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Bianor: 22 Years Between NATO, The Library of Congress, and Video Streaming

Adelina Nedkkova, Head of Business Development at Bianor Services © Bianor
Adelina Nedkkova, Head of Business Development at Bianor Services © Bianor

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In the startup ecosystem, there’s one name that almost everyone has heard – FITE. The live streaming startup that specializes in combat sports and has millions of users all over the world. Indeed, FITE is a spin-off of a service company with 22 years of experience and a track record of curious projects for NATO, the Library of Congress, and some of the biggest names in the tech sector.

In 1998 two good friends and excellent mathematicians decided to follow their passion and dive into the challenging new waves of coding. They started the company, and smart and effective as they are, soon they got their first big contract. With IBM. This is the short story of the beginning of Bianor that Adelina Nedkova, the business development manager who has spent the past 15 years with the company, tells us. With a team of around 40 people the venture has managed to build a name for itself and a unique market position with no real competition – a “software service company, focused on video streaming and defense projects.” 

Service, not outsourcing

In the past ten years, Bulgaria became a brand for an outsourcing destination. This, however, doesn’t necessarily relate to all software service companies on the market. In contrast to the typical outsourcing business, in which the size of the team and the revenue directly correlate with the size of s current project, for Bianor Services the picture looks a bit different. The company has a very clear focus on the areas of video streaming and defense, which has turned into its unique selling point and has managed to complete very specific projects for huge global brands. The Library of Congress (Bianor created a workflow system from ingestion to public access to the entire audio-visual catalog), telecom AT&T, pharma giant Novartis, are just some of the clients with which the Bulgarians have been working for years. 

“Did you know that in Bulgaria there are two software companies that have proven and recognized experience in defense projects for NATO? Yes, Bianor is one of these two companies. So, in succession to our NATO-project experience, we naturally continue working on challenging near-real-time video projects for The European defence industrial development program,” shares Nedkova. Alongside this, the Bulgarian company is working with two of the biggest names in media and broadcasting both in the US and in Bulgaria. And the list doesn’t stop here, but due to the sectors, the company is under NDA for most of its projects. Some of the clients have been with the company for 12-15 years already, says Nedkova. The US is the main market for the company, but they also work with companies from all over the world, recently with few companies from Germany and Singapore.

As of today, Bianor Services is part of the publicly listed in Bulgaria Bianor Holding. The whole development team is in Bulgaria, and there’s also a US entity Bianor Inc. that was created in 2007 for marketing purposes. Part of the holding is also FITE, the combat sports streaming startup that was started by Kosta Yordanov, once a co-founder of Bianor.

Years of hard work and challenges

What today looks like a success story, is actually a result of many challenges and struggles along the way. Starting with the first years of the company when it was called Arexus. In 2000 it changed its name to Framfab Bulgaria, after, at that time, the largest European internet consulting company Framfab acquired a 51% stake. In 2001 Framfab withdrew from the Bulgarian market, the management bought back its shares and the company was renamed Bianor.

There have also been other types of challenges – clients that seemed too big, learning to serve the client first and not be so focused on the company itself, shared Nedkova. “We’ve had enormous clients and we have found ourselves being very timid. In such cases the support of the core of the company, the colleagues, has been crucial,” shares the business development head.

40, growing and still flat

The people and the team are what Nedkova constantly emphasizes on. “We went through different periods – technology expansions and hard times, enlarging the company and then squeezing it to the scale of a startup, but what kept us agile and motivated through all that 22+ years on the market is that we remained faithful to these values,” she says. This is what allowed Bianor to stay flat regardless of the size, while there’s the typical belief that there’s a need for a hierarchy in companies with more than 25 people. 

As the global pandemic accelerated the business for Bianor, something she calls a “well-prepared chance”, the company had to grow. Solid support for the CTO, alongside some software development positions, is what Bianor is looking for. In the constant battle for tech talent on the market, Bianor sees its USP in two things – they cover the whole project cycle from business analysis to user interface, and also work with modern enterprise related technologies: (Java/J2EE (Spring/Hibernate), C/C++, Quality Assurance (Manual/Automation QA), Python/Django, contemporary web front-end stack). 

Growing the team and starting the project with the European Defence Agency are the two operational priorities for the next 12 months. But there’s something more – to do something beyond their own business is what Bianor is planning for the years to come.

Beyond Bianor: The IT island of normality needs to scale

“In the early days of your company, you feel special. Now, after 22 years on the market, we are looking beyond our own company. The team realized the IT companies in our country represent the living potential of our nation. I mean: bright minds, socially and nationally responsible professionals, entrepreneurs with knowledge and experience in the world scene. And we want to make a contribution to scaling this,” says Adelina Nedkova. 

Typically, Bianor has an unwritten policy to try to attract interesting projects to Bulgaria even outside their expertise and try to give them to other companies from the ecosystem, explains Nedkova. This is part of their mission to strengthen the know-how and expertise in the local market.

Another new attempt in this direction is a course for students that Bianor is planning to start this fall with the idea to show 5th and 6th graders what the tech sector looks like from within and introduce them to people with different roles. First, it will be for the kids of the employees and their classmates, but Nedkova hopes the experiment will scale with the time. 

“The IT sector is an island of normality, and we all who work in it have the responsibility to scale it,” she concludes.

 

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