The startup landscape in Southeast Europe is constantly evolving, with many exciting companies emerging in a variety of verticals such as AI, IoT, biotech, and fintech among others.
However, during the past few years, many of the founders across the region were faced with different challenges – especially when it comes to attracting investments for their startups and adapting to new market conditions.
While each of these founders has faced different and unique obstacles, all of them are on the same mission to chart their course to success. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the most promising founders that we met during 2022 and that we’re curious to follow in 2023.
Filip Arsov, founder and CEO of Synapse Aviation – North Macedonia
Vertical: Aviation/3D visualization
Career journey: With more than 15 years of experience, Macedonian entrepreneur Filip Arsov has been working on a number of projects involving software development, game development, mobile app development, 3D visualization and animation, social media marketing, and so on.
Arsov has also won a number of accolades, especially with his current startup Synapse Aviation. In 2010 he was recognized as the country’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the category of micro companies, and in 2018 Synapse Aviation’s product Airport Briefing won a bronze medal at the “Western Balkan Summit StartUp Games” in London.
What does his company do: Founded in 2016, Synapse Aviation aims to improve safety and efficiency in the aviation industry through their platform called Airport Briefing. The platform provides operative visualization, smooth communication and information sharing for the aircrew, while significantly reducing the risk of errors by facilitating all operations that take place on a plane.
This solution features a display of information about airports, routes, maps and graphs, and it also includes information from supporting documents about aircraft flight operations, special airport procedures and contingency procedures. The startup recently got a €200K investment from local Seavus Accelerator, which is going to be used for the further development of the platform and expanding its team in North Macedonia.
“The main focus will be the roll-out of our product, Airport Briefing, within the 7 airlines of the Lufthansa Group. Additionally, we will work on a new functional module called Route&Area Briefing, which will complement the existing features and bring our product to the next level, covering the full briefing topic providing our customers with full compliance when it comes to Operational Manual Part C, our area of interest.” Arsov tells The Recursive.
Nikola Krstić, founder and CEO of Anoris Technology – Serbia
Vertical: Internet of Things
Career journey: An entrepreneur and innovator since early age, Nikola Krstić has gone from being a high school student to being CEO of IoT startup Anoris Technology. The Serbian entrepreneur’s experience also includes developing a mobile app for basketball fans, a smart wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) device, as well as native mobile apps.
What does his company do: The Anora is a smart glove which blind and partially sighted people can use to orient themselves. The glove also includes functionalities such as orientation, color detection, banknote detection, panic button, date and time, mobile phone connectivity, and light intensity detection.
According to Krstić, the production is based in Belgrade, Serbia and the first series of the Anora glove will be out in spring 2023, and placed on the official list of assisted devices for blind people, meaning that pretty much any blind person in Serbia will be able to get the device for free. Future plans for the company include selling the product in markets such as the US.
Svetlana Kordumova, founder and CEO of Pixyle – North Macedonia
Career journey: With a PhD in multimedia and artificial intelligence from the University of Amsterdam, Kordumova has taken part in numerous projects that utilize AI over the past few years that combine science, technology, and fashion.
What does her company do: Founded in 2018, Pixyle uses AI to identify fashion apparel in images. The startup also helps fashion retailers with image recognition solutions, and enables them to deliver a better online shopping experience, boost e-commerce sales, and improve efficiency in catalogue management through smart product data entry.
At the end of 2022, Pixyle secured a €1M seed round, which according to Kordumova will be used to hire talent in the Western Balkans and also will expand its offering with novel AI products in new verticals such as homeware and furniture.
“In the next year, we’re rolling out a new product that uses object character recognition (OCR) technology that allows our clients to recognize brands, material composition, size, and country of origin “made in” from a label inside a fashion item, and besides tagging, we’ll also provide SEO optimized auto-generated product descriptions,” Kordumova toldThe Recursive.
Albert Gajsak, founder and CEO of CircuitMess – Croatia
Career journey: Another young innovator on our list, 23-year-old Croatian entrepreneur Albert Gajsak founded his company when he was just 18. Gajsak has taken part in a number of competitions in robotics and innovation fairs where he showcased his inventions and products.
What does his company do: CircuitMess is a team of more than 20 young professionals working on developing STEM gadgets that teach kids about technology, programming and electronics. So far, the Croatian startup has sold over 72,000 STEM education kits to more than 30 thousand customers all over the world.
At the moment CircuitMess is also collaborating with Warner Bros to develop a so-called CircuitMess Batmobile, and at the of 2022 the Croatian company also announced a deal with retail giant Walmart which will see their STEM toys and products sold in stores across the US.
Ervin Kalemi, founder and CEO of Publer – Albania
Vertical: Social media/Marketing
Career journey: Having more than 10 years of experience in software development, the Albanian entrepreneur has successfully bootstrapped social media management app Publer. After graduating in the US, Kalemi returned to Albania where he founded Publer in 2012, and his main focus is on building apps that help businesses empower their online presence.
What does his company do: Publer helps businesses, freelancers, entrepreneurs, small-to-medium enterprises build their presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter among other social media channels. Currently the company has more than 150 thousand users on board.
While Kalemi looks to further develop Publer during 2023, he is also working on his second startup called Kibo – which is a unified inbox for email and messages that aims to help businesses respond faster to their customers.