Renewable Energy Entrepreneur Seeks MBA To Energize Career
Bozhidar Draganov was born and raised in Bulgaria but grew up travelling and working in Western Europe and the United States.
After founding a renewable energy business in the US, he decided to pursue an MBA in Europe taught in English. He enrolled at EMLYON, the French business school, in August this year.
He is passionate about his community in Bulgaria and when he graduates from the MBA program he ultimately plans to open renewable energy power plants and use the revenues to help young people in the country thrive.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA program?
The industry in which I was working [in] was facing a very difficult time, especially in Bulgaria, where most of my investment projects in renewable energy were concentrated.
I recognized the opportunity to use this time to upgrade my knowledge in financial modelling, which I could use when pitching to investors.
During my work in Washington and New York I recognized the value of having an MBA. It really matters and opens a lot of doors. It became clear to me that if I take time to work on my accounting, management and risk-assessment skills, I will do a much better job [of] funding, implementing and managing the projects I intended to work on.
What made EMLYON Business School, and France, attractive destinations?
I was looking for a good English-speaking MBA program in Europe.
EMLYON really appealed to me with its amazing entrepreneurial focus and global outreach, as well as the location of Lyon itself. I like the fact that it’s close to Geneva, Rome, Paris, Budapest [and] Frankfurt – in the heart of Europe.
My grandfather spoke perfect French and I grew up loving the language – and now I have a perfect opportunity to learn it.
You have some experience in project management. What challenges did you face in the solar energy sector?
I faced completely different challenges in my work in Europe and the US. The challenges in my home country Bulgaria were mostly due to the political decisions made by the government.
It was extremely difficult for me to feel confident in the stability of FIT rates and the accompanying legislation, which makes it nearly impossible to convince a foreign investor to enter the local market.
Today the market has recovered significantly after the events in 2012 and 2013, when a retro-active tax was introduced, taking an additional 20% off the PV solar profit margin; this legislation was revoked two months ago, but it is still extremely difficult to achieve stability and attract investors.
The other extreme was the US, where I was intensively looking for debt funding and stability, and legislation issues were not on the table. Pitching to venture capital funds in a highly competitive environment is hard and requires much more than technical skills – it requires the development of talent.
I am determined to master that art and draw a masterpiece one day.
What was it like working in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria is a very beautiful country. You can go skiing and two hours later you can enjoy the beautiful beach on the coast of the Black Sea. The economy has been in transition from communism to a free-market for the past 25 years, and today there are many opportunities to invest.
We have a lot of academic, cultural and financial input coming from all parts of the world. This changes things for the better, despite the slow speed. The government also helps by setting a flat-rate 10% tax on profits and incomes, which is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, on the European continent.
However, it is also a very culture-specific country, belonging to the group of the Balkan region, and foreign investors need local insight to operate effectively, otherwise they may end up discouraged.
Why did you setup BODD RENEWABLES Inc in 2011, and what success did you have with the company?
To me this was a natural step in my professional development. Upon completion of my undergraduate studies in 2007 I was entrusted with the management of a private investment in renewable energy.
It was my inherent and extremely strong entrepreneurial drive that made me leave for the US and set up my company in Florida in order to attract funding from US and Canadian funds, so that I could build my own solar PV power plant in Bulgaria.
I have never been happier in my life – I was pursuing the core of my being, following my passion to network, building relationships and engaging new partners.
Eventually I found the debt funding I needed, but I made the decision not to use it in my country and started researching the opportunity to build a solar PV power plant in New York, with a 50% state subsidy. The problem was that I had to wait for the next Senate session, and I didn’t have that much time, which contributed to my decision to invest in my academic and professional skills.
What can business school offer an entrepreneur?
A good business school gives entrepreneurs a huge upgrade in resources, skills and general business awareness. When you work with like-minded individuals from 22 countries and over a dozen industries for a year, 10 hours a day and sometimes more, you develop an entirely new mind-set. It helps you take a new perspective on your life and your plans for the future.
What career path do you hope to follow after your MBA, and are you confident business school was the right decision?
To me, the only value of money is in what I do with it, not how much of it I have. This is how I found renewable energy, which coincided with my affinity to technology and electrical engineering.
I will probably be looking to join a consultancy firm. I realize that there is quite a lot to learn, [but] I also have much to give.
My ultimate goal is to own [a] sufficient number of renewable energy power plants and use the revenues to help my ethnic community in Bulgaria [by] building a school and establishing a scholarship fund dedicated to sponsoring young people who are committed to making the best of themselves.
I already work with an NGO called Arete Youth Foundation, and the results are very encouraging and often exceed our expectations.