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Ivan Kovachev for Forbes Bulgaria: Capitalized Experience

In 2021, three Bulgarians were honoured in Forbes’ European “30 Under 30” list. Two of the names came from the arts sector—actress Maria Bakalova and designer Ema Shopova. The third name, likely unknown to many outside the financial sphere, is Ivan Kovachev. He and his partner, Lissele Pratt, were recognised for their vision in founding and expanding the London-based consulting firm Capitalixe.

Around 70-75% of Capitalixe‘s client base comes from Europe, but there are also clients from North America and Asia. Kovachev’s story begins in Plovdiv, where he spent his early childhood years until his family decided to move to the UK when he was just five years old. Although they were forced to return after their initial one-year visa expired, the family got another chance to move again and never looked back.

Kovachev completed economics in Bristol, which “opened his eyes to the world of finance, banking, and payment methods.” After graduating, he began climbing the corporate ladder in finance, where he met his business partner, Lissele Pratt.

Despite the development of his career, Kovachev retained his parents’ mindset—if you want something, go and grab it. “The idea of having my own business was always in my mind, but the question was how to do it,” says Kovachev. Pratt completely shares his entrepreneurial spirit—she founded her first business at just 16 years old.

Thus, in March 2019, Capitalixe was born—a consulting firm that partners with a global network of leading financial service providers to serve the needs of companies even in the highest-risk sectors of the economy. From their previous experience, both noticed that many companies struggle to find some basic financial services. For example, firms from emerging segments, like the cryptocurrency trading sector, often have trouble in their dealings with traditional banks, who do not feel confident working with them due to the lack of developed legislation in the area.

The company’s business model provides that the service is completely free for the clients, and revenues come from the partners to whom Capitalixe directs new users. “This way, our interests align with those of the client… We have to make sure that the services we offer are right for them, because otherwise, we won’t have any revenue,” explains Kovachev.

Because of this, the first step for the two entrepreneurs is to build a network of suitable partners. “The first six to nine months involved building partnerships, connecting with all these companies, a lot of documentation, agreements, and negotiations,” recalls Kovachev.

Starting work with clients, the two quickly find that their career paths have shaped complementary competencies. Praat takes on the initial contact with potential clients and generates business, while Kovachev takes care of the subsequent contact with clients and ensuring a positive outcome.

From the start of working with clients, about a year goes by before Capitalixe finds traction. Things for the company become more serious after making it into Forbes’ European “30 Under 30” list.

Today, Capitalixe already has around 60-65 active clients who often show interest in using new services. In this way, the company recorded nearly 600,000 British pounds in revenue for the past 2021, and this year expects to exceed the 1 million pound mark.

Meanwhile, thanks to their strategy of keeping operational expenses low, Capitalixe has been profitable from the outset. The pandemic scuppered the company’s idea of renting an office, reaffirming plans to utilise freelance workers regardless of their location.

Although the team is not very large at the moment, rapid growth is not on the agenda. “I believe that the quality of work we do has a huge impact on the growth of our business,” shares Kovachev. That’s why the company plans to grow at rates that allow the training of each new employee to a level that matches Capitalixe’s reputation.

Looking ahead, the company plans to continue expanding its network of partners, which currently number over 70, and to integrate any new technology that would add value for the clients. Among the main challenges are regulatory uncertainty in some newer segments like blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies, and how the risk appetite of Capitalixe’s partners will change over time.

And if there’s one piece of advice Kovachev wants to share with everyone who is contemplating starting their own business, it would be “don’t rush.” It’s not necessary to have significant start-up capital, but what is always beneficial is experience in the relevant industry and accumulated knowledge, which saves a lot of headaches down the line.



Article in Forbes Bulgaria (translated from Bulgarian).

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