What makes the DeFi, blockchain, and crypto markets so attractive for emerging ecosystems such as Southeast Europe? One aspect is that the market opportunities and the growth potential are in no way connected to the size of the local market, the development of the local ecosystem, and the adoption-readiness of local users. Bulgaria’s crypto ecosystem is a case in point.
To reflect on the developments in the local crypto market, Sofia Crypto Meetup, the first blockchain event and discussion space in Bulgaria, together with the support of the Bulgarian Fintech Association, created the first mapping of all stakeholders involved in the local crypto ecosystem. With close to 100 businesses, organizations, and academies, the mapping aims to categorize all the crypto products and services provided by Bulgarian entrepreneurs and companies.
Before we dive into the details, have a look at the mapping of Sofia Crypto Meetup.
Overview of the Bulgarian crypto ecosystem
According to the most recent EU blockchain observatory report, the number of Bulgarian who participate in digital currency communities is estimated at over 183K individuals. Out of these, around 180K are classified as observers, 2.5K are crypto enthusiasts, and around 1.1K are devotees.
In addition, the report highlights that there have been 30 ICOs (initial coin offerings) from companies based in Bulgaria. These groups of enthusiasts are organizing meetups on blockchain, smart contracts, and digital assets in the largest cities of the country – Sofia, Plovdiv, and Burgas.
There are also opportunities for individuals who are eager to gain academic experience in the blockchain field. Since 2018, the Bulgarian University of Finance, Insurance, Business, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation has been offering a blockchain Master’s program called “Business and Digital transformation: Blockchain Innovation”. In 2019, the Bulgarian æternity Ventures started the Starfleet Accelerator Program for businesses developing blockchain technology.
More recently in February 2022, The Bulgarian Stock Exchange launched eight ETNs based on two digital currencies, bitcoin and Ethereum, to allow Bulgarians to invest in crypto assets through the local stock market. This came after Bulgaria’s Finance Minister Asen Vasilev unveiled that Bulgaria is exploring options to facilitate cryptocurrency payments and introduce a crypto payment mechanism in the short to medium term.
One intriguing fact is that the Bulgarian government may be one of the biggest “hodlers” (a term used by crypto investors to indicate holding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) in the world. Before the 2017 bull run, the government made a seizure of 213,519 Bitcoin (BTC) from an underground crime network. At that time this amount was valued at around $3.5B, but today it is worth more than $8.2B. Even though it is still unclear whether the auctioned crypto was sold by the official in power, there is an ongoing investigation.
Who is who in the Bulgarian crypto ecosystem?
The mapping of Sofia Crypto Meetup divides the players in the local crypto ecosystem into the following categories:
- Accounting and Legal Services: Veda, Lime Legal, VC Law *to find out the full list of organizations in each crypto subsector, please check the mapping above*
- Applications and services: Ambire, LockTrip
- Associations: Balkan Blockchain Association, Bulgarian Bitcoin Association
- Communities: Sofia Crypto Meetup, NFT Bulgaria, Crypto Revolution
- Contractors and outsourced services: Crypto.com, Kraken, Binance
- Crypto Payments: Bitpace
- Education: Lime Academy, Hack, Finance Academy
- Exchanges and Brokerages: Nexo, FINANSIV, Bits of Gold
- Foundations: BitHope, Ethereum Foundation
- Infrastructure: Safe Network, æternity
- Marketing and design: bitcoinBG, Those Things
- Merchandise and hardware wallets: BitcoinBG, Crypto T-shirt
- Middleware: GoStartups, Crypto APIs
- News: The Recursive, CryptoDnes
- NFTs: Fragmint, Evedo Ecosystem
- Portfolio Management and Consultancy: Finexify, Tesseract
- Recruitment: DEV.BG, Noble Hire
- Software development and consulting: Some of the biggest players in this subsector are LimeChain, ReCheck, and Hack.
- Venture Capital: Morningside Ventures, Nexo Ventures, LAUNCHub Ventures, Outlier Ventures