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How Will a National Startup Council Help North Macedonia Become a Regional Startup Hub?

National Startup Council should pro-actively and constructively influence improvements in legislation and create more favorable conditions for startup development in the country.

In spring 2021, the Government of North Macedonia established the National Startup Council. How will this Council work, and how will it help the country position itself as a regional startup hub?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Macedonia started consolidating a few years ago. The most significant step toward this stage of development was the establishment of Startup Macedonia, an umbrella association that connects the ecosystem, gathers data, tracks progress and promotes opportunities. For a long time, Startup Macedonia and a few smaller communities were alone in this space, making startups popular in Macedonian society. Finally, in fall 2020, they gained an important ally on this journey—the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development (FITD).

Together, with the extensive advisory and facilitation of the Swiss EP team, the two organizations leveraged the opportunity to start a policy dialogue about startups. To frame this conversation and make sure they had a proper representation of the startup community, FITD initiated the creation of the National Startup Council.

This is the first time that the country has a national startup council, and we feel that it’s very important for the government to be involved. It is a mixture between the government, FITD, Startup Macedonia and representatives of the startup community. The whole idea with the Startup Council is that we set up goals. Then, once we achieve those goals, we invite other startup community members to join us in the Council.

Kosta Petrov, Acting Director, FITD

The mission of the National Startup Council is to pro-actively and constructively influence improvements in legislation and create more favorable conditions for startup development in the country. The body identifies bottlenecks, designs strategies, proposals and initiates law changes that would make building and growing a startup in the country more manageable.

The National Startup Council has seven members: Fatmir Bytyqi (Deputy Prime Minister of the Government), Kosta Petrov, Anita Nikova Bundovski, Bistra Kumbarovska (Swiss EP expert), Gjorgji Rafajlovski (Swiss EP PO), Dejan Aleksov (Swiss EP PO), and Stefan Mitevski. It is coordinated by Nina Nikolikj (Swiss EP Project Officer) and Ivana Stankovic. The main document they are preparing is the first Policy Change Paper including some of the top priorities like: changes in the law for innovation, the convertible loan law to facilitate more private investments and the Digital Nomad visa proposal to stimulate an influx of international talent.

The National Startup Council, which is comprised of public and private representatives from the startup community, will point out the essential regulatory changes that need to happen to improve the climate for innovating and doing business. If the changes are adopted, they will pave the way for our country to become the startup hub of the Balkans.

Dejan Aleksov, co-founder of Startup Macedonia

Besides making an impact on government decisions, the National Startup Council has another vital role—to bring startups closer to the general public. An essential step in this direction was organizing the National Startup Summit, where all major actors of the ecosystem were represented. The Summit addressed significant challenges and opportunities for the development of the ecosystem and gathered the entire startup community.

The National Startup Summit was another HUGE milestone for our startup ecosystem. We gathered for the first time the key representatives from our startup community and the government to jointly define strategic next steps to position North Macedonia as a regional startup hub.

Nina Nikolkj, the National Startup Summit main organizer and Swiss EP Program Officer

The keynote speaker of the #MKstartups Summit was Sebastian Diaz Mesa, Swiss EP expert, and former CEO of Startup Chile. Sebastian also had a number of 1on1 sessions with Startup Macedonia and FITD teams on how to shape their internal strategies and make a stronger impact on the entire society in North Macedonia.

Startups are one of the engines of economic development, and they are crucial for developing transitional societies like North Macedonia. As we can see, the bottom-up approach led to significant changes inside the country, pushing the government to the benefits of the new digital economy. Seeing an enormous opportunity to become the regional leader, the Government of North Macedonia adopted the mission to become THE regional startup hub of the Balkans. It established a public-private body to help achieve this mission—the National Startup Council.