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Does a Bul­gar­ian com­pany need to be ex­port-ori­ented to be suc­cess­ful?

It de­pends on the industry, but gen­er­ally speak­ing ex­port-ori­ented com­pa­nies tend to be more suc­cess­ful be­cause they are able to tap into much big­ger and richer mar­kets. For ex­am­ple, a com­pany like Wall­topia could not have sur­vived in Bulgaria only. The same could be said about Chaos Group, a soft­ware com­pany, Drag Bi­cy­cles, a bi­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer, and many more. In big and de­vel­oped mar­kets, for ex­am­ple in North Amer­ica, a com­pany can re­ally test how good their prod­uct of­fer­ing is. I am happy to see more and more new firms, es­pe­cially tech­nol­ogy firms, be­ing set up in South­east Europe. I be­lieve be­ing based in a coun­try like Bulgaria, while sell­ing abroad, can of­fer sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tages.

What are the ma­jor prob­lems facing the lo­cal busi­ness?

The two big­gest prob­lems are lack of trans­parency and open com­pe­ti­tion and lack of hu­man re­sources. The first one is some­thing that we en­counter a lot with our e-pro­cure­ment plat­form Aux­ion­ize. Com­pa­nies are very hes­i­tant to ex­per­i­ment with new sup­pli­ers even though they might have bet­ter prices and qual­ity. Gen­er­ally, they are afraid they might dam­age the re­la­tion­ship with the old sup­plier. Of­ten sup­pli­ers that have worked with a client for many years end up charg­ing him higher than the cur­rent mar­ket price for the goods/ser­vice - all be­cause of the client's un­will­ing­ness to pro­mote trans­parency and open com­pe­ti­tion.

The hu­man re­source prob­lem is some­thing that most com­pa­nies in the re­gion are en­coun­ter­ing. At Wall­topia we are in­vest­ing in ways of at­tract­ing Bul­gar­i­ans from abroad, but also in ways to im­prove the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem here in Bulgaria, so we have more ed­u­cated pro­fes­sion­als to choose from in the fu­ture.

A fo­cus on in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy – this seems to be a key marker of the most rapidly grow­ing lo­cal com­pa­nies, yet in­no­va­tion is largely miss­ing from the agenda of the lo­cal en­trepreneurs. How would you comment on this?

A com­pany that does not in­no­vate is doomed to even­tu­ally fail. And by in­no­va­tion I mean true in­no­va­tion, not sim­ply copy­ing ideas from abroad and ap­ply­ing them here.

Fol­low­ing the launch of the Aux­ion­ize plat­form and the launch of works on the Col­lider Ac­tiv­ity Cen­ter, do you have any other big projects in the pipe­line?

While Wall­topia be­came fa­mous and suc­cess­ful with our climb­ing walls, we have been de­vel­op­ing other prod­ucts and con­cepts as well. One of them is our fran­chis­ing busi­ness, through which we plan to ex­pand our fam­ily entertainment cen­ter con­cept Fun­topia glob­ally. The other one is the ex­pan­sion of a new prod­uct ver­ti­cal: Wall­topia Ac­tive Amuse­ment, which con­sists of a va­ri­ety of amuse­ment prod­ucts.

The most in­no­va­tive one is a prod­uct called The Roll­glider. It is es­sen­tially a hy­brid be­tween a zip line and a roller coaster. This prod­uct is in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile as it can be used both out­doors and in­doors by peo­ple of all ages and abil­i­ties and it is quickly be­com­ing pop­u­lar among mul­ti­ple client seg­ments.

Do you see in­ter­est­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where in South­east Europe?

I see a lot of po­ten­tial for our amuse­ment prod­ucts ev­ery­where, but in South­east Europe in par­tic­u­lar I be­lieve we will be even more suc­cess­ful with amuse­ment prod­ucts than we were with the climb­ing walls.

A com­pany that does not in­no­vate is doomed to even­tu­ally fail

Ivaylo Penchev, CEO

Founded in 1998, Bul­gar­i­abased Wall­topia is one of the world's lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers of ar­ti­fi­cial climb­ing struc­tures, op­er­at­ing on six con­ti­nents through of­fices in the U.S. UK, Canada, Ger­many, Russia and Asia Pacific and ex­port­ing to 50 coun­tries...

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