Innovation-based entrepreneurship in Moldova: development prospects for 2021

It is not a myth that the global economy is moving towards a knowledge-based model, where innovation is the main factor responsible for the sustainable development of any country’s economy. Entrepreneurs are the ones who have the courage to adopt innovations and use their ideas intelligently, based on which they build businesses that change the world. Moldova’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is emerging, although it has made significant progress compared to 10 years ago, our country still has much unexplored potential, amid a lack of entrepreneurial culture, limited access to finance, as well as experience in managing its own product-based business. In order to reduce the gap and encourage the development of startups based on information technologies, the Republic of Moldova aligns with international trends and implements programs dedicated to growing and supporting startup businesses. One of them is the Startup Moldova National Program – an initiative that gives the young people with innovative ideas access to educational programs, infrastructure, consulting, mentoring, opportunities to connect to international events and competitions, as well as attracting funding sources. The program is developed within the TEKWILL Project, with the support of USAID and Sweden.

542 entrepreneurial initiatives and startups supported in recent years by TEKWILL

Within the TEKWILL Project, more than 1017 teams and ideas have been supported in the last 5 years, and about 30 thousand people became the beneficiaries of the programs dedicated to entrepreneurship.

Scott Hocklander, Head of Mission of USAID Moldova: “In the new reality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, now, more than ever, IT innovations are an absolute necessity, both to overcome current challenges and to fight the economic crisis. USAID believes in the potential of Moldova and supports ICT entrepreneurship – one of the keys to success in many countries. There are Moldovan startups that have managed to obtain significant funding through TEKWILL assistance, as well as access dedicated initiatives or programs to continue the effort of developing the local ecosystem. We are confident that with the regional expansion of TEKWILL, USAID will be able to support the development of more entrepreneurs, and as a result contribute to Moldova’s economic growth.”

 

Anna Lyberg, Ambassador of Sweden to the Republic of Moldova: “Entrepreneurial success is built on the joint efforts of the private sector, academic environment and government support. That is why Sweden supports the collaboration between these three basic pillars for the development of entrepreneurship. This will help create new opportunities here, at home, for young people and for women – very important resources for the Republic of Moldova, but still unexplored at its full capacity. The integration of information technologies in entrepreneurship will encourage business development, economic growth and improved living conditions in general in Moldova.”

In recent years, the TEKWILL Project has carried out an assessment of the start-up ecosystem and collected information on the progress of existing startups. There are currently about 100 startups in Moldova. This year, in order to stimulate the entrepreneurial environment based on innovations, the Startup Moldova National Program was launched, as a response to the new normal in pandemic conditions, and which contains several programs dedicated to better convergence between information technologies and traditional sectors of the economy. See more about them at https://startupmoldova.digital/

Startup Moldova – an important platform for defining and designing the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Starting next year, new initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship will be developed as part of the Startup Moldova National Program. The program will focus on 3 directions: developing the startup ecosystem, supporting community initiatives, accelerating new products and tech startups.

Ana Chirița, Director of the TEKWILL Project: “In 2021 Startup Moldova will be built based on the successful model of some programs unfolded in other countries. The best example is Startup Chile, a program that was launched in 2010 and which accelerated over 1,600 start-ups, with a combined valuation of $1.4 billion in 2018. Startup Moldova will simulate this model for successful incubation, acceleration and significant increase in the number of startups. Of course, startups have a direct impact on the cities in which they develop. Thus, new employment models will appear and more opportunities for the integration of young talents in the work field, in different localities in Moldova.”

Supporting the development of the startup ecosystem. Several actions will be taken to support the development of the startup ecosystem. In 2021, a single governance structure is to be created, which will be responsible for managing the promotion and development of projects in support of the startup ecosystem. It plans to align with the ongoing endorsement initiative related to the Government Digital Innovation Fund, providing advice and technical assistance. The new organization will attract funding resources and help strengthen the investment capacity of local startups. Also in the next year, 3 country partnerships with international organizations will be identified, to provide support for the evaluation and development of the further concept of Startup Moldova (e.g. SeedStars, EU (EEC)). A one-stop shop for digital ecosystem actors will also be created.

Expected results:

  • 5 business verticals launched
  • 50 companies to be supported
  • 400 people to benefit from educational programs
  • 10 players in the ecosystem to be trained
  • ecosystem roadmap.

 

Supporting Community initiatives. Although it started with its own initiatives, the TEKWILL Project managed to position itself as a catalyst for all potential leaders interested in the startup community, making facilities and resources available to the public. More than 40 communities have benefited from TEKWILL initiatives. Thus, it will continue to implement existing initiatives and complement them with other new projects to support startups that have a solid business model, by providing access to education and professional expertise programs, financing, assistance in piloting business ideas, connecting to global markets and cooperation with similar programs. In the next period, the project team intends to engage in this mission active leaders of the local and international community, as well as from the diaspora.

TEKWILL will continue to develop opportunities for interaction with experts in the field and investors (Startup Week, Demo Day, Startup Club, Tekwill travelers, Startup Weekend, Dreamups, etc.), as well as community expansion initiatives (Shared Breakfast, Silicon Drinkabout, etc.). In addition, the TEKWILL building has a special area for startups, whether they are teams or products, and this space will be used for third party projects: Lean Startup Methodology, Design Thinking, Pitching Training, etc.

Several educational programs for entrepreneurs and the creation of premises for the generation of future businesses are to be developed, including at the regional level – Comrat, Balti, Cahul, etc.

Expected results:

  • 30 supported communities
  • 5 events organized in the regions
  • 5 big events to connect communities

Accelerating new products and tech startups. The programs implemented within Startup Moldova have the mission to connect communities and stimulate the creation of new startups, but also to develop innovative products. In this regard, so far 470 teams have enjoyed assistance – business consulting services and financial instruments, international connections, etc. And in the next year, the series of projects will be continued to increase the capacities to attract and absorb investments by creating events dedicated to attracting investors, accelerators, mentoring programs and incubators, training sessions; facilitating participation in international events such as TechCrunch Disrupt, SeedStars, etc., and other possibilities as well.

Startup Moldova will focus on supporting verticals with the potential to create innovative products, such as: FinTech, WineTech, AgTech, EdTech and possibly MedTech. In all areas of reference, acceleration and educational programs will be organized to increase the skills and strengthen the skills of business representatives (Startup Academy model). A dedicated group of mentors will be formed for each vertical, and conferences will be organized annually in the field.

TEKWILL intends to test a new concept on corporate innovation, by implementing solutions and products created by startups in large private companies. And in order to enhance the entrepreneurial culture, courses in the field will be introduced in the university programs.

Following the e-commerce development agenda as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several initiatives of products with rapid implementation will be supported, facilities will be provided to close the gap on entrepreneurs’ digital skills, new useful solutions will be identified in which technology can make a difference for traditional sectors.

Expected results:

  • 3 acceleration programs implemented
  • 7 “business angels” attracted and trained
  • 4 sustained deal flows
  • 5 products of startups accepted by companies
  • 2 editions of Startup Academy for each vertical
  • 30 mentors with different areas of expertise