Startup Balkans

“We need to work together and move beyond prejudice to succeed”

In the interview with Erudera co-founder Gent Ukehajdaraj, we will learn how Erudera started and what it takes to succeed in the Balkans.

Gent Ukehajdaraj is a co-founder of Erudera, a blooming startup from Kosovo striving to revolutionize the education industry by introducing Artificial Intelligence as an assistant for students when choosing the right university for them. Gent joined forces with Besart Bajrami and Betim Drenica to bring this idea to the world.

We have talked with Gent about Erudera, entrepreneurship, and success. Enjoy our conversation.

SB: What motivated you to start another business and make Erudera a reality?

Gent: Erudera was started by a fantastic team of over 20 professionals, driven by a strong purpose — helping students make the right education choice. I believe that to make big dreams a reality, you need to find the right people and the right purpose, which is not that easy to do. The idea to create a platform like Erudera existed for many years and was often an intense topic of discussion between me, Betim, and Besart, even over a cup of coffee. When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, and we saw the transformation of the higher education industry, we knew the timing was finally right to gather our ideals, unite our expertise, and begin creating something meaningful.

SB: How did the previous experience help you when starting Erudera? What are the most important lessons you learned earlier?

Gent: What I’ve learned from experience over the last ten years in marketing, business, and sales, certainly helped. I gained experience as a digital marketing specialist at NextSEO, one of the most prominent digital marketing agencies in the region, and as a marketing and business development manager at Inquero, a leading publisher in the higher education space. That experience helped me better understand the problems universities and students face — and what an ideal solution should look like.

I’m also a passionate marketer, and I enjoy studying everything I can get my hands on, not only what is working now in the digital marketing space but also what worked well in the 1930s when there was no internet or modern technology—the principles never change. The most important lesson I learned is that developing the best product won’t make a difference if you don’t focus on solving a problem people have. The market has all the answers you’re looking for, and if you’re not listening closely to the market, you’ll have trouble along the way.

SB: Erudera is a global platform. What do you see as challenges, and what are the advantages of running an international business from Kosovo (and the entire Western Balkan region)?

Gent: Building a global platform like Erudera means you have huge competitors you have to deal with, who have easier access to capital, specialized staff, and a robust support system. In addition, if we want to raise funds, we have to go knocking on doors outside of Kosovo and play by their rules, which often means moving our team and business to a different country. We also don’t have enough talent in Kosovo with global market experience, so eventually, we’re going to have to hire people from the region and beyond. And, of course, having a proper system in place that supports startups would make things much easier. Swiss EP is doing a great job here, but I think the government should step in and do more. We have a young population that is tech-savvy and can learn quickly. We need to guide them in the right direction.

SB: You were one of the participants in the MatchIn investment Forum and Investment readiness program that took place before the Forum. What was the most valuable part of the program for you? What is your overall impression of the program and the Forum?

Gent: The WBIRP program and the workshops were beneficial to us in getting clarity about what we want as a startup, how we should approach startup investors, and how to structure everything. The MatchIN Investor forum that came after the program was a whole different level. All the days leading up to the event got us moving and taking action. I’m thrilled we got to be a part of the program, connect with super smart and hard-working founders from the region, and meet one-on-one with investors. The program opened many doors for us, and that’s what every startup needs. I think the future editions of the event will be even better and will contribute even more to strengthening the ties within the region.

SB: What is your advice to all Kosovo (and region) entrepreneurs starting their business now?

Gent: I think more people need to join forces and get together if they want to build great ideas. The future seems bright for Kosovo and the whole region, but we need to work together more, share the experience, and move beyond prejudice. My advice to all entrepreneurs starting their businesses now is to stay focused and keep going. This journey is not easy, and often you won’t have the support you need, but it’s your moral obligation never to give up, solve real problems, and make the world a better place.

SB: Thank you Gent for this excellent conversation.

Ivana Sabo