Forbes Bulgaria: The Flying Start of AUBG's Acceleration Program
Forbes Bulgaria talked to alumni Boris Angelov ('19) and Nikolay Pohlupkov ('19), who manage AUBG's Acceleration Program Elevate. The accelerator helps student and alumni entrepreneurs start their first businesses through financial support, workshops and mentorship. The interview has been translated from Bulgarian.
Who are we?
Boris Angelov, Director of Elevate, graduated from the American University of Bulgaria (AUBG) in 2019 with majors in Computer Science and Business Administration. During his student years, he was president of AUBG's IT & entrepreneurship club - The Hub, and organizer of the hackathon HackAUBG. He created and runs the Barefoot podcast.
Nikolay Pohlupkov, Elevate's Manager, graduated AUBG in 2019 with majors in Computer Science and Business Administration with a focus on Finance. During his studies, he was president of the AUBG Olympics and co-founder of The Hub AUBG.
Who is the Accelerator aimed at and how is the program structured?
The Accelerator is aimed at students and recent graduates who want to start their own business while studying at the university. The program is structured according to the Lean Startup methodology, which goal is rapid iteration and adaptability to the market and clients.
In what ways do you support the teams in the implementation of their projects?
The main driver behind the program is the entrepreneurs themselves. Building a cohort of over five teams with similar goals creates a sustainable and supportive society. The Accelerator contributes to this community with a 14-week program in which each team receives personalized training. At the beginning of each week, the teams report their progress using the SCRUM methodology and sets short and long-term goals. Twice a week, the teams meet with successful entrepreneurs and look for practical solutions to the problems that they face. The events are tailored to the progress of the teams and take the form of lectures, exercises or individual meetings with mentors. Building a supportive and entrepreneurial mindset is just one aspect of the program. Each team has access to AUBG professors, facilities and assistance. They also have $5,000 in capital to test their hypotheses and come up with a prototype.
Tell us about some of the projects in the program.
Grandma Knows Best aims to support pensioners through the production of traditional Bulgarian products and the organization of social events.
Melanin is a concept brand that creates fantasy-themed clothing. The idea of the brand is to create a cultural movement that merges fantasy and reality.
Innovation in Education creates a mobile game that helps kids in the second through fifth-grade improve their math skills.
The team of Fast, Anabolic, Tasty is currently developing the first Bulgarian fitness app. Their mission is to bring new technologies into the way people care about their health.
What happens with the projects after the Accelerator?
What's most valuable for the teams is the acquired skills and practical experience. After the end of the program, the participants can still rely on the network of professional contacts as well as the support of AUBG to further develop their ideas. Each team that registers a company gives 5% of that company's ownership to the AUBG Endowment Fund to ensure the sustainable development of the Accelerator.
What is the importance of the program for the university and the students?
The Accelerator creates a hands-on environment in which students learn from the mentors' professional experience and experiment with the creation of a successful business in a controlled environment. Considering that it is the first program of its kind in Eastern Europe, Elevate contributes to the university's vision of being a center for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that has both a local and a global impact.