An Albanian delegation of 15 startups, scaleups and ecosystem actors visited Slovak capital Bratislava on March 14-18, a 5-day long trip to explore a European innovation and startup ecosystem.

Founded in the frame of Uplift Western Balkans startup accelerator by SOVVA and ICTSmedia with SlovakAid financial support, Bridge2EU is program built specifically to support tech companies, startups and scaleups from Albania giving them a chance to get to know closely a European ecosystem.

During their trip to Slovakia, ICTSlab, Baboon, RPay, Spyvio, Udhë, TePema, ArchiGames, Hoxton Academy,, Swipin, Wellness Plus, AITA, Korça Municipality, AlbaniaTech and Destil met with Slovak and international investors, with startup ecosystem stakeholders from big companies with international reach to formal meetings with Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Albanian delegation was hosted on Monday, March 14, by Slovak partners SOVVA and CIVITTA at Base4Work creative center spending most of their stay in Bratislava. With a busy agenda and a variety of meetings with investors, ecosystem actors and co-working spaces, the first day began with a workshop led by Ben Gwillin.

On the second day the Albanian delegation visited ESET headquarters, an international company founded in Slovakia 30 years ago and specialized in information security and protection from computer viruses. During their meeting with Communication Manager of Cyber Research and President of EMEA Region for ESET, investing in Western Balkans was the most highlighted discussion topic.

Meetings in the field of security continued the same day with Katarina Mihalikova, a law expert sharing her experience and knowledge regarding law aspects for startups in European Union.

The importance of stimulating the startup and innovation ecosystem through venture capital funds (VC) was discussed with Jaroslav Luptak, investor at Neulogy Ventures. The visit at Campus City introduced Albanian delegation to 0100 Ventures and Zero Gravity Capital and their operating and investing practices.

The workshop with Michael Nespor, partner at Crowberry and Martin Basila, co-founder of Sensoneo, was an opportunity for startups looking for investments or finding the “secret ingredient” during a startup’s life. Supporting the local community to bring innovation in the town is very important and it was highlighted by Petra Dzurovcinova, innovation expert at Bratislava Municipality. She talked about local administration plans to support entrepreneurship community.

A virtual workshop with Marian Porvaznik, CEO and co-founder of Vacuum Group at The Spot closed the third day. The conversation in The Spot co-working space focused on Porvaznik’s portfolio of services ranging from companies in the legal to healthcare sectors.

Michal Kardos from Slovak Alliance for Innovative Economy (SAIE) and Kristi Kurvits, VC investor form Estonia highlighted the role of entrepreneurship in society and especially in innovation. Christ’s strong calling was the widespread involvement of women in the industry.

The 5-day trip was closed with a meeting at Albanian Embassy in Slovakia and Ms. Enkeleda Baduni, ambassador of Albania to Slovakia, and a meeting at Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Rastislav BilikIzabela NagyovaTomas Bokor dhe Branislav Pochaba.

The needs of the Albanian ecosystem and the support of the Slovak government for Albania, Kosovo and the Republic of Northern Macedonia were the topic of conversation.

In addition to meetings with Estonian investors Anu Oks, Harry Tallinn and Kristi Kurvits who were part of the Challenger accelerator’s Demo Day jury, the Albanian delegation joined the winner’s announcement among 8 startups that presented on the Slovak accelerator stage. This event was joined by more than 350 participants.

The Bridge2EU program organized by SOVVA and ICTSmedia and funded by SlovakAid is a research program during which selected companies and startups will learn and benefit from a new ecosystem of companies and technology startups.

Initiated in October 2021 through an application phase and then in December with startup selection, Bridge2EU is a program built specifically to help new technology companies gain access to finance, potential partners and even new customers.

Establishing connections between key industry players and meeting companies from the local innovation ecosystem, exploring a new ecosystem will be an opportunity to get acquainted with the expansion process outside Albania and the Western Balkans for Uplift startups and a chance to grow their business internationally.

Bridge2EU is an inspiration for startups with new ideas and Slovak tailored models for a country like Albania, Kosovo, or Northern Macedonia.