If you only have 1 minute, here are 3 key takeaways from the piece:
- Bulgaria’s tech entrepreneur and most active startup investor Vassil Terziev takes the helm as the mayor of Sofia.
- The capital city contributes nearly half to Bulgaria’s GDP and it is the the leader of the innovation-driven economy.
- Now, in the leadership seat, Vassil Terziev aims to build an effective and transparent city administration that supports businesses and attracts talent, investment, and opportunities to the capital.
After a close runoff and a heavy political campaign, Vassil Terziev emerged as the new leader of Bulgaria’s digital motor – Sofia.
Terziev ran as an independent candidate, with support from an alliance of reformist parties: We Continue The Change, Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB), Save Sofia, and the civic platform “Sofia Team”.
He is a fresh face to the city’s governance and politics, as for the past 14 years, the capital city has been governed by the GERB party.
Sofia is an undisputed leader in investment activity, with almost 90% share in the digital sector of the national economy. It boasts a higher GDP per capita than the national average, a highly educated workforce (57% of the population holds a university diploma), and a continuous influx of people.
Sofia is positioned to spearhead Bulgaria’s transition towards an economy powered by innovation.
Who is Vassil Terziev
Before entering the campaign trail, Vassil Terziev was known as a successful tech entrepreneur and Bulgaria’s most active startup investor and supporter of the growth of the local innovation ecosystem.
According to the mapping conducted by Endeavor Bulgaria, Vassil Terziev stands out as the Bulgarian entrepreneur responsible for initiating the multiplier effect. This phenomenon occurs when the success of one entrepreneur sparks and amplifies the success of others.
First, Vassil Terziev made a substantial impact on the Bulgarian startup landscape as a member of the founding team of Telerik, Bulgaria’s largest publicly announced tech company exit ($262.5 million in 2014). Then, as a managing partner at one of Bulgaria’s first venture capital funds Eleven Ventures, he led investments in notable companies such as Payhawk, Bulgaria’s first unicorn, Quantive, and SMS Bump (exited to Yotpo).
Additionally, Terziev has invested in 62 companies, nurtured the creation of 65 employee spinouts from Teleril, and mentored over 50 entrepreneurs.
Entering the political race, Terziev stated that his goals remain the same: to foster entrepreneurship and education to create a society of free, capable people who have a positive impact on the environment around them.
“I’ve always had the strong belief that successful people need to give back to society and that they have to serve. It’s just a matter of when. When they feel ready, when they are in the right place, to be able to contribute to that positive societal change. And the stars aligned in such a way that now is a good time for me to jump in and try to have a positive impact on Sofia, which is not just the capital of Bulgaria, but a major hub. It’s pretty much where all the interesting things in the innovative economy happen”, Vassil Terziev told The Recursive in an interview at the beginning of his campaign.
What is Terziev’s Vision for Sofia
As a mayor, Terziev will now lead a team consisting of seasoned political figures and emerging figures from the fields of business, culture, and civil society. Their goal is to implement more effective and transparent procedures to tackle core issues and accelerate the growth of Sofia.
To do this, he will rely on his expertise and experience in building things from scratch, nurturing high-achieving teams, finding a balance between opposing views, and seeking consensus amidst conflicting issues.
Here are some of the pillars of his program:
- Building an effective city administration, transparent about how the public funds are used, and establishing a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to engage citizens in municipal decision-making processes;
- Foster synergy between the city administration and stakeholders in the innovative economy. Terziev stresses the importance of the municipality becoming a supportive partner to businesses, creating a platform for testing new technology and co-creating innovative solutions with the local government;
- Building a digital twin of city transportation to understand people’s movement patterns and build better connectivity between different modes of transport such as buses, trams, and the metro;
- Investing in education, promoting entrepreneurship in schools, and attracting young talent to study, live, and work in Sofia. During a debate on youth policies in the hall of Sofia University, Bulgaria’s highest-ranking educational institution, Terziev stressed that his goal is to make sure young people have enough opportunities to seek fulfillment in Sofia;
To realize this program, Terziev will have to find ways to unite Sofia’s council. After the elections, the reformist parties have the biggest number of representatives in the Municipal Council but not enough to form a majority. This means they will have to seek support from other parties to form a working local parliament.