Young people represent a very active and quick learning part of the society, that is why we have been dedicating quite some activities and projects to them. We especially wanted to activate young entrepreneurs, whose functioning is inherently dependent on cooperation, wide minded thinking and out of the box thinking. Our last project concluded yesterday, when 25 young entrepreneurs from all six Western Balkan countries attended the international startup conference Podim. The whole process of the planning, organization and implementation was prepared through close co-operation with the German development agency GIZ that has crossed our path in our previous engagements for youth. We have named the program Start up Academy – Building the WB6 Unicorn (explanation: unicorn is a term used in startup circles to describe a well-established and well-pitched business idea), and by doing so putting our firm belief in the success of their ideas and the overall region.
The main objective of all the activities was to connect youth in the region, bring peers from neighboring countries closer, to support the development of their business ideas and inspire, support and convince them that many ideas can be realized. But we started step by step. In February we implemented a workshop in Tirana for their main supporters – accelerators, mentors, hubs and university incubators – these are the first institutions that young entrepreneurs with great ideas turn to. We introduced them to the importance of cooperation, openness and highlighted the way the Slovenian startup system is interconnected. Then we invited young entrepreneurs with interesting business ideas. During two workshops, in Niksic and Pristina, and with strong mentorship between them, we have been improving, building and working on the presentation of 17 business ideas. Better understanding of business plans, different types of investments, sales approaches and marketing were some of the many topics on the agenda, together with training on knowing the advantages of each enterpreneur, their competition and deficiencies on the way of their business ideas. We have also been discussing the importance of cooperation, pitching and connections – all with great aim that everyone involved in our workshops would have no problem presenting their idea in a short and understandable way. And that was the main goal of our last gathering – to present their idea, team and also themselves in an excellent and clear manner – first in Ljubljana in front of Slovene investors and Business Angels Club of Slovenia, and later in Maribor, at the Podim conference.
We have implemented our last workshop through 25 youngsters that have represented their 15 ideas from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia. Some have been pitching in front of the investors, some have been competing at the Podim Challenge and have been listed among the top 20, some have presented their products, talked to potential investors, met new partners, surprised their competitors – and used the largest international startup conference in the region in the way that best benefited the growth of their business ideas.
From workshop to workshop, young entrepreneurs showed more energy, interest, enthusiasm and desire for advancement, which at the end fueled excellent pitches. That was the main goal of all our activities, and at the same time key to all the future steps for young entrepreneurs that will without a doubt support and boost the whole startup scene in the region, that has also through our support become better connected, united and is working in a more cooperative manned.
This project is part of the activities supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia through the Slovenia’s Development Cooperation.