One of Bulgaria’s most prestigious and large-scale events for entrepreneurial young people with innovative ideas – Youth Startup Forum “Rising Stars” – will be held this year in Varna for the first time. 2017 will witness the 9th edition of the forum during which 350 high school and university students from all over Bulgaria will showcase the products and services they have developed though the school year to jury members, potential investors and the wide audience. This year, 41 student companies are vying for the “Best Student Company of Bulgaria” prize. During the forum, 20 university startup teams who participate in the JA StartUp Program will also display their business ideas. They will be competing for the ”Best University Startup of Bulgaria” prize, as well as for several awards in special categories.
The competitions are the last stage in the yearlong training the young people receive in JA’s programs “Company Program” and “JA StartUp Program”. The Company Program is Junior Achievement’s trademark and has been recognized by the European Commission as the best practice in entrepreneurship education.
Supported by their teachers, professors and business mentors, the young people develop their entrepreneurial spirit and learn how to work in a team, how to identify business opportunities, to negotiate, to solve problems, and how to accept failure and look for new opportunities without giving up. These soft skills and mindset are extremely important for future success in any chosen career field.
Through the Youth Startup Forum “Rising Stars”, JA Bulgaria gives a chance to the ambitious young people in Bulgaria to show their business ideas and test them in a real environment. The forum and the competition will be held for the 9th year in a row on June 1-2, 2017, in Varna. The participants will be more than 500 high school and university students who have created and managed their own students company in the school/academic 2016-2017.
The event attracts a large number of representatives of business, state institutions, academic community, media and diplomatic corps.
The “Rising Stars” forum unites the annual national competitions of Junior Achievement Bulgaria’s most popular programs (and a trademark of our organization on an international level) – Student Company (schools) and Startup Program (universities).
At the trade fair, student companies of high school students and university students present the business ideas and products that they have developed and promoted through the whole school year. Juries made up of representatives of business and the public sector assess the mini companies. Each company has to make a 4-minute presentation in front of the jury, while the university startups enter into individual panel interviews with the jury which poses in-depth questions in order to assess their investment potential.
At the end, the winners for Best Student Company of Bulgaria and Best Graduate Student Company of Bulgaria are announced and awarded. Several special awards are also given in categories such as “Best team”, “Best presentation”, “Social responsibility”, “Most innovative product”, “Entrepreneurial spirit”, etc., where juries from practitioners and top managers of the sponsoring companies assess the participants against the most stringent criteria used in real business. Each year, the winners in the two competitions represent Bulgaria at the European competitions for best student company and best graduate student company where they meet peers from more than 30 countries. In 2017, the European competitions will be held in Belgium and Finland.
During the 2016-2017 school year we work with:
• More than 1400 high school students
• More than 500 university students
• 135 student companies from 72 schools in 32 cities
• 49 university startups from 17 universities in 6 cities
The competition during the Youth Business Forum “Rising Stars” on June 1-2 2017 will feature the participation of the best:
• 40 high school mini companies, selected during regional finals in April
• 25 university startups who have managed to reach the prototype level of their ideas
The participants develop products and services in some of the following industries: Internet, high technologies, mobile applications, food industry, national and local tourism, textile, apparel and design, clean tech, agro-entrepreneurship, etc.
The content behind the event
One of our landmark programs is the “Company Program” (or the Startup Program, as we call it on the university level) which gives students (in both high schools and universities) the opportunity to startup and manage a small business in a protected environment in the course of one school year, going through the whole lifecycle of a company. Students form teams, gather startup capital (real money), generate an innovative business idea, produce a product/service, run marketing campaigns to sell the product and do the bookkeeping, and wind up the company at the end of the year.
Facilitated by their teachers, professors and business mentors, students develop their entrepreneurial spirit and learn to:
• work as a team,
• discover business opportunities
• solve problems
• accept failure
• look for new opportunities for development without giving up.
The student companies also have the opportunity to take part in numerous competitions and trade fairs on regional, national and international level where they defend their business ideas in front of business people and investors and learn to overcome stage fright to present their company in the best possible way.
The project’s aim is to provide young people with an arena where they can present their interesting and innovative real business projects developed within the framework of a yearlong educational program for entrepreneurial skills run by Junior Achievement Bulgaria. Through a colorful trade fair organized within the event, the forum aims at directly contributing to developing the practical skills of the participating students in business planning, marketing, negotiation, presentation, team work, as well as to foster and strengthen their attitudes for entrepreneurial action, personal initiative, and responsibility and smart risk taking. The forum also aims at creating a space for dialogue between youth and various stakeholders in the educational process through a common discussion about the skills for the future, the expectations of young people from business, the expectations of business from young people, and the role of the state and the business community in the development of skills for the future through adequate educational policies. Holding this establishes national event in Varna for the first time this year, JA Bulgaria aims at supporting the youth and startup ecosystems outside of the capital – part of the organization’s main strategic priorities for the next 5 years.