On 3rd of March 2020, Bulgaria’s national day, CEO Angels Club launched its new branch in London. Thus, the largest network of angels in Bulgaria is now officially part of the UK early-stage investment ecosystem. This is a novel case, in which a club of angels is branching out in a different country, which will surely help to increase cross-border investments. “We don’t know of any other angel club or network doing something like this,” admitted Kiril Mintchev, the Director of the new branch of CEO Angels in London.
“We saw this opportunity because there are many Bulgarian founders in London, creating great companies operating in the UK. Our investors in Bulgaria are interested in them, but the access to them obviously is a bit constrained; and we also saw an opportunity for a lot of people in the Bulgarian diaspora who want to get involved in the Bulgarian rising ecosystem, which has a very strong IT sector,” Kiril said.
This is a two-way opportunity, as Kiril explains: “This is one way for our angels to get exposure to the UK market and Bulgarian founders; and another way for investors in the UK who are interested in the Bulgarian ecosystem to be able to invest in our home start-ups.”
The seed of the idea germinated in the ESIL Study Visit to the UK
The Study Visit to London, organised by the EU-funded ESIL programme and hosted by the UK Business Angel Association, was one source of inspiration for this new project. “It was extremely helpful for me to develop as a professional working in the angel investment community, also we took on board a lot of advice from UKBAA: how they are organising their activities and how an angel network in the UK generally functions. It was very exciting and very inspiring. I saw that the UK has a very developed angel network. There is very good collaboration in the UK between the government, the universities, the angel networks and other stakeholders. It was a very good example of how the governments and investors work with each other to create opportunities for start-up companies,” Kiril explained.
Kiril admitted that “the Study Visit played its part because we were able to see that the UK is a different market, a different story. There is also a connection between UK and US that allow founders based in the UK to access the US market.”
Inspired by the Study Visit, Kiril Mintchev and the Milen Ivanov, CEO and Founder of CEO Angels Club, saw the opportunity and decided to start the new branch in the UK. “After the ESIL Visit to London we discussed about how to try to use these opportunities and strengthen the Bulgarian ecosystem. It’s important for us to open the doors for Bulgarian start-ups, who want to expand to the UK.”
And they immediately got to work. “We did it very quickly, it took us 2 months to set up the UK entity. We launched the 3rd of March with a great event in London, and we invite some Bulgarian start-ups based in London to pitch in front of investors.”
The feedback they received on the launching day was very positive, according to Kiril. “The interest and the support were amazing. A lot of people helped us with connections and there was a strong presence. Many people are showing us interest on angel investing, they are excited, we are rising awareness in the sector, and many start-up founders based in the UK are reaching us.”
This connection is a big step for the Bulgarian innovation ecosystem. As Kiril says, “Bulgaria is usually a test market for many of the companies there. Bulgaria is a small country so all the start-ups emerging there are always looking to expand globally. Having an organisation like ours based in the UK can really open the doors for them, as well as help them connect with later stage investors. We also want to give the opportunity to Bulgarian people based in the UK to help the founders back home and support the Bulgarian ecosystem.”
Giving the diaspora the chance to invest in Bulgaria and facilitating CEO Angels investors meet those start-up founders based in UK is something to be proud about. “There is an emotional side also here, but we always look for profitable investments,” Kiril declared.
Written by Pablo Munilla for the Early Stage Investing Launchpad