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The Next Generation of Startups: Becoming Investment-Ready

The Investment Readiness Program gathered startups from five countries, most coming from North Macedonia. They all had an opportunity to meet investors and each other at the live event in Tirana, organized by Swiss EP.

The investment readiness program gathered over 70 startups from five countries—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The highest number of startups come from North Macedonia, and we decided to pay tribute to them.

A few years ago, investment-themed conversations in North Macedonia went like this:

  • Startups: "There are NO investors in the country/region interested in supporting us."
  • Investors: "There are NO investable startups in the country/region that we can support."

Other countries in the Balkan region were not so different.

So, in 2021, the Swiss EP team decided to do something about it. After supporting and facilitating a few Investment Readiness programs, the team decided to take the lead and organize a regional Investment Readiness program with a live Forum for startups, ecosystem actors, and investors. Swiss EP joined forces with Vestbee, the lead partner, and local Partner Organisations—WFNA in Albania, Start in Bosnia and Herzegovina, WEK in Kosovo, Startup Macedonia in North Macedonia, and Preduzimanje in Serbia. The result was a hands-on program designed to help startups learn how to start their journey toward investment.

The application process started in December 2021. It was open to startups from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Out of 110 applications, 48 were from North Macedonia. As the program progressed through the stages, the percentage of Macedonian startups remained high. Finally, at the MatchIn Investment Forum in Tirana, the program's closing event, there were 10 Macedonian startups and 10 more from the other four countries. During the Forum, startup representatives had an opportunity to met over 50 investors from all Europe.

Why were there more startups from North Macedonia than from other countries?

After analyzing the program and talking to participants, we identified the extensive promotional activities that Startup Macedonia and the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITD) did, as one of the main reasons for high participation of Macedonian startups. The program was quite well promoted in all five countries, but it seems that Macedonian ecosystem actors made an extra effort to mobilize a high number of startups, especially on social media, and Instagram in particular.

Startups and founders from North Macedonia who participated in the final event—MatchIn Investment Forum, were:

Though they come from different industries and have various backgrounds, all of these startups and founders share a passion for technology, love for their products, and a desire to make it from a base in North Macedonia.

Elizabeta Jovanovska, Co-founder of Brand Solutions, explains:

There are no words to describe the joy and experience I had with the WB IRP and the event in Tirana. All webinars, workshops, and mentor sessions significantly boosted our platform. We had tremendous support from Swiss EP experts throughout the program. And at the final event in Tirana, experts and investors brought by Swiss EP provided me with selfless backing, links, and future possibilities. We got precious feedback!

Another aspect that makes this group of startups unique is the network they built together. The program brought them closer, starting with the joint bus ride from Skopje to Tirana, and the few days they spent together helped them bond and strengthen their relationships. Upon their return to Skopje, the founders stayed in touch and now meet up on a regular basis.

Ariton Zanev, co-founder of Vorhol, is a member of this new community.

The MatchIN Investor Forum was terrific—the event's value and organization were outstanding. We met many wonderful people and heard many excellent stories and experiences. Thank you for everything.

WB IRP and MatchIn Investment Forum brought startups (not just from North Macedonia but from the entire region) together and put them at the same table with investors. So finally, both parties had a chance to listen to each other and resolve the dilemma—are we missing quality startups, or investors who are willing to take their chances by investing in local startups in North Macedonia? Or Serbia, or Albania, or Kosovo, or Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We'd say we have everything it takes to start the investment process, but time will tell, if we are right. At least we know that we made a big step forward in that direction and helped the new generation of startups become investment-ready and prepared to face and connect with investors.