Last week spurred a lot of discussions because of a spectacular event for the Bulgarian business and entrepreneurial environment, organized by LAUNCHub, NEVEQ, and Capital. DigitalK 2014, a two-day conference emphasizing the way digital technologies affect not only businesses but the way we live, gathered several hundred people at the Sofia Events Center at Paradise Center on 29-30 May.

On Thursday morning hundreds of university students, young entrepreneurs, companies, media, and bloggers arrived for an event that gathered a bunch of professionals from the field of digital technologies and startups. The event’s host himself, the amazing Steve Keil, CEO of Mammoth DB and Xentio, is a spectacular young entrepreneur, who proved just as good a moderator of the conference. With notable energy and enthusiasm, he was the heart and soul of Day 1 of Digitalk. The event kicked off at 9:50 with an official opening by the organizers Galya Prokopieva, Managing Director of Economedia, Lyuben Belov, Managing Partner of LAUNCHub, Pavel Ezekiev, Partner at NEVEQ, Hubert Cottogni, Head of Regional Business Development at the European Investment Fund, and Horst Pertl, CTO at Mtel.


Photo courtesy of Digitalk 2014.

Naturally, Digitalk started with a lecture on how digital is transforming business and life, held by Paul Papadimitriu, a digital futurist from Greece. With more than 19 years of experience, he has the knowledge needed to advise companies and startups for the future global trends and how to take advantage of them. Chris Chabot, Head of International Developer Relations at Twitter, followed with a discussion on what it means to be connected via technology. Facing a crowded hall, he managed to not only capture the interest of the audience, but to trigger discussions among the participants. The line-up of star speakers continued with Jambu Palaniappan, Head of Expansion EMEA for Uber, an American venture-funded startup that makes mobile application software that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for ridesharing.

Two more lectures were separating the audience from a fancy lunch catered by Red Devil Catering. Heather Leisman from HotelTonight EMEA emphasized that digital is disrupting even the way people travel and how they organize their trips. Then, Dimitar Dimitrov Vice President at SAP’s Technology and Innovation Unit, discussed the way cloud technologies have changed the digital world forever. One of his main points was that complexity is the biggest enemy of businesses as nowadays companies need to run faster, smarter, and simpler.

After lunch, the audience watched two group talks – a Fireside Chat with Dafina Toncheva and Pavel Ezekiev, and a Panel Discussion with Scott Hartley, Dan Lupu, Jason Ball, Mathias Ockenfels, and Luben Pampoulov. Both discussions were trying to find answers to some of the most important questions young entrepreneurs face – how to become big, where to go, and where to grow.

At 14:30 two events took place simultaneously at the two halls of the conference. At Hall 1 the public enjoyed a bunch of insights on global and local venture capital, held by Diana Nikolaeva, Partner at EY. At Hall 2, 10 aspiring entrepreneurs had the chance to pitch their business ideas at the Seedcamp event, moderated by Reshma Sohoni, in front of a small audience and a jury panel of prominent venture capitalists from Europe. The three best ideas got the opportunity to close the first day of Digitalk by pitching their ideas in front of the big audience in Hall 1.


Photo courtesy of Digitalk 2014.

Jeremy Bernstein, Group Creative Director at Deutsch NY, took the floor after that to talk about the use of digital innovations in business and brand storytelling, which is an emerging strategy for successful businesses to communicate their ideas and vision. Fraser Davidson, Director of Javelin Group stepped up afterwards and examined the future of eCommerce and Omni-channel retail, as nowadays retailers that stray away from online selling record declining profits and need to change the way they approach customers. The discussion was continued by Gabor Cseh, Head of Performance Marketing at Fashion Days, who explained how technologies and online commerce changed retail industry.

Online retail proved to be one of the main focuses of the conference, as a third speaker, Spas Slivkov, CEO of OLX Bulgaria, built on the topic with a lecture on the way online classifieds affect not only the buyers, but the sellers as well. At around 5pm there were only two discussions left until the Seedcamp finalists’ presentations. Stefan Glanzer, Founding Partner of Passion Capital, participated in a fireside chat moderated by the host, Steve Keil. He stressed on the importance of making business with passion, because if one does it simply for the money, nothing outstanding will result from that business idea. The last panel discussion was moderated by Stephane Gantchev and its focus was on the development of entrepreneurship ecosystems. The participants – Ali Karabey, Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, and Bogdan Iordache, as partners in venture capital companies, shared their meaningful insights with the audience and prepared it for the last event of the evening.

The Seedcamp finalists’ presentations drew the attention of the audience as the young entrepreneurs, who presented, managed to truly inspire the public with their enthusiasm and fresh ideas. Stepsss, Talkie, and Viblast proved to be startups we will hear more and more about.

The event was closed by a private cocktail outside the halls, where both speakers and guests had the chance to network and make new friends. “I met many new people, and made loads of new connections,” said Dani Dimitrov, student at UNWE. “My expectations were tied to the networking opportunities of the event and I think I really managed to achieve what I came for.”

To learn more about Day 2 of Digitalk 2014, click here.