Fostering Collaborative Skills for Globally Competitive Startups

In the dynamic landscape of the global economy, startups are emerging as pivotal players, propelling innovation, economic growth, and job creation. At the same time, startups are inherently fragile entities due to several factors: fierce competition, a lack of market demand for the product or service, and poor management.

Recognizing the lack of collaboration and leadership skills as one of the most important challenges, both global and local, Nova Iskra developed a pilot Soft Skills training for startup founders and delivered it for the first time through programs such as Smart Start, Playing Narratives, Ninja Accelerator. This was a testing ground for idea validation, and  after receiving positive feedback from, not only participants of the programs but also from the program creators, we decided to create an online course covering the wider aspects of the Soft skills domain, and improve the tailored made training for teams that were intended for the live sessions.

The  training, fostering collaborative skills for startups, was developed in the scope of Venture an Idea, an USAID-backed project, with the idea to test and map the real challenges and pain points in the team development processes. 

Working with those teams confirmed that collaborative skills are indispensable for navigating and thriving in an ever evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem. At the same time, the findings were in line with recent World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Reports statements that the ability to collaborate effectively emerges as a cornerstone for startup success. 

Having that in mind, Nova Iskra and DSI decided to offer this kind of training for startup co-founders to the whole ecosystem of startup support organizations in Serbia and help them include this important aspect of empowering startups for success in their incubating and acceleration programs. 

So far, more than 40 startups have participated in Soft Skills trainings within programs such as Route2Launch (Faculty of Organizational Sciences); Smart Start (Innovation Fund of the Republic of Serbia); Playing Narratives (Serbian Gaming Association); Science and Technology Park Novi Sad; Attic 42; Startit; Many more trainings are in the pipeline, not only in Belgrade but across Serbia, including working with local startup support organizations such as RISC Valjevo, NTP Čačak and NIT Novi Pazar.

Soft Skills training - Nova Iskra
Soft Skills training – Nova Iskra

Through the Soft Skills training Team culture and structure, startups are being introduced to tools and practical tips for creating and maintaining team culture, strategic prioritization, conflict resolution, decision based leadership, talent growth, and many more. 

These topics are crucial for startups to improve their capacities to foster innovation through cross-disciplinary collaboration, accelerate growth through agile response, and understand the importance of cultivating talent.

By understanding the pivotal role of collaborative skills in shaping the trajectory of startup development and providing the know-how and platform for exchange, the Venture an Idea Project is providing additional support for local business incubators and accelerators and, in that way, increasing the chances of local startup success in the global context.

As startups navigate the complexities of the new economic landscape, cultivating a culture of collaboration is not merely advantageous—it is imperative for survival and success, as Startup Failure Rate Statistics for 2024 state that team issues are among the top three. 

By harnessing the power of collaboration and leadership, local startups are, through these trainings, gaining the special powers needed to unlock new opportunities, drive innovation, and contribute to building a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future.

“The Innovation Fund of the Republic of Serbia, by creating support programs for innovative companies / startups that are in different stages of growth and development, recognized the potential of  informal startups, i.e. teams that have not yet officially incorporated into companies, as well as newly founded innovative companies. Following such teams, the Fund designed the Smart Start program, which specifically targets projects that are in the initial phase of developing their first prototype, whether it is an innovative product or service. By supporting such projects, the Fund saw the importance of strengthening the teams while they are developing their first prototype within the supported projects, since their compliance and culture contribute the most to the first phase of growth and development. As much as the team is successful and full of understanding for the distribution of tasks and activities within the supported project, as well as the agreement about the mission and vision that such a project carries, so much perspective is expected from the team and the further development of the project. Recognizing this lack in the local ecosystem, we recognized the Team culture and structure training developed within the ‘’Venture an Idea’’ project crucial to raise the capacity for cooperation, team culture and team structure, which helped the teams to see their full potential, and allocate the best of their human resources, and own capacities in a way that would best deliver their first prototype and continue successfully with further work and its commercialization.

Dušan Karan, Innovation Fund.

The gaming industry is specific in that a huge range of professionals from the most diverse fields participate in the development of a single product, i.e. a game, and they participate in the truest sense of the word. All the while working on a game, people from the fields of art, programming, music, narration, direction, production and even marketing and HR have to speak the same language and shape a video game on the fly.

In order for this to happen, it is necessary for all of them to speak a common language, to properly organize their work, processes and create a team structure. Regardless of whether the game is being worked on by a small team of three or a company of 50 people, tools and ideas alone cannot make a game without seamless team collaboration. Especially considering that video games are as much an art as a digital product.

Because of all this, the trainings that strengthened our young and more experienced professionals and teams have a direct application in the gaming industry of Serbia and their results are immediately visible. In addition, we are glad that through them the understanding is strengthened that this kind of support is necessary for everyone, because soft skills are something that can be learned.”

Kristina Janković Obućina, Association of the video game industry of Serbia.