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Inside the startup ecosystem of Bosnia and Herzegovina: trends, main actors and next steps

Sarajevo
Image credit: Boris Stroujko
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It’s still very early days for the startup ecosystem in Bosnia and Herzegovina and local ventures are still looking for the formula to scale internationally. That said, the country has several prerequisites that may play an important role in its transition to a more innovative economy. 

In the past, Bosnia and Herzegovina has developed a culture of raising engineers, especially in the energy sector, and now this interest in technology is spreading to the IT sector as well. In the past seven years,  employment in the ICT industry grew about 10 times faster than in other sectors.  While a population of 3.3 million people presents a small local market, this state of affairs has also motivated the entrepreneurial community in the country to engage and collaborate with other ecosystems in the Western Balkans region. 

Accelerators, incubators, and coworking spaces are already appearing on the map, and international organizations like the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program are supporting the development of Bosnian startups and growth-oriented small businesses. The Sarajevo chapters of global communities like Startup Grind and Product Tank are on a mission to further connect, inspire, and educate local founders. 

Capital is still mostly missing, though – beyond a few angels and the €40M regional South Central Ventures fund, there are not that many funding opportunities for innovators in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The other big missing elements – success stories and startup culture. 

“When you want to create an innovation ecosystem, you need entrepreneurs – leaders with a fresh mindset to bring the community to the next level. We still don’t have a culture where failure is acceptable. Very often, you’d be judged for trying to build something new or for failing; it’s somewhat legacy from the old system

The new generation needs role models, somebody to look up to and to show them being an entrepreneur is a viable career choice. It’s possible to happen here – you don’t need to go across Europe to start your tech venture. The first few startup success stories will change the mindset, and the employees of these startups are likely to start their own ventures and give back knowledge and know-how to the community,” shares Alema Pelesić, ecosystem facilitator for the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program in front of The Recursive.

Read more:  Global Innovation Index 2021: Bulgaria leads the ranks for performance above expectations amongst developing economies

Who is who in the ecosystem?

When it comes to technology and startups the Bosnian ecosystem is still very agnostic, there are startups in eCommerce, blockchain, HR, and many other verticals. Similar to other countries in The Balkans, the IT outsourcing industry is still more popular but things are changing, and with the right nurturing Sarajevo may become one of the important technology hubs in the region. 

Among the tech success stories in the Bosnian ecosystem so far have been: Pik.ba acquired by OLX group, MojPosao.ba – an online job portal that has expanded across the region, and NSoft.ba – a betting software provider that has turned into one of the biggest companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There is also an emerging line of most promising young ventures:

  • Rolla: a suite of gamified fitness apps that enable users to monitor and track their performance.
  • Tayra: inspired by sports dynamics, employee performance analytics software, making staff recognition and rewards easy.
  • Bsmart: IoT solutions for heating and cooling.
  • Ozon: an AI recruiting platform with a candidate evaluation system.
  • Devoted: a company that developed an industrial IoT platform allowing the transfer of data from plants to the cloud.
  • Beebee: a platform for electric scooter sharing.
  • 15do3: a marketplace for beauty salons.
  • OREA: a platform for buying and selling handmade products with a local label.
  • Bizbook: a marketplace for business deals. 

Other key players include

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https://therecursive.com/author/etienyovchev/

Etien Yovchev is a co-founder and Chief Editor at The Recursive, online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. He has told the stories of over 200 ventures from the region and aims to provide high-quality constructive reporting on the progress of the SEE innovation ecosystem, making sure that the stories of promising local founders reach global audiences. Etien holds a MSc degree in Innovation Management from RSM, Erasmus University Rotterdam and has more than 4 years of experience in the commercialization of new products, having worked with many early-stage companies and a few corporate innovation departments across Bulgaria, The Netherlands, and the USA.
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