Discover The Fresh Startup Scene In Balkans’ South: Tirana

Published on:

You want to be part of the startup scene and found in the lively and colourful beating heart of Albania? Then check out this guide about Tirana.

Check out the infographic on How To Start Your Startup In Tirana!

Founded in 1614 and proclaimed Albania’s capital in 1920, today, lively and colorful, Tirana is the beating heart of Albania where this tiny nation’s hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism and unfettered fun. Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since it awoke from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana’s center is now unrecognizable, with its buildings painted in primary colors, and public squares and pedestrianized streets a pleasure to wander. Loud, crazy, colorful and dusty, balkanik – Tirana is never dull.

In The Heart Of Albania

Why Tirana:

  • Tirana and the whole country are located between Western and Eastern Europe. It is only 30 km away from the most important harbor of Albania (Italy 271 km in one night ferry) and less than 200 km by car from Greece (194 km Kapshtica), Kosovo (Morina 162 km), Montenegro (106 km Muriqan) and Macedonia (104 km Qafa e Thanës).
  • Even though it is hard to pin down the exact number of students in Tirana, it is considered the main “bakery” of IT and Economics students, without even counting those from privately held universities.
  • The unexplored field of startups has experienced a fast rise of interest in the last 3 years and the students are the most active in this direction. This mass of eager students is the perfect pool for future employees and co-founders.
  • The population of Albania, the young one of Tirana and adjacent Durrës is very good in foreign languages. English and also Italian are the most spoken foreign languages among the Albanian youth; but German, French, Greek and Spanish do not stay far behind.
  • The population of Tirana has the highest purchasing power of Albania, but also the country is still among the cheapest labor markets of the region. This is also powered by the lowest tax system in the area.

Keep In Mind:

  • Although Albania is a beautiful country it holds a small population of around 3 million people. Also the purchase power outside main cities like Tirana, Durrës, Vlorë, Fier, Elbasan, Shkodër decreases drastically. Unless you are starting small and thinking global, “Albanian speaking local” (Albania & Kosovo), be aware of this fact.
  • The cost of starting a business are very small. Just the registration at the One-Stop-Shop Business Registration Center (QKR) is only 1 EUR but keep in mind that companies (especially small ones) have to prepay the tax based on expectations. Moreover the bankruptcy procedures are still very long and time exhausting.

Tirana’s Community Is Ready For You

Tirana_guide_community

Being a startup means taking the risk of your idea and continuing to “make the world a better place”, Although Tirana is not Silicon Valley and startups have started show themselves just 3 years ago, the city still offers a reasonable number of events, meeting events and information points. As new appear, we will refresh this guide. The community is very energetic and it is guided by local players which have a great reputation in Tirana. Also, new players come up every day and this is the reason we strongly believe in a bright future for the startup and entrepreneurial community in Tirana.

Info About Upcoming Events, The Community & The Ecosystem:

  • Protik: The Protik ICT Resource Center was established by the combined efforts and goals of the Government of Albania, USAID, Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF), Microsoft, Cisco, and Albtelecom. Protik’s mission is to catalyze the development of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Albania. Protik aims to become the Albanian ICT hub: a connection point for those seeking the latest and most innovative ideas, products, and services.
  • GARAZH (The Garage) is a project brought up by the startup and innovation enthusiasts who are already contributing into building the startup ecosystem in Tirana. With the main objective to contribute, promote and shape the innovation in Albania, the organization aims to become the one-stop for professionals, entrepreneurs, and startups by offering access to resources and knowledge. (web link: www.garazh.xyz)
  • Business Magazine Albania (Business Mag): Constitutes the first digital publishing platform in Albania inspiring youngsters looking to become future entrepreneurs. Founded in January 2015, now it’s a trusted source of specialized content in various fields of business, like Entrepreneurship, Startups, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy, Travel, Media, PR, Innovation & Tech etc. Playing an important and active actor in the Albanian Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, Business Mag Albania gives support to Startup Initiatives in the Region, while being a solid partner to many events/conferences/summits taking place in Albania and Balkans.
  • Startups.al private project to build the Albanian online startups database. Here you will find some of the startups populating the Albanian Ecosystem. The database is developing each day so be sure to check it often.
  • PCWorld, published for the first time in June 2008, is the Albanian Magazine for Information Technology and Communication, supported by ICTS media. In her public archive readers can not only get the latest news on ICT but also consult a vast number of articles since her foundation in 2008.
  • Krokodili.al is another webpage that brings the latest local and global news only on technology. The platform has been founded in 2009.
  • TechSot.al brings the latest local and global news related to technology, science, automobiles, gaming, startups, businesses, entertainment, mobiles, social media, and everything in between. With a staff of 5 people TechSot covers startup events in Albania and Kosovo, but also international events such as ‘Techonomy Detroit’ and more.

Regular Events & Meet-ups:

  • TEDx Tirana is a local, independently organized TED event in Tirana that strives to create the unique experience found at TED. At its core, TEDx Tirana’s fundamental goal is to foster and spread great ideas and meaningful work as well as to provide a platform where thinkers and fascinating, teacher and females will be inspired and will inspire others.
  • Startup Grind Tirana, part of Startup Grind is a local startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. They aim to build a connected network of vibrant startup communities to help fuel innovation, economic growth and prosperity at the local level. Each month they welcome an amazing speaker (local or international) who shares his story with our community and tells us what worked, what didn’t, and what he’ll do differently the next time. Speakers talk about the rough times and the celebrations. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from the best, network with other members of the startup community, and improve your chances of entrepreneurial success.
  • Open Labs organizes weekly activities that include workshops, projects, meetings and OSCAL, the annual conference on open source technology. So far Open Labs has organized more than 60 events in Albania and abroad.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Startup Weekend is part of a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Come to share ideas, form teams, and launch startups, all in the space of 54 hours. Moreover the event organizers offer stimulation prices for the best startups to further continue developing their idea. This events are organized by a strong local supporting community of volunteers.
  • Startup Live offers a unique 2.5 day workshop format where talents from various backgrounds come together for one weekend, form teams, and develop early business concepts. Every team receives valuable feedback and support from experienced mentors and has the chance to pitch their business idea in front of a panel of judges. The best projects from every event further qualify for advanced mentoring workshops to make them investment-ready.
  • OSCAL (Open Source Conference Albania) is the first annual conference in Albania organized to promote software freedom, open source software, free culture and open knowledge, a global movement that originally started more than 25 years ago. The conference takes place during spring in Tirana and will gather free libre open source technology users, developers, academics, governmental agencies and people who share the idea that software should be free and open for the local community and governments to develop and customize to its needs; that knowledge is a communal property and free and open to everyone.
  • Albanian ICT Awards is a prestigious yearly event where individuals or startups get recognized for their achievement during the previous year. The event starts in January is held during April or May with a 3-4 months organization.
  • Design Overview In Tirana (aka DOIT), founded in 2012, is the first-ever international event in Albania dedicated to Advertising, Design & Digital Media. DOIT started, and keeps going, with a clear vision to create a strong creative community, to change the creative field in the country and to enhance its development by educating, inspiring, motivating and feeding the creativity in Albania. DOIT has now a great impact on the local market and a great recognition at international level.
  • Innovation week – organized by the Minister of Innovation and Public Administration is a week full of events in the field of Innovation, ICT and Entrepreneurship. This week is scheduled in May. During it, startups, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and big companies organize events or take part in the other events, including high-tech fairs.
  • Albanian Skills Competition is a yearly independent private Albanian Swiss initiative without any economic intentions. Strong believing that a country’s functioning economy necessarily needs well-skilled and qualified professionals in addition to theoretically educated academics they aim to build a strong system of vocational education and training.
  • Mozilla Weekend Albania / Wikipedia Weekend Tirana is another activity organized by Open Labs Albania. Wikipedia Tirana Weekend 2015 was the second event organized during the first weekend of November for the second time in Albania.
  • AllWeb Albania is a new annual conference aimed to provide quality content, great speakers, useful case studies and selfless knowledge sharing.

And this is not all; other small events are organized by private initiatives like the “Innovate your way out” held by a Professor of Innovation in the University of Tirana, a 3 month training-by-doing innovation incubator that ends with a challenge between the projects.

Find Co-working Spaces In Tirana

Tirana_guide_coworking

Co-working has proven to be one of the best ways to get connected in a new community. In Tirana the term is relatively new and limited to only a few places that offer such services like the Talent Garden and Tirana Business Park, where you might find a business partner, or access to events. The first co-working space in Tirana was launched in 2015.

  • Talent Garden Tirana (TAG) is the first campus in Albania that can host up to 48 members. The campus offers one closed meeting/event room, one open event room, a terrace to be used to relax to have meetings amongst members and events, a game area, a kitchen as well as extra services needed for the entrepreneur. Day by day they are growing this network in which all the members can freely move and work from different places.
  • MyOffice.al is another co-working space situated near a very favorite area of the city of Tirana. MyOffice premises, located in an area where the greatest number of startups are situated, offers modern workplaces, no contract obligation, office for single person or team , meeting/teleconference room use for free a bar and entertainment room.
  • Tirana Business Park Space gives access to an IOS work and meeting areas where you can be inspired for excellence, by original ideas and simply connect and cooperate with others. It offers an inventive meeting experience. TBP welcomes you to a unique area that fits the purpose of your activity and creativity. Young entrepreneurs, professionals and TBP believe that these space improves your productivity & performance by bearing: exploration, engagement and energy. TBP Co-Working is not just a real estate, it is a living communication hub where the personal interactions, performance and innovation becomes real boosters of your business ideas.
  • Innovation Hub, a coming soon project by Minister of Innovation and Public Administration and Adriapol Institute (by Marin Barleti University) with the goal to create the first hub for startups. This is one of the first collaboration that Universities and startup & innovation community has in Albania, hoping that this will not remain a Maverick in implementing this innovation rule.

Boost Your Startup Budgeting In Tirana

Tirana_guide_financing.
With a culture in family-driven or self-financed business, investment capital has not been part the way business is done in Albania. During these 5 years we have seen some foundations or embassies, which have started helping local project and startups to grow.

Accelerators:

  • Protik Center: The Protik ICT Resource Center was established by the combined efforts and goals of the Government of Albania, USAID, Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF), Microsoft, Cisco, and Albtelecom. Protik’s mission is to catalyze the development of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Albania. Protik aims to become the Albanian ICT hub: a connection point for those seeking the latest and most innovative ideas, products, and services.
  • Yunus Social Business helps create social businesses around the world through setting up incubator funds and helping people in developing and emerging countries to become successful entrepreneurs through financial support but most importantly through training, coaching and mentoring as well as access to local and global networks.
  • Ofiçina is a strategic initiative focused in supporting Albania’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. Its mission is to invest in, incubate, and help develop a new-technology industry in Albania through promoting entrepreneurship, helping early stage high tech startups thrive, bringing commercially viable technologies and business to local and global market and by supporting employment of youngsters in a growing ICT industry.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Yunus Social Business helps create social businesses around the world through setting up incubator funds and helping people in developing and emerging countries to become successful entrepreneurs through financial support but most importantly through training, coaching and mentoring as well as access to local and global networks. Until now, YSB Albania funded and supported the launch of several social businesses with more than $850,000 in financing, with a further $500,000 in in-kind investments.
  • Vodafone Foundation aims to allocate grants to local organizations, including nonprofit organizations and other civil society institutions in order to respond to community needs. Vodafone Albania Foundation also delivers donations in kind that are generated by the benefits and development of mobile communication technology.
  • USAID offers some supporting grants and subventions to different categories of businesses from time to time. USAID’s programs in Albania strengthen democratic institutions, promote civil society, reduce corruption, promote gender equality and, at the same time, create a more favorable environment for inclusive economic growth – all necessary to move Albania forward more quickly towards greater democracy while meeting criteria that are essential to achieving its European aspirations.
  • GIZ has been working in Albania on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) since the development cooperation between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Albania. GIZ is focused on financing project mainly in the following areas: sustainable economic development, water sector reform as well as agricultural and rural development.
  • Embassies like the Embassy of the United States in Tirana, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania, the Embassy of Israel or the Embassy of Switzerland through different projects offer grants and financial support for startups and local project in specific area of interest.
  • Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA): AIDA’s main objectives are attracting foreign investment, increasing the competitiveness of the Albanian economy through the support for small and medium sized enterprises, as well as innovation. AIDA offers foreign and domestic investors some comprehensive support for their investment projects. Their staff assists not only with market analysis, potential sectors for investment, but also with advice on finding suitable properties and locations (greenfield and brownfield), as well as helping to identify new and existing projects to collaborate.

Business Angels:

  • StartUs provides profiles of Angel Investors based around Europe.
  • Angel.al is an Albanian and American network of angels that offers financing for Albanian startups.

Don’t Hesitate To Ask For Advice

Tirana_mentors

  • GARAZH, is a center that provides access to qualitative information, mentorship and resources to professionals, student, entrepreneurs and startups .
  • digjitale.com is a very helpful site when it comes to information about the region in English.
  • CEED Albania drives economic growth by developing, connecting and mentoring entrepreneurs to strengthen their businesses so they can create jobs and in turn accelerate economic prosperity. CEED not only provides entrepreneurs business know-how through its accelerator programs but also connects participants to mentors and a community of entrepreneurs that can help take their small businesses to next level.
  • LPA Law Firm Albania has been assisting many local and international companies for over 8 years in different areas of law. LPA is the leading law firm in Albania in the area of business law and ICT. LPA lawyers have a great deal of experience in providing the most accurate and practical legal advice and assistance concerning the realm of business (small, medium and large companies), ICT sector as well as intellectual property.
  • Ministry of Innovation and Public Administration can help students, entrepreneurs and startup with resources throw their projects in the sector of innovation.
  • Swisscontact SECO-EP is an entrepreneurship program founded by SECO and implemented by Swisscontact Organization in 6 countries, which not only aims to support and enhance the readiness of individuals to start a business but also to promote favorable conditions for startups and enhance entrepreneurial framework conditions.

Ready for Tirana?

_____________________

Last updated: January 31st, 2017

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!

Sharing is caring, so please share this post. Thank you!