The Sarajevo Startup City Guide

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Located in the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is the capital city that's a very fertile ground for developing your own business. Various startup pioneers and enthusiasts already recognized Bosnia’s entrepreneurial potential and are creating the startup ecosystem.

Even though modest in comparison to other European startup communities, its size is of high significance for the socio-economic development of the local community. With unemployment level being over 50%, finding educated, skilled and motivated young people to boost up your business would definitely NOT be one of your problems. With international organizations eager to develop this post-war community through entrepreneurship, the amount of available financial support is definitely increasing. Without further due, let’s get you going, let’s explore your options!

So, What’s To See In Sarajevo?

One stroll through the main streets of Sarajevo and you’ll get carried away by the picturesque mixture of Ottoman and Austrian-Hungarian architecture, small, locally-owned restaurants will make you want to stop by every way-too-often and people will charm you with their welcomeness.

Want to know more about the culture? Make sure to stop by Sarajevo Traveler’s site! Sarajevo Traveler is a startup itself! Neat, right?

Some Of Sarajevo’s Advantages:

  • The simple ten-steps-long procedure to have your startup officially and legally ready to be open for business. In order to register your company (or Drustvo sa ogranicenom odgovornoscu – D.O.O. in Bosnian language) you only need EUR 500 as your founding capital and most of the registration forms can be accessed online.
  • VAT of only 17%
  • Top-notch engineers from local state and international universities who are eager to get involved due to the insane youth unemployment rate (57%).
  • Ski resorts, hiking, and biking trails only 20 minutes away from the capital.
  • Incredibly low living costs while being located in Europe.

Things To Keep in Mind:

  • Relatively small domestic market (3-4 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina) which can be negative if you need a big testing market but great if you consider how easy it is to meet the right market.
  • Bureaucracy – that is not an obstacle when registering your business but sometimes can be in the later on stages.
  • Public sector support finally recognized the potential startups carry and are offering new incentives.
  • Old-fashioned investment mindset should not discourage you as there are startup and innovation centers where you can meet the right people!

Engage With The Energetic Startup Scene In Bosnia & Herzegovina

The Ultimate Sarajevo Startup City Guide

The startup community of Sarajevo replicates the atmosphere of the city itself: the number of people is small yet they are all very diverse. Same goes for startup ideas. Even though one might assume replication of already existing ideas that have not yet seen this conservative market is what only works, entrepreneurs are proving them wrong – products and services are just as diverse as people are!

Where To Look For Information & People To Meet:

  • Fondacija Mozaik: Mozaik Foundation is a social enterprise, which owns two social businesses: EkoMozaik and Masta Agency. Their innovative concept of economic and social empowerment of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an investment in enterprise development, primarily in leadership and youth entrepreneurship. Mozaik’s mission is to identify, facilitate and accelerate the development of enterprising young leaders, so they can achieve their full potential and to put into the function untapped resources for the sake of socioeconomic development of BiH. They were founded in 2002 with the aim of strengthening the social cohesion in communities, giving citizens the possibility to initiate joint activities, to mobilize local resources and in that way to have an influence on local authorities, solve their problems and improve the quality of life.
  • Networks: Networks is a business center and coworking community in Sarajevo. Networks is based in an innovative building with over 1300sqm of interactive & modern space. Their various services are designed to inspire growth, innovations, and business development. They specialize in startups, product development, innovative education, and other unique activities. Networks aims to change the way you think, work, and network.
  • ANT COLONY: Ant Colony is a product-oriented software company, located at Networks, that helps entrepreneurs, innovators and inspired people to build products. They challenge and validate ideas through a lean process and a journey together with the client to find the strongest product/market fit. ANT COLONY engages in full application development, including analysis, design, development, infrastructure and most importantly they advise, mentor and guide startups.
  • RESTART: RESTART operates as a business embassy for the diaspora. They handle business requests and facilitate investments coming from the diaspora network and their contacts around the world. RESTART aims to serve entrepreneurs, business-oriented individuals, and municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina needing better international networks, a better information base, as well as consulting regarding direct and indirect investments. RESTART reaches out also to all other members of the Bosnian diaspora who desire to directly take part in the economic and social transformation of their homeland. For these companies or individuals who have a hard time navigating through the legal framework and complex administrative processes, Restart.ba offers a solution on a “turnkey” basis.
  • Youth Employment Project: Youth Employment Project in Bosnia is implemented by the German company GOPA. The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADC), while the next two phases of the project (lasting until 2020) is supported by the Swiss government through the Swiss Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They offer support to the programs that promote entrepreneurship through the institutions of all entities. The most significant projects that they have done in this field are “Young Entrepreneur”, “Online School of Entrepreneurship” and general support in the development of mechanisms that promote entrepreneurship.
  • SECO Entrepreneurship Program: State Secretariat for Economic Affairs – SECO contributes to improving the functioning of local financial markets and to nourishing a competitive body of entrepreneurs. The goal is to increase the partner country’s attractiveness as a business location and to trigger national and foreign investments. SECO works toward improving the business environment for companies in the partner countries and facilitating access to external financing for small and medium-sized enterprises. It also contributes to improving the functioning of local financial markets and generating a competitive body of entrepreneurs. The following business lines seek to increase the partner country’s’ attractiveness as a business location, triggering both domestic and foreign investments and also to create jobs.
  • HUB38’s mission is to build a vibrant IT community and space where aspiring IT companies and individuals will connect and collaborate; where interaction with peers will facilitate new ideas and solutions to challenges in our workplace. HUB387 is an information technology park whose main goal is to create an environment conducive to the strengthening of the local IT ecosystem, promoting a culture of collaboration and shared knowledge. They are revolutionizing the daily work routine by creating an open community while increasing the level of innovation and competitiveness among associated members. HUB387’s value proposition is based on the simple fact that by forming a larger IT community, they are creating a more conducive environment for collaboration, increasing your competitive level to attract bigger and more lucrative projects from the world’s IT market.

Annual Festivals & Conferences:

  • Sarajevo Unlimited: Sarajevo Unlimited is a two-day conference which brings together relevant institutions, companies, organizations, startups, and investors with the aim of promoting innovation in business, innovative management, and the use of resources of startup companies. As the first innovation fair in the Balkans, the Sarajevo Unlimited Team promotes talent and innovative solutions as a profitable addition to existing business ideas, and they connect potential partners with companies and investors. Their ultimate goal is the regional promotion of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a desirable destination for international investment, which fosters perspective startups, successful business stories, and bright young talents. Sarajevo Unlimited should result in new job opportunities, new investments, and better opportunities for BiH’s economy.
  • Sarajevo Business Forum: The conference is gathering business people and project owners from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia on one hand and their counterparts from more than 30 countries worldwide on the other. It represents a platform for business networking and the exploration of investment opportunities in the Southeast Europe region with the sole objective to foster its economic development. Each year the conference gathers more than 1,000 participants and has full media coverage both locally and internationally (Al Jazeera Network, TRT, Anadolu Agency, Reuters, etc.).
  • Link 2017: A regional conference about digital business which brings together all the regional experts in the field of digital marketing. The date of this year’s edition is still to be announced.
  • Tedx Talk Stari Grad is the regional chapter of Tedx.

Find Your Coworking Space In Sarajevo & BiH!

The Ultimate Sarajevo Startup City Guide

  • NEST71 is a shared office space located within HUB387 created for experienced and ambitious IT entrepreneurs. It is the ultimate destination for IT professionals. For those who seek a community-style office space, NEST71 is the place to meet and collaborate with similar minded people from the industry.
  • SPARK: SPARK offers a co-working space for individuals and other non-members. It is a place that promotes new technologies and lifelong learning, a place where new investments are realized, new products and services are developed, and a place that sparks passion. At SPARK, its members enjoy a variety of services aimed at realizing their fullest business potential.
  • ZeDA: ZeDA offers a co-working space as the business and technological starting point for all the young people who are “stuck” in their apartments or local coffee places. This type of practice is trying to introduce youth with all the benefits one startup community or center can offer.
  • WIP – Work in Progress Coworking: A coworking space in which talented people of all ages meet and work together (IT enthusiasts predominantly). The concept suggests that every member has their own desk and a chair, while the shared services are conference rooms, silent (Skype) booths, printing rooms etc. Members pay 100 BAM / 50€ on a monthly basis which ensures all the above-mentioned commodities along with utility expenses are being taken care of. Moreover, WIP offers free courses for professional improvement, hence the members develop into specialists of various professions whose career choices then go beyond the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.: A coworking space in which talented people of all ages meet and work together (IT enthusiasts predominantly). The concept suggests that every member has their own desk and a chair, while the shared services are conference rooms, silent (Skype) booths, printing rooms etc. Members pay 100 BAM / 50€ on a monthly basis which ensures all the above-mentioned commodities along with utility expenses are being taken care of. Moreover, WIP offers free courses for professional improvement, hence the members develop into specialists of various professions whose career choices then go beyond the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Financing In Bosnia & Herzegovina

The Ultimate Sarajevo Startup City Guide

Since startups as a concept are very new to this country with a traditional investing mindset, financing your startup definitely does not come in easy. Crowd investing platforms, angel investors and venture capital investors currently do not exist. Previously mentioned programs are probably the most effective way of reaching out to individual investors as they are organized by business centers who specialize in startups. Moreover, individual municipalities have recently started offering startup grants but they are reserved only for the local residents.

However, with the public and private sector recognizing the importance of startups at an increasing rate, it is without a doubt that capital firms and investors will have a stronger presence in this country. Additionally, some incubator programs are open already. Let’s have a look:

Incubators:

Although not directly in Sarajevo, these incubators aim to improve the country’s overall entrepreneurial spirit & development:

  • BIT Centar: BIT Centar’s main goal is to provide an opportunity for young prospective experts and entrepreneurs to start and develop their businesses. Individuals who have idea or project, young established companies or well-established companies that want to expand their markets can apply to BIT Centar. Occupying four buildings with about 2700m2 of office space, the incubator offers quality rental facilities for new and developing small businesses. It is important to emphasize that BIT Centar apart from office space with modern equipment gives you professional help in finance, marketing accounting and law. Help on site is something that separates this incubator from others from others. BIT Center has Seed Capital Found for which residents of BIT Centre can apply.
  • ICBL – Innovation Centre Banja Luka: The foundation is focused on the creation of future-oriented jobs, based on knowledge and technology, providing assistance to entrepreneurs in creating successful companies and assist Bosnia & Herzegovina with the transition into a knowledge‐based country. ICBL was established on November 25th, 2009 in Banja Luka with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, aiming to become a driving force of innovation society by linking science and R&D to the business sector. ICBL is a concept that is significantly wider than an “ordinary” incubator. While the center is designed to have an incubator function, it contains education and training elements, conference facilities and so-called “business gardens” inspired by the Norwegian experience. Beneficiaries are students, faculty members, trainers, researchers, and SMEs. The incubator additionally offers trainings, workshops, and consulting services.

Additional Initiatives In Sarajevo & Beyond

The Ultimate Sarajevo Startup City Guide

  • INTERA Technology Park: The foundation for innovation and technological development, or shorter INTERA, is a non-governmental organization established with the aim of encouraging and supporting the development of the economic processes in the region of Herzegovina. The initiative for the establishment of the Foundation came from the business community of the city of Mostar. It was created as a result of the need for technological development and innovative projects and quality and educated workforce that will be competitive in the domestic and foreign markets. Activities promote entrepreneurship, support the incubation of startups, provide education, and networking – all expressed in two words: Technology Park.
  • ZeDA – Zenica Development Agency: ZeDA is the central organization providing support for the development of the city of Zenica, which they achieve through a direct cooperation and strong support by the local government. They manage the entrepreneurial infrastructure, promote the importance of entrepreneurship and support micro businesses with their market placement. ZeDA has a business incubator and technological park together with innovation development centers.
  • SPARK Business Park: Spark Business Park is an infrastructural complex located in the heart of the economic region of Herzegovina, in the city of Mostar. It promotes new technologies and lifelong learning, a place where investing happens, and new products and services develop. SPARK members enjoy various services that encourage their professional development in the field of business.
  • Foundation Networks: Foundation Networks works closely with the Network INT and other organizations to bring world-known experts to hold mentoring and educational workshops, all with an aim of increasing entrepreneurial and employability skills of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The foundation works on strategies that would contribute to the overall creation of a startup ecosystem in the country, including the creation of a mentoring network, the creation of a business angels network, the creation of a formal network of national and regional incubator and accelerator programs.

One last thing: Never hesitate to ask for additional help in Sarajevo, this city loves new people & welcomes them warmly!

 

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The guides are like startup communities – they constantly 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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