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The New Age of the Albanian Entrepreneurial Ecosystem—Acceleration

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albania showed a few signs of growth in the last couple of months—it became more vibrant, visible, and active in many fields.

Albania, and especially the capital Tirana, has had a lot to offer to entrepreneurs and startups in the last couple of months. Different events, conferences, and government initiatives are promising indicators of accelerated growth of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

If you first came to Tirana at the end of 2022, the city would seem like the place to be for all Albanian startups:

  • There are plenty of excellent hubs where you can meet local (and foreign) entrepreneurs.
  • Exciting events for startup founders are organized throughout the city.
  • You can even join a program or at least a masterclass if you're ready to commit more time to learning.

However, if you had been in the city and the country for longer, you would know that it has not always been like this, and that the last two years have brought about rapid change.

Blerina Guga, CEO of Junior Achievement of Albania, describes the current situation:

Our startup ecosystem is emerging and boiling at the same time. How is this possible? Well, if we judge from our perspective, as a new organization in this space, we will call it emerging. But judging from the other angle, it is not emerging per se because the startup ecosystem did not just appear. It already has plenty of activities and actors.

As Blerina observes, describing the ecosystem’s current state is not so simple, and we have already witnessed similar waves of activity which, unfortunately, failed to make a lasting impact. So, why would this time be any different?

A few key arguments are allowing us to be cautiously optimistic this time:

  • Successful entrepreneurs have stepped up, leading the way for a new generation of organizations designed to support entrepreneurs. An excellent example is Valer Pinderi and the Albanian e-Commerce Association and Founders Club he started.
  • High-scale entrepreneurship-related events with international guests and speakers, such as Digital Nomad Festival and AllWeb Albania, have attracted regional and local audiences to Tirana.
  • Some startup support programs are showing continuity. Uplift, for example, an acceleration program for early-stage startups, just wrapped up its fourth cohort of entrepreneurs in autumn 2022.
  • The Albanian Government has launched the so-called "Startup Law" and a support program to help emerging organizations and startups alike. The extent to which this will boost the overall performance of the ecosystem and specific startups is still to be evaluated since the initiative is so recent.

With positive role models, inspiring events, continuous support, and public funding available, it seems Albanian entrepreneurs can now count on more stability and support.

Arlind Haxhiraj, founder and CEO of Coolab, sees Government involvement as an important milestone and a positive development:

Including the Government and the public sector in the startup ecosystem should have a significant impact. On the one hand, we will have more awareness of startups and entrepreneurship among the general public. We will also have more programs that make the capacity-building process easier. In my view, these are the critical milestones that we, as an ecosystem, must reach on our way to success.

If Arlind is right, visiting Tirana and Albania only a year from now might offer an even more vibrant and colorful entrepreneurial scene and showcase the acceleration we all hope for.