Last week, our portfolio company LucidLink officially announced its $75M Series C funding round, the biggest funding round for Bulgaria’s tech ecosystem

Image credit: LucidLink

Last week, our portfolio company LucidLink officially announced its $75M Series C funding round, the biggest funding round for Bulgaria’s tech ecosystem in 2023 and one of the largest rounds in CEE. Enabling the creative industries to collaborate remotely on large data files, LucidLink has achieved nearly 5x ARR growth and over 4x user growth, over the past two years, while maintaining excellent operational performance.

BrightCap Ventures has been supporting LucidLink since 2018 when we participated in the company’s seed round together with Baseline Ventures. We sat down with our Managing Partner Elina Halatcheva to discuss what our partners saw in LucidLink all those years ago, why we continued to support the company through difficult times, and what this milestone means for the Bulgarian startup ecosystem.

BrightCap team & Lucidlink
The early days. BrightCap Partners with George Dochev in 2018. Photo credit: Nadejda Chipeva

Being one of the very first investors, what were the key factors or qualities in LucidLink that initially attracted BrightCap Ventures to invest in LucidLink?

As all investors do, we analyzed the 3 main pillars – the team, the product, and the market.

The founding team was a very strong combination of a technical person, George Dochev, and a business-oriented, strategic executive, Peter Thompson. We had two founders with complementary skills and on top of that, they had known each other for a while, having worked together at DataCore, another software defined data storage company. Overall, we thought this was a winning duo with the right (and relevant) background that had also proven itself as a united and harmonious team. We also found common connections with George who gave great references.

As for the product, we performed some technical due diligence. We had Georgi Mitov, our technical ex-founder, and another external expert dig deeper to better understand the technology. We identified it as a unique product that we believed had the potential to become a category-defining solution.

The market for storage and collaboration was obviously a huge opportunity, even though at the time when we invested, the company still didn’t have its product market fit. With Covid-19, teams became more distributed as people started working from home and this accelerated the need for a suitable collaboration tool, especially for large data files, where other solutions were lacking.

Finally, LucidLink fit perfectly with our investment thesis of ‘Global Founders. Local Engineers.’ The company is based in the US but the R&D team is in Bulgaria. There are now about 120 employees and around half of them are based in Sofia, allowing the company to leverage the local talent and grow efficiently.

Could you discuss some of the hardships LucidLink encountered and what motivated BrightCap Ventures to continue supporting them through these tough times?

We first invested in LucidLink in 2018, together with Baseline Ventures, Instagram’s first investor, and other prominent US VCs. At that time, the team was still trying to discover their product-market fit, there were so many possible use cases. When LucidLink had to fundraise again, other investors were concerned that the company was not showing the growth metrics they were looking for and decided not to participate in the new round. BrightCap, together with Baseline, though, chose to stand behind the founders and support them in their continued exploration.

We all have entrepreneurial background within our team and we know that it’s not a straight line to success. As long as we trust the founders and their vision, we like to keep our hand extended and act as their partners.

George Dochev says: “At the onset of the pandemic, while most investors ran for cover, they (BrightCap) demonstrated true leadership and grit through a follow-on investment. This allowed us to not only survive these challenging times but ultimately thrive.”

In what ways has BrightCap Ventures contributed to the growth and success of LucidLink?

We have already backed LucidLink financially with capital four times, including during their Series B round, which is outside our traditional stage focus, but we wanted to extend our support as far as possible.

We have also helped LucidLink with talent recruitment. We’ve referred about 10 people already – people we’ve worked together with in the past or people from our network, which we knew could be a good fit, e.g., senior engineering directors, engineering managers, product managers, HR, marketing experts.

We’ve helped with commercial introductions as much as we could, introducing the company to a few potential customers.

We’ve supported the team with fundraising efforts – our internal database counts over 400 VCs from all over the world. In the first rounds, we put LucidLink in touch with several US-based VCs, which even though didn’t invest back then, provided very valuable feedback. Before the latest Series C round, for example, we were contacted by a dozen multibillion-dollar VC funds – so we had discussions with them, filtering through before making introductions to LucidLink.

And finally, of course the assistance with media coverage in Bulgaria. We’ve coordinated news announcements and interviews with The Recursive, Forbes, Capital, and others over the years. This brings visibility to the company and the ecosystem, overall, and helps with talent recruitment.

Celebrating LucidLink’s new Sofia office. Dimitar Korsakov, Elina Halatcheva, George Dochev, Daniel Lorer, Diana Stefanova & Georgi Mitov

The recent $75M Series C funding round is a significant milestone for LucidLink. What does this achievement mean for BrightCap?

Obviously, it’s a great result for our fund because we can show our LPs the types of companies we can pick. It also validates our thesis of “Global founders. Local engineers”.

We are very proud that a Bulgarian-powered company has become a global leader and a category-setter, working with brands everyone knows – Spotify, Adobe, A&E Networks, Paramount, Whirlpool, BuzzFeed, Shopify – nowadays, not only in media and entertainment but also in other verticals LucidLink is expanding to, like architectural firms, retail brands, gaming studios.

BrightCap’s Elina Halatcheva with LucidLink cofounders Peter Thompson and George Dochev, Headline’s Conrad Chu and Board Member & former Citrix CEO Mark Templeton

How do LucidLink’s success and this recent funding round reflect on the Bulgarian tech ecosystem?

Firstly, I think foreign investors will start hearing more about the region. Secondly, thanks to this round, new job opportunities will be created for the local economy (and I think LucidLink is a great place to work at).

In the longer term, success stories like this will fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in our region and inspire more people to start or join startups with global ambitions. We believe this can have a profound effect on the Bulgarian tech ecosystem and positively influence our overall economic growth.

Looking towards the future, what do you expect from LucidLink in terms of growth, innovation, and market impact?

We expect them to continue growing : ) With the new funding, they will be looking to further expand geographically and also into other verticals besides media and entertainment – gaming, consumer brands, ad agencies, construction – basically, any big company that has a big marketing department that works with large data files.