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Entrepreneurs bemoan Bulgaria’s investment gridlock during Sofia travel conference.

“Missing links” in the chain are preventing sufficient funding reaching young travel business entrepreneurs in the Balkans, and, in particular, Bulgaria.

That was one of the conclusions of a discussion on investment in travel technology at the ongoing Trends and Innovation Travel Distribution Summit at the Sheraton Hotel, on November 5 2010.

A panel of experts, including John Hazlewood, CEO of TravelStoreMaker.com, Farley Duvall, CEO of WhiteBull.com and Victor Papazov, Chairman of the Board of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, noted that it was harder to obtain investment from venture capitalists and banks in Bulgaria than it was elsewhere.

Koos Schouten, of Webfactory.bg, commenting from the audience, noted that “too many great ideas and big opportunities for investment go south because of missing links in the market all over the Balkans”. He attributed this to “a lack of communication between entrepreneurs and ideas people and ‘the money'” and noted that “when you need money down the line, the doors stay closed” in Bulgaria.

Schouten remarked that in his native country, The Netherlands, budding entrepreneurs received a more favourable hearing from financial institutions and there are investment consultants ready to help people starting up.

Another member of the panel commented that in Hungary the situation is much better, citing the establishment of the venture capital association and the encouragement of corporate social responsibility.

The panel commented on the importance of presenting ideas attractively. “You might have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t package it, forget it,” said one speaker, who also noted “the importance of doing your homework if you’re looking for funds”. Above all, he said, don’t present your programme to your mother – seek unbiased and objective views!

Speakers agreed that those companies that are going “global” find it easier to attract investment. If, on the other hand, your market is exclusively that of a small country, such as Bulgaria, you could find it harder to secure funding.

The bigger countries, such as Romania, Poland and Turkey, will, of course, do better but companies with a global reach will always find it easier to get more financial backing.

Gabriel Hershman – Sofia Echo

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