Vratsa’s New Coworking: Crowdfunding To Grow Digital Business Opportunities In The Poorest Region of Bulgaria

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Vratsa Software Society started with a dream of two people to educate developers in Vratsa, a town in the most impoverished region in Bulgaria, and thus support the local economy lift. For the past five years, Emiliyan Kadiyski and Teodor Kostadinov managed to train enough people, so they attracted three IT and one digital marketing companies to their hometown. Now they are making the next step – a modern co-working space called the Nest. “We want the digital community that we have created in Vratsa to have a modern space which it can use to gather, work, invent and grow together,” say the founders.

Kadiyski and Kostadonov have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign hoping to raise $5K to furnish the space. The success of the campaign is not a prerequisite for the launch of the Nest. It may only accelerate it. If the co-founders manage to raise the funding, The Nest will open up already this October.

The Nest of the digital community

The new space will gather around 25 of the local tech professionals, small-company teams, and digital nomads. Events with diverse topics – from knowledge sharing to innovation and entrepreneurship, are also on the agenda. Kadiyski and Kostadonov are also planning to hire a new employee to manage the Nest, attract programmers and companies, organize events, and manage the outside hires.

“These are the pieces of the puzzle that our society has grown to and which would allow it to grow bigger, collaborate more internally and externally and would boost its reach to the whole of Bulgaria,” the description of the campaign reads.

Vratsa Software Society has already signed a contract with the municipality for ten years rent of the location downtown Vratsa and has started designing and renovating the space. The co-founders have already raised $13.6K through crowdfunding campaigns and corporate donations and gained know-how visiting 11 co-working spaces across the country.
The construction work is already underway, but additional $5K are needed for desks, office chairs, conference chairs, private lockers, and shelves. In the next 19 days, the community can support the campaign on Indiegogo. The perks one can get by supporting the campaign are days in the new space.

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As the campaign is flexible, if the goal of $5K is exceeded, there’s a plan – extra 1500$ we will add another conference room, and as a second priority, another additional $1.5K will support the renovation of the kitchen in the space.

Mission: Vratsa on the rise

In the past 15 years, the population of the region has decreased by 32%, reaching 168, 700 people in 2017 and the youth unemployment rate is as high as 40%. There are also some positive signs that the local economy is lifting. In 2017 the town registered the highest growth in GDP in Bulgaria, reaching 22%. Still, the €5955 GDP per capita is far behind the indicators of most of the regions in Bulgaria.

Emiliyan Kadiyski, Iliyan Dimov and Teodor Kostadinov © Vratsa Software
Emiliyan Kadiyski, Iliyan Dimov and Teodor Kostadinov © Vratsa Software

This gap in the jobs market started opening up when in the late 90s one of the biggest factories in Vratsa, which provided thousands of jobs to a big part of the town’s residents, closed down. Currently, the region doesn’t have enough industry that can support that many people, which creates a massive wave of internal immigration, the post of Vratsa Software reads. The co-founders add that most of the full-time jobs currently are in institutions or service sector – shops, resellers etc.

“We created Vratsa Software with the idea to provide quality digital education in the fields of programming, digital marketing, and design to the people of the Vratsa region, to help them master relevant skills to the digital companies and to empower them to find jobs or create their own ventures in that field in Vratsa,” writes Kadiyski. As a result of their efforts so far and the only 30 people they’ve trained, four digital companies have moved to Vratsa, and a vibrant community is forming.

The two partners’ vision is to create the right environment so that of 2022 onwards, 40 people start a career in the digital industry in Vratsa every year.

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