Startup Balkans

Media—there is light in the tunnel

The claim was: the media in your city are regularly reporting on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the universal answer seems to be: Hmm, not so much, but it’s getting better!

An important actor in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is the media. Both traditional media and more specific online media channel information about the content, composition and activities of startup communities, building awareness around entrepreneurship and celebrating success stories. In the words of Brad Feld, “(m)ost healthy startup communities have some level of informal media in the form of blogging by influential actors.”

We asked our interviewees how accurate they found the following statement “The media in your city are regularly reporting on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Overall, looking at the accumulated feedback from the five countries, the answer is probably close to – Hmm, not so much, but it’s getting better! The interviewees make a clear distinction between traditional media (television, newspapers) and online media (often more sector-specific, informed and technical). On average, we see a significant improvement (70%) compared to 5 years ago, but it’s happening from a relatively low level. On a scale from 0 to 10, the score was a mere 2.3 in 2015. It means there was an almost universal agreement among the interviewees in the five countries that the media was not reporting very regularly on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

However, there are significant differences between the countries. In five years, Albania and North Macedonia recorded improved media perception of 79% and 90% respectively. The change was also significant in Kosovo (+67%) and Serbia (+43%), while things are moving slower in Bosnia & Herzegovina (+27%).

Startups and entrepreneurial ecosystems are still relatively new phenomena in the Balkans, and clearly, the media are slow on getting around to reporting on them. This is particularly true for traditional media which too often remains fixed on politics as the primary source of news and stories with a generally negative messaging. Perhaps this is a reason why traditional media finds entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs challenging to report about. Around startups the messaging is often more hopeful, even optimistic. Entrepreneurs are often strong believers in their own capacities. They are free and critical thinkers, fond of problem-solving and creativity and set on doing what it takes to build a better company and life for themselves and others.

As some interviewees explained, traditional media “does not understand the startup ecosystem”, there is a need to educate the media about startups, and in general, there is “terrible reporting from traditional media”. The hope of changing the narrative around entrepreneurship appears to lay with the online media and bloggers. Some online media providers specialize in tech and startup news in each of the five Balkan countries, and are slowly but surely painting a new picture of a Balkan full of entrepreneurial talent and success, changing the tone from negativism and fatalism to optimism and defiance.

Jakob Modéer