A New Generation of Women Entrepreneurs Emerging in North Macedonia
Women entrepreneurs in North Macedonia are unafraid to introduce their businesses and themselves to the world. They are confident, and they can rely on a support system around them in their home startup ecosystem. So, let's meet some of them.
What makes North Macedonia such a good place for women's entrepreneurship? And what are the lessons we can learn from this example?
In the past few years, the startup ecosystem in North Macedonia has been thriving. We have seen numerous creative and innovative entrepreneurs, savvy tech talents, and joint efforts to acquire business skills to move forward. Startups are getting significant support from various entrepreneurial support organizations and even government support through the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development.
Also, according to our internal statistics (we collect different data periodically to track the startup ecosystem's progress), progress is notable. For example, from 2015 to 2019, the total amount of investments tracked by Swiss EP was CHF 1,186,000, and in the summer of 2023, after our last data collection, the cumulative value for the past four years was CHF 111,017,000. The total investment value in the country has increased 100 times in four years, which is an extraordinary result.
Diving deeper into the data reveals that 51% of startups that benefited from Swiss EP support have a woman in their founding crew. In other words, there are plenty of teams where women are actively involved in their creation, growth, and operations. This is remarkable information, especially when we know that in 2022, only 10% of European startups had women in their founding teams.
So, what makes North Macedonia such a good place for women's entrepreneurship? And what are the lessons we can learn from this example?
First, let's meet some of the women who are leading startups in the country. One of the alums in this area is undoubtedly Nina Angelovska, founder of Grouper (she founded the company in 2011 and exited in 2021) and founder of the Macedonian e-Commerce Association. As one of the first women entrepreneurs widely known to the general public, Nina is an excellent role model for the new generation of women founders.
The new generation of female entrepreneurs in North Macedonia has a distinctive profile. They are in their late 20s, well-educated, with sufficient knowledge of the startup world, and driven by success. Usually, they have a male co-founder, but he is not dominant in this business relationship. They run their teams, and they have already raised an initial investment. Most of these companies are ready to expand their business to international markets, and their next challenge is figuring out how to scale up their businesses.
One of the women who belong to this group is Svetlana Kordumova, co-founder of Pixyle AI. She started her company in 2018, and two years later, she partnered up with Ronald Simon (former Swiss EP EIR) to jointly improve the online shopping experience worldwide. At the end of 2022, Pixel AI secured a 1 million euros seed investment from SC Ventures. The investment is helping the team expand globally and grow their team.
Another woman who is an excellent representative of this new wave of Macedonian female entrepreneurs is Angelina Blazheska. Angelina is a founder of FitKit, an aspiring startup that offers subscription and pay-per-use fitness and wellness solution. With a team of 23 people, FitKit has initial traction and a business model that works in North Macedonia. Now, it's time for them to go beyond their home market.
Angelina is ready to scale her business and face different challenges. However, lack of funding is one of her biggest concerns:
Our startup is in a phase where we need to expand internationally, but funding is always a struggle. We don't have access to major decision-makers in VCs here in North Macedonia, and finding finances for growth and expansion is tough.
Aware of such shortcomings, Angelina uses every opportunity to expand her network, learn from her peers and their experiences, and meet new people. She highly values the local ecosystem and connectivity inside it:
The biggest advantage of our startup ecosystem is the networking and the people you get to meet at the events, and the people you get to exchange experiences with. You cannot find that in any other place.
Another opportunity for Angelina to connect with her peers worldwide was the Women Entrepreneurs Week, organized by Swiss EP in Zurich, Switzerland, in March 2023. Together with three other entrepreneurs (Sofija Daceva, Elizabeta Jovanovska, Kalina Trajanoska) and two mentors (Aleksandra Mitrevska and Elena Draganovska), she attended a week of working sessions, workshops, and networking with women entrepreneurs from other countries where Swiss EP is active (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Peru, Serbia, and Vietnam).
Women Entrepreneurship Week was an excellent opportunity to acquire knowledge from various experts and meet different people. We had many insights into what is happening around the globe, and I got to know and connect with successful women from other countries. We shared our expertise and experiences, and it was a fantastic networking event.
But, besides connecting to women worldwide, Angelina also made a lasting relationship with her peers from her home country. The group meets regularly, supporting each other and visiting events outside their country.
So, now that we have met some of these amazing women, what can we conclude? Women in North Macedonia are unafraid to introduce their businesses and themselves to the world. They are confident, and they can rely on a support system around them in their home startup ecosystem. And with the new generation filled with talents such as Svetlana and Angelina, we can't wait to see what comes next.