Writing about startups is exciting – I like their enthusiasm. There is always something to “steal” from experienced business people. But there is also a third category of entrepreneurs – the serial ones who know how to keep their enthusiasm for new ventures long enough to fail, do the next big thing and risk again. In Bulgaria, they are few and they do not talk much about the diagnosis of “serial entrepreneurship”. Boris Kolev told me some time ago that serial entrepreneurship is “for people who are not good managers and have no patience and discipline,” but they obviously can recognise an opportunity. Today, I ask three of his colleagues – Bozhidar Georgiev, Ivaylo Hristov and Yani Dragov why they want “more of the same thing” when it comes to business ventures.
“My colleagues and I do what we are good at. We have created a successful company and sold it. Then, what else can you do – just start a new one,” starts with ease the IT entrepreneur Ivaylo Hristov. His most famous business venture is Comfo. He is currently actively involved with the Lab08 company and the DEV.BG community.
Bozhidar Georgiev, founder of the Work & Share shared workspace, is also managing a software company and is working on a third project about the so-called Smart Cities.
Perhaps the one with the most insatiable appetite for new business ventures among them is Yani Dragov, who manages several organic food companies – Smart Organic and Roo Brands, and is a partner at Wooden Spoon and Chilli Hills. “The very word “entrepreneur” implies entrepreneurship, to observe the changes that are going on, and to start a venture when you see a niche and you have a good enough idea of how to fill it. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing it in one company in the form of different business lines or in individual companies,” he explains.
Dragov adds that for him, as a person born in a family with traditions in entrepreneurship, the question was not whether, but when he would start his own business. In contrast, Ivaylo Hristov and Bozhidar Georgiev have learned on the go. Before Comfo, Hristov made several attempts and failed with one company. “Starting a business is like taking a satellite into a geostationary orbit. You need a rocket with a lot of fuel. These may be financial resources, time, effort or something else. But it is very hard. The unsuccessful business ventures are very edifying – those for which the media doesn’t know,” he explains.
Georgiev has the most recent experience with that. “I started my first real business venture at the university. It was then that we first heard about big data. We didn’t know anything about business, team building and software development. Everything was like on a cardiogram – up and down. We successfully completed the Founder Institute programme. We immediately received funding from the German accelerator and even had an office in Hamburg. What followed was a loud fall. It was a great lesson and it showed me that the business is not for everyone; but I liked it and I would do it again.”
All three of them agree that starting a new business is never the same experience as the previous one. According to Bozhidar Georgiev, it happens when a problem arises that doesn’t allow you to sleep, but you have a solution, which is different from the one before. Ivaylo Hristov adds that even if it is impulsive, it costs a lot of time, money and energy. Previous experience sometimes doesn’t help “much.” “What helped me with DEV.BG were my contacts, and the fact that I had invested my own money; but for three years, I've been working around the clock to make the project work.”
Yani Dragov says that every new venture requires moving your focus from previous ventures. The entrepreneur, who has exchanged stock trading with the organic food business, hasn’t left the sector since 2009 and is easily expanding his market position. As the most successful, he defines his first company, which he started at the age of 28 “from scratch”. In the past year, Dragov bought out the Roo Brands from his partners. That’s why he knows well the answer to the question of how to manage several projects at the same time. “It is a good idea for each venture to have a leader who is dedicated to it. With the right team and partners, it is possible to manage several projects. But they need to have a common goal, a mission, in order for it to happen in harmony and synergy.”
“And a lot of discipline and work,” adds Ivaylo Hristov, who, for now, has no plans for a third or a new project beyond the current ones. According to him, they probably will be the most successful because they are large-scale ones. Dragov also doesn’t talk about his plans. “In our field – organic food, there is more and more activity. More competition means you need to give even more of yourself,” he says.
Bozhidar Georgiev strives to make his businesses sustainable and tells how much he has learned from the creation of the Work & Share shared workspace, which “we built from scratch and whose success we saw a year and a half later.” “There, we faced deadlines and, for the first time, working with so many clients. For better or worse, I have not yet come to the point of selling a business, so this is a lesson I'm about to learn.“ “If you sell because someone else will manage the company better, then the moment when you have reached the limits of your capacity has come”, Hristov comments.
All three of them are very specific in their advice to potential serial entrepreneurs. I start from the inside out: to realise their motives. “Nothing from the outside can make us satisfied for a long time. That’s why it’s important to look inside ourselves,” says Yani Dragov. Tip number 2 by Bozhidar Georgiev: Think about the added value of your new project. Ivaylo Hristov ends with the most pleasant part: Take a rest, and only then start with the new one.