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New Funding Opportunities for Startups in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Several new funding opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are being introduced. What are they, and how might they help startups grow?

Are Foundation 787's informal angel group and BIH Telecom’s fund enough to boost the local startup ecosystem and bring much-needed early-stage funding to Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Finances in the early stages of development are always challenging for startups, even more so if they are located in the Balkans. Bosnia and Herzegovina is no exception. Too often startup founders are dependent on family and friends for initial capital to start a business, rather than more structured sources of startup funding, such as innovation funds and accelerators, which in turn holds back the development of the entire ecosystem.

However, some believe that entrepreneurship can be one of the engines that could push the country forward. Dajana Džindo, CEO of Foundation 787 and participant in the Swiss EP Peer Exchange Meetup (PEM) in 2022, is one of them:

The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been resilient, but they didn't see and utilize entrepreneurship as an essential tool for independence. I am glad that more and more people nowadays see entrepreneurship in such a manner, and even better – more and more women.

Through entrepreneurship, Dajana and her team at F787 are working hard to create better economic opportunities for youth and women in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of their latest initiatives was a Business Angel Summit. Organized in the fall of 2022 in Sarajevo, the Summit gathered many of the key actors in the local and regional startup scene. The goal of the Summit was to inspire and showcase possibilities and potential for angel investment in the country.

A similar initiative was started a couple of years back in Banja Luka by Branko Kecman, another Swiss EP PEM 2022 participant. Branko first attended the Western Balkans Business Angel Academy and launched a similar endeavor for local business people willing to explore how they could get involved. Branko organized another Business Angel training program led by Swiss EP expert Maria Carolina Romero.

The group around Branko is not formalized and has yet to make its first investment, and Branko thinks there still is still much work to be done:

To create a solid business angel network, we need to provide people with knowledge, training, and workshops in investing. They still need immense support to build competence and relevant networks locally and on the regional and international levels. Only with knowledge and a strong network can they position themselves in the startup ecosystem and provide the local ecosystem with shared knowledge and relevant contacts.

Aside from business angels, another viable option for startups to get funding are VC funds. Even if a startup in Bosnia-Herzegovina can get funding from VC funds based in Serbia or Croatia, the local economy would benefit most from a fund established in the country. This is where BH TechLab could play a critical role.

With three open calls aimed at startups at different stages of development, BH TechLab, BH Telecom VC fund, tries to fill real gaps in funding in the country. However, it remains to be seen how successful they will be since the concept and leading team have to prove themselves and gain the necessary experience.

A startup based in Bosnia-Herzegovina still needs to overcome many challenges before getting suitable funding. However, compared to only a year ago, their prospects now seem brighter and they now have local options.

The new initiatives started by Foundation 787 and BH Telecom are promising steps towards boosting the startup ecosystem and bringing early-stage funding to local startups. However, we must also consider the country's broader economic and social contexts and be patient. It takes time and requires a constant push to make progress in the startup ecosystem, but with initiatives now materializing by leading actors, we see a beacon of hope in the ‘access to finance’ tunnel in Bosnia & Herzegovina.