GIST Innovates the Balkans 2024 launches tomorrow in Skopje

Powered by the US Department of State, the program is administered by the Arizona State University (ASU), and implemented by the Innovation Centre Kosovo, as the main regional hub, and Startup Macedonia as the national host.

GIST Innovates The Balkans is a ten-week pre-accelerator training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology. We will coach teams about how to apply the Lean Startup entrepreneurship methodology and how to do effective customer discovery for problem/solution fit of participants’ ideas. By the end of the program, teams will have completed at least 40 interviews with target customers, gaining valuable insight on how to shape their product for maximum impact.

The program will provide innovators with the training, mentoring, and resources they need to build their entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to market. The program will also provide opportunities for teams to connect with mentors in the U.S. and provide opportunities to interact with U.S.-based investors and companies.

Eleven (11) companies and 22 entrepreneurs from the Western Balkans are now selected for the 2024 cohort, including edu720 from Bosnia & Herzegovina, KidsDay, HR bee & BESS from Kosova, YOVA, Gelenic Laboratory & BeautifyConnect from North Macedonia, and DiagnosticsON, WellPet, NavBlind & Hektar from Serbia.

The program will provide innovators with the training, mentoring, and resources they need to build their entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to market. The program will provide opportunities for teams to connect with mentors in the US and provide opportunities to interact with U.S.-based investors and companies.

The full list of entrepreneurs who will attend the 2024 GIST Innovate the Balkans pre-accelerator program, include: Vedran Hadzimehmedagic, Nino Skiljic, Bardh Kadiu, Getoar Kastrati, Artan Ibrani, Ermal Sadiku, Bajram Ilazi, Brilantdon Nura, Natali Ristovska, Olivera Ristovska, Ana Jakimovska, Ema Jakimovska, Majlinda Cifali, Tamara Jovanovic, Jelena Dzudovic, Nikola Milanovic, Aleksandr Milutinovic, Slobodan Isakovic, Pavle Zecevic, Mihajlo Milenkovic and Lazar Milenkovic.

After the training, teams may have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors at the Venture Devils Demo Day and visit ASU.

The 1st training phase will take place in Skopje, North Macedonia, from June 3 -6.

Meet the Program Team


● Visar Berisha, Associate Professor
College of Health Solutions & Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University (ASU) Berisha has a history of STI entrepreneurship success, including co-founding a VC-funded ASU startup.

● Ji Mi Choi, Director, NSF I-Corps Hub: Desert and Pacific Region
Choi is the Project Director of the ASU-led, NSF-funded I-Corps Hub and previously served as Vice President, ASU Knowledge Enterprise and Founding Executive Director of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. She serves in various capacities for numerous start-up organizations and boards.

● Zachary Holman, Associate Professor
Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University Holman leads entrepreneurship training for the College of Engineering and has successfully co-founded several start-up companies.

● Eusebio Scornavacca, Professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures, and Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University Scornavacca has extensive experience developing digital entrepreneurship curricula as well as multinational, cross-disciplinary, inquiry-based learning projects with start-ups around the world.

● Denise McKenzie, Academic Associate | Lecturer
J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation, Arizona State University | Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California (USC) McKenzie provides instruction for the NSF I-Corps national program, works with founders and teaches the Lean Startup methodology at USC and ASU, and has 20 years of experience as an engineer and a patent litigator.

● Uranik Begu, Director for CEE Region, Plug and Play
Begu has led implementation of externally-funded training programs in Kosovo and the Balkan region.

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