This month, Startup Macedonia marks a five-year jubilee of actively encouraging the growth and development of the Macedonian startup ecosystem. Founded on August 8, 2016, the umbrella ecosystem organization is the first and only one in North Macedonia that unites all stakeholders in the ecosystem – startups, founders, entrepreneurs, accelerators, incubators, and investors, to create a community in which innovation can turn into a global business and success stories.
Supporting startups is key to their survival
According to the organization’s co-founder, Nina Nikolich, supporting startups is the key to their survival, and during these five years, Startup Macedonia has provided tremendous support to many newly established companies and inspiring entrepreneurs and innovators, with knowledge, skills, connections, and commitment.
“As a grassroots bottom-up built association, we are unique and we function well. In these 5 years here are some of the main activities we have done: fostering collaboration among startups, partner organizations, local and regional/international ecosystem actors, ecosystem research and report in 2018 and 2021, created the booklet: Launch in North Macedonia, developed the data-driven platform that aims to digitalize the ecosystem, and opened the first entrepreneurial community center – MKstartups Space.” Nikolich tells The Recursive.
With the support of existing organizations, partners, and individuals, Startup Macedonia strives to position North Macedonia as one of the most prominent startup countries in the region. The Startup Macedonia platform is the first digital platform that has more than 145 startups and 50 organizations.
Through the platform, startups, organizations, and corporations in North Macedonia can register and find all the necessary information for their development stage and more easily reach the next level in their journey.
During these five years, Startup Macedonia has also organized and co-organized more than 100 events and workshops for startup teams and aspiring entrepreneurs. Earlier this summer, the organization also launched its access-to-market project “Expand Launchpad”, aiming to support the overseas expansion of Macedonian-based startups, and in this particular case to enter Japan and Germany’s markets.
“We have been advocating and lobbying for policy changes through the National startup council, and also organized the 1st National Startup Summit, and for the first time supported female founders through the Womenpreneurs Stories,” Nikolich tells The Recursive.
Success stories from the ecosystem
Success stories from North Macedonia during this period include AirCare, an app that uses open data to visualize air pollution, allowing users to track air pollution from their phones. The application has now expanded to seven countries and has over 100 thousand users.
AI startup Cognism is another success story. The company develops AI tools for extracting sales and recruitment leads from big data. In March last year, Cognism raised $12M in a series led by AXA Venture Partners.
Both of these startups, and much more, are a part of the network that the organization has created, and where the startup community connects with investors, experts, and startup enthusiasts.
“We moved from talking about seed rounds to Series A and Exits, and from organizing small meetups and serving a handful of startups to hundreds of entrepreneurs that we have supported through the years, with most having their profiles on our online platform.” ecosystem builder and Startup Macedonia’s co-founder Igor Madzov tells The Recursive.
According to the organization, compared to the beginning, the biggest difference that can be seen now is the drastic increase in the number of companies that successfully operate in the field of innovation and technology.
What’s next for Startup Macedonia
The next step for Startup Macedonia now is the launch of a program meant to increase the cooperation between startups and the corporate sector. The purpose of this program is to motivate large corporations to be actively involved in the development of the Macedonian startup ecosystem, the organization said.
Additionally, Startup Macedonia will continue to work with startups at an even faster pace and provide them with support aimed at business growth and increasing sales.
“We will continue to do so in the future, as we look forward to making the association self-sustainable and have new ecosystem leaders joining the team,” Nikolich concludes.