Startups have been facing hard times in the last 6 months, after a few years of easy life when there was plenty of VC money ready to be spent, and valuations were through the roof. Data from Cruchbase shows the number of funds invested in Q4 2022 declined by over 50% compared to the same period in 2021.
This brings a lot of uncertainty for startup founders with innovative ideas who need support from experts to develop their ideas into successful businesses. To overcome these, entrepreneurs are looking for strategic partners that can support them in their journey by providing alternative funding opportunities via EU research grants, subsidies, and other public capital investment strategies.
To discover what is required for a startup to be successful in these uncertain times, we spoke with Monika Dimitrova – the managing director of EurA’s Bulgarian subsidy. The company has specialized in consulting companies, research institutions, and public clients of all sizes in enabling technical innovations. Monika shares with us what are the basics of building a startup, shares what stands behind innovation for her and what’s the plan for the consultancy’s Bulgarian HQ.
The Recursive: In the past 2 decades, EurA established itself as an Innovation Consultancy dedicated to helping companies transform the future. Can you share how you add value for companies?
Monika Dimitrova: Our main goal is to provide alternative funding opportunities for startups and SMEs via grants, subsidies, and other public capital investments. We are specialized in helping disruptive founders in the whole process of preparing their project and application documents for participation in different programs organized by the EU and other institutions. Especially in the early stages of development of an organization, this is a very useful approach that allows founders to extend their runway and receive support from international experts. What differentiates us from other consultancies in this field is the personalized approach towards every project. We want to be directly involved in the whole process and support startups with developing and preparing application materials. We want to be their trusted partner and help them succeed.
EurA aims to build strategic partnerships and provide services that are individually tailored to the wishes and requirements of its clients and accompany and support its clients throughout the innovation process – from idea to research and marketing. Through the years, we built wide networks of top professionals and companies from different industries. EurA’s goal is to connect rising startups with established players in different fields and help them take their idea to the next level.
During the official event, Mrs. Gabriele Seitz shined a light on the network EurA AG has built in the past 2 decades. Can you share more about it with us?
At EurA AG, we strive to build a better world through innovation. This wouldn’t be possible without collaboration between different stakeholders internationally. That’s the reason we’re dedicated to building an ecosystem where startups, corporations, and research institutions can work together. It allows them to build meaningful relations and strategic alliances to streamline the development of innovative solutions.
With EurA Sofia, our goal is to build a two-way traffic business bridge between Bulgaria and Germany. Although the office has just been established, we have two successful examples of this. We managed to connect a German network with the Balkan hydrogen cluster and several industrial companies., so they can collaborate in producing green methanol from biodegradable waste. The local company helped them with their expertise and experience in this process.
Another example of successful collaboration recently is that we managed to connect a Bulgarian engineering company that is developing a hydrogen storage solution with two of the leading research institutions in Germany for hydrogen storage – Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie (ICT). That allowed the startup to streamline its efforts and accelerate its development processes.
EurA announced the official opening of its Bulgarian department. Why did the company make this decision? What made Bulgaria stand out?
Two intertwined reasons stand at the basis of EurA’s decision to open an office in Bulgaria. First, the country has a very vibrant innovation ecosystem that is becoming more and more mature. There are lots of startups that are solving global problems and looking to expand their operations internationally. The local ecosystem has several benefits, including the availability of VC funds that can support startups and people with proven entrepreneurial track records who are willing to share their knowledge.
Through our work in Germany and internationally, EurA was involved in developing projects in different consortiums with representatives of other countries. With the knowledge we had about the Bulgarian ecosystem, it was surprising to see that many local startups didn’t take part in these innovative projects. That’s how we connected the dots and decided to open an office in Sofia to help startups from the country explore their full potential. We want to help them discover all funding opportunities that will allow them to expand internationally.
What’s the long-term impact EurA wants to achieve by establishing a wider international presence?
Innovation is what drives our team and we want to help ambitious and disruptive founders change the world. For us, innovation isn’t just a great or bold idea, but it includes execution and actually applying it to the real world. Our goal is to be a support figure for startups and SMEs by discovering alternative funding opportunities, leveraging support from established international players, building go-to-market strategies, and developing technology products.
Can you describe your perfect client? What kind of companies are you looking to support?
We’re looking to partner with companies with bold ideas and a clear plan on how to execute them. During the past 2 decades, we’ve built strong professional networks in a variety of industries, so we don’t have a specialty in just one or two. I can say we’re sector-agnostic. In Bulgaria, we target established companies and start-ups providing them with better market opportunities by connecting with partner organizations in Germany.
Which programs provide the biggest benefits for startups?
There are a lot of programs that can be beneficial for startups. Horizon Europe is an initiative that supports scientific research and can be very beneficial for founders in the deep tech field. EIC also provides a wide variety of programs that aim to make new technologies more accessible. The council has established a few programs that follow the technology readiness path and support founders at every step of developing innovative solutions. EIC Accelerator is probably the most recognizable. Grant funding of up to €2.5 million for developing innovation, mentoring and access to the EIC community are only a few of the opportunities.
What will be the main goals of EurA Sofia for the next 12 months and the longer term?
Our goal is to establish EurA Sofia as a trusted partner for Bulgarian startups with disruptive ideas. We want to help the country be one of the leaders forming the future of Europe. If we want to be more concrete, we want the next winner of the EIC Accelerator program to be from Bulgaria, and we to be the partner they chose to support them in this journey. Considering the background of the EurA Sofia team, the 2 main topics we’ll focus on are sustainability solutions and MedTech and HealthTech verticals.
You’re an entrepreneur yourself and part of the founding team of a startup. So, you understand perfectly the challenges of every founder. How does this experience help you with identifying the right startups and solving their problems?
My experience as an entrepreneur is definitely an advantage when talking to startups. The lack of resources and support are two aspects we aim to tackle with EurA Sofia. Any founder needs to wear many hats to establish his company on the market and be successful. With our support, we want to help them focus on developing the product and follow their passion, and not let them get distracted by applying for different projects or dealing with administrative burdens.