Going To Belgrade To Found Your Startup

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You've always wanted to found a startup in Serbia? Here are insights to the entrepreneurial scene in Belgrade that will get your business going!

If there is one thing you can say about Belgrade, it is the fact that it has many faces. Just like all the ashes and rust, as well as all the fame and glory which left their footmark on the capital of Serbia. Belgrade stands as one of Europe’s oldest cities, a 40 times destroyed and rebuilt piece of illusive land on the mouth of the EU’s longest river Danube. A gateway from East to West which, especially in the modern times, is set out to harvest the best of both worlds.

A capital of many techs first’s in this region, and the final resting place of Nikola Tesla, Belgrade welcomes you with the question: What will your mark be?

Going To Belgrade

Why Belgrade should be your startup destination?

  • Engineers with a strong educational background.
  • Low living expenses, compared to the world average, lower salaries of engineers (20k € a year), space and other fix costs (less than 9€/m2 with electricity, internet etc.).
  • The standard rate of corporate tax in 2014 in Serbia is 15%, one of the lowest in Europe.
  • English is well spoken without weird accents (Google search can back this up).

 If the next points are crucial for your startup, meaning that they need to be supplemented from Belgrade/Serbia explicitly, you might not want to move/start your startup to Belgrade..

What you should be aware of:

  • Unclear laws that slow down the process, especially for those involved with hardware, so most tech startups founded in Belgrade/Serbia are not registered in Serbia, due to better GO systems in countries such as US, UK, Hong Kong, etc..
  • Exceeding the level of 66.000 € of annual revenue, business administration becomes far more difficult due to the more complex and burdensome financial reporting and legal requirements.
  • Despite the fact that Belgrade is a regional air traffic center with an enormous growth, it still has bad connections with other continents which can slow down your travelling.
  • Small local market.

Get To Know Belgrade’s Startup Community

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Maybe in Serbia you won’t find the best GO or the infrastructural support in the world, but you will find an incredible rising startup community, lifestyle that you could hardly imagine and team members that could lift your business up high. What else can you ask for in your 20s or 30s?

Info point where you can find your contacts, events and huddle a bit:

  • The most active community among Belgrade startup folks can be found at startit.rs and their very active facebook page & group.
  • Use Meetup and Eventbrite to search for nearby events – you can find pretty active communities.
  • Netokracija is one of the most popular IT magazines in the region.
  • Some of the upcoming events can be found at IT-dogadjaji and at ICT-Network.
  • If you search for networking, education and IT enthusiasts check SEE ICT web presentation.
  • Relatively new website is Balkan IT events – BITevents, check them out too.

Events, festivals, conferences, communities:

  • The following meetup groups provide various types of startup events so it’s hard to explain each separately, and I encourage you to search for more specific IT groups or events on Meetup.com which can be checked within Belgrade. The ones I have selected:
  • As it’s been mentioned before, Belgrade is not skipping any of the major tech gathering attractions so check on SiliconDrinkAbout/Belgrade and their Facebook page.
  • New, but rising product hunt support group on Facebook called Product Hunterz Balkan.
  • Startup Sauna Belgrade is an event where local early stage startups receive feedback and advice from coaches, who are experienced serial entrepreneurs and investors. By impressing the coaches, attending startups have the opportunity to be shortlisted for the Startup Sauna acceleration program held in Helsinki, Finland.
  • Belgrade Venture Forum gathers 400 innovative regional entrepreneurs, investors, speakers in Belgrade once a year to network, pitch and collaborate.
  • FundraiseIT – IT conference and pitching event that gathers entrepreneurs.
  • Startit FEST – 5 days event that joins together all the key people from various South-East European startup scenes in an exotic festival atmosphere.
  • Pioneers from Vienna in Belgrade (tickets eventbrite) – Happening twice a year in the region Global Pioneers embraces the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and transforms it into a global community by connecting all the regional ecosystems.
  • Seedstars Belgrade 2015 – 12 best startups will be invited to pitch in front of a local and international jury.
  • Belgrade startup weekend – 54 hours to finalize your idea in Royal Palace Belgrade (no kidding).
  • Startuplive Belgrade – 2.5 days of collaboration among different individuals with different backgrounds to develop early business concepts.
  • ICT Net Conference with a different main subject each year, conference about growing local ICT opportunities and network.

Find A Co-working Space In Belgrade

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Belgrade is getting more pumped up with the startup mindset, and coworking spaces play one of the major roles in it. With a brand new science and technology park, Belgrade is getting on the map with modern tech and science spaces. Let’s explore other spaces a bit:

  • BITF – Business Technology Incubator of Technical Faculties Belgrade l.l.c. with great results can nurture your business for the first couple of years with quite an infrastructure, and a great team behind, that performs as a family.
  • Impact Hub Belgrade is the community of impact entrepreneurs, creative professionals who collaborate and realize IMPACT. Globally very successful concept that grows it’s roots in Belgrade.
  • Potkrovlje HUB – Place where you can organize and work with young entrepreneurs that are into developing tech products. Amazing young crew leading the hub will boost your energy.
  • ICT Hub – Goal is to help tech-based entrepreneurs successfully develop their product and enable them to transition into the financing stage and enter the market. Freelancers are getting the most out of it so far.
  • Polygon Hub – Group of IT enthusiasts, freelancers, contractors and full-timers.
  • In Centre is a unique platform for development of social entrepreneurship that contributes to the creation of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
  • Nova Iskra is the network of creatives. As simple as that. Check out their awesome work.
  • Smart Office is the first coworking space in Serbia. Smart Office is designed to inspire, connect and support entrepreneurs, start-ups, freelancers and small business owners.
  • KZM Gnezdo – Coworking space for young entrepreneurs in the heart of Belgrade.

Top Up You Finances In Belgrade

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Raising money is hard for startups in Belgrade, though it’s not impossible (2014 data + please use translator).

Let’s crosscheck the possibilities:

Incubators:

  • BITF – Business Technology Incubator of Technical Faculties Belgrade l.l.c. already mentioned and with no need to describe a lot, their results can tell more.

Accelerators:

  • StartLabs is a US based early-stage fund investing in startups from Western Balkans and first startup accelerator in Serbia, Nebojsa Lazic is the main figure of the accelerator.
  • 400km from Belgrade is the city of Sofia and their accelerator Eleven which is a “Serbian-friendly” accelerator with 12 investments so far in Serbian teams. Though it is important to mention that info, due to many Belgrade startups that have received the investment and it’s not that we have that many accelerators, either way (so shh, and don’t tell anyone).

Grants and Subventions:

  • Innovation Fund is the biggest single investor in Serbia with 1.3M € / 2014 y. The whole amount is actually a grant not an investment. The Innovation Fund is backed by investment from European Union and The Word Bank.

Angel Investors:

  • SBAN – Serbian Business Angel Network can offer information on rare local Angel investors.

Venture Capital Platforms:

  • SPEA – Serbian Private Equity Association lead by David Schoch.
  • SEVEN – Serbian Venture Network.

Get Further Advice In Belgrade

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Once again, the best place to start your startup journey in Belgrade is startit.rs (FB: page & group) where you can meet Belgrade startups/ers, find out about the events and successes of the local startup scene. FYI: The Serbian version is very active, while the English one requires more regular updates (they’re aware). But feel free to approach people in English. They will respond fast and furious. Okay not furious. But happily. People like to be asked (remember?).

Belgrade startup folks are pretty active on social networks like StartUs, Linkedin, StartupTravels so try to find a match for your business, or/and soulmate to grab a beer.

I will leave you with one more thing…Belgrade welcomes you with a question:

What will your mark be?

 

_________________

Many thanks to:

Dusan Kolenovic / Good listener; able to switch from detail to global picture, quick. Fascinated by altruism.
Misa Lazovic / For now you can call him finance guru and an ‘angel’ in 3y from now.
Zoja Kukic / Pioneer on Serbian startup scene. Ever since.
Jelena Mikic / Content magician. Dot/Punkt.

Vedran is also active on Neopix and empowers people here.

Last updated: July 29th, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they contstantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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