How to place your startup on the global map

2016-11-11

Startups need a lot of support to be able to succeed. Without the right advice, guidance, smart money and peers around them, they are unlikely to succeed. Startups need to seek the right support system.

This may mean moving to another city – at least temporarily, e.g. to join an accelerator that REALLY understands their business. Mergim Cahani did just that for his startup Gjirafa from Pristina, Kosovo – he found that only Czech investors understood his business, so he went to Prague to join StartupYard and to find the right advisors and investors. This are his key insights – the full interview here.

 

From zero to hero

Today, Mergim’s startup is the star in his region. With over € 2.000.000 in funding and 50 people in their office in Pristina, Kosovo. Gjirafa’s vision is to “bring the Albanian speaking world online”, launching services that sometimes go head-to-head with Google. Successfully.

They launched a video hosting platform within only a month time. In 2016, they pulled of another amazing feat: they launched their own version of Google Street View. And just this week, they launched Gjirafa50, the first flash e-commerce site in the region.

But the journey to success was not that easy. It really just took off in 2014, when Mergim figured out where he could get the right support and find investors who understand his business. Before that, Mergim struggled – first on his own (and he says “being a solo founder suck”), then teaming up with Diogjen Elshani and Ercan Canhasi.

 

The big insight that changed everything

So what was the big insight Mergim gained, that made him go to Prague, which turned out to be the inflection point for his business? When he started his business and looked for advisors and investors, Mergim remembers: “People said, it is not possible to go against Google. They simply did not understand that Gjirafa planned to offer services that Google does not offer.”

Then Mergim found out, that there is one country in Europe, where a local company goes against Google in a very successful way. In the Czech Republic, Seznam, founded in 1996, IS the local Google. It is a hugely successful company, with amazing offices and a whole generation of smart engineers who would kill to work for them.

 

“Suddenly, everybody understood me”

As soon as Mergim talked to people in Prague, they did not say “you cannot go up against Google!”, but they said “ah, okay, you’re trying to do something similar like Seznam, but specifically for the Albanian speaking market of 12 million people – got it”.

The rest is history: Mergim joined Startup Yard accelerator in Prague, brought on Czech Angel investors like Ondrej Partos and Michael Illich – some of the most knowledgeable people in that space. With their money, knowledge and support, Mergim lifted Gjirafa to the next level. And today, they are a regional powerhouse, and still growing. All by finding the right startup ecosystem in Europe, that could give him and his startup what he needed: the right advice, guidance, smart money and peers around them.

 

Go out there

So, don’t limit yourself to the confines of your country’s borders. Go out there, browse this amazing “buffet” of ecosystems we have in Europa. Sample the goods. Pick and choose. Benefit from the diversity of our amazing continent. Take what you need. Bring it back home. And turbo-charge your startup – abroad, or right where you are, at home, becoming the next big thing. Rock and roll!