In the vast land of entrepreneurship, Svetozar Georgiev inhabits a particular realm of leadership that views success as giving back and nurturing the growth of others.
He has supported the development of the Bulgarian tech ecosystem from the first big exit to the first unicorn in the trenches, sharing the growing pains of startups and the tech community as a mentor, a business angel, a philanthropist, and a fellow entrepreneur. His secret weapons – knowledge-sharing and harnessing the power of communities.
Now, the ex-Telerik co-founder embarks on a new journey as a partner at Eleven Ventures, one of the first Bulgarian VC funds which now has a CEE-wide portfolio of startups and sealed its third fund at €60M.
Svetozar Georgiev sees this step as a natural progression to his mission to contribute to positive change in the tech business landscape. At Eleven, he will expand the fund Future of Work vertical with a special focus on its intersection with AI. He believes that “AI is leveling the ground, allowing even pre-seed companies with a handful of people to achieve a lot and attack incumbents with outdated technologies, business models, and go-to-market strategies.”
But how did it all start for him?
Founding Telerik and Beyond
Svetozar Georgiev is one of the co-founders of Telerik, a dev tools software company that was acquired by US company Progress for $262.5M back in 2014 – the biggest exit publicly announced to this date for the Bulgarian ecosystem.
In 2002, Georgiev co-founded Telerik along with Boyko Iaramov, Vassil Terziev, and Hristo Kosev. After Telerik’s acquisition, just like the rest of the founders, Georgiev redirected his efforts toward sharing the lessons learned and helping fellow entrepreneurs succeed in building global companies.
He co-founded educational institutions such as Telerik Academy and Telerik Academy School, which provide digital economy education for people of all ages. Additionally, he played a vital role in establishing Campus X, the biggest private incubator in Bulgaria for startups, established companies, and entrepreneurial talent.
Georgiev’s vision for Campus X and the startup ecosystem is centered around developing a knowledge-sharing mentality. He has stressed in interviews that sharing expertise and best practices among community members enables everyone to excel together.
He himself has provided guidance and support to multiple startups like the Agritech startup Pollenity (BeeHive Technologies), the manufacturer of edible cups Cupffee, the manufacturer of biodegradable packaging film LAM’ON, the electric bicycles producer Econic one, and the autonomous cargo drones Dronamics.
But Georgiev’s impact extends beyond his contributions to the business sector. He’s also a member of the board of trustees of the American University in Bulgaria (his Alma Mater), the board of the “Teach for Bulgaria” Foundation, the Public Council of TUES (Technological School “Electronic Systems” at Technical University – Sofia), and a chairman of the board of BESCO – The Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Association.
The Recursive caught up with Svetozar Georgiev to chat about his new role at Eleven Ventures, the opportunities that AI presents to regional startups, and how to best leverage this technology to outrun the competition.
The Recursive: You have been supporting the growth of the Bulgarian tech ecosystem as a business angel, mentor, and advisor. What is the motivation behind your decision to join Eleven Ventures as a partner?
Svetozar Georgiev: I have been working together with Eleven for quite some time now, having a number of angel investments that are portfolio companies. Also, I have been involved with mentoring some of the #Oneof11 founders in the areas where I am versed. So joining Eleven Ventures as a Partner was a natural progression for me. What’s new is that now there is much more structure, team support, and diversity in my daily routine – which I like a lot.
In your role at Eleven Ventures, you will be focusing on the Future of Work vertical with an emphasis on AI. How do you envision AI shaping the Bulgarian tech ecosystem?
The impact of AI on our work and lives will be substantial, not just in Bulgaria, but on a global scale.
As an ecosystem, we have an opportunity to embrace these winds of change and adapt quickly so that we become more competitive. We can also have the opportunity to further develop domain-specific capabilities in AI – build innovative products and augment existing ones by harnessing the potential of this technological wave.
In this respect we are fortunate to have institutions like INSAIT, which act as a magnet for top academic talent and foster deep tech research, positioning Bulgaria favorably in the AI landscape.
In your view, AI is leveling the ground for startups, allowing them to challenge incumbents. How will you support pre-seed companies with limited resources in leveraging AI technologies to gain a competitive advantage?
When it comes to supporting our portfolio companies, we will take a proactive approach on two fronts. Firstly, we will offer structured guidance to help these companies effectively integrate AI into their core products, whenever applicable. This strategic implementation will enhance their offerings and provide a competitive edge.
Secondly, we will assist companies in optimizing their operations by leveraging AI tools and technologies across various functions such as marketing, sales, customer service, and finance. In the latter case, the core product is irrelevant – whether it’s software development or manufacturing edible coffee cups, utilizing AI to achieve 5-10x productivity gains is vital for them to operate faster and stay ahead of the competition.