Montenegrin startup community is still in its infancy. Some progress is evident, from year to year things are moving forward, but that progress is rather slow and very linear. Currently, the whole startup community is in the hands of couple of enthusiasts who are trying to push things forward. In Montenegro, startups don’t have systematic, infrastructural support. There are no specialized investment vehicles including pre-seed, seed investors ,co-working spaces, nor networks of experts/mentors. What is interesting about Montenegro is that mobile penetration is around 170%, and is one of the highest in Europe. Plus the young people want an alternative to the status quo.
Beside this, Montenegrin economy is not in the best shape. Government spending is around 50% of GDP, around 40% of registered workforce is in public sector, bureaucracy is huge, so the environment is not so supportive. GDP annual growth rate is around 3% which is maybe not bad given the situation in the region and whole Europe, but the base is very low and such low rates don’t look promising. With those rates, catching up with Western economies is hard and very slow.
According to one study conducted for UN in 2013, 50% of the Montenegrin population sees the public sector as the best employer, which is really disappointing. Findings of another study are even more astonishing – two thirds of the population would rather work for public sector for 450 EUR salary, compared to 750 EUR salary in the private sector (just one third). What is even worse, this ratio is the same for young population as well. Reading these findings, one might think that Montenegrins are not natural-born entrepreneurs, but that of course is not correct. I see these findings as our communist legacy from the past and lack of private initiatives.
What’s Montenegrin startup community missing is one huge local success story that would be a trigger, a wake up call for everyone and boost confidence of the people trying to do something. That would help a lot in creating a critical mass and in getting “buy-in,” stronger support from all relevant stakeholder (most importantly from the Government and big companies). So far, we had only 2-3 startups that managed to go through international startup acceleration programs (such as hub:raum’s WARP) and even get funding. For small country and even smaller startup community, this is, of course, very important, but still, something bigger is still missing.
Hub:raum Krakow, the innovation hub of Deutsche Telekom Group focused on startups from Central and Easter Europe, is very often in Montenegro and is very engaged with the local startup community. Every time we come, we find very interesting ideas and projects. It is obvious that something is happening, that more and more people are realizing that there is something and that “startup” is not just a new-age buzzword.
But the good thing for the Montenegrin startups (and startups in general) is that now, in 2016, when everything is online and connected, when globalization is in the full swing, physical location is becoming irrelevant. If you combine a great idea and a great team with passion, boldness and courage – all obstacles disappear.
The author of this text is:
Innovation and Business Development Manager
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