Skopje: Startup City On The Rise

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Thinking about where to startup? Have you thought about Skopje, the capital of Macedonia? Learn today about the so called city in rising, centre and main point of the Macedonian startup ecosystem.

Thinking about where to set up your startup? Well have you thought about Skopje? If not, think again.

Skopje is the capital of Macedonia, centre and main point of the Macedonian startup ecosystem. We like to refer to it as a city in rising, the main point where industry and education unite and create the perfect formula for successful startups. So in this common sense we will present you the many perks and clear your doubts about settling in in this city.

Once upon a time, exactly a decade ago, in this small city of about 600,000 citizens, something called startup community appeared. We can proudly say that in these last few years its membership has grown surprisingly fast, its reputation is still growing rapidly, and young people are becoming more familiar with the subject of startups and are willing to find more innovations and inventions.

So what better place to be, but in a city where entrepreneurship is the modern and futuristic topic, where young and smart students are constantly looking for companies of this type for their future job, where the government, embassies and non-governmental organizations are encouraging this type of actions 24/7 through calls for grants and various campaigns?

So have you started to consider founding in Skopje as your option? Let`s hear all the ups and downs, clear the facts and find out the history, then you’ll decide if we’ll make its future together.

Why Should Skopje Be Your Startup Destination?

  • Direct access to student base
  • Skopje is the main business center in Macedonia
  • Low cost IT quality workforce and well educated engineering staff. The average gross monthly salary in the country is 490euro.
  • Low living expenses, both in the city centre and in the surroundings – Office space rent ranges from 7.5euro – 22.5m2/month, depending on the class of the building with an average of 10-12 eur m2/month in Skopje.
  • The tax in Macedonia is pretty low, 18% to be exact. But, if you provide services outside of Macedonia (for foreign customers) it is 0%, while if you provide software services in Macedonia it is 5%.
  • As a central area, Skopje is well connected with the rest of the European cities. It has a good infrastructure, which means secure, fast and non-stop transport to and from the other Balkan countries. Macedonia is well connected to the entire world through direct flights to Skopje Alexander the Great airport from London, Vienna, Rome, Zurich, Dusseldorf, Prague, Budapest, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Istanbul etc.
  • 80% of the young population in Skopje speak the English language fluently.
  • Another must-have and necessity which we indeed own, is a stable and wide internet connection coverage.
  • The Macedonian mentality is similar to the mentality of the other Balkan nations, which helps in the process of developing and testing business models that can be implemented in all the counties in the region.
  • Skopje has very low transportation expenses.
  • Another thing that contributes to new collaborations, new projects and a bigger overall positive impact to the whole community is the great social life in Skopje.
  • Skopje offers a welcoming startup community
  • You can register a business in Macedonia in just 4 hours. The Central Register fee for registering a limited liability company is approximately € 40.

What You Should Be Aware Of:

  • Not so stable and applicable legal system. Some laws and rules which apply for specific subjects will not necessarily be the same for other subjects.
  • Although most of the administrative procedures are now digitized, there is still a certain dose of bureaucracy and most of the institutions are still not ready to use the necessary tools that can simplify the process for all subjects.
  • Another problem is the generation gap between the employees in the institutions. This can easily grow into misunderstandings, due to lack of knowledge and involvement in the technological innovation process. This can drastically slow down the dynamic progress, which is an essential part and phase for all the startups.
  • Even though the government provides a lot of processes that will help companies in the financial aspect, the access to financing is pretty difficult. The biggest problem in this field is the mindset of the local investors that are still not ready to take the risk of investing in startups. In other words, there are no precisely defined mechanisms for risk evaluation and assessment of the effectiveness of the product.

Even though there are some mentioned difficulties in Macedonia overall, being part of a developing startup community can be a huge opportunity for your business. Startup community in Skopje is like a big family that will welcome everyone who will reach out to them.

Skopje’s Upcoming Startup Environment

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One of the positive aspects of the Macedonian Startup community is that it is still in the early development phase, which brings a better and stronger relationships between the members of this community. The events that the local leaders are organizing are a perfect opportunity for your to know the environment, fast way to meet people and become involved in the development of the community itself.

Facebook Groups & Media:

  • Facebook group MKStartups: Community for Macedonian startup enthusiasts that are willing to learn, connect, share, collaborate and listen.
  • foundedin.mk: Uncovering the local startup scene. One startup at a time. Let’s kick some ass! Part of foundedX.
  • it.com.mk is a local site for technology, but it also publishes news concerning startups
  • Pretpriemac.mk: interesting information in the field of entreprenuership, useful advice and ideas on how to start your own business, economy news and much more

Regular Events & Meetups:

  • Silicon Drinkabout Skopje: a casual weekly meetup of folks working in tech startups or doing creative digital stuff in Macedonia. It takes place every Friday. Organized each week in a different location, this event tends to simulate and connected the local community throughout casual Friday night drinks and startup talks
  • Startup Grind Skopje: global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. The format was launched in Skopje in June 2014, and so far 8 successful Macedonian startups have shared their stories with the local community.
  • Beer and Code: event that takes place every 2nd Thursday in the Road house Skopje. Lectures about code, best examples, bad examples, and free beer for attendants hosted by TopTal partner!
  • Weekly Dose of Acceleration: Free weekend meetups, held by mentors, partners from New Man’s Business Accelerator and Management trainers. It is designed to help young individuals to properly evaluate their future career, future plans and to inspire them to dream up even bigger ambitions and goals and to help them realize them, using their potential.

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Startup Weekend Skopje: Startup Weekend is a 54-hours hackathon for developing new business ideas. The event was first organized in 2011 and used to be an annual event, but since 2015 it has been organized twice per year. This event has been known as a benchmark for new and rising Macedonian entrepreneurship stories.
  • Codefest: Codefest is a programming marathon for students, where teams compete on innovative tech idea development and design. This event is originally held in Ohrid, but its main goal is to gather all developers and young entrepreneurs from all over the country.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: awards in the fields of micro and small enterprises
  • Balkan Venture Forum: regional investment and innovation forum, matching innovative companies and active investors, held in Skopje once in 2012
  • AllWeb: annual conference aimed to provide quality content, great speakers, useful case studies and selfless knowledge sharing in the Balkan Region
  • ecaHack: 3500 developers in 20 Cities compete for supremacy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and discover the best Developers Team!
  • SMARTpreneurship for development and progress: European Week for small and medium enterprises
  • Global Game Jam in Skopje and Bitola: Global Game Jam is the biggest global event for developing games. Its happening jointly once a year in different locations in a 48-hour marathon
  • Telekom Innovation contest: Started in December, 2012 and was open until February, 2013, and during this period 78 innovative ideas from Macedonia were received. Deutsche Telekom also announced such a competition in March 2013, titled “Telekom Challenge”, with a call for Group level innovative ideas and projects. Out of 444 projects from 45 countries, Macedonia participated with 38 proposals, out of which 4 entered the finals.
  • Demo Day: Accelerator Superfounders organizes its Demo Day.
  • Smart Up conference: Annual conference where The Summer Work and Travel Alumni Start Up Academy participants present their business ideas to a crowd of investors, businesspeople, diplomats, and students.
  • NASA Spаce Apps Challenge: A two-day event during which citizens from around the world co-create solutions for challenges relevant to both space exploration and life on Earth

Skopje: Offices That Spark Your Creativity

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Co-working spaces are more affordable office lookalikes, full of startup geeks and probably cooler than any office a startup can afford. These places usually gather all the innovative ideas, talent and startup energy in one place. Here is a list of the coworking spaces in Skopje:

  • Co-office: shared office space located in Skopje’s city centre. It is the ultimate destination for entrepreneurs who seek a community-style office space.
  • Yes Incubator: Foundation with it’s main component, a business incubator for supporting micro, small and medium enterprises in the ICT field, through the process of business incubation, offers access to services for accelerating their growth and development.
  • Super founders: pre-seed startup accelerator network. It is designed to develop entrepreneurs, grow startups, boost local communities and build bridges.
  • CoSeed: Business Complex, representing the era of “Co” – Co-working, Collaboration, Community and Collateral
  • Business startup Centar Bitola: The mission of the Foundation is to contribute to the economic development in Macedonia by promoting the entrepreneurship of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Budget Development Opportunities In Skopje

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Along with the development of the company there are several funding benchmarks when it comes to financing your startup. If we leave aside the entrepreneur’s personal savings, a severance package from a prior job, or cash raised from friends and family members, the first financing stage all startups face is the seed stage. Here are some seed funding opportunities for startups in Skopje:

Incubators:

  • Yes Incubator: Foundation with its main component, business incubator for supporting micro, small and medium enterprises in the ICT field, through the process of business incubation, offers access to services for accelerating their growth and development.
  • Business startup Centar Bitola: The mission of the Foundation is to contribute to the economic development in Macedonia by promoting the entrepreneurship of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Grants & Subventions:

  • Macedonian innovations fond: FITD’s vision is to become the central institution for development and implementation of the national policy for innovation and technology development, significantly contributing to the socio-economical advancement of the Republic of Macedonia.
  • The National Centre for Development of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Learning: centre opened for innovative, technology-based and profit orientated ideas. It has a selection system which starts with online application of business ideas, followed by selection of the best 80 ideas, training in 13 modules of entrepreneurship and small business management issues, business plan competition and finally ending with at least 10 newly funded companies. The Centre activities continue with provision of seed capital for startups, counseling and coaching of the established companies, all in the direction of straightening the capacities of newly established companies to successfully sustain and grow on the market.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • Let’s Fund It: first crowdfunding platform in Macedonia, which aims to set up a new dimension of the entrepreneurship. The project was created by the NGO Summer Work and Travel Alumni Macedonia (SWTA), established on 19 January 2013. The main aim of this organization is to support, develop and implement the positive initiatives of the participants on the Work and Travel program into our society.

Even though until recently Macedonians have believed that angel investors are just a myth, in 2015 the community saw some interesting investments into Macedonian startups coming from the angel investor community. Here is where you can find them and see for yourself that they are real:

Angel Investors:

  • CEED Macedonia: investment management group that provides growth capital and business assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging and transition markets underserved by traditional sources of capital.
  • EBAN: pan-European representative for the early stage investor gathering over 150 member organizations more than 50 countries today. Established in 1999 by a group of pioneer angel networks in Europe with the collaboration of the European Commission and EURADA, EBAN represents a sector estimated to invest 7.5 billion Euros a year and playing a vital role in Europe’s future, notably in the funding of SMEs. EBAN fuels Europe’s growth through the creation of wealth and jobs.

Skopje startup ecosystem is boosted also by startup accelerators programs that help young entrepreneurs learn, educate and develop their ideas into successful products.

Accelerators:

  • Super founders: pre-seed startup accelerator network. It is designed to develop entrepreneurs, grow startups, boost local communities and build bridges.
  • NewMan’s Business Accelerator: In April 2014, the second business accelerator was founded. NewMan’s Business Accelerator is a Macedonian-US company for support of startups and professional education of young talents.
  • Darma Accelerator: Developing the local startup ecosystem by creating startups and supporting them through the process of funding, mentorship, product development and go-to-market strategies by applying the lean approach.
  • CoSeed: Business Complex, representing the era of “Co” – Co-working, Collaboration, Community and Collateral

But if you want to dream big and you are ready for the big money here is another option for you:

Venture Capital Investors:

  • South Central Ventures – (started by the RSG Capital team) – seed to growth stage investments for the most promising, high growth, tech companies that aim to take their business global.

Other Investment Opportunities:

Get Additional Information In Skopje

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  • If you are looking for more advice on the tax system in Macedonia, you can visit the website Taxrefundmkd.

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Last updated: July 31st, 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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