The US Department of State launches “Innovate the Balkans” Program

GIST Innovates the Balkans is the newest program by the Arizona State University and the Innovation Centre Kosovo (as a regional lead), on ICT, Innovation and Startups, financed by the US Department of State. Bringing U.S. entrepreneurial expertise to the top science and technology innovators in the Balkans. Prishtina (Kosovo) will be the center of Program’s activities.

Get ready to jumpstart your venture journey! The Global Innovation through Science and Technology – GIST (powered by the US Department of State), and its partners are bringing a program to help empower the next wave of innovation happening in one of the most exciting emerging regions in the world with GIST Innovates: The Balkans!

This program is an opportunity for innovators throughout the region to develop their ideas and ventures in a 10-week pre-accelerator from Arizona State University, where they will receive training, mentoring, and the resources they need to build their entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to market, as well as provide opportunities for teams to connect with mentors in the U.S. and build connections with U.S.-based investors and companies.

GIST Innovates the Balkans is a pre-accelerator training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology. It 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 provide opportunities for teams to connect with mentors in the US and provide opportunities to interact with U.S.-based investors and companies.

After the training, teams may have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors at Arizona State University’s bi-annual Venture Devils Demo Day at ASU in Greater Phoenix, AZ.

The Program will accept 12 teams (2 members per team) for the first cohort of this program. We encourage teams to apply as early as possible.

Important Dates:

Application window: 19 December 2022 – 28 February, 2023 (CLICK FOR APPLICATION)
10-week training program: Summer 2023
Optional virtual workshops: Fall 2023
Participation in ASU’s Venture Devils Demo Day: December 3, 2023


● 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, Executive Director Innovation Centre Kosovo
Begu has led implementation of externally-funded training programs in Kosovo and the Balkan region.