From August 27-28 in Struga, Macedonia, #BalkanChangemakers’ Weekend gathered together sixteen participants representing Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and facilitators from the United States. It was organized as a grassroots effort jointly by – Nina Nikolikj, SECO EP Eco-system facilitator in Macedonia and BCW Lead Organizer, Armin Konjalić Armin Konjalić, Regional Director, East-West Digital News and BCW Lead Organizer, and Marilyn Harris, a recent graduate of Stanford University and BCW Lead Organizer. This event was supported by the SECO Entrepreneurship Program (SECO EP), a project that is supported by the Government of Switzerland and implemented by Swisscontact, together with J.E. Austin. The goal of this event was to identify ways to engage more people in entrepreneurship across the Southeast European region.
They discussed a series of regional problems, both for entrepreneurs and organizations. For entrepreneurs, some of these broader problems shared across the region included:
● Finding a co-founder who shares the same vision, possesses the skills the team needs, and is a good fit with the team’s culture.
● Getting the support necessary to scale a company in terms of mentorship, capital, developing internal processes, and managing the changes in micro-culture that come with this.
● Identifying partners to help enter into other regional and global markets.
● A lack of other businesses and initiatives that focus on enabling the Balkan market as a whole to support digital products
For the organizations which support entrepreneurs, including accelerators, incubators, hubs, co-working spaces, and other non-profit events or initiatives, problems also include:
● Sustainable financing models
● Regional and global partners to expand programming.
Participants for the weekend included representatives from SECO EP Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Oficina in Tirana, Albania; HUB385 in Zagreb, Croatia; Innovation Centre Kosovo and UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo in Prishtina, Kosovo; and StartUp Grind and StartUp Weekend in Skopje, StartUp Zone in Ohrid and Startup Macedonia. Also in attendance were startup community members including Vollo from Croatia, and Brainster from Macedonia.
The weekend was an important first-step in supporting cross-border collaboration and the team is excited to develop this initiative further in the coming months.
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