Several days ago I was headed to Zagreb, Croatia with a group of friends and startup enthusiasts from my hometown. We were super excited for the Balkan Venture Forum and also eager to see who will win at the Pioneers of the Balkans grand finale. Before I tell you more about the “next big things” coming from this region aka the winners, let’s find out more about the whole program. To some extent we talked about it with Jürgen and now I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss with another member of the Pioneers family.
On their first visit to Skopje, this August, I had the pleasure to meet Marius Starcke – Managing Director at Pioneers Discover. On their second visit, I wanted to know more about the concept behind the Pioneers of the Balkans program and what this means for the region.
“It is a pilot project supported by the World Bank Group Investment Readiness Program, financed by the European Commission under the Western Balkans Enterprise and Development Facility and it comes from the need of helping entrepreneurs further develop their startups. The whole #PioneersOfTheBalkans program started with a call for applications and a roadshow through 14 cities in 8 countries of South-Eastern Europe. By the deadline, 584 teams from across the region applied and in the next phase all accepted teams were offered comprehensive training resources in collaboration with Startup Live, the University of Texas at Austin and other collaborators. In parallel to Belgrade Venture Forum on 12-14 November, all Semi-finalists pitched to interdisciplinary jury teams to secure their spot among only 50 finalists. In Zagreb the finalists are having the opportunity to meet the region‘s leading influencers, media and corporate representatives and pitch to regional and international investors. Also by the end of the whole program the main focus is that three early-stage venture capital funds have already committed to investing in the most promising teams represented in the Finals” – explained Marius.
Since he is actively involved in the whole process and has been working with most of the startups throughout the program, I was interested to hear his opinion about the entrepreneurs and startups coming from this region.
“My first realization is that there is a significant uplift in the Macedonian and Kosovo startup community. I was positively surprised by the level of intensity and quality coming from here. But I’ve also noticed one thing, that most of the Balkan startups have in common, that is the problem with exiting. The lack of exposure and pitching experience can often be a pitfall. Even though the English is on a good level over here, founders do not necessarily need to be the ones that will pitch. As an advice, choose someone from your team with great English, that is confident in public speaking and how to tell the story to an international audience. One more thing very important for startups from this region is networking. Find your own healthy balance and make sure that everybody in the team is part of the companies DNA. In that way you can make sure to leave the networking part to the “hustler” and leave all events, conferences, etc to that person… But always remember that many things are possible when you network and speak with other entrepreneurs… and then reflect!” – adds Marius.
We met with Marius once again in Zagreb, for the grand finale and as promised here are the winners of the first ever Pioneers of the Balkans program:
Batch 1 “Business & Productivity Early Stage” – IndiKnow
Batch 2 “Lifestyle & Entertainment Early Stage” – EuroPATC (wearable for autistic children)
Batch 3 “Life Science & Energy” – Dental Bio Sciences
Batch 4 “Business & Productivity – Growth Stage” – Supracontrol
Batch 5 “Environment” – Contra Ignis Gel Team Cacak (“CI Gel”)
Batch 6 “Mobility & Transportation” – Sail Router
Batch 7 “Lifestyle & Entertainment Growth Stage” – BOYA crayons
You can check out more information here
See you in Vienna 🙂
Till then, subscribe to the blog and find out who will be featured next…