Leadership lessons from Vassil Terziev
The event with Vassil Terziev is one of the most outstanding! Vassil being on the Leader Talks stage, attracted more interest from all entrepreneurship awards events in the country this past year. More than 450 guests gathered at Carrusel Club on February 8th to learn from the knowledge and experience of one of the leading technology entrepreneurs in Bulgaria – Vassil Terziev. With many years of experience as co-founder and CEO of software legend Telerik, as well as Chief Innovation Officer at Progress, which acquired Telerik in 2014.
Vassil is an active participant in the Bulgarian startup ecosystem as a business angel and investor in some of the top startup companies in the country, including in startups from Eleven Ventures’ portfolio. He is also a member of the board of directors of the US cloud hosting provider – MacStadium, as well as a member of the board of directors of Endeavor Bulgaria and part of the board of AUBG.
The guest host of the event was entrepreneur Todor Gigilev, CEO at Dreamix Ltd and co-founder of the first car maintenance platform – AvtoIkonom (AutoButler). Todor is also a member of the Association of Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs.
Inspired by the deep and interesting conversation about entrepreneurship, but also the personal growth, development and management of a successful company and team, we decided to recount part of the event in an interview to all those who failed to attend, but also to those who want to recall what was said.
Todor: You are a man with a mission, you do not want to spread your knowledge about how to make people richer. You are a value-oriented person. What is the mission you feel you have right now?
Vassil: To succeed, to learn things, and to leave something meaningful after me. This is what matters – how much you have helped other people reach their full potential that they did not assume they were carrying. We have a lot of potential and energy in Bulgaria, which unfortunately are not being used to the best of our ability. The areas that I am most excited about and that I seek to help are entrepreneurship and education – the two tools that can make a society stronger and better – when you have economically independent, intelligent, capable people united of the right values.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many valuable people – entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. There are an awful lot of quality people that I met along with Endeavor, ABLE and other similar organisations, and being part of such community-oriented companies, one is bound to set an example and be an authority.
T: Don’t you think that one social bubble starting to form, where everyone is looking for new events, new experiences – on one side we have those that are active in the entrepreneurial and social sphere and on the other side we have the so-called “others” who are in the country, taking care of the cattle and vineyards, and do not engage in issues outside the village. Is there any hope for such people to be included in the more active groups of society?
V: You have to fight for the things that are in your control – to raise children, to help friends, to be a good leader, a colleague, and not to pursue big goals that are beyond your control. If each one of us aims to change the lives of five to ten people for the better, it does not seem overwhelming at first, yet the effect of all these investments would be very large and this would reach many people in small towns and villages. However, this can only happen if we do not focus solely on our own successes, but try to help the people around us.
T: Isn’t business what educates most people?
V: Yes and no. I do not believe that a successful person is different in different environments – those of his family, friends and office. If you are different in any of the three cases, then there is a problem. So you’re not real somewhere. I learned a lot about business from my kids, and I also learned things about my family from business. Things are tied together.
T: How do you start a business? How do you answer the questions and doubts about what you have chosen is the right thing to do?
V: One must first know why he is doing it, what his motivation is. There are many people who start a business because they see a problem that they want to solve and what I pay particular attention to as an investor and business angel is the question of how one has decided to do what they do and what is their motivation. When one’s desire for wealth is among such aspirations, then he would easily and quickly break down the challenges he would inevitably face. The belief that you are solving a significant problem that you have enough information about and feel capable of solving creates a foundation that would be very hard to break under pressure.
Starting a business is very difficult. At the time we founded Telerik and looked at big companies in the industry with a staff of 50 people and a turnover of $ 5 million, it seemed to us absolutely unattainable. What we did was to create a product that we saw other Western companies were selling successfully. There is something that many people underestimate – that in order to truly innovate, you need to understand the problems in a market and, in the beginning, in the search for a better strategy, if you do not know the domain so well, is to look at what others are doing and find a way to do it you make it more efficient, cheaper, before you start innovating. Otherwise, you can create something that the world doesn’t need.
V: I think great things have been achieved in the last 10 years, we have the basics of a working ecosystem, we saw the creation of quite enough large and small companies, access to capital, connectivity of the local ecosystem with external ones, an angel investor and support network. There is also knowledge. It takes patience – to continue working systematically on your own thing. And I strongly believe that in 10 years we will be able to boast not only as a top outsourcing destination, but also as one that creates added value. The most important thing I report is that it has ceased to exist. brain drain – more people in our sector are returning to Bulgaria than going outside. I see more and more ideas from people who have returned from abroad or foreigners who have settled in Bulgaria.
“Life is a contact sport” – contacts always help – and finding business partners and colleagues. So it’s not a good idea to stay closed and isolated to work on a project. The advice I would give is: where do you think there are people who might be helpful to you, go to these events and you will always find some kind person to help.
T: What would the Teleric Academy enjoy about educating the young – what are the skills they will need in the coming years?
V: No matter how many technical skills you teach a child or young person who is about to become a professional, you cannot substitute five or ten years of experience. What you can do, however, is to create certain values in the learner – to have a desire for lifelong learning, to be willing to develop, to gain experience from others, to work in a team, to be stubborn and not to give up easily. This is a great skillset for adolescents to build up as individuals in order to become top professionals over the years.