After the lunch break, conference room full of young entrepreneurs welcomed Balkans’s most renowned startup names such as Vukasin Stojkov (Startit), Maxim Gurvits (Eleven) and Ivo Spigel (Zip). Together, they elaborated more on what is the driving force behind, now a very successful and vibrant startup ecosystem that didn’t even exist three years ago.
Maxim, once an entrepreneur with a company in Netherlands and now a Chief Hustler (what an epic title, right?) at Bulgarian accelerator fund called Eleven, told the attendees that he came to Bulgaria three years ago after he had seen the immense potential this region had to offer. During his time in Balkans he came to conclusion that there always has to be a driving financial force in the region, one who’s job (apart from funding startups) is to pave the road for other successful accelerators, VC funds and angel investors.
Three years ago it was almost impossible to get seed funding in this region, and look where we are today.
Vukasin, a well known name in the Serbian startup community pointed out that regular community gatherings, alongside the blog his organization has started, helped local founders to get more acquainted with the aspect of entrepreneurship and get their heads around the idea of running a startup. Having an opportunity to meet and to listen some of the Serbia’s first founders, other were able to follow their footsteps.
His organization (SEE ICT) helped organize a first Startup Academy which accepted several startups into their educational program. Just couple of months after it ended, two startups have already received funding and the program has opened applications for the second batch, hoping to achieve even more impressive results as this time the team has more experience under their belt.
However, Ivo Spigel, a journalist and a co-founder of ZIP told the attendees that the situation is far from perfect. He specifically stated that the Universities are just not doing enough when it comes to teaching entrepreneurship and that this region still has a long way to go. Educational system, as a whole, has failed to adapt thus leaving us with increments of useful knowledge.
Maxim, on the other hand, pointed out that this region is just not as “hungry” for success as some other ones are. During his visit to the US, he attended a startup fair in Boston where some 800 startups were already making money and acquiring customers – without the initial funding. This is a good example of how foreign startups tend to hustle more than the ones in the Balkans. Gurvits concluded that this region is more laid back – local founders are not as eager to go out there and present themselves and their idea, they are just waiting for an opportunity instead of seizing it.