A few years ago, barely anyone knew anything about the startup world. There were only some companies that could be called startups but even they didn’t know what it actually meant. Today, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are the Business Innovation Zoo (BIZOO) accelerator, events likeStartup Weekend, a coworking space – HUB387 and many more, so this is all beginning to change.
Edin Mehić (37), founder of Posao.ba (founded in 2003), the major job board in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been part of the Bosnian entrepreneurial ecosystem for years. He’s also the president of BIZOO, and is involved in a number of the other above-mentioned initiatives.
Back when he established his first company in the 90s, “there was no organisation or institution to support young entrepreneurs,” Mehić said. “Today, however, we can say that even in Bosnia we can find elements of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, events such as startup weekends, accelerators, incubators and even a business angels network.”
Yet, there is still a lot of work ahead, he believes. “We are at the beginning of the construction of this ecosystem,” Mehić said. “It is necessary that the dynamics and trust between the [stakeholders] is at a higher level. It is also necessary to build financial instruments such as funds, [as] these funds would enhance the functioning of the whole ecosystem. They are certainly one of the priorities for the future.”
Who’s who in the Bosnian startup ecosystem?
Up until now, BIZOO has organised several events – two Startup Weekends in Sarajevo, Google Bootcamp and a few other entrepreneurial events. Beside the acceleration programme, BIZOO has two other initiatives – BIZOO Startup Safari and BRAVE Startup. BIZOO is supported by the American Agency for International Development (USAID) through the program for youth employment and entrepreneurship with a project called “Partnership for Innovation”.
BIZOO Startup Safari is designed as a journey through five cities in Bosnia, in which participants visit companies from a specific field of business. Participants learn whom companies do business with, who their clients are and how they establish connections and partnerships, among others.
For those who would like to be entrepreneurs but don’t have an idea or startup, BIZOO can be partner in the BRAVE Startup programme, which has a goal to motivate young people to start an entrepreneurial life. This programme helps them to find their niche. Currently, it is taking place at three locations: BIZOO, The School of Economics and Business (University of Sarajevo) and HUB387.
What are some of the success stories of the scene?
Since its foundation in 2013, more than 20 startups have participated in the BIZOO accelerator programme, and two of them are in negotiations with investors: FitPlace (founded in 2013) is a platform that helps people to find their ideal personal trainer in a short period of time. Also, it allows personal trainers to easily manage their schedule. The founder is Semir Musić (22) – a young kick-boxer, who chose to continue his career as a personal trainer.
The second is Light Docs, a service that offers companies to store and create new legal documents, using Light Docs templates or starting from scratch. Although very young, Adnan Mujić (17) and his co-founders are giving their best to simplify paperwork and to get it to be more eco-friendly and also fast and easy for their clients. In October, Light Docs will also present at TechCrunch Disrupt in London.
“At this point, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a business angel network,” Mehić said, “but that alone is not enough. There is a large number of startups as well as established companies with a huge potential for growth. We need a fund that will create the opportunity for growth of these companies – with the help of knowledge as well as finance. Also, in a country like Bosnia, we need to be innovative and find the best model of investment for the prosperity of our startup scene.”