Support startups growing internationally

In recent years, startup companies started to expand and be noted in other markets besides Western Balkans. Some of them have been recognized as unicorns and stood as an inspiration to other entrepreneurs. However, many startups struggle to achieve the scale and growth they need to succeed within their own borders.

One of the key challenges facing startups in the Western Balkans is the limited size of the domestic market. With a population of around 18 million people, the region is relatively small compared to more mature markets, such as the US and Europe.  To overcome this challenge, many Western Balkan startups are looking to expand into international markets. This can provide them with access to larger and more diverse customer bases, as well as new opportunities for growth and development. However, expanding into international markets is not without its challenges, and requires careful planning and execution.

One of the key challenges facing Western Balkan startups when it comes to market expansion is the lack of experience and knowledge of foreign markets. Unlike more established companies, startups may not have the resources or expertise to navigate the complexities of international markets, such as differing regulations and cultural differences. As a result, they may need to seek out external support and guidance to succeed.

Another challenge is the lack of access to networks and connections in foreign markets. Unlike more mature markets, where startups can tap into established networks of investors, customers, and partners, the western Balkans may not have the same level of access. This can make it difficult for startups to establish relationships and partnerships in foreign markets and can hinder their ability to expand. Members of the Western Balkans Startup Council proposed the following solutions to this problem in the document Policy recommendations: Building a notion on the idea of reciprocity (hubs); providing support for a soft landing; having projects cover the costs of a participant’s international travel.

There are many opportunities for Western Balkan startups to grow and succeed internationally. By leveraging their strengths, such as their innovative technologies and entrepreneurial spirit, and seeking out support and guidance from incubators/accelerators, startups in the region can expand into new markets and drive their own growth and development.

Enable early-stage funding access to startups

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Policy recommendations from the Western Balkans Startup Council address key challenges, offer guidance and suggest actions all connected to funding early-stage startups.

One of the most significant challenges for Western Balkan start-ups is the scarcity of seed capital. For many start-ups, getting the initial funding they need to develop and launch their product could be a significant challenge. This could be a severe barrier to growth, preventing some startups from getting off the ground.

Another challenge that Western Balkan start-ups face is a lack of assistance and mentoring. In comparison to more developed start-up ecosystems, the region lacks a strong network of experienced entrepreneurs who can give direction and assistance to young startup entrepreneurs. Without proper guidance, it can be challenging for new entrepreneurs to navigate the early phases of their growth and gain access to the resources they need to expand and prosper.

Nevertheless, there are many possibilities accessible for Western Balkan entrepreneurs seeking early-stage funding. One alternative is to seek grants or other types of funding assistance from government agencies and other groups.

Start-up founders seek out angel investors and venture capital firms to provide alternative funding. Countries in the Western Balkans are becoming a hotspot for a growing number of investors ready to invest their capital and expertise in emerging ventures. Additionally, there is an increasing number of incubators and accelerators in the region with a set of support programs and activities to provide funding and guidance to entrepreneurs which is a great source of funding for new enterprises. Crowdfunding is an option for additional funding for Western Balkan startups to showcase the startup’s product to a great audience of possible investors.

Furthermore, members of the Western Balkans Startup Council in the Policy recommendation paper proposed actions for this section:

  1. Prioritise Business angel activities.  Additional actions include:

·     Quality Angel Groups Supported by Government Funding Programs

·      Pre-Seed Grant Funding Through Angel Groups

·      Sidecar Fund to Amplify Angel Investment

  1. Introduction of tax benefits for companies or investor investment into start-ups, innovation, and R&D
  2. Co-investment fund
  3. Convertible loan
  4. Continuous support of the programs for start-ups. Additional actions include:

·    Use a funding program to support two quality Seed Accelerators

·    Funding Requirements and Structure

In conclusion, the Western Balkans faces significant challenges when it comes to early-stage funding for start-ups. However, there are also signs of progress, and with continued support from the government, investors, and other stakeholders, we can expect to see more growth and development in the start-up ecosystem in the future.