StartUP Weekend 2022 gathered 44 students who developed and pitched 11 startup ideas March 25-27. They worked together to develop their business ideas with the support of accomplished mentors coming from various industries. All participants competed for prizes including plane tickets to a destination of their choice. For some of the teams, the StartUP weekend was only the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.
“For the first time ever, we sold out our event tickets in just four hours,” said the president of the StartUP club Nikol Peeva. “This has never happened before for any StartUP weekend, and the demand for the event has never been higher. We had to open up an 11th team slot in order to accommodate more teams. We wanted more people to have the chance to compete, so it was a suitable solution.”
The weekend brought back to the AUBG campus many alumni who are now part of national and international companies. “As an alumna, taking part in something you have actively worked on as a student and seeing it grow so much is an amazing feeling,” said Hristina Balabanova who is now a Solution Marketing Manager at Atos. “Being on the other side, going through what it is to be a mentor, was an enriching and unforgettable experience for me. In our daily lives, we often forget to cherish how much we’ve learned at AUBG and in our careers. Seeing so many talented and excited young professionals and being able to share this knowledge with the future graduates, and maybe future team members, is truly empowering and inspiring.”
This year, unlike previous editions of the StartUP Weekend, each team had a devoted mentor, which worked alongside that team from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. While previously the teams were getting short rotational mentorship, this time the mentors were matched to the teams depending on industry focus and background. On Saturday more mentors from BattlePass Studio joined the teams to consult them.
“Competitors mentioned that partnering with a mentor throughout the entirety of the event was extremely helpful as they were able to discuss, work, and develop the idea together, and never had to worry about not having enough support,” Nikol said. “It resulted in valuable communication and a working process that was very dynamic and insightful. The mentors became good friends with our competitors, and continue to communicate and receive support post-competition. From this change [of mentorship dynamics], I saw what resulted in the most dynamic and lively StartUP Weekend that I have ever attended. The energy was unmatched, and everyone could feel it from just stepping into the working hall. ”
At the closing ceremony, three teams were awarded for their entrepreneurial spirit. Although most of the participants were AUBG current students, the challenge was open to recent alumni who were also able to work on their ideas.
The first prize went to the BusSmart team (Kristiyan Dimov (’21), Alexandra Dimitrova) that wants to create a centralized platform for bus transportation between the cities in Bulgaria that allows customers to purchase tickets, give feedback, and make traveling by bus more convenient.
The second prize went to Kick (Elena Ivanova (’21), Roberta Tihomirova (’21), Martina Stoyanova, Margarita Arsova), an accelerator programs’ management platform that combines community management, progress tracking, and program management.
“The idea came about naturally as Betty [Roberta] and I had seen both sides of the coin – being part of an accelerator management team and being part of an accelerator cohort,” said Elena. “We had some suggestions of where things break at both sides and wanted to work on an idea that solves these identified gaps.”
The third prize went to Dose of Cleanliness (Boyana Chopeva, Georgi Musev, Elena Ivanova, Mariela Nikolova), a team looking for ways to minimize the plastic waste and the chemicals for household tasks. They offer reusable bottles and multipurpose cleaning solutions that would make cleaning the home easier and safer.
“In addition to the increased interest for the event, I’m very glad to know that many of the startups which competed at our weekend are actually continuing to develop and work on their ideas after the event,” Nikol said. “A few companies already have created LinkedIn company profiles, and are gaining traction on their businesses. It’s amazing to know that our event acts as a design hub and launchpad for the idea generation and realization.”