Meet Emil Shekerdzhiiski, Founder of Networking Premium

A successful entrepreneur talks about why Sofia is an excellent place for new businesses

Edited by Tamar Weisert.

I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and left at the age of 4, exactly on my birthday. What a great birthday, moving, illegally, through Greece to a new country. Twenty-eight years later, I moved back to Bulgaria. I relocated for work, but fell in love with the people and ecosystem, and decided to stay for good. That’s my story in a nutshell.

I moved here with the mission of creating Networking Premium, a top-notch upscale design coworking space with perks inspired by the most desired working campuses of companies like Google and Apple. That level of excellence was missing here at the time I moved back. The model then seemed to be cost-effective, meaning the furniture collected and real estate rented had no particular renovation put in it. Again, that was back then; things have significantly changed since, and today no newly opened coworking space allows itself such a low level of amenities. I don’t want to say that Networking Premium set a new standard, but it certainly helped to shape Sofia as a real leader in quality (and quantity) of coworking spaces.

The thing that surprised me the most was the sluggish pace and lack of efficiency in which things here move. I am speaking about renovators and bureaucracy, all the way to decision-making and closing on office contracts. It all, for some reason unknown to me, moves slowly and can affect your business growth plans and projections. I sincerely wish I knew that when I started.

After two years surrounding myself here with so many excellent, productive people, I can proudly say that I have no plans whatsoever to leave Bulgaria. I believe that my actions meaningfully contribute to the startup environment and the country in general. This thing alone drives me to keep going and doing what I do. Of course, as expected, my income has decreased significantly. But despite that, I feel I can afford many things here that I couldn’t afford in Israel. That feeling, for me, results in a higher standard of living. Numbers can lie.

My piece of advice to future entrepreneurs in Bulgaria, as well as foreign entrepreneurs: Bulgaria is the perfect combination of low taxes and highly qualified people, two of the most vital components of starting a new company. In my opinion, you can allow yourself to build a team, make mistakes, and correct and adapt them with moderate business costs.