So many things are going on in August. You would think that people take their summer vacation, but I guess not in Macedonia…
Before the #BalkanChangeMakers‘ WKND, I decided to stop by the beautiful village of Velestovo, overlooking the dark blue water of Ohrid Lake and check out the second edition of StartQube.
StartQube is a summer camp for young entrepreneurs and startups that are interested to get the full-pack knowledge on how to develop a business idea into a business. I arrived just in time for the final ‘pitching’ day, to get to know all the participants and see what they have been working on it the past couple of days.
The lead organizers of this super cool summer camp are the same people organizing CodeFest and Codeference in Ohrid, from the newly established StartupZone. Eager to learn more about their current agenda and plans for the future, I went directly to one of the organizers:
“In only two years of its existence, StartQube went international in the sense of welcoming participants from all over the world, but also in the sense of the programme going out of Macedonia and being organized in parts of the world like Central Asia and South-East Europe through our partnership with American Councils. We expect this to grow further and our main aim is that more young people from different parts of the world will have the chance to go through this programme. The biggest challenge is always working with the “dream team” of mentors, that are sharing the same vision. Having the right people with the best skills to guide participants is one of the most important things that make StartQube so successful.” – said Stefan Glushica, Event Coordinator at STARTUP ZONE.
Several different nationalities gathered in one house to spend 5 days together of super intensive mentoring, inter-active domain presentations and discussions, pushing the participants to take their ideas to the next level – that is what StartQube is all about. But, how did they find out about this programme and why did they apply to participate:
“As a person with different interests I have started so many projects in my past. There was always something missing – a structure… The lack of structure prevented me to see through so many of my ideas and led me to feeling discontent and stop believing in my abilities. Strong foundation and an adequate business model is the root of a successful business and as a Chief Coworking Officer at Coworking Bansko. I acknowledged the need for me to understand the steps of building a startup from A-Z and think not only out of the box, but even further.” – said Irina Pandeva Chief Coworking Officer at Coworking Bansko.
The implementation of StartQube was supported by the SECO Entrepreneurship Program (SECO EP), a project supported by the Government of Switzerland and implemented by Swisscontact, together with J.E. Austin. SECO EP inserts quality mentors to support the organizers and to mentor the participants throughout the whole process. Very well recognized for his entrepreneurial work, but also for giving back to the community, I asked SECO EP expert Celik Nimani why he mentors and about his mentoring experience here:
“Mentoring is very important to me, especially because you get to share your ups and downs with other young entrepreneurs who’re looking into launching their own startup ventures, but could learn much faster through a mentor’s experience, in terms of how to avoid failure, when to scale, how to approach customers and much more. As an entrepreneur, who went through a lot, I feel that it’s important to give back because you can inspire others to take action, or share some of your “secret sauce” to success, which could lead to amazing things, especially in developing regions such as the Balkans. We need to have more active mentors, who have their own companies and are doing business, but who connect and get to know new founders, that are going through the startup waters. Of course there’s no such things as a short path to success, but mentoring is one of the steps that founders should take.
The experience with StartQube was really interesting. Initially there were some participants with prototypes, but most of them didn’t have any business idea yet. While going through the practical workshops on idea generation and validation, everyone took the courage to come up with new ideas that are not only local, but also tap into the global market and aim to solve a global problem, even from Macedonia. With a great combination of workshops and practice, and also a week long program up in the mountains of Ohrid where participants could connect with mentors, participants had the chance to learn a vast amount of topics from idea validation and scaling, to building products, raising funds and creating successful ventures. The compact program and the awesome organizing team from StartQube, in combination with the secluded venue, ensured a great experience for everyone, including the mentors, to think and tackle challenges at a practical level. I believe that StartQube would be an amazing experience for everyone that wants to be part of the startup movement, and I also think that entrepreneurs in Macedonia should be ready to jump in and help others towards this path.” – says Çelik Nimani , Founder of Digjitale.
You can feel the excitement in the room, minutes before the final pitches. The participants have also practiced their pitching skills, so it was a real pleasure to see them all, talking with passion about their future businesses. From 15 ideas presented and having everyone leaving home as winners, the actual favorite of mentors and audience alike was the mobile game for kids:
“So many valuable and important things were happening at StartQube, but through all those processes and workshops the highlight was – Focus on the positive, in all areas of work, in all stages of the startup processes. Be aware of your own core values, use them wisely and go forward. The next step is to use this newly gained knowledge, mentorship advises and support from our StartQube community of positive people. For our startup project mobile game Bukvi this means – use the feedback from our early adopters – friends, in the next 2-3 months to do an English version of the game and to validate it on the global market. Already our StartQube community is giving us a huge and concrete support in finding new supporters, users, clients, but also giving feedback about company branding process etc. We won’t stop here. This awards means that we are on a right track and that we need to work even harder from now on.” – said the winner of StartQube 2016, Dimitar Mitrov, Founder of Bukvi.
In a country/region where grassroots events are in demand needed, StartQube is an excellent example of how to raise awareness, strengthen the startup community and become competitive on a international scale. It was a real pleasure to meet everyone at this year’s StartQube. Make sure to mark it in your calendars – August 2017, the program and experience you don’t want to miss.
Story from a new community, coming soon on #StartUpSelfie.