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Foundation 787 – taking the Sarajevo ecosystem to the next level

Through its international partnerships with SWG and Spring Activator, Foundation 787 is raising its game and bringing even more value to startups operating in BIH.

In this story a bit of the magic behind how the startup support organization Foundation 787 is growing in its role within the Bosnian ecosystem... and beyond.

Finance in Motion (FiM) is an organization focusing on impact investment. One of its impact funds, European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE) invests in entrepreneurship throughout the Balkans. In 2019, FiM approved a proposal by Startup Wise Guys (SWG) to implement a pre-acceleration program called Tech Boost in five Balkan countries in cooperation with local organizations.

The Swiss EP team shared information and advised the FiM team during the project planning phase, stressing the importance of SWG having a program manager in the field during implementation. Knowing the local ecosystems Swiss EP encouraged SWG to have an assigned program manager in the field to support local organizations with activities.

In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the plan was for Spark in Mostar to implement the accelerator program. However, before they got started, NSoft, the mother company of Spark, decided that Spark should stop working with startups. As a consequence, the contract with FiM was closed and FiM was left without a partner in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

This is when Alema Pelesic of the Swiss EP team in BIH stepped in and proposed a solution. The solution was Foundation 787, a non-profit organization with over 5 years of experience in the area of entrepreneurship and economic empowerment of women and youth. Foundation 787 is a partner organization of Swiss EP that has worked extensively with Keith Ippel of Spring Activator in strengthening the incubation management capabilities of its managers.

After an initial conversation, the FiM was happy to on-board Foundation 787 as the new program implementation partner in BIH. The Foundation 787 team moved quickly to make a call for applicants and launched the project on time, in March, with 8 tech startup teams accepted.

Then COVID-19 pandemic forced countries into lockdown and the Tech Boost program took its activity online. SWG has extensive experience in running online acceleration programs, so the switch was relatively smooth and Swiss EP was there supporting Foundation 787 throughout the journey.

Beyond Egita Polanska, EIR Kenneth Lopez worked with the program startups on their pitch deck creation, while Swiss EP team member Luka Prisunjak delivered a session on customer discovery. Igor Madzov, Swiss EP investment facilitator, built capacity on investors relations and Barbara Fischer worked on funding fundamentals. Furthermore, Swiss EP experts Luka Sučić and Rita Katona mentored founders on product development and marketing strategies respectively.

All eight startups successfully graduated from the program and went on to pitch at PODIM, the largest startup conference in the region. The Foundation787 team worked hard to prepare the founders for the online pitching event. All startups did well in front of the international jury of venture capitalists, especially Tayra who qualified in the top-16 out of 100 startups. PODIM was an excellent opportunity for Foundation 787 to showcase its impactful work with startups, confirming that they are on the right track in support of the BIH ecosystem.

“During our partnership within the Tech Boost program, the Foundation787 team was very professional and structured in their approach in terms of creating program activities for startups, mentor management and program execution. They showed full commitment to creating the best possible program for companies, as well as engaging in problem solving with a startup-friendly mindset and speed. Foundation787 ensured each startup in the program was given necessary feedback and coaching”

explains Egita Polanska, program manager at Startup Wise Guys.

The future looks bright for Foundation 787 and indirectly for the BIH ecosystem. Since the country's investment landscape is under-developed, the need for a proper pre-accelerator program is real.

Foundation 787 is on track to fill this funding gap. It now acts as a platform for strategic guidance and fundraising support to startups with scaling ambitions and facilitates relationships with business angels and VC investors.

Foundation 787 plans to continue its collaboration with FiM and SWG and implement another cohort of the pre-acceleration program in the autumn. Through its international partnerships with SWG and Spring Activator, Foundation 787 is raising its game and bringing even more value to startups operating in BIH.