One-of-a-Kind AUBG Acceleration Program to Support Student Entrepreneurs
Building on its long and successful history with entrepreneurship, AUBG has just launched its first-ever Acceleration Program Elevate. The brainchild of University Council Chair and Eleven Founding Partner Daniel Tomov (‘97), the accelerator will help student entrepreneurs and recent alumni start their first businesses.
“The goal is to create a playground where the students can experience entrepreneurship and what it is like to be a founder,” Tomov said.
During the four-month program, teams of two to four AUBGers will have access to many workshops, training and a mentorship network comprised of experienced entrepreneurs and AUBG alumni. Each team will get $5000 as capital to kick-start their development. All current students, as well as alumni who have graduated no more than five years ago, can apply by Oct. 25.
Designed to provide students with startup guidance, the accelerator will double as a way to support the university: AUBG will have a 5% stake in each company that comes out of the program.
Elevate is led by Boris Angelov and Nikolay Pohlupkov, who both graduated this May and who already have substantial experience with entrepreneurship, including winning national competitions and organizing one of the country’s largest hackathons on AUBG campus.
“We wanted to create a space for students who don’t have much experience out of the classroom,” Angelov said. “We want to bring mentors who have a lot of knowledge, entrepreneurs who have gone through the challenges of starting their businesses. We want to use their knowledge as much as we can to both inspire the students and give them insight into what it is to start an initiative.”
While many universities in the States and Western Europe work on similar projects together with universities, the AUBG Acceleration Program is a one-of-a-kind venture in the region.
“In this part of the world, we don’t have an example of such a program,” Pohlupkov said. “It is up to us to implement it correctly and make the program self-sustainable but also replicate it in other universities across Bulgaria and the region. That’s our vision.”
A vital element of the program is the participation of many successful entrepreneurs who will offer founder talks and case studies, mentorship days and workshops on campus. “We are lucky to have a huge network both from AUBG and from Eleven Venture Fund,” Angelov said.
AUBG graduates traditionally have been a driving force of entrepreneurship in the region. Elevate’s initiator Daniel Tomov is among the pioneer investors in information technology in Bulgaria; Vassil Terziev (‘01) recently appeared on the cover of the Forbes relaunch, with the magazine calling him “the Bulgarian business angel.” Founded in 2018, alumni-led fintech startup Payhawk.io closed a seed round of €500 000 in less than a year. Some other examples of successful alumni companies include TaxiMe, a company that improves taxi services in Sofia; logistics firm Transmetrics that holds the Forbes Business Award; and Loveguide, an award-winning sexual health education project by Nikoleta Popkostadinova (‘06).
What would the founders of the accelerator advise anyone who wonders whether to join the initiative?
“I think the most accurate advice is to be bold and try it out,” Pohlupkov said. “This is the perfect opportunity for you to be in a safe playground and receive finance, guidance and mentorship from outstanding professionals. If nothing else, you know that you tried [to create] something yours.”