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Kosova Startup Ecosystem is Growing: Uranik Begu Interview
Kosova has the youngest generation in Europe and you know what it means! In recent years, Startup Ecosystem and new generation entrepreneurs hit the road to be a local and global success stories. Uranik Begu, Executive Director at Innovation Center Kosovo (ICK) which is the first business incubator in Kosova, supporting ICT startups. He is the man enriching the Kosovo entrepreneurial ecosystem and has many tasks under his hat as a speaker and mentor of many local and international events, conferences, workshops such as Startup Weekend Pristina, Mobile App Camp Skopje, KOSICT Conference Prishtina, CMO Conference Zurich, Digital Pristina etc.
ICK supports startups in many ways. Uranik Begu says ''We are focusing first on incubator services including services such as office space, consulting, mentorship, B2B events for them. Also we give them support through our partners such as Microsoft - BizSpark and currently we're joining Amazon Web Services program for startups and we'll be their partner in Kosova.'' Their incubator helped 41 startups in last two years. Some of them are doing global business, for example Solaborate is one of them.
''The first challenge is to reach the finance''says Uranik Begu. And the educational system can be another challenge for young generation. The skill gap between the market, and the business is another issue. Especially in the ICT sector, companies have problem to find right talent. Innovations Center will also work for the solution to fulfill the market needs. ''We need a lot of labor in SEO, Java, App Development, Product Design etc.'' says Begu.
The other challenges are same with Iran has faced: The possibility of Kosova startups targetting the global market and the credit card payment system which is not fully developed yet. Also remember Kosova is the most isolated country in Europe, and the citizens still require Visa to travel. This is more difficult to visit Europe for entrepreneurs to connect with key investors and explore the new markets.
Government and Investors
Uranik Begu says that the Government does not have any proper incentive to support startups. On the other hand there is some available donor money time to time, but there is no angel investors or VC firms that startups can directly access. He also mentioned that there are some positive movements now, they're soon to create Kosova Business Network but this is in very early stages.
''The biggest trends are definitely mobile applications, software as a service and gaming now in Kosova'' says Begu. They have some good companies which got already some funding from investors in global scale. There is also a company called Goodwerp - which has been selected for the mentorship and training program at Startup Istanbul - based also in U.S. They are the first platform that offers management projects only for creative business.
''The opportunities lie mostly in its youngest generation in Kosova. They have good potential'' says Begu. Also Kosova's diaspora has big impact on their business. They have a large community in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Nordic Countries, so they plan to use this advantage to penetrate in these markets. Begu also says ''We also see a lot of our businesses are being connected with different kind of communities in this diaspora, we use them to expand our businesses''
Health, Education, Environment are not being used in ICT sector now in Kosova. So we have a great potential to develop this kind of services in this local market. Kosova ICT Association is developing national strategy, in that regard we are working with universities directly to develop different kind of programs.