Neil Cocker, an entrepreneur from the U.K., has a mission: to run the fastest, smartest T-shirt ordering website around.
Over the past year, Cocker’s business, Ramp, has seen a lot
of change. After an initial investment deal failed to materialize, Cocker and
his co-founder made their way to an accelerator called Ignite in London for a
three-month business program.
Cocker got tips from Ignite, and eventually, the company
made its way to Sofia, Bulgaria.
According to Cocker,
startup businesses struggle to accumulate a financial “runway,” and business evolution is an incremental process.
“When you only need to generate hundreds, not thousands, of pounds of
profit a week you can breathe,” Cocker wrote in an article for Medium.com. “You can take your time to make
the right decision. … That doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the pedal. You
still work 12+ hour days, and never, ever stop
thinking about how to make things better. It just means you are not acting out
of desperation. You’re doing what’s right.”
Cocker has totaled up his own business spending in
London and Sofia, showing that locating offices to Bulgaria
can provide better value. And over the past 12 months, the startup has become a more productive business.
In a conversation with Balkan Business Wire,
Cocker elaborated on the savings and other benefits of living in Sofia,
including fewer distractions and a better vantage point for focusing on core
“Obviously a big attraction here is the cost of living,”
Cocker said. “It's very low, despite the decent quality of life.”
Also, he said, social mobility is a big deal.
“Sofia is still fairly small, and it's pretty easy to
navigate the ecosystem and meet anyone you need to,” Cocker said. “The people
here are friendly, and the level of English literacy is really high. I've
really not had any problems making connections or having great conversations
with interesting people.”
In addition, Cocker referred to the use of shared workspaces,
a major trend around the world that is helping startups to innovate and
“There are several co-working spaces that seem to attract
the majority of the startup activity in terms of teams and events,” Cocker
said, citing two with active communities and calendars: Betahaus and Coworking
by Puzl. Cocker’s company runs out of Betahaus.
The value of working from Sofia, Cocker said, isn’t limited
to startup potential. He described a process by which a “major outsourcing
industry” has developed within the city, as big firms set up bases there to
However, he said, it’s led to a kind of culture clash when
it comes to product development.
“Despite the very high quality of the work (in Sofia),
there's more cultural focus on the highly detailed, very polished finished
product, which doesn't always sit well with the iterative ‘Lean Startup’
approach of test quickly, fail fast, and minimum viable product,” he said. “Tech startup founders live by the
maxim that you don't learn until you launch. In other words, you can build
something slick and beautiful, but until it's online, you have no idea how
people are going to use it. And this is at odds with the outsourced,
client-focused approach of delivering a final product.”
Sofia is a great spot for startup T-shirt company
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