Someone mentioned digital nomads? I still hear an echo in my head saying “Bring digital nomads to Macedonia” (Franck‘s voice). Through the SECO Entrepreneurship Programme, implemented by Swisscontact, as an eco-system facilitator, he spent 2 weeks in the country working with the key actors. Soon as we went to Ohrid, he was saying that we should make this city “our Startup Chile“. In his country report, Franck highlights that: The country could be extremely attractive to digital nomads and international entrepreneurs due to a low cost of living associated with high quality commodities! Even though, now we are talking about Ohrid, if interested in starting a business here, more info about opportunities you can find in the very well presented Skopje Startup Guide on StartUs. Or get in touch with me, I’ll be happy to help 🙂
While in Ohrid, for the CodeFest 2016 weekend, as I was enjoying my cup of coffee on a very warm spring day I realized that my next guest could be a perfect representative of digtal nomads. I’m talking to the other co-founder and co-organizer of Codeference and Codefest. Meet William S. Y. Asiama Nyako a young entrepreneur from Ghana, but living in Ohrid. Let’s learn more about how his story started:
“That’s right, I’m originally Ghanaian but more of a multinational than anything else these days. I’ve lived here in Ohrid, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, including Ghana. Codefest started back in February 2013 as an idea hatched between my startup co-founders, Jasna and Aleksandar. I’m the kind of person who likes to be there at the beginning of a story, and making it into a ‘success’ story. I’ve been lucky enough to help bring some of these moments myself and to also guide individuals to the point where they know how to catch the right timing and make their own luck. I’m happy that my story started developing and growing here. Ohrid is a beautiful city, the natural scenery coupled with the friendly people makes it an ideal place to live and work in.
I’ve lived here for almost 6 years now and still appreciate it almost daily. The beauty is that is a touristic town, which makes it ideal for settling into as foreign citizen. Most of the locals of the town speak enough English and everyone is really welcoming. Ohrid is also uniquely positioned for living as a digital nomad. The main resources that are needed are internet, utilities and living space. Ohrid caters to all of these in a good way while at the same time being attractive as a town. I know I’m starting to sound like a tourist agent but think about it, why live and work in Skopje, or any other big city, when you have all that you need from Ohrid and the other towns of Macedonia? Once the decentralization process has begun, I’m sure many other digital nomads and founders of startups will pick other cities over Skopje.” – says William.
And now I am thinking of relocating, at least for a month. Even though I’m so used to living in Skopje, because it is convenient and everything work related for me is here. But, when you feel like the city is suffocating you a little, better grab your bag and switch the Ohrid mode on. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Skopje, that’s my hometown, but I appreciate taking some time off from this life-long relationship with my home city. That’s why I can completely agree with William that Ohrid is probably the best city for digital nomads and international entrepreneurs. What are his thoughts on why not to choose the capital city in this occasion and his opinion on the current eco-system:
“I believe in decentralizing whenever it’s possible to do that. Macedonia, like many other countries, suffers from the centralization of all major resources into the capital city – Skopje. This causes a knock on effect of pulling everyone (and everything) to the capital city – a vicious cycle that should eventually be broken if Macedonia and its regions are to develop on an equal basis. This is also relevant for building a strong ecosystem as we are attempting to do with Codefest and all our other events. This is part of the reason that we’ve made Ohrid into our city of preference for almost all the events that we do. In our opinion, there’s no need to bring an event such as ours to Skopje, it would end up joining all the other events that already cater to the startup ecosystem there. Rather, we’re attempting to bring startup founders to Ohrid and show them that they can take advantage of the benefits such as the relatively low costs of living while living in a great town. This brings me to the point of national and international founders of startups. It’s been over stated but the internet is really changing the landscape of getting access to resources such as experience, co-founders or investment.
These days there’s really no reason for people to rush to the startup “Mecca’s” such as San Francisco, London or Berlin. You might want to reach out to them and visit them, but there is no need to relocate. It’s not that hard to get access to an investor or co-founders online, many online communities exist for exactly such things. Thus one could easily function and develop a product without living in a ‘bona fide’ startup community. Once you have a product that’s ready for launch, the right people will reach out to you. So the question is, why take on the high cash burn rate and the task of living in a startup hotspot where there are multiple other startups surrounding you? You can get access to almost all the same resources and much less heartache without living in New York. It’s true that there might be more investors and networking opportunities there, but I’d argue that a founder can get effective access to these resources online, and make up for the rest by attending networking opportunities such as conferences globally.”- adds William.
There’s nothing left to add to this, except that we both invite all ‘curious about the Balkans’ digital nomads to come and explore the beauty of Ohrid and join the startup community there. It was a real pleasure sharing William’s story and looking into his perspective on the perks of being a digital nomad in Ohrid, even though after 6 years here, he is a local now 🙂 For anyone that is waiting for an opportunity or invitation, get excited for September because StartQube part 2 is in the works. Who’s interested to join, don’t hesitate to get in touch and see you in Ohrid once again in the last days of summer 2016.
Soon stories on #StartUpSelfie from another city and another startup community explored! Stay tuned 🙂