Interview with Lyuben Belov, Startup Spotlight mentor & panelist

Lyuben is a successful entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of the Internet sector in Bulgaria, having exited Net Info to Sanoma Magazines International in 2008, a transaction that represents the highest valuation achieved in this sector in Bulgaria. After the exit, he has focused on investing and developing digital businesses within the SEE region and recently co-founded LAUNCHub, a seed fund supporting the most promising entrepreneurs and digital startups in Southern and Eastern Europe.

Because we are all working for the same goals – consolidating and expanding the tech startups ecosystem in the region – we wanted to ask Lyuben a few questions to see how they’re working to connect the startups they incubate with other tech hubs in the world.

1. Could you name the main challenges that LauncHub is still facing today in regard to its evolution?
We are constantly revisiting the South-Eastern startup ecosystem and looking for the best teams. LAUNCHub supports companies with a strong potential for fast growth. We have seen quite some impressive achievements in the past few months – one of our portfolio companies, Flipps, made a big step forward and raised from Tim Draper. Finding the most committed and promising teams in the region is a big challenge and our selection process is improving. We now have an application run open for South-Eastern Europe ending November 3, 2013 and we look forward to meet great teams.

2. What types of startups do you get the most applications from?
Our statistics show that around 70% are from Bulgaria and then around 25% coming from the region – Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia and South-Eastern Europe in general. We also see a small portion of applications from all over Europe, the US and even India. As our focus is in the digital tech sector, this is the most common area in which we review investment opportunities. It is always an advantage if the company has already formed a team and can show a good understanding of the market challenges they are targeting and some traction achieved to the moment – early testing , first customer reviews or a prototype.

3. How do you empower startups to connect with international networks and find investors across the world?
We encourage our teams to apply for the different competitions of the big conferences, participate in various international and local networking events. Startup Spotlight is an excellent example and opportunity. Once the company is ready, we help and follow on for the proper exposure needed. Also, we run a lot of activities on our own – we invite leading industry professionals for power-talk sessions, mentoring, intros with leading investors and business people. We try to get them involved also on the online platforms that are a good opportunity for raising and exposure – Crunch Base, Angel List, as well as in any type of communication efforts adequate for their promotion. The whole process is actually a perfect mix of good physical and virtual networking.

Lyuben will be present at Startup Spotlight in November, where he will talk about the best methods to ship the right product for the right market in a panel of specialists. He will also be mentoring the Startup Spotlight finalists, so make sure you apply until Sunday for a shot to be one of them!

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