Quantifying the influence of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence on the local ecosystem
We explored how the Swiss EP Entrepreneurs In Residence program helps local entrepreneurs and engages startup communities in Kosovo.
Entrepreneurs-in-Residence started visiting Kosovo again in spring 2021. Their presence gave a much-needed boost to the local startup community and supported entrepreneurs in different ways.
Swiss EP’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) initiative connects successful international entrepreneurs with local communities, organizations, and startups. Designed with "giving back and giving first" principles in mind, the initiative enables entrepreneurs with specific expertise to spend a few weeks (even months) in one of our countries, sharing their knowledge and helping local founders, teams, and organizations.
The EIR initiative was on pause for a whole year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and finally, in the early months of 2021, we could carefully bring it back. The first countries to host rebooted EIRs were Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. The most significant impact of EIRs and the new energy they brought was on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kosovo.
Vineet Devaiah: think big to be successful
The honor to be the one to break the ice fell on Vineet Devaiah, co-founder of TeliportMe.com. Vineet's expertise in the internationalization of startups and social media marketing was in high demand. After spending a few days in Kosovo, working with several entrepreneurs, Vineet concluded:
I spotted two problems with entrepreneurs here. The first one is — they think too small. It's not a mistake; it is difficult if you don't see the success and opportunity to copy it. And the second thing is they're very attached to grants. All their planning and all their ideas, and everything that comes up from an entrepreneurial mindset fit into the grants they can get. Just to be clear — I don't blame them for it. It's just something that I don't like. They could be free from these constraints, and then they could probably be more successful.
Vineet Devaiah, co-founder of Teliport.me
Jane Uzunovski: see the world and learn from different experiences so you can be purposeful
As a Macedonian diaspora expert, Jane Uzunoski has insight into the entire region. In addition, he lived and worked in the USA, across Europe and Japan. With expertise in marketing and export to the German, USA and Japanese markets, Jane was a very constructive mentor.
Entrepreneurs must go and travel the world. They should visit all the places and markets where they want to do business. They must meet people over there and see how they think. In person, not online. People online don't say everything that they mean. Entrepreneurs need to expand their horizons and hear these stories up close themselves. They must feel them. They also have to see what others are doing in that capacity or to solve a particular challenge. It's very important for them to find their purpose, to think about all stakeholders, including second order effects, for the solution to really have a positive impact. Once they do that, they will feel much more comfortable knowing they are making the right decisions.
Jane Uzunovski, co-founder of 36C
Jane met with seven different companies, helping them to find suitable ways to scale their business to other markets. For one of these companies, he was able to connect it with Basicmath, which is a Japanese company specializing in helping European companies expand in Japan, also shareholder of 36C, and with that open up the Japanese market.
Dennis Kibirev: global from day one
Marketing and growth expert Dennis Kibirev worked on and off in Kosovo for several weeks. Besides mentoring sessions, he also held a series of workshops where he shared best growth-hacking practices.
Kosovo is considered the youngest country in Europe and the second youngest in the world, and the entrepreneurs I met similarly seemed to be dynamic up-and-comers—as if personifying this statistic. With most of them being in their twenties and early thirties and sporting a 'global from day one' attitude, it was inspiring to see these founders tackling international markets with novel products and business models. If local government and the investment community can join forces to support and foster this new wave of ambitious startups, there's no reason the country can't see a unicorn or two emerge in the near future, which would have a positive impact on its entire innovation ecosystem as well as that of the greater Balkan region.
Dennis Kibirev, co-founder of FrontierFounder
Dennis worked extensively with different founders and helped them structure their marketing efforts.
How can we measure the influence of EIRs in Kosovo?
It is still very early to see the true impact of a few foreigners who shook up local startup founders and helped them look at their businesses from another perspective but we can see the growing interest among successful local founders to work with experienced peers from abroad. We can spot the changes some of the startups have made as a result of new learning. And we can see some friendships and conversations starting inside the community. We know that this is just the beginning. New EIRs will bring new energy, different opinions, and they will create a new cycle of piloting and testing and fostering friendships and competitive businesses in Kosovo.