The Macedonian startup ecosystem is smaller compared to other European and even neighbouring countries, but on the other hand it still has similar size to few quite vibrant and successful such as Slovenia and Estonia. General impression is that the country is not lacking ideas, but the creation of products and adopting to the market is still a struggle for many. One of the reasons behind this is lack of adequate support and expertise that will go much more beyond basic business launching education. This Product Market Fit stage gap is obvious. According to the Ecosystem Research the Macedonian ecosystem is not creating products as only 30% of startups who have entered some kind of program developed a demo or a product, and more often than not, those prototypes will struggle to generate early revenue. (Connecting the Macedonian Ecosystem, 2018“ by Startup Macedonia supported by USAID BEP).
Until 2018, startup support organizations were mainly incubators, creative hubs and various NGO’s and platforms working on promotion, education or offering co-working space for startups. By the end of the 2018, the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITR) together with World Bank has funded the launching of 3 Accelerators (first Accelerators in Macedonia) that supposed to allocate investment funds for highly promising startups. Among the organizations working as ecosystem builders are Seavus education and development center, SEEU Technology Park, YES Incubator, CEED Hub, UKIM Accelerator, Bitola Acceleration Program implemented by Preda and Accelerator X Factor located in Veles.
The main characteristics are that all these startup support organizations are in the early stage of their development and have recently started to offer financial support that is now attracting more startups. Previously, they were offering co-working and mentorship only.
ICT and particularly software solutions are still the most attractive vertical for launching business and there are lot of reason for this, but mainly Highly Talented Workforce and attractiveness of ICT industry in general. However other related verticals such as digital media, fintech, gaming, block chain, IoT, tech in agriculture are also present.
At the moment, the biggest supporter of startups and small innovative companies is the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITR) and their Instruments for support. As planned this activity should increase once the 3 Accelerator launched their acceleration Programs. From Investment Funds, SCV are the most active at the moment.
The current trend is that startups are attracting attention not only from institutions and local investment stakeholders but corporates as well. Corporates are becoming more and more interested in working together with startups and learning from their innovative spirit and flexible approach towards various technological challenges. So they either participate or organize themselves competitions, hackathons and different challenges for startups and students.
The key stakeholders of the Macedonian startup ecosystem are:
Startup Support organizations such as Seavus Accelerator, UKIM Akcelerator, X Factor Accelerator, Technology Park SEEU Tetovo, Bitoal Acceleration Program.
Universities (FINKI, FEIT, Faculty of Technical Sciences Bitola, University of Information Science and Technology Ohrid etc.)
Institutions Fund for Innovation and Technology Development, Ministry of Information Society and Administration .
ICT Companies such as Seavus, Telecom, VIP.
International organizations and institutions such as EBDR, British Council, Swiss Contact, World Bank etc.
Investment Funds: SCV, SEAF, Banks and their specific programs etc.
Associations, platforms and events: Startup Macedonia, Swiss EP, MASIT.