Kosovo is a lower-middle-income country which has experienced a solid economic growth at an average of 3.4 %, and has seen growth in every year since the global financial crisis of 2008 (South East Europe, Start-up Report, 2017). Kosovo has a population of over 1.8 million people. Kosovo ranks in the 40th position in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of starting a business in the Doing Business report from the World Bank 2018, standing far ahead of Albania, Croatia or Bosnia & Herzegovina. There is no capital or fee required to register a company, and there’s a one-stop shop for incorporation.
Though the system in Kosovo does not offer a hub for the Balkan region, the infrastructure is developing from day to day with a growing number of startups, entrepreneurs and other actors that are contributing to build this path. Therefore, Kosovo offers a great potential for anyone that would like to start a business, especially in technology. Young people are motivated, skilled, multilingual and eager to learn. The cooperation between relevant CSOs, Universities and Government bodies is increasing and it’s relevant to say that the startup ecosystem needs to follow models from developed countries in order to grow in the following years, especially in R&D sector.
With an increasing number of startups, entrepreneurs and different events, the ecosystem scene is showing signs of development. A lot of start-ups have managed to raise funds from foreign and local capital. Nevertheless, the need for a stronger cooperation among relevant stakeholders and the government would strengthen the cooperation between community in developing new innovative products and services.
Currently, most of the startups in Kosovo fall under the sector of IT. This sector in playing a crucial role in increasing the capacity for innovation of the economy. In addition, the sector is also promoting entrepreneurship, serving the development of a vibrant startup scene. However, the expansions into other industries are in the way of developing, especially those with products such as the case of the company Formon 3D. This company designs and manufactures the art Desktop 3D Printers, which are affordable and available to everyone including architects, designers, engineers and any 3D printing enthusiasts and beginners. In addition, the outsourcing culture is already well established, where tech-savvy people with English and German skills are outsourcing their services to Western Europe and USA.
The recently established Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, indicated a shift in Government’s priorities when it comes to Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Ministry aims to stimulate innovative activities in Kosovo, which are related closely to entrepreneurship and other economic areas. On the other hand, the Ministry is responsible for creating institutional coordinating mechanism between science, private sector and politics. The collaboration with foreign donors has also increased, in terms of grants and funds for innovation. To promote innovation, technology and startup culture in Kosovo and the region, ICK together with TV“T7” has created the TV show “Pullë. The show covers different topics related to technology and entrepreneurship and follows different events in this domain.
A recent trend that is prevailing during these times is the increased interest from society in start-up topics and events. Innovation and Entrepreneurship are also getting a focus when it comes to the curricula in Vocational and Education System, especially in technical professional high Schools, contributing to an increase in awareness about the ecosystem. In addition, digitalization of paperwork is increasing within startups or institutions with different software applications. The culture of startup establishments and the whole ecosystem, is contributing to the Kosovo’s economy, especially by young population and their energetic ideas and ventures.
The key stakeholders of Kosovo’s start-up ecosystem include:
• Notable startups such as: Gjirafa Inc, Hello, Decissio, Solaborate, Hum App, Formon.
Incubators and Accelerators
• Ministry of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Kosovo Investment and Enterprise Support Agency
• University of Prishtina; Riinvest; Univesum;
Chambers of Commerce
The main barriers for startups in Kosovo remain:
• Access to finance/ funding, where a lot of the startups rely on donors and grants, therefore, contributing to a decrease in sustainability
• Inadequate institutional capacities and support structures (especially in R&D)
• Lack of freedom of movement due to visa restrictions