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Example of the Give First Principle in Albania

Valer Pinderi decided to go the extra mile and start the Albanian e-Commerce Association and Founders Club. Hopefully, he'll be a role model and inspire other entrepreneurs to give first.

In a healthy and self-sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem, entrepreneurs must lead the way, share their experiences, and gather communities. In Albania, that entrepreneur is Valer Pinderi, founder of Aladini (and numerous online shops), the e-Commerce Association in Albania, and Founders Club.

One of the leading authorities in building startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems and communities, Brad Feld, said: "The central foundation in building a viable and successful startup community is that entrepreneurs must lead the startup community. Nothing else will do. No other actor in the entrepreneurial ecosystem can replace the entrepreneur in building a startup community. A startup community that entrepreneurs do not lead will not grow, thrive, or last."

Our experience and work with different startup communities has proven that Feld is correct: only ecosystems where entrepreneurs are leading the way can be called successful.

In the past seven years, we have witnessed the progress and development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albania. Co-working spaces are thriving, startup support organizations are becoming more mature and better at their work, and finally, entrepreneurs are stepping up and taking the lead.

One of these entrepreneurs is Valer Pinderi, founder of Aladini. In 2022, he decided to go the extra mile and start two different communities: the E-Commerce Association and Founders Club. Valer was already someone who selflessly shared his knowledge via his YouTube channel and as a guest speaker at various events, but he decided to raise the bar this time:

I saw the need for change and collaboration as the most important thing for entrepreneurs to grow. So, I decided to step up, gather people and help them collaborate with the E-Commerce Association. But on the other hand, I started the Founders Club to encourage people to connect and have some fun. We're all too busy with our work and problems, and no one can understand us quite as well as other founders. This is why we have to meet and get to know each other, not just in business but also on other occasions. And what is a better way to do so than have some fun together?

Sharing, joining forces, and "giving first" principles are not grounded in the business tradition of Albania or other Western Balkan countries. However, a significant mindset change among entrepreneurs has taken place in the past decade—from closed, secretive, and selfish to open, collaborative, and giving. New generations of (tech) entrepreneurs realize how powerful communities can be, and they strive not only to be a part of them but also to lead and be the ones taking charge of the change process. As Valer explained, that is an investment that multiplies over time:

When you decide to help your community sincerely, you can rest assured that you will get more than you give. A few years ago, I started giving back to my community, and I got back much more than I gave. For me, the process is similar to multiplying your initial investment a few dozen times.

On top of that, Valer sees his engagement as an excellent learning opportunity where he can understand how his peers are solving their everyday problems and face different challenges. He gives the Swiss EP some tribute for such an approach:

The Swiss EP helped me realize how giving back is essential. They have constantly introduced me to people who know how to support and share good advice. Those experts helped me see things from another perspective and learn from their experiences. Sometimes it's crucial to listen to others who have already been on the same path as you are on now. It is hard for us to understand which choice is the best with all the distractions and work around us, and other people can help us.

Giving back is crucial. No other actor in the entrepreneurial ecosystem can replace the entrepreneur in building thriving startup communities. Hopefully, Valer is the first of many entrepreneurs to answer that call to leadership and community-building.