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The panel ‘How can policymakers support start-up ecosystems in the Western Balkans’ was moderated by Mr Armin Konjalic (Start-up Community Builder).
The first speaker to take the floor was Mr Shepend Lila (Training, Events & PR Manager at ICK*). Lila stressed that there are a number of challenges and obstacles for start-ups in the WB6. Institutions, that sometimes act as an obstacle to the private sector, in particular, start-ups should help companies acquire funds in order to start a business, but also help them with mentorship and consultancy. Innovation laws should also be amended in order to ease the process for start-ups. Lila pointed out that businesspersons from the region should invest in start-ups. Lila also underscored that young people should be encouraged to study digital disciplines and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Mr Jan Kobler (Managing Partner at South Central Ventures) said that for many start-ups in the region, capital is the main goal. However, this should not be the case, given that capital is a mere tool that helps companies realise their ideas. The mentality of the business sector should therefore change. Kobler observed that success stories from the region could help attract capital and that the region should try to present its opportunities to the investors. To this end, Kobler suggested to encourage regional companies to reach out to external entities and talk to their customers abroad. The speaker also highlighted that measures and regulations in each WB6 economy should primarily go in two directions; freedom of movement of persons and freedom of movement of capital in order to realise gains.
Ms Sara Lerota (Start-up Program Manager and Europe Ambassador at SPARK Business Park) spoke of the objectives and activities of SPARK. SPARK provides free and inclusive education to anyone who wants to learn about IT, graphic design, computer engineering and they provide individuals with competences that should eventually help them establish their start-ups. She noted that the WB6 have a common goal which is to combat brain drain and that they can do so through start-ups and entrepreneurs who in turn could help reduce economic migration.
Ms Zoja Kukić (Programme Director for Startup Ecosystem in the Digital Serbia Initiative) stressed that in Serbia there is a trend of the corporate sector working with start-ups. Kukic observed that if it is done properly it can be very useful. She also added that local businesspersons could help with regards to investments and that they should also be encouraged to invest outside of Serbia.
She highlighted that the main obstacle for entrepreneurship is regulation (e.g. company registration etc.) in the WB6. The economies should be agile and address these regulatory obstacles. Education also play an important role and digital technologies should be incorporated in education from an early age. Digital and entrepreneurship competencies should be taught across different disciplines given that technology is nowadays an integral part of every industry.
By Nataša Perućica
 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.