Startups have faced tough times over the last 6 months, after a few years of easy living where there was plenty of VC money ready to be spent and valuations were exploding. Cruchbase data shows that the number of funds invested in the fourth quarter of 2022 decreased by more than 50% compared to the same period of 2021.
This brings a lot of uncertainty for startup founders with innovative ideas who need expert support to turn their ideas into successful businesses. To overcome these obstacles, entrepreneurs are looking for strategic partners who can support them on their journey by providing alternative financing opportunities through EU research grants, grants and other public capital investment strategies.
To find out what is needed for a startup to succeed in these uncertain times, we spoke with Monika Dimitrova – the Managing Director of the Bulgarian EurA Grant. The company specializes in working with consulting firms, research institutes and public clients of all sizes to enable technical innovations. Monika shares with us the basics of building a startup, what’s behind innovation for her and what the plan is for the consultancy’s Bulgarian headquarters.
The recursive: Over the past two decades, EurA has established itself as an innovation consultancy dedicated to helping businesses transform the future. Can you tell us how you add value to businesses?
Monika Dimitrova: Our main objective is to provide alternative financing opportunities to startups and SMEs through grants, subsidies and other public capital investments. We are specialized in helping disruptive founders in the whole process of preparing their project and application documents for participation in different programs organized by the EU and other institutions. Especially in the early stages of an organization’s development, this is a very useful approach that allows founders to expand their journey and benefit from support from international experts. What differentiates us from other consulting firms in this field is the personalized approach to each project. We would like to be directly involved in the entire process and support startups in the development and preparation of application materials. We want to be their trusted partner and help them succeed.
EurA aims to build strategic partnerships and provide services individually tailored to the wishes and requirements of its customers and to accompany and support its customers throughout the entire innovation process – from idea to research and commercialization. Over the years, we have built extensive networks of leading professionals and companies from different industries. EurA’s goal is to connect emerging startups with established players in different fields and help them take their idea to the next level.
During the official event, Ms. Gabriele Seitz highlighted the network that EurA AG has built over the last two decades. Can you tell us more?
At EurA AG, we strive to build a better world through innovation. This would not be possible without collaboration between different stakeholders on an international scale. This is why we are committed to creating an ecosystem where startups, businesses and research institutes can work together. This allows them to build meaningful relationships and strategic alliances to streamline the development of innovative solutions.
With EurA Sofia, our goal is to build a two-way trade bridge between Bulgaria and Germany. Even though the office has only just been created, we have two successful examples of it. We managed to connect a German network with the Balkan hydrogen cluster and several industrial companies, so that they can collaborate on the production of green methanol from biodegradable waste. The local company helped them with their expertise and experience in this process.
Another example of successful collaboration recently is that we managed to connect a Bulgarian engineering company that is developing a hydrogen storage solution with two of the leading research institutes in Germany for hydrogen storage – the Institute of Karlsruhe Technology and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie (ICT). . This allowed the startup to streamline its efforts and accelerate its development processes.
EurA announced the official opening of its Bulgarian department. Why did the company make this decision? What made Bulgaria special?
Two closely related reasons lie behind EurA’s decision to open an office in Bulgaria. First, the country has a very dynamic and increasingly mature innovation ecosystem. Many startups are solving global problems and looking to expand their operations internationally. The local ecosystem has several advantages, including the availability of venture capital funds that can support startups and people with a proven track record of entrepreneurship and willing to share their knowledge.
Through our work in Germany and internationally, EurA has been involved in the development of projects in different consortia with representatives from other countries. With the knowledge we had of the Bulgarian ecosystem, it was surprising to see that many local startups were not participating in these innovative projects. That’s how we connected the dots and decided to open an office in Sofia to help startups in the country explore their full potential. We want to help them discover all the financing opportunities that will allow them to develop internationally.
What is the long-term impact that EurA wishes to achieve by establishing a wider international presence?
Innovation is what drives our team and we want to help ambitious and disruptive founders change the world. For us, innovation is not just a great or bold idea, but it involves its execution and practical application in the real world. Our aim is to be a supportive figure for startups and SMEs by discovering alternative financing opportunities, leveraging support from established international players, developing go-to-market strategies and developing technology products .
Can you describe your ideal client? What type of businesses are you looking to support?
We look to collaborate with companies with bold ideas and a clear plan on how to implement them. Over the past two decades, we have built strong professional networks across various industries, so we don’t have a specialty in just one or two industries. I can say that we are sector independent. In Bulgaria, we target established companies and start-ups providing them with better market opportunities by connecting with partner organizations in Germany.
Which programs offer the greatest benefits to startups?
There are many programs that can be beneficial for startups. Horizon Europe is an initiative that supports scientific research and can be very beneficial for founders in the deep tech field. EIC also offers a wide variety of programs aimed at making new technologies more accessible. The council has established a few programs that follow the technology readiness path and support founders at every stage of developing innovative solutions. EIC Accelerator is probably the most recognizable. Grants of up to €2.5 million for innovation development, mentoring and access to the EIC community are just some of the opportunities.
What will be the main objectives of EurA Sofia for the next 12 months and in the longer term?
Our goal is to make EurA Sofia a trusted partner for Bulgarian startups with disruptive ideas. We want to help this country become one of the leaders who will shape the future of Europe. If we want to be more concrete, we want the next winner of the EIC Accelerator program to be from Bulgaria, and for us to be the partner they have chosen to support them on this journey. Considering the background of the EurA Sofia team, the 2 main topics we will focus on are sustainability solutions and the MedTech and HealthTech verticals.
You are an entrepreneur yourself and part of the founding team of a startup. You therefore perfectly understand the challenges of each founder. How does this experience help you identify good startups and solve their problems?
My experience as an entrepreneur is definitely an advantage when talking to startups. Lack of resources and support are two aspects we want to address with EurA Sofia. Every founder must wear many hats to establish their business in the market and succeed. With our support, we want to help them focus on product development and follow their passion, and not let them get distracted by applying for different projects or dealing with administrative burdens.