Mihail Stoychev (‘09) and Georgi Petrov (‘10) on the Extraordinary Success of SMSBump
SMSBump made the headlines of all leading business media outlets in Bulgaria in the past year. And there’s a good reason for that – the startup was acquired by U.S. company Yotpo for reportedly over $37 million in 2020, making it the third-largest software deal in Bulgaria’s history; Yotpo then became a unicorn, turning SMSBump into the first-ever Bulgarian startup to become part of a business valued over a billion.
There are two AUBG alumni behind this extraordinary success – Mihail Stoychev (‘09) and Georgi Petrov (‘10) – who saw a unique business opportunity and pursued it despite the naysayers. As the two entrepreneurs “were researching the next big thing, [they] stumbled across an incredible piece of data – the 97% open rate of SMS,” Mihail said. “Launching the product we received many comments referring to the idea as ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘slow.’ But we knew we had something good on our hands (…). We decided to build a solution – an elevated version of SMS, which allows eCommerce businesses to automate their SMS marketing and leverage an entirely new and unsaturated marketing channel.” Today SMSBump serves over 90 000 enterprise-size online merchants, small online resellers, and solopreneurs across the globe.
With a new investment of $230 million, the founders of SMSBump prioritize people development. “We believe there is nothing more important than creating a product and environment that will give people opportunities to develop themselves personally and professionally,” Mihail said. “We will continue investing in local talents. The plan is to turn the Sofia office into Yotpo’s R&D center, which means that we will be actively looking for people to join our team.”
Interestingly enough, all three largest IT exits in Bulgaria are of AUBG alumni-led companies. The other two are Telerik, acquired by Progress for $262.5 million, and Dynamo Software, acquired by Francisco Partners for $70 million. Asked whether AUBG plays a role in entrepreneurial success upon graduation, both alumni answered positively.
“[AUBG] definitely played a pivotal role in my career development,” Georgi said. “Taking top-notch courses, participating in university clubs, and meeting people with whom you can share interests were the building blocks of my vibrant experience in AUBG. I am happy to see that nowadays AUBG has more entrepreneurial clubs than ever before.”
“The liberal arts education played a vital role,” Mihail said. “A Computer Science major could meet a really interesting person in their Creative Writing class, for instance. The community was small and tight-knit. Looking at my yearbook, there have been only 10 people (out of 300) with who I have never talked. I believe that as much as 90% of your [AUBG] peers would be successful in what they do in the next 10 years, so totally worth it.”
Both graduates agree that extracurricular activities are also a key element of the AUBG experience. “The computer science club (CSSU), and all existing business and finance clubs at my time were super useful,” Georgi said. “I was part of More Honors, which was a ton of fun,” Mihail said. “I participated in a few other clubs as well, however, the best extracurricular activities have been spending time with other AUBG-ers.”
A decade after graduation, the two alumni haven’t lost contact with their AUBG friends and communicate “almost weekly with quite a few people,” Mihail said. “Anything from chit-chat to sharing different challenges, opportunities, and ways to overcome them. We actually have a group of 10-15 people in Whatsapp, where I believe most of us are AUBG alumni, so it’s cool to go back to the academic photos and memories from time to time.”
Fresh out of university, Mihail and Georgi took several courses at Harvard before starting on their career journeys. Their advice to recent graduates? “Go with what you feel is best for you and always make sure you’re learning new things and you are happy,” Mihail said. “Find [your] passion and then use it to give value to other people,” Georgi added.