May 6, 2022, 12:31 p.m.

Turning one of the poorest regions in the EU into an attractive digital industry hub

2022 change leader story

 

Emiliyan Kadiyski and Teodor Kostadinov were born in Vratsa, Bulgaria - one of the poorest regions of the European Union. There are almost no functioning large businesses, educational levels are low and the entrepreneurial spirit is lacking. This shortfall of opportunities for professional development and employment causes young people to leave the area and as a result of this continuous drain of brain power and ambition, Vratsa is trapped in a vicious cycle of underdevelopment.

Like others, Emiliyan and Teodor also left the city and pursued university education, but unlike many others, they never lost the connection with their hometown. Already successful young IT specialists, they decided they wanted to give back to the local community and share their skills and knowledge. They started organizing weekend IT courses in a local community center. Seeing that there’s a huge interest, they came up with the dream to turn Vratsa into a vibrant digital hub - by fostering a community of active and qualified young people, attracting IT companies to the region and creating a digital industry which offers well paid and challenging jobs for the local people.

In 2014 with this idea they won the first competition for social entrepreneurs Reach for Change organized in Bulgaria together with Nova Broadcasing Group, and entered our Incubator. Together with another IT specialist, Iliyan Dimov, they founded Vratsa Software Community and started offering 9-month coding courses and free events. Over the years they expanded their portfolio, offering trainings within digital marketing, design, software testing and other promising and sought digital professions. Today, they have trained hundreds of students, and dozens have already started their career in their hometown. They have received numerous national and international awards and recognition, including Google RISE Awards and were selected for the 2017 Forbes’ list of 30 Social Entrepreneurs Under 30 in Europe.

‘Reach for Change helped us speed our development process. What they did for one year, would have taken us three to four years’ shares Emiliyan Kadiyski.


In 2021 Vratsa Software entered the Scaling Readiness Program, organized by Reach for Change and ING within the Open the Circle initiative. The financial and mentorship support offered by the program has allowed them to enhance their business plan and start replicating their model in other cities in Northwest Bulgaria, carrying out their dream to turn the region round.

Find out more about Vratsa Sofrware's impact in the video below

 

 

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