Startup Balkans

BH Founders network—a community of diaspora and local entrepreneurs

BH Founders Network is a community of peers focussed on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The network aims to gather entrepreneurs from the country and diaspora to collaborate and help each other.

During her visit to her homeland in summer 2019, Adna Pekmezović realized that she could start something extraordinary—a network that would connect entrepreneurs and startups from Bosnia and Herzegovina with their peers and fellow citizens who moved away from the country.

As an investor actively involved in the New York startup scene, Adna knew plenty of people similar to her who would enjoy connecting to communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, sharing knowledge, giving back, and helping out. During her visit to Sarajevo, Adna talked to numerous startup founders, entrepreneurs, and organizations that support startups. While validating her idea about connecting local and diaspora startup communities, Adna made another observation: communities and entrepreneurs within the country should be more connected to one another.

The first step in creating a global BH founders network was to get support from the ground. This is where my role in this story starts. As someone who is well-connected in the local startup community, I was a perfect fit to engage local entrepreneurs with the global BH Founders network.

In November 2019, BH Founders Network started operating as an informal Slack channel. The community grew, and in less than six months, it counted over 100 members from all over the world.

The global COVID-19 pandemic impacted BH Founders Network’s plans for expansion. But at the same time, it exposed the genuine value of such a community: much-needed support and advisory in the time of crisis. As a result, the Slack community became a lively place where people could learn, exchange knowledge, find partners and co-founders, get feedback about their startup idea, and even find employment or new team members.

After growing the community and expanding the BH Founders Network for over a year, Adna and I were ready to start new activities. With an extensive requirement for knowledge and learning opportunities inside the community, we decided to create educational programs. So, with the support of seasoned Swiss EP experts, we started Founders Circle.

Founders Circle is an initiative inside BH Founders Network. It enables tech founders to take their ventures to the next level. With a mixture of online masterclasses and one-on-one sessions, Founders Circle aims to help entrepreneurs build up their capacities and scale their businesses.

Working with established Swiss EP experts such as Yehuda Binder, Peter Bruner, Howard Kingston, and Crystal Hendrickson, the group expanded their knowledge in broad areas from patent law and growth hacking to pitching and team management. During six different workshops, 73 people learned new skills and improved their knowledge.

I had the chance to be a part of the Founder Circle program and the privilege to meet and listen to Howard, Peter, and Crystal. I liked how these workshops have been conducted over 3 weeks—it gave me a chance to practice what I have learned and improve on it with extra knowledge from the next workshop. This experience provided me with great advice and presented the topics well with many opportunities to interact and ask questions. It was brilliant!

Ena Kapetanović, Founder and CEO of Arq Labs

Prominent individuals with no other intentions but to give back to the community, share knowledge, foster the learning process, and facilitate extensive networking can do wonders for a startup community. As we can see in this example of Adna Pekmezović and the BH Founders Network, with direction, leadership and generosity, Bosnia and Herzegovina finally took the opportunity to develop the vibrant international community it deserves, with plenty of exciting and valuable activities to boost startup performance.

Ivana Sabo