Beginnings in Bulgaria
I was born and raised in Bourgas, a beautiful city located on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. My dad bought me a computer when I was 9 years old, and I was instantly fascinated by the endless possibilities offered by the digital world.
In the following years, I focused my attention on programming and became proficient in a number of languages including Pascal, Assembly, and C/C++. I developed a keen interest in reverse engineering, data structures, and complex algorithms as well as participating in national programming competitions, even having the good fortune to win a few.
During the same period, I met Iliya Yordanov, a very skilled programmer and a good friend. In 2001, while still at high school, the two of us cofounded an Internet company called CPP-Home that served as a learning hub for beginner C++ programmers. To my surprise, CPP-Home grew very rapidly and got acquired 2 years later. This was my first taste of entrepreneurship, and I have been hooked ever since. I learned a great deal about startups from that experience and am very thankful to Iliya for showing me the way.
Move to Germany
In addition to entrepreneurship, I am also passionate about being involved in my local community. I cofounded and was President of the first Interact Club in Bulgaria and headed first-time voter relations at a local campaign for mayor. Those experiences inspired me to pursue a more rounded education.
That is why I moved to Germany and enrolled at Jacobs University Bremen. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Integrated Social Sciences (political science, sociology, mass communication, economics, and statistics) as a member of the Class of 2007.
During my undergrad, I continued being active in the local community, serving as President of the Student Government and cofounding and leading Jacobs University’s Rotaract club. I was honored to receive the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) award in recognition for my community involvement and exceptional performance.
Finding Home in the Bay Area
Right after completing my bachelor degree, I headed for Silicon Valley, the epicenter of entrepreneurship, where I immediately felt right at home. I was fortunate to get accepted at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, graduating as a member of the MBA Class of 2009.
I grew tremendously at the GSB, learning a lot about myself, entrepreneurship, leadership, and management from faculty, classmates, and alumni. Other memorable experiences include co-chairing the annual GSB Entrepreneurship Conference and teaching the Leadership Labs class. Last but not least, I am particularly thankful for having made many lifelong friends.
Coming to Silicon Valley, my goal was to build another startup. That is why I wasted no time reaching out to friends and classmates to discuss various opportunities. After testing and discarding 7 ideas, the eighth one finally worked out and later became Philanthropedia, the Yelp of the nonprofit world.
Philanthropedia helps donors give better by identifying high-impact nonprofits in different social causes through crowdsourced expert reviews. What set the startup apart was its incredible team including COO Erinn Andrews, investors such as the Hewlett Foundation, and cofounders Howard Bornstein, Erik Bengtsson, and Chris Herndon,
In 2011, Philanthropedia was acquired by GuideStar, the largest provider of US nonprofit data. Post-merger, I managed the GuideStar West Coast office and led the acquisition and integration of another startup called Social Actions. I also spearheaded the creation of an internal incubator called GuideStar Labs, which created apps that integrated GuideStar data with the LinkedIn and Salesforce platforms.
In 2012 I left GuideStar to return to my entrepreneurial roots. As a former StarCraft and Counter-Strike professional gamer, I saw an opportunity to bring eSports to the largest gaming platform in the world – mobile phones. So I started my 3rd startup, Chobolabs, which aspires to unlock the hidden potential of smartphones by turning them into tiny consoles in the pockets of gamers worldwide.
I feel fortunate to have my last startup’s founding engineer, Petar Dobrev, as my cofounder again at Chobolabs. He is the most versatile and skilled hacker I have ever met, and a great partner to boot. I am also very grateful to have the opportunity to work with an incredibly passionate, experienced, and dedicated team.
To realize its mobile eSports vision, Chobolabs has raised just under $10M from top Silicon Valley venture investors including Formation 8 and Innovation Endeavors, and set up offices in San Francisco, CA, and Sofia, Bulgaria. Our flagship franchise, Mayhem, has 1M+ downloads, 4.5 star rating, and has been featured by Google, Apple, SXSW, TwitchCon, and Comic-Con.
The Chobolabs story is not yet complete. I am excited to see it through!
Paying it Forward
In my life’s journey, I have benefitted tremendously from the advice, help, and kindness of others. Without such gifts, I would not be where I am today.
I try to give back accordingly. My efforts include advising entrepreneurs, in particular about managing founder psychology and fundraising. It’s been my privilege to work with 100+ startup founders, who have raised $300M+ in funding and employ thousands of people.
I also regularly speak about entrepreneurship, technology, and leadership at conferences, communities, and schools, including Stanford and Berkeley. I write on the same subjects in Reflections as well as the Startup Lore, a free online guidebook for building new ventures.
My hobbies include reading, meditating, working out, watching eSports, and petting any dog in sight.
If any of the above sounds interesting, feel free to drop me a line. I always enjoy connecting with new people.