1. When did you make your choice for PropTech and what was the drive behind it? Which was your square-one project? Can you share with us about bilid and the solutions on your offer.
Business buildings – there are retail centers, office buildings, shopping malls all around us. Loaded with huge capital investments they are on the lookout for their estimated return. Most often their management, however, happens to be on a spreadsheet or make use of partially applicable software. The inefficient approach toward their management, the want of analytical data, and the low level of automation result in a variety of extra costs and benefits foregone suffered by the owners and the managing companies. Thus the property and facility managers have got increasingly aware of their need for a powerful bespoke tool to keep their assets in check. In 2014, we started the bilid to supply just this sort of demand. Everything started early on, at a meeting with the BoD members of the Society of the Blind. Back then, I acted as an IT and business consultant, further down the way, I worked my way through the office of a chief executive of an IT software producing company. At the meeting, it got clear that manufacturing as a core activity had been giving way to property management – where the Society of the Blind took a stand amidst the major property owners in Bulgaria heading for a transformation to property lease. I got assigned to study the market for them and come up with proper software to work for the property team. Much to my surprise, I realized that there happened to be no proper software to date such as to meet the set requirements. Therefore, some colleagues of mine joined me to develop a vision for a property management software which is to make the most of the benefits of software technologies, automated management, and the Software as a Service model. We met many of the property and facility managers which but made us only too convinced of the demand for that kind of solution.
Given our vision for a software, we got involved in a competition arranged by First Investment Bank, and having ranked first, got awarded a grant. That worked as square one for it all.
2. Which are the strengths, the drawbacks, and the specifics of the PropTech sector in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria happens to be one of the foremost IT destinations in Europe, as such, the demand for premises for rent, and the advancement of the PropTech sector is essentially driven by the IT destinations – drawing upon latest data, 85% of the occupation comes to be in that sector. Projects are coming out ever more quality-wise, and the occupation of premises is going higher. By contrast, the management experiences trouble to manage property in a quality-wise manner, and to produce modern services for tenants. In addition, most often we encounter hesitation on the part of management businesses and executive companies to make a step towards yielding better effectiveness in management. Besides, this holds true not only for national companies but also for foreign companies settled here. Though fully aware of the need to initiate such a step sooner rather than later, most often, however, it is later that the decision is made forced by a certain emergency situation.
3. Which was the greatest challenge you met on your way to getting your PropTech project started? And which is your greatest challenge now, 6 years later?
Our greatest challenge has always been the funding mechanism for us. Ours is a company with no external investors, thus, getting funded by none but its clients – the „bootstrapping“ as we call it. This is definitely a major challenge, all the more so in the SaaS model where the software is supplied as a service, and the revenue comes in by way of monthly subscriptions. The core advantage of this model proves to be its sustainable development which makes long-term relations to partners and customers.
4. What do you believe has to be effectuated for the PropTech sector in Bulgaria so you may see your work facilitated?
What we feature is getting the performance in the sector facilitated. As such, the question would be better articulated to ask what the sector should do as to take advantage of the opportunities for performing more effectively.
At the first place, this is to eliminate ineffective and routine activities and to enhance the effectiveness of various management, administrative, and technical processes. Next comes the awareness in what way modern technologies are to transform the business management and to produce competitive advantages. We see the establishment of numerous ‘smart’ buildings which are subsequently management by manual accounts and computations performed by smart people who may alternatively contribute to the business in a rather different way.
5. Which is the greatest challenge in terms of technology which has come across your way?
Challenges in terms of technology are an everyday experience, most often implying the working out of a solution to specific business issues. The essential objective before us is to produce software of highest possible automation and best possible connectivity to external software which is to substantially boost managerial efficiency, do without many of the routine tasks, and provide management with their much-needed time and cool mind.
The interview is conducted by Sylvia Pavlova MBA, Managing Partner Strategy+ Business Lab, Bulgaria.
George Halachev is the co-founder and chief executive of Proper Tech which is a company developing the automated property and facility management application called bilid. For 20 years now, he has been assisting businesses in their try to make the best and the most of software technologies to boost their business. Plus, he is a mentor and a scout at LAUNCHub Ventures – an early-stage VC fund.