Stanford under the University Innovation Fellows program
In January 2019 a second group of Bulgarian teachers went to Stanford University to be trained under the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) program. Among them were Associate Professor Kamen Spasov, Dean of the Mathematics and Informatics Faculty at Sofia University “Saint Kliment Ohridski”, and Victoria Stancheva, assistant at the Marketing Department at the University of Economics – Varna. They spent a few days at the center of the Silicone Valley where they exchanged experience with colleagues and participated in an intensive course in design thinking and developing specific creativity and organizational skills.
And this is what Victoria Stancheva shared after her return:
‘The program was quite intensive and well-structured at the same time. After each stage and session, we had time to give feedback, summarize what we learned and discuss how we can apply the knowledge at our universities. Interestingly, after going through the stages of design thinking, we had the chance to conduct a training session on the same topic for our students. Our group was comprised of teachers from various contingents and scientific fields (medicine, mathematics, business, military studies, music etc.) and all of us could clearly see the possibilities for applying (in our own work) the instruments and models shown. The environment and facilities at Stanford are centered on the convenience of students and are conducive to innovations. In my work, I shall apply design thinking tools in a start-up competition for high school and university students.’
High school entrepreneurship in Bulgaria, supported by BEC
2018 was a good year for the development of entrepreneurship at a high school level. Our partners from the “Proznanie” foundation kicked off a new project named “Teenovator”.
Teenovator are startup clubs for high school students, where they learn how to earn a living by doing what they love and acquire new skills needed for success in the job market of the 21st century.
Teenovator is conducted in Bulgaria since October 2018 and is a part of the USchool international network, whose foundations are based on the Design Thinking concept of Stanford University.
Teenovator clubs are led by mentors, who are young entrepreneurs themselves.
They meet with the students once a week and help them on this journey. Dedicated mentorship and positive encouragement are the key components to our program. The goal of every startup club is to provide a sandbox where students can complete their very first entrepreneurial project – they are guided to start a profitable venture – and through that they gain invaluable experience.
Watch a short video about Teenovator on Bloomberg TV:
Bob Burke, famous American restaurateur, to visit Bulgaria in May 2019
In mid-May Bulgaria will be visited by Bob Burke, the famous American restaurateur and tourism professional. He was invited by the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC), to give lectures at leading Bulgarian universities and to meet high-ranking people in the industry. Bob Burke will also hold a two-day seminar about “How to increase the establishment’s turnover and attract more customers”. Very soon the dates and venue for this interesting event, intended for the professionals in the field, will be announced. After completing the course, participants will receive a certificate signed by the famous lecturer. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Burke is the founder of one of the most successful consulting companies in the field of tourism – Ovation Consulting. He has substantial experience and a star reputation, as leader in the field of hotel and restaurant management. He has developed and made a lot of establishments successful, creating unique products and finding new markets for them. Bob Burke is a master of strategic decisions, financial analyses and investments. He can find the right solution for any client, improving the product quality and marketing. He works in close cooperation with some of the best chefs, such as Michael Chiarello. Bob Burke has been the president of leading restaurant chains – Pat Kuleto Restaurants, Piatti Restaurant Group, Real American Restaurants, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and others. He is also chairman of the board at the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization. He is engaged in other social causes as well and is a passionate skier and cyclist in addition to being a connoisseur of good food.
Leading lecturers from Silicon Valley visited Bulgaria in October 2018
Between October 15 and 31, Bulgaria was visited by famous professors and professionals from Silicon Valley who gave lectures in the cities of Sofia and Varna, as per Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center’s invitation.
Among them were Norman Winarsky – creator of voice assistant Siri and a leading name in artificial intelligence spheres, Jamie Williams – football star, film producer and successful entrepreneur, Drew Starbird – professor at the Santa Clara University and creator of the MOBI entrepreneurship program, Deyan Vitanov – one of the successful young Bulgarians in the Valley, creator of an online game, Ernie Wilson – communications professor at USC Annenberg.
Larry Biehl was again the head of the group, a leading financier and founder of the InterCulture foundation. This time his mission was related to three large projects organized by the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center.
The first one was the launch of a master’s program in entrepreneurship at the Varna Free University, Chernorizets Hrabar. Thirty talented university students were selected and awarded scholarships by Mr. Larry Biehl. The start of the program was October 19, marked by lectures by Deyan Vitanov, Jamie Williams, Ernie Wilson and Larry Biehl.
In Sofia, Norman Winarsky held a Business Builder Class in which 30 young Bulgarian entrepreneurs took part and received certificates.
At the same time, the MOBI (My Own Business Institute) program was presented by Professor Drew Starbird in Sofia. The course has been completed by about 20 Bulgarian entrepreneurs. MOBI was also offered at the University of Economics in Varna. Additionally, a high school entrepreneurship program, in which students from leading Bulgarian high schools took part, was initiated by the Proznanie foundation, in partnership with the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center.
The lecturers BEC invited also participated in the Innowave 2018 conference in Varna.
Norman Winarsky, Jamie Williams, Drew Starbird and Larry Biehl gave numerous media interviews (bTV, Bulgaria On Air, Bloomberg TV Bulgaria, Europe TV and Bulgaria 24).