A moment of coronation for a four-month long journey of hard work, dedication, and countless efforts of the fourth batch of Uplift Western Balkans startup accelerator program reached its final destination on November 21 at the big final of Demo-Day.

Facing an audience of more than 250 people and a jury panel of serial investors, successful entrepreneurs, donors, business angels, experts from leading industries from Albania, Region, and Central Europe, 10 startups shared their stories in innovative ways, and their quest to bring exciting products and experiences to Western Balkans markets.

A product of a close collaboration between key institutional and private industry and startup ecosystem players in the region, organized by ICTSlab in Albania, VentureUP in Kosovo and ICANN in North Macedonia, Uplift is designed to inspire founders, increase brand exposure, unlock new resources and facilitate industry connections in Western Balkans.

Demo-Day started with a special and closed event for startups called Investor Connect: Speed Dating with Investors. This hour-long side-event gave each one of the 10 graduating startups seven minutes to meet physically and in person with Uplift Western Balkans investors, from business angels, donors to renowned regional and international investors who came to Albania specifically for this event.

As I was coming to this beautiful hall, I remember the first day we established Uplift, it was a memory from Keith Ippel from Advisory Board of SwissEP who asked me: How many children do I have? I answered, I am a second time father. He said be prepared because you will have too many children from today because startups are becoming your family. Today we have 28 children,” said Mr. Kushtrim Shala, Co-Founder of ICTSmedia.

Uplift is truly a special community, some younger, some older, some still at school, some PhD holders,” he concluded.

More than 60 startups and 79 founders applied to join Uplift Western Balkans fourth batch of startups and only 10 of them came past Selection Bootcamp challenge. More than just a moment of handing out big prizes, Uplift Demo-Day seeks to showcase the impact and opportunity technology-oriented startups and teams of any field brought across various industry sectors in Western Balkans.

We have supported with the first call 58 projects, 29 startups and 29 facilitators and one of them being ICTSlab with Uplift program,” said Minister of State for Entreprenuership Protection Ms. Edona Bilali.

I am very enthusiastic to have followed during all these months, and very happy for being very responsible with taxpayers’ money. I see young people get motivated in the first weeks with an idea, in the next months with a prototype and hopefully but pretty sure in the next year in the market ready for local or foreign investors,” she said.

Uplift Western Balkans is supported by Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Protection in Albania and organized in the framework of “Qëndro” project financed by Italian Government and implemented by UNICEF Albania.

Over the last four months, 10 startups who came past Selection Bootcamp challenge in September: Kanah.alCodonEco Solution ResearchFleetONConsciESGRecro Thrift StoreBe My Safety nga AlcodersKnowledge BitsMaitriVR dhe Mirjana Josifoska, progressed through a curriculum of mentoring from industry experts and individualized support preparing them to fundraise, launch pilots, and accelerate the adoption of their technologies and products with 11 different workshops and a studying trip to European startup and innovation ecosystems.

It’s not about what we buy, but what we create,” said Ms. Anuela Ristani, Deputy Major of Tirana. Addressing startups and the audience, she highlighted what makes the difference in a successful startup is the context in which it applies the solution.

During the acceleration program, startups were mentored by Albanian and international experts from different industries and field such as entrepreneurship, investing, startups, leadership, marketing, social media, online communication, branding etc.

My word is for every young person: You work a lot, and it seems like results are not coming yet. Even if you don’t see an immediate result, remember you are living in a community. You don’t see us, but we are supporting you,” said Ms. Lucia Cucciarelli, Head of the Office for School Cooperation at the Italian Embassy in Tirana.

Four big prizes and lots of surprises were reserved for the 10 participating startups.

It’s simply amazing to be here and every time I am connected to such creative minds, leaders of startups ecosystems, you are addressing tomorrow’s solutions with future mindset,” said Ms. Edina Kozma, The Deputy representative of UNICEF Albania.

Uplift Western Balkans startups took the stage of Demo-Day with 3-minute-long pitches followed by another three minutes of question from the jury consisting of:  Eli Zhabevska, Principal at South Central Ventures; Kamen Bankovski, Principal at Vitosha Venture Partners; Ardian Hoxha, serial entrepreneur, investor; Edina Kozma, Deputy Representative at UNICEF Albania and Martin Bjergegaard, serial entrepreneur turned startup investor.

A parallel session followed startup pitches as the jury began the evaluation process. Stoyan Yankov, a productivity coach with the mission to empower business leaders and entrepreneurs, on stage at Demo-Day addressed the topic “The non-sexy truth about startup success.”

During his keynote, he said that mentors could be the people you don’t talk to such as books, podcasts, audiobooks. The question is, how can we surround ourselves with people who are winning, successful entrepreneurs, founders, mentors.

Uplift Western Balkans fourth batch winner’s announcement

The startups of this edition come from a broad range of industries such as e-commerce, cloud, design, fintech, agritech, data science, health tech and renewable energies.

Startups that aspire to redefine ESG integration for investors and companies, platforms that enable healthcare institutions to increase performance, designers that create accessories from textile waste, shops that sell used products curated by the Roma community, a digital book platform, virtual reality applications, a data visualization product for e-commerce businesses, a cloud platform for fleet management of car rental companies, security applications and an ECO solution were the solutions that Uplift Western Balkans startups had for the challenges they face every day.

  • Recro was awarded the first prize of 1 million lekë by Uplift Western Balkans jury.
  • The winner of the second prize of 500 thousand lekë was Macedonian hat designer Mirjana Josifoska.
  • The third prize of 300 thousand lekë went for healthcare application Codon.
  • ConsciESG was awarded the fourth prize of 200 thousand lekë.
  • HL Branding Awards went for Reco, KnowledgeBits and Eco Solution Research

Uplift Western Balkans is financially supported by Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Protection and is organized in the framework of “Qëndro” Project financed by Italian Government and implemented by UNICEF in Albania.

Uplift Western Balkans is a program to support startups and organized by ICTSlab, in cooperation with VentureUP in Kosovo and ICANN in North Macedonia.

Uplift also enjoys the support of a broad partnership such as partners such as SwissEP, EU4Innovation, Albvision, Bashkia Tirane, Universiteti i Prishtines, Universiteti i Evropes Juglindore and many more partners.