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The first unicorn effect: meet the founders of Payhawk

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It is a moment we have been all waiting for. The Bulgarian tech ecosystem has its first unicorn. The fintech company Payhawk reached a valuation of $1B after extending its Series B round with an additional injection of $100M. This news comes only three months after their previous historic milestone when in November 2021, Payhawk raised the second-largest Series B for a B2B company in Central and Eastern Europe. 

This event has deep meaning for the local ecosystem as it has the potential to pave the road to success for many more startups in Bulgaria and the region. To tell you the story behind the numbers, The Recursive met with Hristo Borisov, co-founder and CEO, and Konstantin Djengozov, co-founder and CFO of Payhawk. 

In the video, the co-founder of The Recursive Irina Obushtarova and the two co-founders talk about the significance of the milestone for Payhawk and for the Bulgarian ecosystem. Hristo and Konstantin share their founders’ advice and product-building know-how, and explain in detail what comes next for Payhawk.

Key insights from the Payhawk journey

“We were not actually seeking to close a funding round but we were communicating with investors who could not join our Series B back in November. Our main focus was on growing aggressively as a team so that we could fulfill our market expansion plans. However, considering that the state of the public markets and the economy could potentially worsen by the end of 2022, we decided that it is in the company’s best interest if we fundraise earlier. This round allows us to have a certain margin of error and go about our expansion plans aggressively,” Hristo Borisov explained.

The co-founders share that Payhawk does not currently plan to move its headquarters and would remain vested in the local ecosystem. “We will always remain a Bulgarian-based company and will probably do a lot of traveling to build the teams and operations abroad,” Konstantin Djengozov shares. 

Read more:  Bulgarian innovation minister Daniel Lorer: “I dream of making the notion of unicorns as popular here as it is in Estonia.”

Watch the video to find out how the new investors fit into the strategy of Payhawk and what is the future of the Bulgarian team in light of the plans for US expansion. In addition, explore how Telerik, the software company for developer tools that was acquired by Progress for $262.5M in the biggest exit in the Bulgarian ecosystem, has influenced the success of Payhawk and what do the founders share about the spillover effect of the first Bulgarian unicorn. 

“I expect that the cycle before the next Bulgarian unicorns will become shorter and shorter, as founders are getting more and more confident that great products can be built here. The goal, however, is not to build a unicorn, but a company that solves a big problem, and then having a unicorn status is a result of that. People are more and more building confidence that we have the right talent, ecosystem infrastructure, availability of VC funds to build companies. All of the setup is there, we just need to give it some time, but it is definitely happening,” Konstantin Djengozov highlights. 

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