This article was officially published by AUBG Daily.
The weekend of March 24-26 has been a hot topic in the past few weeks, as it hosted the 8th edition of the StartUP Weekend event organized by AUBG club StartUP. This year’s theme was “Alice in Ventureland.”
During the weekend, more than 50 people formed 14 teams that developed business ideas with the help of their peers and the support of selected field professionals, who took on the role of team mentors.
Martin Stanchev, president of StartUP, noted that this was one of the most complicated and significant events on campus. With such grand ideas, the team members were challenged to ensure everything went smoothly. “When I think about it, there wasn’t an aspect that was easy to do,” he shared.
The entrance of the ABF Sports Hall was crafted to resemble a grand cave entrance, which helped both participants and guests to feel like they were entering a whole new world – one where creative ideas thrive. In fact, the entrance decoration turned out to be one of the hardest things to do. Club members worked on it for nearly three hours, ensuring every little detail was covered.
(photo “Entrance”) – The Entrance of the ABF Sports Hall. Photo by Borislav Bochev.
“There were some people that asked me whether we paid professionals to do it, which makes me feel very proud that we achieved such a high level of quality,” Stanchev said regarding the decorations.
Stanchev also praised the club’s departments for their efforts and support during the weekend, from the marketing department and their creative input, to the speakers’ department, who found the 14 mentors, the facilitator, and the jury mentors. He also congratulated the sponsorship department members for their hard work and mentioned the IT department and the newly updated StartUP website.
(photo “Club members”) – The StartUP Team Members. Photo courtesy of StartUP.
When asked about the biggest takeaway from the event, Stanchev shared that he is incredibly proud that the club challenged itself and surpassed what it achieved in last year’s edition. Raising the participating team’s number from 11 to 14, as well as selling out the available tickets in only three hours, proved that the club is better than ever before.
However, not everything went according to plan. On Friday, March 23, just hours away from the opening ceremony, two mentors informed StartUP that they could not come to the campus and participate in the event. Despite this last-minute roadblock, the StartUP team found two replacements and quickly solved the problem before the start of the event.
After this small setback, one of the most ambitious events on campus began with an opening ceremony in the BAC Auditorium, followed by the teams pitching their ideas and meeting their mentors. Later the same night, the event moved to the ABF Sports Hall, where the teams initiated the working process.
On Saturday, the teams spent the day developing their business ideas in the exceptionally decorated Sports Hall. Throughout the day, StartUP offered a wide selection of food, snacks, and refreshments. In addition, there was a human-sized chess board, which provided the participants a chance to relax and take a break from their busy schedules.
(photo “Sports hall”) – The ABF Sports Hall on Saturday. Photo by Borislav Bochev
On the event’s final day, March 26, the BAC Auditorium hosted all 14 teams and their final presentations in front of a renowned jury comprised of Angel Angelov, Milena Stoycheva, Rosen Ivanov, Stoyan Nedin, and Todor Beshkov. After hearing all the business proposals, the jury deliberated and decided on the top three teams.
The first-place award went to Sabel Basheva, Nikita Bogatiy, Simona Gyuzleva, Regi Callmori, and their business idea, “StripIT.” The idea behind “StripIT” is simple – the product is an at-home self-test kit aiming at the early detection of some of the most common vaginal infections. Providing women with a smoother testing process, as well as connecting them with medical professionals and doctors through an application, stand at the core of the business idea.
(photo “Winners”) – Sabel Basheva, Nikita Bogatiy, and Regi Callmori (from right to left). Photo courtesy of StartUP.
When recalling their journey during the weekend, the team members admit they were on the verge of giving up. “At some point, it seemed everything was going against us,” Sabel shared. One of the members having to leave Blagoevgrad in the middle of the working process, an idea change, and several presentation setbacks were only a few of the issues that arose during the busy weekend. “On the mock presentation, we even spoke without an actual presentation; we did not have anything ready at that time,” Regi added, laughing.
Despite all the struggles, the four colleagues worked hard to prove they had what it takes to be successful entrepreneurs and win over the other 13 teams in the competition. However, this is not the end of “StripIT.” The team is continuing their work on the project and working hard towards making their idea a reality.
“We have already started doing extensive research. Also, we plan on building a strong proposal, getting it certified, and soon after, start selling it,” Regi said.
Apart from getting to experience the process behind creating an idea from scratch, the team also won the big prize, which was 2-way plane tickets to Paris and tickets to Disneyland. “We are looking forward to taking a well-deserved break and enjoying ourselves on this amazing journey,” Simona shared.
The second place prize went to “Compostify” (Teodora Emilova, Margarita Arsova, Victoria Kuzmanova, Georgi Dobrilov), and the third place went to “PetMate” (Kristina Dimitrova, Bogomil Yordanov, Iren Dimitrova, Ivan Asen Enchev).
Spanning three days, the StartUP Weekend was once again a testament to the growing culture of entrepreneurship in the university and a reminder of the potential that can be unlocked when talented individuals come together to pursue their dreams.