Lilly O’Reilly – Director
Lilly O’Reilly is a renowned Bulgarian musician, journalist and promoter. For more than 20 years she has been playing country and bluegrass music with her band, Lilly of the West, releasing 10 albums and touring throughout Bulgaria, Europe and the US. For more than 15 years, Lilly has been presenting American music (country, bluegrass, swing, blues, rock and roll) on Bulgarian national radio and TV, hosting her own show “In the mood with Lilly”. She is the author of the book “In the mood with Lilly – 50 music themes”, an encyclopedia on the history of popular music. Lilly received training and experience while working for the BBC in London and as a Fulbright Scholar at the universities of Kentucky and Tennessee. Lilly has also established herself as a successful promoter and festival director. She organized Bulgaria’s first country and western gathering, “Country West Fest”, in Bankya in 2012 and the first international festival dedicated to acoustic music and poetry, “Sofia Singer Songwriter Fest”. Lilly graduated the Vienna University of Economics in 1994 and worked for several years in finance (Arthur Andersen, Ministry of Finance), tourism (Balkantourist, Tourist Information and Reservations, Ministry of Tourism) and European Union programs (PHARE & SAPART). She speaks English, German, Russian and French. Since 2014 she has been the representative of the American InterCulture foundation in Bulgaria, managing several projects in the field of music, archaeology, medicine, IT, entrepreneurship and social services.
Valya Nadova – Administrative Director
Valya Nadova is a startup enthusiast, who has been involved in the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bulgaria ever since she graduated the American University in Bulgaria in 2013. For four years she has been working at Eleven Ventures, one of the first accelerators in Bulgaria and on the Balkans. As part of the team, she has been nurturing startups from the region. She has helped over 110 companies to start their own business in Bulgaria. In 2017 she was engaged with a funded startup (CoKitchen), which helped her understand the mindset of the founders. She also developed skills in organization and event management. Currently, Valya is part of LAUNCHub Ventures. Valya holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Journalism.
Dilian Popov – Education Director
Dilian Popov has over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, investor and consultant in Europe and the USA. He worked in or co-founded several startups in the financial field (derivatives, Investment, insurance, commercial and residential loans, FOREX), international trades and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), including BPO, CRMs, private, public and hybrid cloud, IaaS, SaaS, IoT, Telecom integrator, call centers and internet marketing fields. Currently he is involved in ICT and business development consulting. In addition, he supports the development of the Entrepreneurial ecosystem in Varna and in Bulgaria as a whole, by leading the MOBI (My Own Business Institute) and MiE (Master in Entrepreneurship) education programs of BEC (Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center). He is a startup and Eco system activist with a passion for social projects. Dilian holds an MBA from Babson and an MsF from the UNWE, Sofia.
Rumen Iliev – Entrepreneurship Advisor
Rumen Iliev is a partner in LAUNCHub Ventures – a seed stage fund focused on investing into technology companies. Rumen wears many hats – a mentor, a strategist, an advisor, sometimes the devil’s advocate, and sometimes “the guy who makes the slides”, when the teams he engages with are too busy closing deals. His goal is simple: to help entrepreneurs achieve more. Rumen traded his management consultancy practice to enter the VC world in 2012 and has been part of LAUNCHub since the very first day. Previously, he held various positions in multinational organizations in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Rumen holds an Mc in Finance from the University of Economics, Prague, the Czech Republic, and an MBA from the IEDC – Bled School of Management, Slovenia.
Larry Biehl – Benefactor
Since creating InterCulture, Inc. (IC) and InterCulture Foundation (ICF) in 2008, Larry and his wife, Maggie, have travelled throughout the world to discover ways in which these organizations could fulfil 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, in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center Foundation (BEC). 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: a college textbook, Personal Money Management, SRI and McMillan, 6 Editions (1972-1990) and self-help book, Personal Profit Series, Dow Jones (1976-1977). Larry has experience working with many non-profit organizations: the 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.
Ivan Dimov – Strategic advisor
Ivan Dimov is Strategic advisor for Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center, an organization building a two-way bridge between Silicon Valley and the Bulgarian entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Founder and Chairman of Single Step Foundation, which supports, motivates and empowers young LGBTI people in Bulgaria. His professional career is in the field of finance: as an investment banker and private equity investor in New York and Sydney, Australia (Credit Suisse, Gramercy Communications Partners, Lazard) in the media, telecommunications and technology sectors. Ivan is also the former Chairman of the Board of Net Info. Ivan is a keen marathon runner, CrossFitter and world traveler.
Michael Marvin – Venture & Seed Capital Fund Deployment
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. Mike joined BEC’s April 2017 trip to Bulgaria to talk with business leaders and entrepreneurs, lecturing about how to build effective seed capital funds to connect with US funding resources.
Norman Winarsky – Entrepreneurial Mentor & Technology Pioneer
Norman works with entrepreneurs, startups, research institutes, and major companies to create breakthrough ventures or products, and advises them on the framework and practice for successful innovation. Norman is past President of SRI Ventures at SRI International, a world-leading research institute founded by Stanford University in 1946. He has been a founder and leader of SRI’s venture strategy and process, which has resulted in more than sixty ventures worth over $20 billion. Norman helped create and build companies ranging from artificial intelligence, natural language, and computer vision, to medical devices, robotics, and nanotechnology. He was a co-founder and board member of Siri, which was spun out from SRI in January 2008 and acquired by Apple in April 2010. Siri has become a worldwide phenomenon, establishing the breakthrough market category of virtual personal assistant. Norman Winarsky is currently a lecturer at Stanford University, and co-author of “If You Really Want to Change the World: A Guide to Creating, Building, and Sustaining Breakthrough Ventures”, published by Harvard Business Review Press.
NFL & Super Bowl Veteran, Hollywood Actor, Entrepreneur
After becoming an All-American Football and Basketball player at Nebraska University, Dr. Williams played professional football and earned an NFL XXIV Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers. Following football, Dr. Williams embarked on a career that included work in the film industry as a writer, director, screenwriter and actor. Jamie is most known for his role as a writer, technical director and actor in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. Along the way, he achieved both a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication and a Doctorate Degree in Education and Leadership. Jamie’s startup, Ymotion, creates everything from commercials, graphic design, music videos, web development, illustration/animation and social media presence. All of its “creatives” have degrees in Fine Art, and its clients mostly represent Fortune 500 companies. Joining BEC’s April 2017 trip to Bulgaria, Jamie’s talks targeted young people who believe that their future can be something other than a predictable path, and that teamwork is the most important platform from which to launch entrepreneurial success.
Vice President, Google – Stealth Mode Tech Entrepreneur
Bogomil Balkansky works at the stealth mode startup, Bebop, in San Francisco. Before this endeavor, Bogomil was a key executive at VMware where he played a pivotal role in steering VMware’s flagship “server virtualization” product line to become the de-facto standard in every datacenter. Over his 8-year stint at VMware, the server virtualization product line grew 10X in revenue and its customer base grew from 5K to 300K customers. Prior to VMware, Bogomil worked in product management at Siebel Systems – the pioneer of CRM software – and at CrossWeave – an innovative application integration startup. He started his career as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Bogomil holds a bachelor of arts in mathematics from Cornell University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Bogomil joined the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center’s April 2017 trip to Bulgaria and gave talks/workshops to aspiring startup teams describing what it takes to attract funding from Silicon Valley investors.
Partner, US Venture Partners – Tech Investor
Dafina is clearly a shining example of a successful entrepreneur. Currently, she is Partner at US Venture Partners (USVP) in Silicon Valley, where she specializes in technology investing. Her history is amazing. At 18 years old, she came to the US from Bulgaria to attend Harvard on a scholarship (after applying to 50 schools and receiving letters of acceptance to 13). She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University with a BSc in Computer Science; then went on to earn her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. After school, but before she became a venture capitalist, Dafina held positions in development and product management at Microsoft, where she focused on authentication systems, digital signatures and business workflow. Dafina is working with the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) to develop an entrepreneurship curriculum and, among other things, visited Bulgaria in April 2017 to deliver “Follow Your Passion” talks/workshops to students to encourage them to expand their “realm of the possible”.
Co-founder and CEO of Telerik
Vassil is a Co-founder and CEO of Telerik where he played a key role in the successful growth of the company from a start-up in 2002 to a leading global provider of software solutions for businesses with 9 offices across 7 countries and over 130,000 clients, including 450 Fortune 500 companies. The first of its kind, “free” comprehensive training program, for software developers in Bulgaria, Telerik Academy was launched in 2009. It started first training adults but soon expanded to include children and teens (grades 1-12), training almost 10,000 students on-site and getting 4.4 million views online. After Progress Software acquired Telerik in 2014 for more than $260M, Vassil became the Chief Innovation Officer. As of January 3, 2017, Telerik Academy regained its independence and all four initial founders left Progress to forge a new teaching academy, expand its scope and extend its outreach. Vassil joined BEC’s trip to Bulgaria in April 2017 to teach aspiring entrepreneurs lessons learned from one of Bulgaria’s most successful business stories.