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Looking Back on the 4th Season of Innovation Sandbox: Plans for 2021 and an Interview with the Winner

19.10.2021

Alex Drobyshevsky, Innovation Director at Coherent Solutions / ISsoft

This season was held online, and it was quite different compared to previous ones. We had to work out an online training program in English. Besides, we had three applicants from Bulgaria; the two of them got into the final. Thus, we needed to prepare the training program as soon as possible.

There was no close group communication during that season; all the participants focused on individual work. During our design thinking workshop, they communicated in groups to know each other and their projects. 

It’s worth mentioning that Minsk and Sofia’s project teams worked on solutions from the same domain, tourism and hospitality. They knew about each other at the end of the season.

It’s the first international season, and it’s a great tendency as we strive to grow and expand our horizons. We hope that our colleagues from other countries will join us during the upcoming season.

Let us recollect that the NearBU project developed by Angel Todorov from Bulgaria, Business Intelligence Engineer at Coherent Solutions Bulgaria, won 1st place. NearBU is like Tinder, but its users will use it only for clothes and products with discounts.

We interviewed Angel Todorov to find out more about his project, Demo Day’s challenges, and plans.

Angel, is NearBu your first startup? Have you ever worked on similar ones? 

-Indeed, it’s the first project like this one, and I’ve started to develop the idea since my first year in the company. I didn’t have enough time to dive deep into it, and I decided to abandon my first try for Innovation Sandbox season.

When and how did you come up with the idea of creating NearBU? 

-It all started in 2015 when I came up with this idea. Together with my friends, we tried to elaborate on the concept, but we split and started working in different companies. Finally, we had to abandon the idea for several years.

I don’t remember my initial thoughts when I came up with NearBU as so many years passed. Back at the time, I didn’t want to browse goods that I wouldn’t buy anyway. I was wondering if there’s a way to help people find goods that they would like to buy, for example, right now when they decided to purchase something. And they just can go and buy it, without wasting time on searching and browsing those goods on the Internet.

How was the project transformed during the Innovation Sandbox Season? 

-Initially, I just planned to offer only discounts on purchases based on people’s locations and marketplaces. Then I had a workshop from our Innovation Lab, and then I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to apply the approach of date matching like it’s used in Tinder. According to Tinder’s approach, we just swipe discounts left and right based on what we like or don’t like. Well… This is how I decided the app concept is supposed to look like.

How did you choose your project name?

-It’s currently shortened as NearBU, but actually, it was supposed to be ‘’Near buy You’’. So, NearBU is a game of words. It means that it’s NEAR and YOU can BUY it. My first idea of name was Geo Prom, but I decided that this doesn’t sound attractive  and then I changed it to Near Buy U. But finally, I decided to leave it as NearBU.

Did you anticipate your win?

-I was hoping not to be in the last place at least. Just I didn’t expect that the jury members would love my project. I felt incredibly nervous when they asked questions about my financial plan.

I didn’t expect that I would win. Sometimes I feel shy speaking in public. But I’m trying to get better and do my best. ?

What was the most challenging part of your project?

-It was quite challenging to conduct market research. For example, for my project, I tried doing it several times. Another challenge for me was thinking about the financial plan. It’s tough to do when you aren’t a finance guy ? You just try to imagine what you need and what can be done to return on investments, and it’s a very complicated procedure.

What are your plans for 2021?

-My purpose is to develop and promote the project. After Demo Day, some colleagues from the Bulgaria office heard about NearBU and would like to join it. I am thinking of ways how we can start making progress on the project.

I need some developers and data engineers to start developing the application architecture to better understand what tech stack we need to use. I’m also going to prepare for other pitching conferences to attract more investors and see how our idea would fit the market.

What piece of advice would you give to the applicants of the 5th Season of Innovation Sandbox?

-I would say that if anyone has an idea, they should try to participate in Innovation Sandbox. It’s a great chance to think out of the box. You dive deep into the project and look outside. You can see that you adapt your idea and make progress on your project. Besides, it’s fantastic when someone likes your idea.

We are happy to announce the start of the 5th Season of Innovation Sandbox. Applications are accepted due to February 15, 2021. As Alex Drobyshevsky told us during the interview, the 5th season will bring new perspectives and benefits to its participants.

Alex Drobyshevsky, Innovation Director at Coherent Solutions / ISsoft

We have plans to launch a startup school for projects based on rough ideas. The teams will improve their skills, gather their team, prepare a well-established project, and submit it. Unfortunately, project teams often lack time to assemble the project team and create a quality MVP.