USAID Administrator Visits Founding Members of Western Balkan Startup Alliance

USAID Administrator Visits Founding Members of Western Balkan Startup Alliance

On May 10 & 11 2023, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, visited two leading innovation centers in the Western Balkans – the Innovation Centre Kosovo and the ICT Hub Belgrade – as part of his efforts to foster regional cooperation and support the growth of the technology sector in the region.

First, the Head of USAID visited ICT Hub Belgrade, where she interacted with leading tech entrepreneurs and startup founders. She commended the impressive growth of the Serbian tech ecosystem in recent years and expressed her commitment to supporting its further development. She also acknowledged the potential of the tech sector to drive economic growth and job creation, especially in post-conflict regions such as the Balkans.

During her visit to the Innovation Centre Kosovo, the Head of USAID praised the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the Kosovar youth and highlighted the importance of creating an enabling environment for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to thrive. She also lauded the efforts of USAID in providing funding and technical assistance to support the growth of the technology sector in Kosovo.

Overall, the visit was a testament to the importance of regional cooperation and the potential of the technology sector to drive innovation, economic growth, and social development. The Head of USAID expressed her confidence in the potential of the Western Balkans to become a leading hub for technology and innovation, and pledged USAID’s continued support for its growth and development.

Task ‘N Go | Made in Western Balkans

Task 'N Go | Made in Western Balkans

TASK ‘N GO participates in Ecosystem Cafe Webinar

Starting a business is not easy, especially when you operate from a region that faces significant challenges in the global business landscape. The Balkans region is widely known for its unique culture and history, but it also poses a number of obstacles when it comes to developing and running a startup.

Recently, it was our pleasure to attend a panel discussion hosted by the Western Balkans Startup Alliance, which brought together CEOs and Co-Founders of startups from various Balkan countries to discuss their experiences and challenges they have faced along the way. During the discussion, we had the opportunity to showcase our product Task ‘N Go and speak with A2CNN moderator, Anxhelo Haruni about what we have been working on for the past two years.Together with two other teams from the Western Balkans, we talked about our journey as a startup from this region and shared our insights and current projects we are working on vwithin Task ‘N Go. It was also our pleasure to hear and learn from the other startups about their strategies for overcoming their own unique challenges in various fields.

What we highlighted as the biggest challenge that startups in the Western Balkans face, is limited access to funding. insufficient seed capital and an unstable business environment make investors hesitant to support startups, forcing them to bootstrap and rely solely on their revenue streams to survive.Another challenge is the absence of a supportive ecosystem. A supportive ecosystem is a vital element for any startup to succeed, but the region lacks the necessary resources and support for startups to set up and grow their businesses.

The panel not only provided valuable insights, but it also gave us the opportunity to establish relationships with the other startups. Through this panel discussion, we were able to share our journey and mission with like-minded entrepreneurs from the region.

We express our gratitude towards the Western Balkans Startup Alliance and moderator Anxhelo Harruni, for putting together such a panel. The pleasant atmosphere created an environment for learning and networking, and we look forward to future events like this, providing further opportunities for us to connect, learn and grow our businesses.

Learn more about the company and their ambitious plan at https://taskngo.me. 

European Innovation Academy Porto, Portugal JULY 16 – AUGUST 4, 2023

European Innovation Academy Porto, Portugal JULY 16 - AUGUST 4, 2023

Call for young professionals, students and recent graduates from the Western Balkans!

Do you want to start a new, innovative project/business and learn about the most recent developments in entrepreneurship?

Are you a national of the Western Balkans and currently residing there?

Do you have a good level of English?

Are you 18 to 25?

We are looking for you!

Start your career journey with one of the world’s leading entrepreneurship summer programs for students –  European Innovation Academy (EIA) in Porto, Portugal, from July 16 to August 4, 2023. Find out more about the program here.

OSCE

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) offers 30 full-paid scholarships to students, young professionals, and start-uppers from the Western Balkans. Selected finalists will be immersed in a multicultural ecosystem with professionals and mentors from the world’s top institutions, including business leaders from the US, Europe, and Asia, that will help talents emerge and make a difference.

This initiative is an integral component of the engagement of the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) in the field of human capital development, in line with the OSCE mandate and commitments.

For further information, please contact the closest OSCE Field Operation or the local branch office of RYCO or send an email to YDEAS@osce.org.

APPLY HERE

FAQ

Applications are open from April 18 to May 7, 2023 (23:59 CET). 

The scholarship covers the tuition fee of 1699 EUR (including the 15-day program, mentorship, speaker sessions, tools, networking events, 6 ECTS, etc.), traveling, and accommodation costs. Female candidates are encouraged to apply –  50% of places are reserved for them.

To apply, candidates must fill in the EIA registration form and submit their CV and a video pitch of their business idea of not more than 3 minutes in English. Preference will be accorded to ideas for socially and environmentally impactful businesses, particularly in the field of employment/training, sustainable transport, sustainable tourism, waste management, energy, sustainable agriculture, and pollution reduction.

The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. The OSCE works for stability, peace, and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that makes a lasting difference. You can read more about OSCE HERE.

The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), established on 4 July 2016, is an independently functioning institutional mechanism, aiming to promote the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the youth in the Western Balkans’ region through youth exchange programs. You can read more about RYCO HERE.

Support startups growing internationally

Support startups growing internationally

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.

Facilitate the engagement of corporates in innovation processes

Facilitate the Engagement of Corporates in Innovation Processes

In recent years, Western Balkans as a region has witnessed significant progress in terms of economic development and technological improvement. This growth has been visible across the region. This growth has been fostered in part by the private sector, as companies in the region have attempted to adapt to the changing global market. Nevertheless, Western Balkans Startup Council sees the potential for WB start-up ecosystems to boost huge and conventional economic sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, energy, and public infrastructure and services.

One of the key drivers of corporate innovation in the Western Balkans has been the growth of the tech sector. In particular, the region has seen an increase in the development of software and IT services, as well as the emergence of new startups and other ecosystem actors.

Another factor contributing to corporate innovation in the Western Balkans has been the increasing globalisation of the economy. As the region has become more integrated with the global market, companies have had to adapt to new technologies and business models to remain competitive. Young entrepreneurs can provide established companies with the agility and innovation corporate needs to remain competitive and succeed.

The Western Balkans has also seen the growth of government initiatives and programs aimed at supporting innovation. For example, several economies in the region have established innovation agencies or other organizations that provide funding and support for startups and other innovative companies. This support has helped to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and has contributed to the growth of the tech sector in the region. It has also led to the adoption of new approaches to innovation, such as open innovation and collaboration of incubators/accelerators with corporations, to stay ahead of the curve. The same programs for supporting startup growth should include representatives from the corporate sector. Corporate representatives may give technical and regulatory mentorship to start-ups and support their integration into the corporate environment.

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

  1. Mapping Corporations and SMEs

Mapping the corporates, who have the greatest need and are predisposed to support us / whom can we lean on first to create examples of success.

  1. Presenting conceptual thinking to a select few CEOs and seeking their active support in structuring the concept
  2. Creating awareness for corporate benefits of an engagement (CSR / Productivity, New Markets, Overall Competitiveness, Attractiveness as a modern employer)
  3. Committing initial CEO support to assist your organisations within their peer communities (and thus helping engage their peers)
  4. Devising the program structure, from light to full engagement

Overall, over the past few years, the Western Balkans economies have made great progress in spreading awareness and increasing the engagement of the corporates in the entrepreneurial ecosystems. In the upcoming years, there will be more innovative startups in the region that will address global needs and a stronger ecosystem to follow up on their growth.