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Advancing Serbian startups: Navigating challenges and opportunities

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The report from the “Digital Serbia” Initiative reveals a remarkable surge in both the number of domestic startup ventures and their workforce over the past two years. Despite this growth, the organization underscores the predominant reliance on service-oriented exports within the IT sector, urging local startups to pivot towards selling their products and technologies more aggressively on the global stage.

Commissioned with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the report scrutinizes the startup ecosystem’s evolution, emphasizing the crucial need for enhanced support during the nascent stages of these enterprises. Access to funding, customer acquisition, and talent recruitment, identified as the primary challenges, are counterbalanced by objectives such as bolstering sales, advancing product development, and expanding user bases.

Nebojša Bjelotomić, Director of the “Digital Serbia” Initiative, highlights the burgeoning landscape, with 750 domestic startups currently employing over 6,000 individuals. Despite these promising figures, he observes a crucial gap in their global market penetration.

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Bjelotomić advocates for deeper integration of individuals with diverse educational backgrounds, not limited to technology, but also encompassing economics and management, to foster the holistic growth of startups. However, recent research by “Digital Serbia” indicates that only a fraction of startups managed to recruit sales-focused team members last year.

Moreover, domestic startups now have access to the ENEF 2 investment fund, totaling 70 million euros. Launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, this fund aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the Western Balkans seeking to expand into the European Union market. Financial aid spans from minority investments to traditional loans, supplemented by advisory services to enhance business acumen and align with sustainable development principles.

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