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Start-ups bringing urban technology to the Western Balkans

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Urban technology is a relatively new industry sector that seeks to improve living conditions by making cities more connected, habitableand efficient.

For start-ups in this sector, the main thing is not only profit, but also the creation of urban businesses. environments live better.

To varying degrees, cities everywhere Europe has started to adopt urban technology. The same can now be said in Western Balkan cities, where start-ups are seeking to disrupt the environmental status quo by offering innovative solutions in education, labor and government services, as well as in areas such as mobility, connectivity and green technology.

Youth teams working in Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia are exploring ways to make urban spaces more comfortable and pleasant to live in.

In Kosovo, the start-up MAIA launched a product called Jason, an AI-based smart waste separator.

By automating one of the most time-consuming aspects of recycling – separating waste into categories – this device solves important waste management logistics problems.

Elsewhere in the Western Balkans, start-ups are helping citizens become conscientious citizens by streamlining report various civic issues.

In Montenegro, an app called Budiodgovorán (to be responsible) allows its users to quickly report problems such as illegal dumping and damaged roads. Users can also report economic issues such as undeclared work and retailers avoiding paying VAT.

A similar initiative exists in North Macedonia in the form of mZaednica (mCommunity). Also functioning as an app, it allows citizens to report municipal issues and launch their own initiatives to improve their environment.

Another North Macedonian startup is making waves by rewarding people for cycling rather than driving a car. One app, Challenger, records every mile users ride on their bikes and rewards them with gifts and in-store discounts.

This type of technology can make a real difference, says a Croatian government official. Includea start-up that manufactures smart benches for connected cities.

“Everything is changing, cities too. The cities of today and those of a hundred years ago are more different than similar. Today we call this development the smart city, which means using various Internet of Things technologies to improve urban living. By 2050, more than 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. These cities must evolve as quickly as possible to improve the lives of all citizens.

In Belgrade we met Anja Varnicicfounder of UrbiGoat Zvezdara Science and Technology Park. This smart home gardening startup aims to bring horticulture to the 211st century with a device that makes indoor gardening easier and more accessible to millennials.

THE UrbiGo garden is a device that accepts special pods, allowing users to grow plants such as basil and lavender while receiving care instructions through the connected smartphone app. The app can also connect to social networks to allow users to share their progress.

“We came up with the idea of ​​connecting technology and nature because we noticed that urban millennials were trying to grow various plants in their small apartments. And we found that a lot of people were just unlucky,” says Varnicic.

“We saw that there was a need for people of our generation to make their environment greener, but they don’t necessarily know how to do it. So, using the remote, we solved some of these problems for them. Just because we are younger and lack (horticultural) knowledge doesn’t mean it’s the end and we can’t have plants in our homes,” Varničić explains. Emerging Europe.

But the start-up scene in the Western Balkans is not without its problems. Pavle Krivokucathe managing partner and COO of Belgrade-based Impact Hub wants more help from the government.

“The biggest impact the government could have on the start-up economy is to create serious investment opportunities and provide tax breaks to investors who want to invest in start-ups,” he says. “The taxes we pay are absolutely not attractive to someone who would come and say, “I want to invest in a Serbian company because it would bring me profit through growth.”

M Krivokuca highlights positive examples such as Israel and Estonia where “the innovation ecosystem is supported by the state and a good investment climate is created”.

For urban tech start-ups in the Western Balkans to truly thrive, a similar mentality is needed.

Photo: UrbiGo

Join ‘The ideal urban technology environment: stakeholders, technologies and framework are essentialround table at MIPIM: March 12, 2020, 11:15 a.m., Palais des Festivals, Cannes, organized by Emerging Europe, Forglobal and See Intelligence. The session is part of the Spotlight on Urban Tech in Europe report, produced by the three organisations.

Emerging Europe at MIPIM
Emerging Europe at MIPIM

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