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Garaža: A Founders Community Started by Founders

Garaža is a community of entrepreneurs started by the founding team of one of the most successful startups in Serbia—Tenderly. Find out why, how, and with what intentions Tenderly engages with the ecosystem.

Founders communities started by founders are like black pearls—rare and hard to find. However, there is such a community in Serbia, initiated by the founders of Tenderly and led by our former Swiss EP team member, Milena Milić.

Web3 has taken over the world in the blink of an eye. The term represents a fusion of all the attractive technologies and concepts that could improve the internet: blockchain, decentralization, and a token-based economy. And it seems as though everyone wants to be a part of the Web3 movement, building and designing apps and services based on related technologies. However, as with most innovative technologies, there is a lack of practical tools to support such rapid development.

Observing this, four young men from Belgrade, Andrej Benčić, Bogdan Habić, Miljan Tekić, and Nebojša Urošević, developed Tenderly. Tenderly is a platform that enables Web3 developers to build, test, monitor, and operate smart contracts. The team worked hard to attract investments to support their work and rapid development. So far, they have been quite successful—in only a year, they have gone through three investment rounds. The last round they raised, in March of 2022, was a series B round worth over 40 million euros.

However, beyond the (evident) success and challenges the Tenderly team is facing and resolving successfully, is their determination to give back to the community that helped them thrive.

Andrej, Bogdan, Miljan, and Nebojša gained invaluable knowledge and experience throughout their entrepreneurial journey. They wanted to share and help others benefit from their endeavor, so they searched for someone to help them conceptualize and run such a project. On their quest, they met Milena Milić, then part of the Swiss EP team in Serbia, and founder of Preduzimanje, a community of women entrepreneurs. Soon, it turned out that they were a perfect match and, a few months later, the Tenderly founding team and Milena designed and started Garaža.

Milena describes the initiative:

Garaža is a community of Serbian tech startup founders. It is an initiative started by Tenderly for the local startup ecosystem, focusing on peer exchange with the goal of giving back and promoting pay-it-forward culture. The three main pillars of Garaža are connection, education, and promotion of startups, and for each activity and program, we strive to cover at least two of these principles. So far we have started a mentoring program and have two regular monthly meetups - informal gatherings we call Garaža Drinkabout, and War Stories Meetup where our members share how they overcome specific challenges and what they learned in the process. We also provide expert support on-demand, and that is where Swiss EP helps us out immensely. Garaža focuses on peer exchange which is one of the most valuable, but often omitted, startup support tools, filling in the gap in local startup community abutment.

Milena also explains what motivated Tenderly to start such an initiative and how it might affect the Serbian startup ecosystem:

Starting from the Serbian blockchain community, which is tight and very well connected, in the early stage of building their company, Tenderly founders had much help and support from colleagues and friends. However, as the company grew and challenges increased, there were only a few of those who had gone through similar journeys and could offer assistance. So, the team had to grow and learn a lot but had no platform to share with others. Garaža emerged as a way to gather like-minded founders with whom they can work on overcoming challenges and build better support, for each other, and startups to come.

Garaža opened its doors to aspiring founders in the spring of 2022. At the moment, it gathers over a thirty founders who support one another through peer mentoring, joint activities, and simple chats.

In 2023, Garaža will continue its activities with a “pay-it-forward" culture at its core, sharing knowledge in the startup ecosystem and facilitating conversations between startup founders. Some of these activities will continue to include Swiss EP experts. To point out how crucial the bottom-up approach is for them, Milena shared their ambitions:

Our plans for the future are growing in quality before quantity with focused custom on-call support for founders. We also want to test the challenge roundtable concept and office hours for our members. Finally, we want to promote our startup ecosystem worldwide and bridge ecosystems in Europe and further.

Garaža is truly a unique community. Its efforts to make the Serbian startup ecosystem more cohesive, supportive, and connected are outstanding. But, on top of it all, Garaža also gives us an excellent opportunity to see how far entrepreneurs can go in supporting each other when there are no outsiders to push for such connectedness. So far, the results have exceeded expectations.

PS. We can't help but express our excitement and pride to see a former Swiss EP staff member who keeps on bringing value to the ecosystem, applying much of the expertise, experiences, and network accumulated over the years with Swiss EP. Keep on rocking, Milena :)