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Katalizator - a unique program for early-stage startups

Our partner, Start Center from Banja Luka, organized a successful regional startup support program in autumn 2020. With our support, they run the entire three-month program fully online.

Start Center from Banja Luka has been working with the local startup community for a few years now. After organizing many small-scale programs and events, they decided to go big and host an 11-week long startup support program, completely online, with participants from the entire region.

Start Center helps entrepreneurs in Banja Luka start their business adventure through programs that inspire, and help people build and grow their startups.

One of the founders of Start Center is our colleague Vladimir Ćorda, who has been active in the local startup scene for over 10 years. Vlada has an excellent overview of the regional entrepreneurial landscape, and he knows how to identify needs among emerging startups.

An excellent proof that Start Center and Vladimir are skilled and successful in supporting startups is their one-day STARTER program. They have executed 12 such programs, supporting 53 different teams in the past three years. In this way, Start Center is making a significant contribution to the funnel of entrepreneurs in and around Banja Luka.

In summer 2020, the team decided to go one step further and organize a comprehensive startup support program - KATALIZATOR. Katalizator was an 11-week program that took place from October to December 2020. Seven teams attended weekly sessions where they had an opportunity to work with different local and regional mentors, including Swiss EP experts Luka Prišunjak, Luka Sučić, Miro Hegedić, Filip Stipančić, and Peter Bruner.

Katalizator was an excellent program. I learned how to put my idea in the context of the market and explore who are actually my customers. All lecturers and mentors were awesome, especially Luka Prisunjak. I am looking forward to the new programs in Start Centar.

Branko Petrović, Founder of Edocor

You might think that Katalizator is an ordinary startup support program, similar to others that we've already seen before in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, you'd be wrong. Here’s how it’s different:

  • The curriculum of Katalizator was not set by an external project or proposal. The program was designed by the Start Center team, based on the experience and needs of the actual market, and with some help from Swiss EP experts. The Start Center team is continuously in touch with emerging entrepreneurs. They know first-hand how to cater to their needs.
  • The program didn't aspire to be an overall and comprehensive startup course. Instead, it focused on idea validation and techniques that help teams discover early on if their ideas have market potential. The program's business development part introduced the teams to the business model canvas and helped them build on their ideas. The customer development segment was about figuring out how to prove that your product is needed on the market. In the end, MVP development helped teams understand different techniques available to them that can be beneficial in the final idea testing stages.
  • Demo Day was a very high-value event. Vladimir and his team gathered investors from the most significant VC funds in the region - Vitosha Venture Partners (Bulgaria), Fil Rouge capital (Croatia), South Central Ventures (regional), and ICT Hub Venture (Serbia). The advice and feedback that pitching teams received from the investors were priceless.
  • Finally, Katalizator was entirely run as a private initiative, without any financial support from donor-based projects or other government resources. It received support from Swiss EP in terms of experts and JS Guru (IT company from Banja Luka), who offered technical assistance in creating MVPs for participating teams. That’s it. This shows that by leveraging available resources you can implement a high-quality program.