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.

Advocate for Policy Change

Advocate for Policy Change

The Western Balkans region advances over the years in terms of economic development and technological progression. North Macedonia and Serbia have been particularly successful in this regard. This development has been helped along in part by the expansion of the startup sector, which has seen a rise in the number of innovative companies that seek to innovate and disrupt more established industries.

However, despite this progress, the region still faces many challenges when it comes to fostering innovation and supporting the growth of startups. One of the key challenges is the lack of a supportive policy environment, which can make it difficult for startups to access the resources and support they need to succeed.

Policy advocacy refers to the process of influencing public policy to support innovation and the growth of start-ups. There are several key areas where policy advocacy can make a difference in terms of supporting innovation and start-ups in the Western Balkans. Governments may best keep up with market changes and demands by collaborating via expert working groups and ecosystem associations.

Additionally, policymakers can create a more conducive environment for innovation by providing tax incentives for investors, as well as supporting the development of incubators and accelerators to run start-up programs. Some economies in Western Balkans provide access to affordable capital and other resources for start-ups, as well as promote collaboration and networking within the start-up community.

Furthermore, policy advocacy can play a crucial role in raising awareness of the potential of innovation and start-ups to drive economic growth and development in the region. By highlighting the successes and potential of the start-up sector, policymakers can help to build support for policies that will enable innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive. Many good examples came from the top governments that put innovation and entrepreneurship on the high priority of their agenda.

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

  1. Working groups with field experts
  2. Education of policymakers on start-ups
  3. Comparative analysis
  4. Donor engagement
  5. Regional association of startup-related organisations

In conclusion, policy advocacy is an important tool for supporting innovation and start-ups in the Western Balkans. By working together with policymakers, investors, and other stakeholders, the region can create a more supportive environment for innovation and drive economic growth and development.