Real-Life Student Startups Join the Ecosystem Following Elevate’s Third Season

September 04, 2022
Real-Life Student Startups Join the Ecosystem Following Elevate’s Third Season
Seven ideas, six months, four members in each team, three judges, five finalists, two winners, one program. These are the numbers behind the third season of the AUBG Accelerator Elevate Program, which culminated in its Demo Day final event on April 27, 2022. AUBG student startups and Elevate winners Unboxd and Hangout both received $10,000 as starting capital for their companies.

With registration now open for season four of the accelerator program, Elevate continues to support the entrepreneurial spirit and startup culture on the AUBG campus.

This year, the Elevate team organized the first-ever on-ground Demo Day (watch a recording here), which filled up AUBG’s BAC auditorium with startup enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, mentors, and friends of the accelerator. During the event, the startups — which have gone through many mentorship sessions, workshops and curated trainings as part of the program — pitched their ideas and presented their plans for future development.

AUBG President David Evans congratulated the organizers and said he is grateful to everyone involved with the project. “AUBG has a long record of educating successful entrepreneurs in Bulgaria,” he said. “And a lot of you probably know that [alumni-led] Payhawk just became the first Bulgarian unicorn, which is a very big deal for us and certainly for everyone involved. We are very grateful to all of our sponsors who helped us raise the funding and support our young entrepreneurs. I know they’re grateful to have the opportunity to engage in an educational way in a real-world project. I am looking forward to the next unicorn coming out of one of these projects.”

In November 2021, seven teams were accepted as participants in this year’s edition of the accelerator program. During the program, the teams were each provided with a $2,000 no-strings-attached budget to validate their ideas. The students also had weekly talks with successful global entrepreneurs and took part in workshops led by startup professionals. Many of the mentors were AUBG alumni, such as the co-founder of Telerik Svetozar Georgiev (‘00), the co-founder and CEO of Payhawk Hristo Borisov, the co-founder of GTMhub Radoslav Georgiev, and the co-founder of Apollo Digital Noel Ceta (‘18). Other mentors included entrepreneurs who shared stories from the Silicon Valley like Jordan Kostov, co-founder and CEO of the sports streaming platform FITE, and people who shared personal insights like Alan Hutchison, CEO of ProsFit. This year’s managing directors of Elevate were recent AUBG alumni Stoyan Rahov (’20) and Desislava Manova (’21).

The members of the jury — Svetozar Georgiev (’01), Georgi Petrov (’10), co-founder of SMSBump, and Pavel Velkov (’05), Managing Partner at Morningside Hill Capital Management — were especially interested to see each team’s progress as all of them were also mentors at the Elevate program. The jury chose which ideas to fund based on their market potential.

Pavel was also part of the preliminary jury that decided which teams should be accepted to the program. “The ideas were extremely well researched,” he said following the presentations. “[And] presented in a very professional way – on a global level of presentation and articulation. You can immediately tell how much work has been done. And I think these ideas are very competitive not only at a college level but in the real world. (…) So I am very optimistic about the future of our teams.”

The Elevate finalists offered startup solutions to a variety of issues: