Kosovar start-up entrepreneurs are facing many challenges in their day-to-day life. Agon Avdimetaj and Mentor Paçarada hope that more and more Kosovars could travel and visit start-up events so they could see, how things are done elsewhere. One example of a well-known start-up happening is Slush in Helsinki, where the two Kosovars visited this autumn.
Agon Avdimetaj, 23, and Mentor Paçarada, 31, knew how Finland is like before they took a flight to Helsinki. After following Finnish companies such as Nokia, Rovio and Supercell for years, the country has become familiar to them. That is, Finland has offered them a bunch of role models.
Attending the start-up event Slush had been in their thoughts for a couple of years. The decision to go to Helsinki was taken over a cup of coffee last autumn. They wanted to meet the people, who have given them a lot of inspiration, in real life.
Both Paçarada and Avdimetaj own two mobile programming companies which are basically the only ones of that kind in Kosovo.
They are both doing well as entrepreneurs. Avdimetaj's APPSIX is employing already 22 employees and the firm has offices in the US. Whereas, Paçarada's mobile and gaming company Trigonom won the Start Up Sauna event last year in Pristina. He's one the founders of Kosovo's first portal, telegrafi.com.
Slush was exactly what Avdimetaj and Paçarada imagined. They talked to volunteers, media and investors and got feedback on their work from professionals.
"It was very inspiring to see it all with own eyes, and also talk with the people, whose companies' work I've been following for a long time", says Avdimetaj.
Since Paçarada and Avdimetaj have participated in many international conferences, they could tell how Slush distinguished from other such events. For example in Finland everyone knew what Slush is about.
"It surprised us how people in Finland remembered what happened in Kosovo in the 1990s. They were impressed to hear where we're from."
There was one thing that impressed the two Kosovars more than Slush itself. During the conference Paçarada lost his back bag with all his work inside. The bag was later found and nothing was stolen.
"That was probably the most unbelievable thing: honesty", says Paçarada.
A breakthrough of at least one company would benefit the whole sector in Kosovo, Paçarada and Avdimetaj think. Kosovo needs a Nokia story.
If that happened, the government would also understand to invest in education and Kosovo's youth.
The Nokia phenomenon requires a lot more work in Kosovo than in Finland. Paçarada and Avdimetaj tell that Kosovars should get more chances to travel more and see how things are done elsewhere. For the time being, Kosovo is excluded from visa free traveling. Kosovars can travel with their passport only to a few neighbor countries.
"The decision to go to Slush wasn't a big deal but for us it required a lot of work. We had to buy the tickets before applying for visa, and then wait for weeks to hear if we're granted it or not", Avdimetaj describes.
Mobile and gaming programming sector can luckily grow without visa liberalization since most of the work and advertising is made on the internet.
Instead, the biggest problem that is slowing the growth is the lack of passionate and competent workers. Due to the economic situation, many Kosovars do not even try to make their dreams come true but focus more in a job that's paying immediately.
"We need people who are willing to work very hard and have ambition to change the world", concludes Avdimetaj.