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The economies of the Western Balkans are gradually getting closer to the Western economies, and digital entrepreneurship has undoubtedly played a special role in this cycle.

With GDP growth of 3.8% last year from the Global Competitiveness Report, the Western Balkans have narrowed the gap with Western economies while the problems they face remain challenging.

Brain drain or small market size are among the obstacles that almost every startup in the Western Balkans must overcome without forgetting the lack of funding and the passive role of startups. Yet this has not prevented not only Albanian startups from seeking new opportunities but also the ecosystem to provide new opportunities.

Uplift Western Balkans, the first startup accelerator established in Albania, is one of the most promising prospects for Western Balkan startups. Over the past three years, Uplift Western Balkans startups have found opportunities across borders. Such movements from the private but also public sector in the Western Balkans have undertaken a difficult mission, to identify hope and opportunity.

The startup accelerator Uplift Western Balkans comes this year with a collaboration between ICTSmedia in Albania, Venture Up in Kosovo, Ican in Macedonia, the Slovak partner SOVVA and the financial support of SlovakAid. EU for Innovation, SwissEP, Huawei, Albvision, Credins Bank, South East European University, ICTSlab, EY, and the Municipality of Tirana are partners in this program.

Uplift Western Balkans officially launches the acceleration program on November 6. Startups will apply by the deadline of September 24th.

Uplift Western Balkans

A shortlist of startups will be passed to the Selection Bootcamp to be organized in Kosovo on October 1-2, Northern Macedonia on October 8-9, and Albania on October 15-16. It is the Selection Bootcamp process that determines the startups which will follow the 4-month acceleration program.

During this program, startups will navigate through the challenges they face and the opportunities that await them in the future. Uplift Western Balkans for startups is an opportunity to get mentoring, networking, securing investment, and raising capital.

They will be introduced to some of the best practices, mentored by one of Europe's leading experts, present to the many investors and companies that will accompany Uplift Western Balkans until the completion of the acceleration program.

Uplift supports startups by helping them learn about the business models, product development, sales and marketing strategies, business intelligence, gain presentation skills, financial and legal knowledge, and secure investments.

The Bridge2EU program selects young Uplift Western Balkans entrepreneurs who will pursue a study program in various European countries.

The completion of the acceleration program will take place with Demo Day on January 17, 2022. Startups will receive prizes of 5,000-10,000 euros while there will be surprises, support, rewards, and opportunities to increase investments up to 50,000 euros for other participating startups.

On September 15, an information session will be organized within Uplift Western Balkans near the Destil Creative Hub in Tirana, followed by similar sessions at Venture UP Prishtina and Ican Gostivar on September 17. Young people will be invited to present their entrepreneurial ideas at a hybrid event with physical and virtual participation.

The Uplift Acceleration Program is being organized for the third year in a row in discovering the entrepreneurial potential of Western Balkan startups and has served as a bridge between the many gaps that startups need to overcome.

Although the challenges of brain drain, lack of infrastructure, or limited opportunities and funding remain to be overcome, the foundations underpinning the startup ecosystem in the Western Balkans are promising. 


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