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How to Start an Entrepreneurial Journey in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Burch Startup Incubator and Swiss EP have been working together for over seven years, helping emerging entrepreneurs start their businesses. We have summed up our collaboration in conversation with Admir Salihagić, the Incubator Manager.

International Burch University (IBU) is a unique institution: it teaches young people how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. This important role has positioned IBU at the beginning of the pipeline in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and made it a perfect place to start an entrepreneurial journey in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

IBU is also a unique place: the university campus is in the secluded and peaceful part of Sarajevo, providing students with the perfect environment to learn and grow. Moreover, as a part of Stirling Education, IBU is included in a global network of like-minded institutions.

One of IBU's integral parts is the Incubator which has operated within the University since 2015. "We build entrepreneurs," is the incubator’s driving philosophy.

Admir Salihagic, Burch Startup Incubator Manager, explains:

As an entrepreneurial campus, we provide support for "lonely" entrepreneurs. We're bringing them together and helping them find like-minded people. And, on top of that, we're making them mainstream. Since the entire University supports entrepreneurship, all study programs include entrepreneurial courses in their curriculum. The University incubator is at the end of this chain because we gather the best and most curious students from the entire campus and help them build extraordinary things.

The incubator has worked with more than 1000 young people over the past seven years. Admir proudly said that now he sees them everywhere, scattered around the entire BIH entrepreneurial scene, with notable accomplishments. Over ten companies which emerged from the incubator are now employing more than 60 people. Also, crucially for the sustained development of the ecosystem, a significant number of incubator alumni are coming back as mentors to support future generations.

Admir is aware that it takes a lot of effort to support an entrepreneur:

We know that success is a marathon, not a sprint, and our goal is not to breed success now. Instead, we're planting the seed, knowing that success will come and that our students will shine sooner or later.

Swiss EP has been supporting the Burch University Incubator since day one. Admir describes Swiss EP as their most valuable external resource:

We have our professors with experience because we tend to employ people with both academic and industry backgrounds. However, we sometimes need a different perspective and assistance filling the gaps. This is where the Swiss EP fits perfectly. Swiss EP experts helped us build programs and helped our startups broaden their horizons. We worked with many outstanding people over the years, but if we had to choose the most significant one for us,it would be the collaboration with Lean Startup Croatia. The Swiss EP made that happen.

The future looks bright for the Burch Incubator. Five startups participating in the 2022 Demo Day have already gained investments, and the incubator is helping them complete the process. The next program will begin soon and preparations are already underway. To accommodate the requirements of new generations, the team is innovating and introducing new elements to the program, trying to gamify it, and make it more appealing. IBU is also opening up collaboration with other universities in the region, and we could expect to see a regional student program and a Demo Day quite soon.

In the end, Admir is optimistic. He knows that the ultimate goal is to help young people find success in their home cities and country. And he is sure that IBU and University Incubator are headed in the right direction. These institutions are one of the first stops on the entrepreneurial journey of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we can’t imagine a better way for them to start.