Startup Balkans

Connectedness on three levels

Have you ever wonder how interconnected are startup communities in your town? Here are conclusions made based on the interviews we did a year ago.

In his book “The Startup Community Way” Brad Feld clarifies that the best startup communities are interconnected with other startup communities. By sharing experiences, ideas and resources with other startup communities active in other geographical places, your startup community is strengthened. Connectedness means openness and active engagement and triggers cooperation.

We asked our interviewees “how interconnected are startup communities in your town?

On average, the startup communities are becoming more interconnected compared to five years ago (+47%). However, the change varies dramatically from country to country. While Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina have enjoyed a steady improvement in the connectedness of 40% and 56% respectively, change has been more modest in Serbia at 28%. On the extremes we find that connectedness in the startup community in Kosovo has regressed by 6%, while North Macedonia interconnectedness has improved by 111% in five years.

In Kosovo, the perceived lack of startup communities and plurality in the ecosystem goes a long way in explaining why the interviewees feel the sharing of experiences, ideas and resources is limited. On the other hand, the continuous pushing by Startup Macedonia for more activities in support of entrepreneurs and more openness and dialogue among ecosystem actors, has contributed to the very high sense of connectedness in the startup community in North Macedonia.

Some interviewees insist that creating startup communities is in its infancy, while others are not convinced that they even exist in their town. Others pointed to limited connectedness within the communities which points to inadequate dialogue among entrepreneurs. Too often, when there is dialogue, the relationship does not evolve to the next level – collaboration or cooperation. On the other hand, almost all interviewees highlight the strength of entrepreneurs’ relationship with other entrepreneurs, often on a 1-to-1 basis. Many interviewees pointed to situations when key people in organizations, usually senior managers, have positive relationships with peers in other organizations, then there is a willingness to collaborate, and the connectedness improves.

Connectedness takes place on three levels – local, national and international:

  • Local. Some ecosystems are so small that we can only talk about one startup community per town, often the country’s capital. Here the challenge is to grow the community and at the same time improve the quality and intensity of the dialogue among local actors, for the benefit of a growing number of startups.
  • National. In most countries, the startup community is centralized to the capital city, drawing on a larger pool of talent and opportunities. In Serbia, Novi Sad and Nis are building alternative communities drawing on their cities’ specific corporate strengths and resources. In North Macedonia, Tetovo is becoming a startup hub with strong links to the university and tech park.
  • International. To help entrepreneurs succeed in global markets, local and national communities must establish a stronger connection with actors in more mature ecosystems, and learn from them. In North Macedonia, there is an emerging community of accelerators and incubators, who share experience and help each other. The connectedness within the group is very good and impactful. As a means of expanding their connectedness internationally, Swiss EP brought in Startup Wise Guys (Baltic-based accelerator) to share best practices on management, strategy, programming and fundraising, which resulted in, among other things, cooperation of Seavus Accelerator and SWG on the Tech Boost program.

Jakob Modéer