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A Startup Community Organization will thrive only with a Clear Purpose and Vision

An interview with Sebastián Andrés Díaz Mesa where he shared a few exciting points, crucial for all the ecosystem builders out there.

Sebastián Andrés Díaz Mesa is a journalist, professor, startup enthusiast, mentor, advisor, and an extraordinary guy all around.

As one of the creators and former CEO of Startup Chile, Sebastian has vast knowledge and experience in building startup ecosystems and promoting them globally. So, when Startup Macedonia and the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITD) approached us, saying that they would love to speak with someone who could help them strategize about the future, and by the way, contribute to the organization of the first National Startup Summit in North Macedonia, we knew Sebastian would be the perfect fit.

After he arrived in Skopje, we talked to Sebastian, and he shared a few exciting points, crucial for all the ecosystem builders out there.

You were a part of an organization called Startup Chile, similar to Startup Macedonia. Why are such organizations essential, and how can they help startups and startup communities?

When we talk about innovation and entrepreneurship, the most important thing is to leave innovators with space and freedom to create and play. That is how talent works. If you want to see talent flourish, you need to let people play. The organizations we are talking about are the ones that advocate for and work tirelessly to create that levelled playing field. Define clear regulations and rules, define clear ways to achieve business growth. These kinds of organizations should have an entrepreneurial mindset themselves. They should know how the entrepreneurs are getting around and what they need. Everybody loves to talk about entrepreneurs, their startups, and their businesses, but nobody talks about the ecosystem builders and how they connect dots to create an ecosystem capable of generating success stories. And those are the kind of organizations and people who are essential, no matter if they are called Startup Macedonia or Startup Chile.

Even if Chile is an entirely different country and ecosystem, could you find similarities between Startup Chile and Startup Macedonia?

I would say that the entrepreneurial spirit is similar. Both organizations have an entrepreneurial mindset - all the processes implemented, we test them, pivot, fail, work super fast to create another one, always solution-oriented, think about the entrepreneur, and know the entrepreneur comes first. The organization is fully out there talking to and understanding the ecosystem. So I would say they are the same. A slight difference, of course, is that Startup Chile was an accelerator, and Startup Macedonia has a more housewarming community approach, helping entrepreneurs with different services. We were a part of the government, while Startup Macedonia is private, and it’s part of the entrepreneurs. Therefore, it is way different in terms of structure and processes, but it’s pretty much the same in terms of the final goal, purpose, and mission.

That’s an interesting observation. Thank you. So, you’ve been around for almost two weeks now, have you found something you like about the Balkans?

I love the food—it’s fantastic! And the people are amazing. It all makes me feel at home. People here are very similar to Chileans, we have a similar culture, and even the way people speak and intonation they use is the same as in Chile. In terms of entrepreneurship and innovation, I met a couple of entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders. I think they are very talented people, highly motivated, with a clear vision of what they want to achieve with this country. In Startup Macedonia, they have had an excellent team in place for 5 year now. That's a long time in the startup world and they are looking to a new generation of startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to push the entrepreneurial revolution here to the next level. That’s quite a big challenge, but amazing people, as they all are, they will succeed for sure. Before I came here, I checked different data and indicators, and they were all telling me that the country is performing better than expected. I suspected that it was because of the people, but I didn't know for sure. After spending two weeks here talking to people, I am now 100% convinced that the entrepreneurial mindset that there is here and the talent that they are raising are unbelievable.

We are delighted to hear that your Balkan experience is so positive. What would be your general recommendation for all these ecosystem builders out there in the Balkans? How should they stay motivated to do this hard work in a complex environment?

I would say that the most important thing is working in an organization with a clear purpose and a clear vision. It must be clear to you why you are doing those things. Once you have that clear vision, you can start focusing on the people and the help and bring more people into that mission. At that point, everything will come together. The most significant recommendation that I have is that all of these organizations be born with highly motivated people. "Let's do something, let's help, let's do this and that." These are people who used to be in the trenches, helping others. These are not people who used to be in a headquarters thinking about strategies. And that is one of the crucial things that these people need: to think more about strategy. What are the main problems that we will tackle? How do we want to structure this organization? How do we want to do things? The context within which we operate is changing quickly so regular review of our vision and purpose is key. And those processes take time, and you need to be patient. If they're going to make their impact sustainable over time, they need to think more strategically because strategic thinking should be an integral part of the growth of that organization.

That is fantastic advice. Thank you very much, Sebastian. It was wonderful talking to you and we hope to see you back in the Balkans soon!