In the past decade, Macedonia’s IT industry has established itself as a leading tech player in the region. And with various local startup exits, events/meetups, VC funding announcements, and acceleration/pre-acceleration programs strengthening the country’s presence in the global tech startup arena, you can expect to see more Macedonian entrepreneurs making global tech startup news headlines.
Here are the top 11 reasons why Macedonia’s tech startup ecosystem and environment is on par with Silicon Valley.
11. A welcoming community of tech startups.
There’s nothing better to spur local innovation than good-spirited competition—and Macedonia’s welcoming startup community encourages just the right amount of friendly friction. Events like Startup Weekend Skopje provide local entrepreneurs with a forum to network and exchange ideas on an ongoing basis.
10. A sizable consumer market primed for digital products and services.
Macedonia boasts a sizable consumer base, and when combined with neighboring countries to form the broader Balkan region, constitutes a lucrative market for launching new digital products and services. Additionally, the country has duty-free access to 650 million consumers via the EU’s Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).
9. Low barrier to entry for starting up a business.
The process of starting a business may be filled with red tape in other countries, but not Macedonia. Registering a new business is low cost and takes approximately 4 hours.
8. A mature outsourcing industry and large pool of professional talent.
The wage gap between what domestic and international companies will pay for local, high-skilled talent is an ongoing challenge. However, with many professionals working for foreign companies and staying competitive on the international market, most workers are highly adept in global settings and experienced in working with cross-cultural teams.
7. Low cost of living.
Macedonia offers European living on a dime, enabling entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups without foregoing quality of life. In fact, the cost of living is below the European average—apartments, public transportation, and entertainment are significantly cheaper than other capitals.
6. A local hunger for fresh ideas and expertise.
Macedonians are constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas and expertise. Despite recent successes, startups are still a relatively new phenomenon in the Balkans. Subsequently, there is a large demand for entrepreneurship—both leadership and ideas—and a dearth of internationals experts in this regard.
5. A low tax rate for startups—especially software companies.
Macedonia’s tax rate for businesses is a low 18%; for companies that provide software services, the rate is even lower at 5%. In fact, theWorld Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report listed the country’s total tax rate of 7.4% as the lowest total tax rate in the world.
4. A growing public and private interest in startup investing.
Both government-funded organizations and private investors are getting in on the Macedonian startup game. For example, the country’s “Fund of Innovation” has so far invested 1.3 million euros in 33 Macedonian companies.
3. Easy accessibility to Europe and the rest of the world.
Macedonia boasts well-developed, cost-effective transportation networks connecting the country to the rest of the EU cities. Skopje’s Alexander the Great Airport offers direct flights to various European and global destination via major international carriers.
2. A resilient, local consumer base ripe for disruption.
The Macedonian consumer base was famously unshaken by the previous global economic downturn; this, coupled with a local hunger for innovation, make the local market especially ideal for launching new digital products and services.
1. A new tech startup space with yet-to-be-established rules.
Macedonia’s startup environment is uncharted and rife with opportunity. And because the government is actively encouraging tech entrepreneurship, many first mover advantages are still for the taking.
In short, Macedonia has evolved into a leading force in the region when it comes to Balkan tech startup innovation—and these are the top reasons why. Be sure to keep this rising tech startup hub on your radar in the coming months and years.