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Private Initiatives are Lifting the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Banja Luka

Private initiatives and individuals are taking action and shaping the ecosystem landscape in Banja Luka. Who are these people and how are they bringing a new value to the entire community?

Branko Kecman, Vladimir Sukara, and Vladimir Ćorda all started private initiatives that boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Banja Luka. What, why, and how are they doing it?

According to Brad Feld, entrepreneurs are the ones who must lead a startup community. Nothing else will do. Communities where entrepreneurs are not leading will not grow, thrive, or last. Unfortunately, in the Balkans, where entrepreneurship is still a "road less traveled", it is a real rarity to see entrepreneurs leading startup communities. But, there is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina where this rule doesn't apply—this city is Banja Luka.

Three entrepreneurs have started different initiatives which are boosting the local ecosystem. Who are they, and why are they doing it? We met with them to find out.

Branko Kecman, initiator of Angel Academy Banja Luka

Branko Kecman is an entrepreneur, an investment banker, and a startup enthusiast. As a participant of Swiss EP’s Western Balkans Angel Academy, he saw the program's potential and decided to bring it to his city.

The development of ecosystems that will support startups in Bosnia and Herzegovina is crucial for the future development of society as a whole. One of the basic elements of the ecosystem is a network of domestic business angels. I believe that it could be the primary driver supporting startups’ survival and growth. Also, our business angels will have an acceptable rate of return on their investments in domestic startups.

Branko Kecman, initiator of Angel Academy Banja Luka

The Angel Academy Banja Luka was organized in spring of 2021, with the support of Efino and the local Swiss EP team. It gathered 9, mainly local, investors who are on their way to becoming the first Angel investors in the city.

The main motive of Brako's engagement in the community is building a better society.

From the beginning of my career, I was actively involved in different business associations because I truly believe that sharing knowledge and experience between entrepreneurs and managers of private companies can move the business climate forward and consequently build a better society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Working together, cooperating, and sharing knowledge and experience can contribute to a better business environment from which all community members will benefit.

Branko Kecman, initiator of Angel Academy Banja Luka

Vladimir Sukara, founder of QStation

Vladimir Sukara is another successful entrepreneur from Banja Luka, founder of JS Guru, who decided to get involved in the local startup community. First with QLab, and now with QStation, Vladimir is gathering local talents, providing knowledge, and making strong connections with similar organizations in the country and the region.

We started QLab (now QStation) with the desire to gather the IT community, enabling members to mingle and get to know each other. To build trust among the group we started organizing different events and sharing knowledge. The most significant benefit for us was the network of local talents and entrepreneurs, regional hubs, and international organizations and experts.

Vladimir Sukara, founder of QStation

QStation an active Swiss EP partner, and also a modern space that serves as an educational center and entrepreneurial lab for anyone who wants to start a business.

I would lie if I said that we don't have any motive and benefit from doing what we do. Our main reason is to enable people to create something and to make a better life for themselves. A lot of young people are leaving our country, and we are trying to change that. Our goal is to provide them the same conditions they would have elsewhere and help them have fun. If we succeed, it will be harder for them to leave.

Vladimir Sukara, founder of QStation

Vladimir Ćorda, founder of Start Center

Vladimir Ćorda is not a typical entrepreneur—he is someone who supported entrepreneurs first and then decided to become one. In the last few years, he has been running START Center, a community organization that offers different educational courses and programs for early-stage startup founders. Vladimir is also a Swiss EP Ecosystem Facilitator.

START Centre is our way of giving back to the community and contributing to the development of the startup ecosystem. We have done many things, from round table events, meetups, to student lectures, startup weekends, and competitions. At the moment, our focus is on supporting entrepreneurs through our programs. We are witnessing that technology startups are changing the way we live and do business. Every industry is disrupted by new ways of thinking and working, and startups are the primary carriers of the new development wave. We enjoy supporting people who are thinking differently and want to bring some new ideas to the market.

Vladimir Ćorda, START founder

START is one of the leading support providers for early-stage startups, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also in the region. Using his connections and Swiss EP network of experts, Vladimir gladly collaborates with other organizations.

I think that within the startup community, there shouldn’t be competition. We all have to collaborate, exchange experience, and reinforce local and regional organizations to work together on ecosystem development and startup support.

Vladimir Ćorda, START founder

As we can see in the example of Banja Luka, entrepreneurs are stepping up, ready to take the lead in the local startup community. Of course, there are similar examples throughout the region, but Banja Luka is one of the most impressive examples of this new wave.