Economic growth is a function of physical capital, human capital, and ideas – the factor that binds them into output. A simple yet telling model that hints at the structural elements needed for the development of a nation. And although physical and human capital may seem rather simple to understand, the origin of ideas is very much ambiguous – knitted into the fabric of society. Hence, the story of Spas Kyosev, an advocate for invention and proponent of innovation, seeking to bring a change to the culture of idea creation in Bulgaria.
Coming from an educational background in ancient history and language studies and a later career in news media, Kyosev has seemingly transitioned to the innovation industry. A space where startups compete to rise from regional success to global recognition. Such an environment may appear rather incongruent given his beginnings at the state Military Channel and Bulgarian National Television but is indeed fitting in light of his current position. Having spent nearly two decades as a news anchor and talk-show host for the aforementioned media outlets, Kyosev is now the chief visibility officer for BESCO, a startup association founded to support Bulgarian entrepreneurs and businesses. It is a career departure that raises the question of how a background in traditional media may forward growth, be it economic, technological, or cultural.
Of his time at the Bulgarian National Television, Kyosev recounts a rigid organisation centred around being an accurate and detailed source of information rather than inspiration. When working in such a news outlet, certain limitations exist, whether it be media routines, organisational influences or ideological pressure from which journalists can often not separate themself. Hence, in his role as new anchor, Kyosev has often served as a messenger of sorts, announcing crises and tragedies, the unfortunate realities with which a nation must come to terms. A burden of negativity that he must carry, but one that has not stopped him from speaking highly of his time at the Bulgarian National Television. “Good journalism has its foundation in storytelling,” he says. “That is what I have done all my life; I have learned to craft compelling narratives that take misfortune and transform it into a driving force for change”.
This seems to be the underlying motive that ties his current role as chief visibility officer to his past in traditional media. By joining BESCO, Kyosev has offered his expertise in storytelling, albeit in a radically different environment. The Bulgarian startup association aims to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and growing businesses while simultaneously remaining independent, neutral, and transparent in garnering public support. It focuses on establishing the legal infrastructure needed for varying capital companies, convertible loans, electronic government initiatives and others. “For me, it meant joining a new generation of people, progressive in their thinking,” said the chief visibility officer. “Doing so means rethinking how business is done in Bulgaria and advocating in favour of small entrepreneurial ventures”. This is reflected in the goal of BESCO of improving current legislature to allow for greater flexibility in setting up and growing a company, as opposed to being faced with continuous bureaucratic setbacks. Thus, shortening the time needed to bring ideas to market and go from invention to innovation, an important milestone for the Bulgarian startup ecosystem.
Nevertheless, Kyosev insists that his current work at BESCO is much the same as that at the Bulgarian National Television, the ends may have changed, but the means to them have not. “We focus on removing barriers and creating a level playing field for anyone with a worthwhile idea,” he says. “This means crafting stories that matter and can bring change, showing people that there is more beyond the immediate”. Kyosev refers both to the direct impact of such actions and their long-term implications, bound to alter the current innovation industry. The self-efficacy needed to pursue one’s ideas is a question of knowledge and ability, but even more so, a culture of belief. Therefore, the value of BESCO is equally paramount in its support for growing businesses, as in the legacy of entrepreneurial change it will bring to the future.
To many, the concept of the economy of a nation having been founded on ingenuity, risk and personal sacrifice, may appear self-evident. But given the cultural and historical specificity of Bulgaria, idea creation and exploration have remained stagnant. In the past, a multitude of societal factors brought about by a planned economy hindered the pursuit of personal ventures, altering indefinitely the nature and perception of business. Furthermore, a stigma of continued malpractice exists, where success is viewed as a byproduct of questionable dealings and a connection to the power elite. Whether these suspicions are true may have no definitive answer, but what is certain is the eagerness of Kyosev to showcase a novel and inherently different story. A story of inspiring young entrepreneurs, ready to shake the cultural foundations of the past by putting an end to the risk-averse and fearful psychology of a nation.
This concept is strongly reflected in a recent production by BESCO, a celebratory documentary commemorating the Bulgarian success stories of the past year. Named “The way of the Unicorn”, it features startups and venture capital firms, distinguished for their newfound growth and billion-dollar valuations. And although such numbers are bound to leave a lasting impression, the underlying message is much closer to that of a changing culture and the implications it holds for the future. Namely, a functioning eco-system would connect ideas to capital and foster proactive government intervention that empowers businesses and entrepreneurs rather than creating perpetual roadblocks.
“The way of the Unicorn,” tells a story that is much in line with the idea of Kyosev to not only inform but to inspire, focusing on motives such as self-efficacy, intrepid risk-taking, and an underlying responsibility for the legacy one leaves behind. Such qualities are highlighted as prerequisites for growth and development in Bulgaria, suggesting a newfound eco-system that rewards hard-working companies with strong values and integrity breaking the stigma of the past. In many ways, the professional journey of Kyosev parallels that of the current Bulgarian reality. It requires leveraging prior knowledge to take invention and transform it into innovation.
This signifies a change in the role perception of each person, one that empowers and leads to a more impactful future. It is a change founded on the courage to pursue one’s own dreams, as incongruent as they may seem given the current reality. “If a story is truly good, it will come to you no matter what,” Kyosev says. A telling notion that speaks of the importance of storytelling concerning economic, technological and cultural growth. The power of idea creation is as much a byproduct of the environment a person inhabits, as of the belief they hold, the belief in unicorns.