When you think of Macedonia, there’re not many startups that might come to your mind. But behind the estimated €500 million in statues, buildings, museums and facades for Skopje 2014, there actually quite some action going on.
A couple of days ago we reported about the first VC investment in the Macedonian startup Letz by South Central Ventures, and a while back we talked about u:Plug, one of the first hardware startups in Macedonia.
There are even more impressive startups like iVote, which is responsible for the tech solutions behind many of the elections in the Balkans. There is also a Government Fund called “Fund of Innovation”, which has invested 1.3 million euros in 33 companies in Macedonia since it’s establishment in 2015.
And now, the startup community of Macedonia is pushing for another move – Startup Macedonia. Startup Macedonia is an Association created by a group of Macedonian startup enthusiasts, experts, investors, accelerators, and organizations in Macedonia, with the ultimate goal in mind to encourage and help create a suitable and creative work environment for startups in Macedonia.
As Brad Feld put it, Startup Communities are up to the entrepreneurs and that’s exactly what the startup community in Macedonia is doing, especially running towards it after being slapped with reality by Franck Noyrigat, co-founder of Startup Weekend (later acquired by Techstars) who was in Macedonia earlier this year on a startup ecosystem tour around the country.
We sat down with Eva Piperevska, one of the co-founders of Startup Macedonia to talk more about the story behind Startup Macedonia.
What do you think about the Startup Scene of Macedonia?
I think that the Macedonian startup scene has developed strongly in the past two years. We can now see successful exits from Macedonian startups, investments from VCs, a lot of events, meetups, acceleration and pre-acceleration programs, tech and startup academies boosting the entrepreneurial spirit in the young minds in Macedonia. Of course, we are still behind the regional startup ecosystems like Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania but with all the activities happening currently I see huge potential in growing as an ecosystem.
In other words, I see the Macedonian startup ecosystem as a startup itself. It had gone through a lot of pivots, a lot of team members left and new ones join in, we did receive opportunities for funding for startups and projects supporting entrepreneurship, so we have now left the MVP stage and we are heading in a good direction.
What is the potential of the founders/entrepreneurs in Macedonia?
In Macedonia, we have huge potential when it comes to IT professionals, which is an awesome opportunity for foreign startup founders seeking tech co-founders. But the Macedonian entrepreneurial mindset is still under development and I think that we all need to work together to create an environment where young people can taste the startup magic and all the good and the bad that comes with it.
What is Startup Macedonia, how did it come to life?
Initially two months ago around 20 people from organizations and startups in Macedonia as well as startup enthusiasts sat together to talk about the problems our community and ecosystem are facing and how we can work all together to make the ecosystem even stronger as well as to help Macedonian startups in any possible. On our second meeting we all came to an agreement that we need to join forces in one organization and that is how Startup Macedonia came to life…
Startup Macedonia is an Association created by a group of Macedonian startup enthusiasts, experts, investors, accelerators, and organizations, who have one common goal: to connect the Macedonian startup community, encourage and help create a suitable and creative work environment for startups in Macedonia. Startup Macedonia’s main objective is to map the startup ecosystem and connect all its members into one place where they can collaborate together so they can achieve their goals.
How does it operate and how will it benefit to the ecosystem
We are still in the initial stage of development. The association was registered as a legal entity only one month ago and we are currently working on the organizational structure and the details which will include the main operations that will be done by the association.
We see Startup Macedonia as a key point for information and connection between all the members in the startup ecosystem in Macedonia (startups, organizations, institutions, government, foreign projects, and organizations, students, and Macedonian companies). Startup Macedonia will map all the members of the Macedonian startup ecosystem into one database giving a real picture of the current situation of the ecosystem and creating an opportunity for collaborations, easier access to help, general support possibilities and much more.
By now we have had more that 6 meeting where we discussed different events, support, projects in development and current stage of the association’s operations.But we have a lot of work in the next months to come – from keeping the community together, informing them, creating buzz, mapping and giving support and assistance where it is necessary to present the general goals and activities to the general public in October this year.
What’s the goal?
We dream to become an association which is recognized by all the startup community as a valid partner with which they can collaborate, work unitedly and bring contribution to achieving the common goals of each member of the community. We would love to have global recognition of the great potential that the Macedonian startup community has and to change the world through innovation.
In terms of the region, where do you think Balkan is currently and what are the next steps?
In general, I think that now regionally it is THE time for startup ecosystems like Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro etc to shine and show to the region that we have as much startup magic as other regional startup ecosystems have. From these ecosystems I expect awesome startup success stories, mutual collaboration for market growth, learning from each other and growing together.
The Balkan itself has a lot to offer to the world startup scene from extraordinary tech minds, to super cool products and successful businesses. Having more successful stories will boost the youth towards the entrepreneurial mindset, and with that, we’ll get more Balkan startup magic for sure.
What about Eva, what’s next?
I recently left GSIX – the company I came to work for in Macedonia and the team which introduce me to the startup world. I’m now working on something new, but can’t say much because it’s still in development. I’ll share some exciting stuff soon.
I am still involved with Startup Macedonia and I’m helping the lead organizers of Startup Weekend Skopje, mentoring two startups in Macedonia and supporting the ecosystem as much as I can.