The startup scene of Kosovo is a startup scene in development, with its ups and downs, and not a consistent development path.
The young country of the Balkans, which is often featured in the media because of political issues, is not often a place to be taken into consideration when you talk about the startup scene of Eastern Europe, but when you take a closer look, things are a bit different.
A GDP per capita of around $ 4,300 (Trading Economics), a population of 1.85 million inhabitants, which has the youngest average age in Europe, Kosovo is still considered one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an unemployment rate going above 40% and above 60% among the youth.
The educational system is still fragile and creates professionals with strong theoretical knowledge. There are professional and certified training institutions in different fields (we’re talking about the ICT market here) that tend to fill in the gaps between academia and company needs, however, they can only fill the market requirements by a margin.
The people of Kosovo have very strong knowledge of English and German, similar work culture to Western Europe and the US, and are very tech-savvy people. The outsourcing culture and business is growing rapidly, and many companies are showing up on a monthly basis, which is driving a new problem for the country of missing proffesionals.
Reading about successful startups from the US and Europe is something that we do every day from TechCrunch, Venturebeat, Recode, and more. But we don’t often have similar success stories from Kosovo.
I’ve been following the startup scene in Kosovo since 2007, and I remember the days when people won 10,000€ worth of grants for a stupid business plan of a water fountain. A couple of years later, people advanced to calling start-up weekend events, trade fairs. But from 2017-2018 and onwards the situation is different.
We have startups aiming and taking on global markets, true business angels, and also self-proclaimed ones. We do see self-declared experts, entrepreneur gurus, and others like everywhere else, but people are getting more literate and smarter in ideas.
Investment news around Gjirafa, European-level recognized companies by Deloitte like FRAKTON, franchise expansions in education like Digital School, are just some of the news that we get to see in the market of today.
Key actors in rising the spirit
Some key actors into bringing the scene where it is nowadays are organizations like The Association for information and technology and communication in Kosovo – STIKK, Innovation Centre Kosovo, IPKO Foundation, CEED Kosovo, etc.
Some people, who have been proceeding with the Kosovo Startup Scene, will leave behind them a great legacy, an impact so big that is beyond a startup/entrepreneurial culture, affecting even government organizations to keep up with the energy level of a startup community.
What is left with the tools and infrastructure set, is for the people to innovate and challenge the traditional mindset of grant hunting and remittances, and starting to take things to the next level.