Startup Balkans

North Macedonia: Entrepreneurship A-Z

Curious about new places like North Macedonia but not sure where or how to start turning that curiosity into valuable learning and actions? What if it’s as easy as going from A-Z?

After you read this Curiosity A-Z on North Macedonia Entrepreneurship, I encourage you to create your own Curiosity A-Z on your own company or the entrepreneurial ecosystem in which it exists.

A — AirCare

Aircare is social entrepreneurship at its best: AirCare started as a movement in Macedonia for cleaner air and then grew into a globabal community searching for a solution to the problem that inspired the movement.

If you’re curious to learn more about AirCare, give AirCare’s Co-Founder and CEO, Goran Jovanovski’s TEDx Talk a watch to better understand AirCare’s story, the problem they are solving, and how AirCare isn’t just a local, business in North Macedonia, but a global leader for using entrepreneurship and technology for greater good.

B — BAU (Business Accelerator UKIM)

The BAU is a leading accelerator in North Macedonia, connected with the University Cyril and Methodius and partially funded by the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITD). The BAU identifies high potential startups in North Macedonia to provide them with the support they need to learn and scale.

According BAU’s website:

[BAU] Support includes financing/investment and tailor business acceleration program, including mentoring, access to international markets and business networks, business development, and fundraising support.

C — Codewell

Codewell has been crushing it in North Macedonia and beyond since 2011 helping businesses manage their tech teams.

We cut through the complexities of digital transformation by uncovering the right problems to fix, exploring the right solutions and following the right approach to product development.

D — Digital Nomad Visa

Curious what it would be like to be an entrepreneur in North Macedonia? What if you come and find out for yourself? The government of North Macedonia is creating a digital nomad visa to join other countries around the world making it possible for entrepreneurs who run their business from their laptops to work wherever in the world the want.

E — EmbedSocial

EmbedSocial helps make marketers’ lives easier with the social medial tools they build. EmbedSocial doesn’t just make social media tools, they also make jobs and happy customers! EmbedSocial is another example of how finding a niche market and providing excellent service is a solid recipe for success in North Macedonia as much as anywhere in the world.

F — Final Frontier Games

Final Frontier Games is a board game business. How cool is that?! But these Macedonian entrepreneurs aren’t just fun and games, they’re winning the game of creating a good business, too. Not only do they have an ever-growing catalog of games, they have already run five successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund some of their products! Best of all, Final Fronteir Games prove that you don’t have to be a high-tech startup to be a high-value entrepreneur.

G — GrabIT

GrabIT is a startup that uses passion and curiosity to deliver IT solutions. I find GrabIT particularly interesting and worth shouting out because they are headquartered out of Prilep, North Macedonia. Nothing against Skopje, but it is always great seeing entrepreneurs from the regions outside of the capital city and central hub of most startup resources findings ways to succeed.

H — Howitzer

Macedonian startup, Howitzer is as powerful as it sounds in its ambition and execution. Howitzer offers to get customer leads on Reddit, and delivers at a rate of 40–45%! And the world is starting to notice! As university students, its three founders recently raised €400K in funding.

I — Impact Foundation

The Impact Foundation is largely responsible for the emerging freelancer economy in North Macedonia. But the mission of the Impact Foundation is far broader than developing freelancers in North Macedonia. Their focus is on impact. More specifically, the Impact Foundation focuses on impact within the areas of green economies, sustainable tourism, and social impact.

The Impact Foundation mission is:

Continuous promotion of sustainable development (in the field of green economies, sustainable tourism and innovative technologies) as well as social prosperity through a methodology of inclusive and participatory approach of public, private and civic initiatives at local and regional level in the Balkans.

J — Jugoslavia

Without having an opinion — I was never in Yugoslavia — the remains of Yugoslavia and its on-going transition from then to now have affected and continue to affect entrepreneurship in North Macedonia. Rather than outsiders forming modern-day opinions on a history they weren’t a part of, what if you turn the opinion into a curiosity that leads you to learning more about the history of Yugoslavia to better understand people across the Balkans, entrepreneurs or not?

It’s pretty easy to start. Find out why Macedonians spell Yugoslavia with a “J” and go from there.

K — is a travel platform that helps Macedonians find fun places to stay for all the interesting places they go. Along with the connecting travelers with homes and lodgings to stay at, rules on social media. Their Instagram posts capture much of the beauty North Macedonia has to offer.

L —Luck

Or, maybe, the lack of luck. Look, as far natural, pre-existing conditions for starting and growing entrepreneurs, North Macedonia wouldn’t necessarily be looked at as being “lucky.” But that’s perfect. Because, what if, the grit, the grind, and the curiosity that comes with being an exceptional entrepreneur isn’t acquired through a lifetime of being lucky. Selfishly, I look toward the success and struggles of Macedonian entrepreneurs as motivators and guides for my own, entrepreneurial journey; and I share the struggles and successes of Macedonians with entrepreneurs all over the world so they can do the same.

In a world where luck doesn’t really exist, the entrepreneurs of North Macedonia are becoming experts on making their own luck. What if North Macedonia could export this skill to the rest of the world!

M — M6 Learning Centre

The M6 Learning Centre is becoming North Macedonia’s one-stop-shop for startups and growing entrepreneurs. The M6 Learning Centre is a physical location with classrooms and lecture halls for events and trainings. But the M6 Learning Centre is more than a building, it is also an organization that facilitates trainings, provides feedback and analysis, and works to form strategic partnerships that feed the entrepreneurship ecosystem in North Macedonia.

N — Natasha Velkovska

Natasha Velkovska is not just the definition of a serial entrepreneur, she is the ideal serial entrepreneur because Natasha both operates multiple businesses and works with clients to think more entrepreneurial in their PR and Marketing and educates early-stage entrepreneurs on how to get started and take off as a Social Media Strategy and Advertising Lecturer for the Certified Digital Marketing Academy provided by Semos Education (another Macedonian entrepreneur success story. )

O — Olga Rajcic

Olga Rajcic is the Co-Founder of Challenger and a Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) Fellow.

What’s Challenger?

Challenger is a mobile application that motivates people to bike/walk/run more, and for every green km they receive Challenger points. With collected Challenger points, users can ‘buy’ discount codes for products/services in local businesses where Challenger is present. Challenger aims to create a community that brings green changes in every community.

What’s the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative?

YTILI empowers young global business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators with the tools, networks, and resources they need to grow their professional activities and projects. The programme is focused on developing entrepreneurial skills and enhancing economic opportunities for young professionals. YTILI is also a vehicle for building a transatlantic network of innovators that can contribute to an ongoing growth of the business ecosystem and policy dialogue that strengthens the transatlantic relationship.

What’s the chance North Macedonia the best social entrepreneurship ecosystem in the world?

With entrepreneurs like Olga Rajcic leading the way, I’d say challenge accepted!

P — Pixyle

Since 2017 Pixyle has been working to use science to make the online shopping experience better. Pixyle got started as a startup harnessing the power of AI through its image recognition technology and learning algorithms in order to create data out of the images it captures. Today, Pixyle stands as an example of what entrepreneurs can accomplish on the global stage from a homebase in North Macedonia.

Q — Q Language School

Q Language School is a private language school in Skopje owned and operated by Marija Dzonova. Marija is the perfect example of of zebra entrepreneur. While Q Language school may (or may not) grow into a multi-billion dollar international language school, it doesn’t need to because it already is providing Marija with an income, occupation, and purpose all while providing members of Marija’s community skills they need to acquire the same things themselves. Q Language school provides language learning for students and an example of entrepreneurial success for entrepreneurs to model, especially non-tech entrepreneurs.

R — Razgovor

In English, “razgovor” means “to talk.” As n business, Razgovor provides affordable access to licensed mental health professionals online for psychological counselling through its platform and mobile app. Razgovor is focusing on where the need is greatest in North Macedonia: middle — and low — income regions where 76–85% of mental disorders are not getting treatment.

S — Startup Macedonia

Startup Macedonia is an ecosystem umbrella organization that supports startups in and interested in North Macedonia through their goal to: “connect the Macedonian startup community, encourage and help create a suitable and creative work environment for startups in Macedonia.”

T — T-Shirts

Looking for a shirt with a story? Then shop no further than Sheezick na Reezick where memories of a Skopje from a Jugoslovia past collide with clothes and art to create hats, aprons, t-shirts, socks, hoodies, and posters to give your walls something to hang out about. Sheezick na Reezick is a perfect example of an entrepreneur building a brand with story and attitude.

U — Universities

Several universities in North Macedonia play a critical part in the entrepreneurship ecosystem throughout North Macedonia. The Saints Cyril and Methodius University and University American College Skopje are examples of a public and a private university in North Macedonia contributing to the entrepreneurship ecosystem by supporting entrepreneurial research and programs while working to create and educate the future entrepreneurs of North Macedonia.

V — Vision Dynamix

Vision Dynamix developed a product called the Dynamix Mapper, software for 3D mapping. Or, in the words of Vision Dynamix in case anyone reading is curious about drone technology or how it’s being — or could be — used:

The Dynamix Mapper represents an innovative product, it is a software platform that incorporates new technology for creation of high precision 3D reconstructions using drones or other devices capable of capturing high resolution video. The system uses state of the art algorithm for Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) opposed to current photogrammetric techniques.

W — Wonder

North Macedonia is unlike any place on Earth. Even its challenges contribute to its charm and, while changing, Macedonians still understand and appreciate the qualitify of life factors that factor into a successful business. It’s no wonder a place like North Macedonia where grit is grown into its entrepreneurs and where community comes along with customers, the entrepreneurship ecosystem is alive, growing, and showing.

X — X Factor

Macedonians “X-factor” when it comes to entrepreneurship is that they grow up exposed to entrepreneurship every day (or at least every weekend depending on how big the town) via their various bazaars where they buy (and sell) everything from vegetables for that evening’s dinner, to a box of chocolates to bring as a gift to a party, to a pair of socks for a relative’s birthday party, to a new watch for themselves.

Concepts like a lemonade stand or the Pop-Up Startup come naturally to people in North Macedonia whether they realize it or not. It’s not just the bazaars, everywhere you look or wait for a bus in North Macedonia, you’ll find entrepreneurs posting up selling everything from hamburgers to calculators and cigarettes.

How would you sell your product or service if you had no internet and only the space of your stall amongst a sea of stalls selling similar — and differnt — goods and services?

How do you stand out? How do you compete — collaborate? — with your neighbors?

Curious, what else can you learn from visiting a bazaar where some of the earliest forms of entrepreneurship still exists and flourishes?

Y — YES Incubator

North Macedonia doesn’t forget about its future entrepreneurs. The Youth Entrepreneurial Service (YES) Incubator provides micro to medium size startups with mentorship, courses, and resources for entrepreneurs in North Macedonia succeed.

Z — Zebra Startups

While the term “zebra” to describe startups has been around since at least 2017, the first time I learned what a zebra startup is was from Igor Mishevski over a Skopsko in November, 2021. And I’ve continued learning from Igor with his post, “Why do we need more zebra companies instead of unicorn companies?” As with so many other things, Macedonia and Macedonians have shifted my thinking and how I see things in so many valuable ways.

This concept of growing zebras rather than hunting unicorns hit home for many reasons related to my own experiences working with entrepreneurs around the world. What if, the solutions we need aren’t always the rarest solutions with the most extreme monetary value, but simple solutions that provide a steady value across a lot of people, places, and environments?

I hope all entrepreneurs, whether unicorns, zebras, or something entirely different can continue pushing and exploring what things are and what they can be, regardless of the personal, monetary reward.

What if, North Macedonia can become the land of zebras?

Matthew Murrie