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Accelerating Albania’s start-up ecosystem – Emerging Europe | Intelligence, Community, News

A dozen of the most exciting and innovative start-ups in Albania are set to take part in a landmark acceleration programme which over a four-month period will provide them with training, mentorship and networking opportunities with potential investors that will help them find the right balance between technical expertise and business knowledge, transforming their future in the process.

In addition to the expertise gained during the programme, known as Uplift Albania, the best start-ups will be rewarded with a 5,000-euro prize and each of the 12 selected start-ups will have the opportunity to raise up to 50,000 euros in investment thanks to the broad network of sponsors, partners, and investors, a network that includes ICTSmedia, SOVVA, SlovakAid, Vodafone Business, Raiffeisen Bank, Albvision, EU for Innovation, Swissep, Tirana Municipality, Ernst&Young Albania, Huawei and ICTSlab.

Now in its second year, Uplift Albania is a sister event of Uplift Slovakia, and is the fruit of close cooperation between a leading IT publishing house in Albania, ICTSmedia, and the Slovak organisation SOVVA, with financial aid from SlovakAid.

“We are proud that while we received less applications than last year, the quality of the start-ups was higher,” says Kushtrim Shala, co-founder of ICTSmedia and Uplift Albania. “Considering that this second batch is happening in the midst of a global pandemic, we could not be more grateful to the huge number of supporters, partners and investors who have expressed their interest and willingness to support the Uplift start-ups. We have also restructured the programme this year by making it a four-month intensive accelerator, and by adding more networking events, as we strongly believe in the power of connections and community.”

The 12 start-ups that made the final cut were selected from 40 original applicants, who were whittled down to 20 ahead of a selection bootcamp on October 3.

Amongst the 12 selected start-ups are Varg.io, a finance, cloud computing, blockchain and net infrastructure platform for developers, FoodFilled, which brings together business with extensive food stock and end consumers demanding quality food at discount prices, Neuroyouth, software created to train the mind, and Wellness+, which provides an ecosystem for gyms and fitness clubs to manage their business workflow.

Others include Hermex, a platform for creating e-commerce websites, Maia, which analyses and studies the gaps that exist in the urban world, iNegotio, a provider of procurement outsourcing services, and AlbBNB, a local online booking platform that allows people to monetise their space, food or tour guides.

The four others are Swipin, a mobile social shopping app that aims to improve the shopping experience, Crossplag, which offers text similarity detection in both written and target languages, Udhë, a carpooling platform that matches drivers and passengers, and Nutriprep, which offers nutritious, ready to cook meals and customisable meal plans depending on the customer’s needs.

While Albanian start-ups have been a feature of the international scene for some time, Shala says that promoting them and helping them reach investors and partners is crucial.

“An accelerator was missing from our ecosystem,” he tells Emerging Europe. “I am happy that right from the start Uplift Albania has been able to enrich that ecosystem by bringing to Albanian start-ups the same opportunities that those in the EU have.”

Shala believes that the Albanian start-up scene is stronger than ever, and that competition is getting fiercer.

“Albania is a small country but has one of the youngest populations in Europe,” he says. “There are more and more individuals working on their entrepreneurial dreams, and young Albanian entrepreneurs are emotionally attached to their goals.”

Shala also feels that Albania’s status as a developing country provides a boost to innovation.

“The country still has many problems, and Albanian teenagers face these at an early age. Being raised in such an environment, their minds are always looking for solutions, to make it a better place. It makes us proud to see so many young teenagers working on business ideas that will have an important impact on society. Schools, government, and the media are also willing to promote these young start-up founders and turn them into young influencers who can encourage and inspire others,” he concludes.

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