For everyone who has ever bothered reading the case study of Singapore and how it became a leading tech and entrepreneurial destination, one thing is clear: the combination of diverse cultures, tech talent, and creative energy is what makes the magic happen. Up until yesterday, Sofia was missing its own space where creative industries could flourish and merge with the tech sector to create new products and services.
The name of this new hub located in the heart of Sofia is Missia23 and it’s a project of the Bulgarian design and contract furniture company Ligna Group. “It’s about time for Sofia to stop being an outsourcing destination and start to create its own content. We want to link the creative industries, a very fragmented sector so far, with the best of the technology worlds,” tells us Genoveva Hristova-Murry, co-founder of Ligna and Missia23.
What, where, who
Six floors, offices space and event area for around 200 people, these are the numbers one needs to know about the new space, which Ligna bought several months ago, and managed to redesign from an old newsroom into a creative hub.
The creative industry consists of 11 subsectors including interior design, product design, visual arts, animation, gaming, music, media, film, and video, etc. Around 5% of the business in Sofia is in those areas, according to the Sofia investment agency. These are also the topics of Missia23.
The first six community members have already moved in. Among them, we find IDEA Academy – founded by the Art Director of Pixar Antony Christov, an educational center for game illustration talent, the first design thinking agency in Bulgaria (recently rebranded from DesignThinking.bg to launchlabs Sofia) and several NGOs.
“The creative sector has so far been very fragmented and dispersed. Missia23 aims to unite it into a community,” says Genoveva Hristova-Murry, co-founder of the hub and Ligna. She and her partner Anelia Kasabova dream to establish alongside the organizations in the hub, the right environment for new ideas and projects on the intersection between creative industries and technologies. Community and mentorship are two key ingredients.
In its first phase, Missia23 will rely on event to raise general awareness around the topic of creative industries, but Hristova-Murry hopes to be able to eventually structure also an acceleration program. As the access to capital is another part of the mix, Hristova-Murry is already talking to local investment funds with interest in the domain. Missia23 also partners with The Landing, a similar creative tech hub in Manchester, UK, the Bulgarian Innovation Hub in Silicon Valley, and the Vienna Business Agency.
From the furniture to the entrepreneurial hub
For Genoveva Hristova-Murry and Anelia Kasabova it all started in the early 2000s while they were leading the Bulgarian Furniture Cluster. While visiting a fair in Cologne with a group of local producers, they got cheated by a hotel manager who was double booking. The partners didn’t leave it this way and wrote a long letter to the management of the whole hotel chain seeking some justice. As a result, the responsible for the situation person was fired, and the newly appointed manager, impressed by the team, invited Hristova-Murry, Kasabova and the producers they represented to furnish some of their new hotels. Soon after that Ligna was founded as kind of a well-functioning cluster, that does the sales, project management, and logistics for already around 30 furniture companies in Bulgaria.
Some of the flagship projects and hotels that enjoy 100% Bulgarian furniture for clients like Hilton, L’Oreal, Citroen, Marriot, and Ligna’s primary markets are France, Germany, and the UK. Аs the business grew, the two entrepreneurs saw the potential in creating something meaningful for their environment, after being able to develop a successful traditional business from Bulgaria. “Thinking strategically, we came down to the conclusion that we need to constantly innovate if we want to stay ahead in the market and a space where innovative minds can meet, exchange and collaborate was the next logical step,” says Kasabova during the official opening.