“Money is not a good master. It must serve more important purposes” – An interview with Atanas Simeonov

Atanas Simeonov Ocean Investments

“Happiness is a state, not a goal. It is a conscious choice.”

In a captivating journey reminiscent of a novel, Atanas Simeonov emerged as an unexpected entrepreneur in the untamed era of the 90s. Today, he stands as a remarkable success story, navigating diverse and unconventional paths. As Digital stories delve into a conversation they uncover his unique perspectives and insights on entrepreneurship, happiness, and the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Ocean Investments, his brainchild, embodies the fusion of traditional offline ventures with the digital sphere. Anchored by the Ocean Investments platform, it encompasses a cybersecurity company named Amatas and Resolute, a software enterprise. While Digital Stories has hosted engineers, writers, and even a priest and a conductor, today marks a special occasion as they introduce a guest who has transformed entrepreneurship into his life’s calling – our very own CEO, Atanas Simeonov.

Imagine starting from scratch today—where would you venture into the realm of entrepreneurship? Is it a skill learned, a product of luck, or an innate talent? Does the field of artificial intelligence hold promising investment opportunities, ultimately propelling our nation towards remarkable achievements? Why is it that billionaires, despite their vast fortunes, often find themselves yearning for true happiness? And when will we learn to cherish our health and prioritize its well-being?

 

“If I were to embark on an entrepreneurial journey today,” Simeonov says, “I’ve pondered this question extensively over the years. Typically, entrepreneurship begins with an idea, which then evolves as circumstances shift and opportunities emerge. Nonetheless, at its core, I would focus on producing a product—be it digital or physical. The crux lies in the act of creation, whether crafting software or fashioning a beautiful table.”

 

Harnessing the Power of Creation: Transforming Ideas into Reality

His words underscore a profound belief in the power of creation, urging aspiring entrepreneurs to immerse themselves in the process of birthing something new. Whether it’s pioneering cutting-edge software solutions or handcrafting tangible masterpieces, the essence lies in transforming ideas into reality. In a world driven by ceaseless innovation, the ability to create holds immense potential for personal growth and the betterment of society.

As their conversation unfolds, Atanas Simeonov offers an intimate glimpse into his entrepreneurial journey, revealing the pivotal role of adaptation and seizing opportunities along the way. Join Digital Stories as they explore the dimensions of entrepreneurship, happiness, and the boundless possibilities that lie within the ever-expanding digital landscape. Read the full interview in Bulgarian here: https://karamanev.me/sreshti/atanas-simeonov

In an era where entrepreneurship and the digital world have become intertwined, Atanas Simeonov offers a refreshing perspective—one that challenges the prevailing notion of an exclusively tech-driven entrepreneurial ecosystem. As they continue their engaging conversation, Simeonov sheds light on the importance of maintaining a balanced approach, nurturing both physical and traditional businesses and their digital counterparts within the Bulgarian entrepreneurial landscape.

 

Atanas Simeonov Ocean Investments

“It has  become somewhat fashionable to associate entrepreneurship solely with the digital world,” Simeonov remarks, “and I find that problematic. The prevailing belief that only the IT sector constitutes the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a misconception. An ecosystem cannot thrive in isolation; each sector plays a vital role in its functioning. As I contemplate the development of the Bulgarian ecosystem, I strive to preserve equilibrium. While much attention has been directed towards startups and their origins, it is essential to acknowledge that a startup can be as simple as a bakery or a pastry shop.”

 

 

Addressing the Lack of Discourse: Traditional Businesses and the Digital Landscape

Simeonov voices his concern about the lack of discourse surrounding the initiation and growth of traditional businesses. It’s a problem he aims to address. Light-heartedly, he muses, “We might find ourselves in a situation where we have an abundance of IT and computers, but no salad on our tables because there’s nobody left to grow tomatoes and serve them to us. Our group’s mission revolves around maintaining a balance—a harmony between the physical and the digital realms.”

However, there is a prevalent disconnect when it comes to understanding the digital landscape. “I, too, learned about startups when I began exploring the IT sector,” Simeonov admits. “In the past, while establishing companies, I had no idea that they could be considered startups.”

The IT industry, fueled by knowledge and rapid advancements, has emerged as a lucrative global venture, generating substantial wealth. It follows the footsteps of previous leading industries such as the banking and industrial sectors. Drawing from his broad entrepreneurial experience, Simeonov stresses the significance of adopting best practices from all sectors and applying them universally. By “stealing” knowledge from various industries, he believes it is possible to drive success in traditional businesses.
So why is the digital landscape not discussed as extensively?

In response, Simeonov reflects on the societal context in Bulgaria. He observes, “Important topics are seldom the focus of discussions in our country, and the digital sphere is no exception.”

Misunderstandings and Cultural Barriers in Embracing Technological Advancements

Curiosity prompts further inquiry into this matter. The successes and breakthroughs in the IT sphere often fail to reach the wider public. While monumental debates ensue over pushing statues, the extraordinary achievements of billion-dollar companies go unnoticed.

Atanas Simeonov Ocean Investments

Simeonov believes that this is a consequence of several factors. “Technological advancements occur at a pace that surpasses our capacity to adapt. Fear arises as it is a new frontier, uncharted territory. Moreover, Bulgarian society still harbours a cultural tendency to cast doubt upon the wealth of individuals.”

He highlights the need for society to comprehend and respond to the news of billion-dollar companies. Misunderstandings abound—questions arise about the ethics of their success, whether they are perceived as thieves, or what their endeavours truly entail. Even within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the ripple effects of such phenomena are not fully grasped. The historical context of Bulgaria, marked by over four decades of interrupted entrepreneurial practices, further contributes to the need for time and adjustment.

Drawing parallels to the legendary Elon Musk, Simeonov notes that the most crucial quality is not knowing everything from the start, but rather the speed at which one learns and the depth of their exploration. Musk exemplifies the approach of entering industries with minimal prior knowledge and swiftly delving deep into the subject matter. Simeonov views business as an ongoing learning process, driven by the curiosity to embark on new ventures and expand his knowledge.

Confronting Fears and Shifting Mindsets: Overcoming Obstacles to Success

When asked about our fears, Simeonov astutely pointed out that we humans have an uncanny ability to invent things to be afraid of. We fear exposing ourselves, worrying that others may perceive us as less intelligent than we believe ourselves to be. We fear being offended or hurt. Simeonov believes that running away from fear is not the path to well-being; instead, he emphasizes the importance of challenging and addressing our fears head-on.

Moving on to the prevailing belief among many young people that success in our country is only possible if one comes from a wealthy background, Simeonov acknowledges that changing this mindset will not be an easy task. He refers to the current generation as the “transition generation,” wondering aloud where exactly we are transitioning to. While the process may seem slow, he believes changing this negative phenomenon that permeates our society is imperative.

Simeonov notes that a lack of critical thinking and reading among young people contributes to this prevailing belief. To support his viewpoint, he recalls analyzing a list of billionaires worldwide and examining the patterns among them. While the list has grown since then, the trends remain unchanged. Self-made individuals make up a significant percentage of billionaires, and higher education is not a prerequisite for success. Simeonov dispels the notion that being born into a wealthy family is the sole determinant of success, emphasizing that persistence and hard work are key. He stresses that in Bulgaria, there are ample opportunities to establish a thriving business, and enterprising individuals can succeed regardless of their background. He highlights the importance of examples, both historical and contemporary, to inspire and guide aspiring entrepreneurs.

Inspiring Examples and Redefining Happiness: Transformative Initiatives and Personal Perspectives

When asked about his favourite examples, Simeonov cites the pre-1944 industrialist Burov and Pencho Semov from Gabrovo, who created a major textile factory and was renowned for his philanthropic endeavours. In the present era, Simeonov applauds the accomplishments of his friends at Telerik, who have not only made significant deals but also fostered an entire ecosystem. Telerik’s impact on the Bulgarian entrepreneurial landscape is tangible and commendable. Simeonov also mentions Maxim Mitkov from Maxcom, the largest wheel manufacturer in Bulgaria and the second largest in Europe. Although Mitkov operates under the radar, his success and dedication to his company, which boasts a turnover of 100 million euros and thousands of employees, are truly remarkable. Simeonov believes that such initiatives, along with others, will gradually transform the Bulgarian business environment for the better.

They delve into the complex topic of happiness and the importance of health in our lives. Simeonov’s insights challenge their conventional notions and shed light on the need for self-awareness and personal responsibility.

When asked about the unhappiness often associated with billionaires and millionaires, Simeonov offers a fascinating perspective. He asserts that many wealthy individuals, regardless of their financial status, fall into the trap of making money, competition, and material acquisition the sole purpose of their lives. When money becomes their master rather than their servant, they lose balance and find it difficult to experience true happiness. Simeonov believes that money should be used as a tool to create positive change and bring greater meaning to our lives. It is when we lose sight of this purpose that we lose our way.

So, what does it take to be happy? Simeonov refers to it as a trillion-dollar question. He shares an insightful anecdote from his recent event with Maria Laleva, where she emphasized that happiness is not a destination but a journey. Simeonov, however, believes that happiness is a state of being, a conscious choice. To achieve happiness, one must develop self-awareness, cultivate gratitude, and find sufficiency in the simple things. It’s about perceiving the world with clarity and harmony, regardless of external circumstances. Happiness resides within us and is shaped by our perceptions and attitudes.

The Vital Link between Health and Happiness: Embracing Personal Responsibility

Moving on to the critical topic of health, Simeonov passionately expresses that it is a fundamental component of happiness. He emphasizes an alarming statistic: 120,000 people die in Bulgaria each year due to various health issues. Simeonov highlights the necessity of personal responsibility and urges individuals to become literate and proactive about their health. He believes that true happiness is elusive if one is not in good health. Simeonov challenges the prevailing mindset that the government is responsible for our well-being, reminding us that the onus lies on us as individuals. If we truly care about our loved ones and want to spend quality time with them, we must make conscious efforts to lead healthier lives.

Simeonov acknowledges the prevailing indifference towards health in Bulgarian society, noting our alarming rates of smoking and alcohol consumption. He believes that prevention is the key and that it starts with education and open dialogue. Drawing parallels to Bulgaria’s reputation as one of the unhappiest nations, Simeonov envisions a transformation where people prioritize their well-being and shift their mindset. By focusing on health and adopting a proactive approach, he believes we can break free from the cycle of unhappiness and create a positive ripple effect that will impact all aspects of our lives.

Atanas Simeonov’s perspective on happiness and health challenges us to reevaluate our priorities and take personal responsibility for our well-being. By embracing self-awareness, gratitude, and a proactive approach to health, we can pave the way for a happier and healthier future for ourselves and our nation. It all begins with a shift in mindset and a commitment to making positive choices that bring us closer to true happiness.

Prioritizing Truth and Integrity in the Digital Age

Discussing the role of media in our evolving world, Atanas Simeonov recognizes the need for a new type of media that is aligned with the times. He acknowledges the emergence of new solutions, such as podcasts and social media platforms, albeit with some reservations about their effectiveness. Simeonov believes that a successful media model should prioritize quality and truthful information. Drawing on Bulgaria’s historical tradition of awakening and revival, he envisions a media landscape that embraces integrity and attracts those willing to pay for reliable content. Simeonov emphasizes that media outlets focusing on truth will ultimately succeed in the long run.

Shifting gears back to the world of technology, the conversation turns to the buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), including the infamous ChatGPT. Simeonov views the recent advancements in AI as a significant change, primarily due to the development of working interfaces that make existing technology more accessible to the masses. While he acknowledges the potential of AI, Simeonov highlights the unpredictability of how it will unfold, as is often the case with new technologies.

Addressing the goals of the INSAIT institute and its ambition to become a regional leader in AI, Simeonov emphasizes that such achievements do not happen by chance. He draws a parallel to an ecosystem, where careful nurturing and cultivation are necessary to reap the rewards. Simeonov commends Professor Vechev’s commitment to bringing knowledge back to Bulgaria and developing AI expertise within the country. He highlights the importance of serious scientific knowledge in the field and expresses optimism about the support and collaboration INSAIT has garnered from the government, foreign companies, and the Bulgarian ecosystem. Simeonov sees INSAIT as a shining example of the right direction for Bulgaria, reminiscent of how knowledge was brought back and applied a century ago. While acknowledging the potentially transformative power of AI, he hopes that humanity can harness and master it for our advantage rather than being overshadowed or consumed by it.

As Simeonov concludes, the future will reveal the true impact of AI on both the world and Bulgaria. The key lies in our ability as individuals and as a society to wield this powerful technology wisely and ensure that it serves our best interests. With Martin at the helm of INSAIT, Simeonov remains optimistic, recognizing his resilience and determination to succeed despite challenges. The journey towards leveraging AI’s potential is underway, and only time will tell how it shapes our future.

About the author

Ralitsa Naumova

Ralitsa is a well-rounded marketing professional, imaginative copywriter, brand strategist & storyteller. Her marketing, advertising & corporate comms expertise has been carefully nurtured in international corporate and agency environments; in the heat of organizing/communicating international industry events & trade shows; in managing B2C and B2B communications in the clinical research industry. Ralitsa’s professional career has seen business in action in both the UK and USA, giving her the invaluable cross-cultural touch integral to any successful marketing consultant. Today’s marketing challenges require tomorrow’s technological solutions – and that’s Ralitsa’s lifelong career pursuit – how to get that one step further ahead of established practices.

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