Student startups from Serbia achieve local and international recognition

Shortly following their graduation from the Route2Launch, a preincubation startup mentorship program at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FOS), founders of Serbian student startups proudly showcased their achievements on international platforms. Not only did they earn recognition for their innovative solutions, but they also secured financial support for further development of their ventures. The remarkable success of these student startup teams transcended borders, as they graced stages in Serbia, Dubai, Germany, and Croatia. These accomplishments spotlighted the effectiveness of the Route2Launch startup mentoring program, developed in the scope of Venture an Idea Project, in cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

First validation of these efforts came on the final Demo Day organized within the program, where teams presented their startups to jurors coming from the local startup ecosystem and relevant companies. A few months later came the news that FarmIt secured their first post-program funding, swiftly followed by positive developments for Moveably and Artemi. Promptly upon securing financial support, students resigned from their part-time jobs, dedicating themselves to development of their startups. This series of successes underscored the program’s impact, affirming its role in nurturing and propelling entrepreneurial aspirations.

The Route2Launch program guides student teams through a five-month journey from idea concept to a pitch-ready startup, leveraging university mentors who went through Expert2Mentors’ training program. Both programs were developed in the scope of Venture an Idea, a USAID-backed project led by Digital Serbia Initiative and partners, including the Faculty of Organizational Sciences. Venture an Idea Project has set new benchmarks in startup growth, ecosystem visibility, and the promotion of multidisciplinary, inclusive, and innovative approaches to economic development. It has significantly propelled Serbia’s innovation landscape forward, as the growth rate of the Serbian startup ecosystem in 2022/2023 reached above 30% y/y. 

FarmIt – student agritech startup raised more than $100k

FarmIt, led by the dynamic duo of Sava Pavlović and Lazar Jovanović, didn’t just dream big: they won big. From Dubai to Croatia and Germany, FarmIt claimed awards and financial prizes, proving that their startup idea has real potential. The first big success came in February 2023, when they won 3rd place at the The Global Best M-Gov Award held in Dubai, organized as part of the World Government Summit. In following months they won 3rd prize at the Danube Cup in Germany, and came 2nd at a startup competition in Croatia. This February, Farmit secured funding within the Katapult, the only accelerator program in Serbia that supports growth oriented startups to reach global markets.

Sava Pavlović and Lazar Jovanović (FarmIt) after winning 3rd place at the “The Global Best M-Gov Award” held in Dubai

FarmIt develops a unique blend of agriculture and technology, enabling customers to personally select their farmer and cultivate a virtual garden. This farm-to-table model empowers users to actively monitor their garden’s progress via an app, while the dedicated FarmIt team, comprising both farmers and tech experts, handles maintenance and ensures weekly deliveries. This innovative approach not only connects users directly with their food’s source but also promotes sustainable farming practices and supports local agriculture producers. Their plans for 2024 include including 4 new farms in their business and expansion to Serbian cities of Novi Sad and Kragujevac.

Moveably – from high-school competition to transportation startup

For Moveably, co-founded by Anđela Kanjo and Filip Oketić, the good news came from the StarTech program, letting them know they secured $25k and propelling them into the next level of their startup development. 

Anđela Kanjo and Filip Oketić (Moveably) emerging victorious at the StarTech stage

The inception of Moveably’s business idea traces back to when Anđela and Filip, then juniors at Mladenovac High School and members of a student company team, proposed the development of an application intended to streamline the moving process by significantly easing the transportation of one’s belongings. From starting their entrepreneurial journey in high school to joining the Route2Launch program in their freshman year at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Moveably team developed an application that connects carriers with their clients. They are now planning to enter new markets, looking for opportunities to expand their business with a slogan: “Move easier with Moveably”.

Artemi – mobile game merging real and virtual

Similarly, student startup Artemi earned its stripes by entering Phase 2 of the Raising Starts program, alongside a financial boost of $17k. Raising Starts was the perfect sequel to Route2Launch program for Artemi’s co-founders, Lazar Cvetković and Andrija Stojković. This grant propelled the team forward, expediting the development of their MVP and bringing them one step closer in their go-to-market strategy. 

The Artemi team pitching at the Raising Starts program after entering Phase 2

Artemi develops an innovative mobile gaming experience that blends the realms of reality and the virtual world, presenting players with a unique opportunity to win real-world territorial “nods” through in-game competition. Artemi develops both cutting-edge technology and a unique experience for players who have to navigate a sophisticated interplay of augmented reality and virtual elements, fostering a gaming experience that transcends the conventional and opens up new dimensions of excitement and strategy. 

Transact3 Forging Their Own Path – The Bootstrapped Journey

Luka Svilanović, Miloš Kutlešić and Uroš Dimitrtijević, the brains behind Transact3, initially followed the well-known route of applying to support programs from the local ecosystem. However, upon being nominated for a financial grant from the Raising Starts incubation program, they made a bold decision to rather rely on their own forces and embark on a bootstrap startup journey. Transact3 has chosen to receive support from 30Hills Development Studio, a partner of the Route2Launch mentorship program, which has selected Transact3 to support the development of their MVP.

Luka, Miloš and Uroš, the Transact3 team, pitching at the Student startups demo day.

Transact3 offers a Web3 powered TMS solution that augments trucking services, focused directly on the US market, encouraging trucking companies to operate more effectively and make the heavy-duty trucking business easy. The next steps for this startup involve conducting real-world validation of the MVP with companies directly in the US market and a campaign to acquire first users. Additionally, Transact3 plans to expand their team  to ensure adequate and high-quality services for their future users. 

Route2Launch going bigger and bolder

As the student startups are getting market traction, the Route2Launch program has been recognized by the Serbian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NITRA) as a benchmark for successful university startup mentorship program, citing it as a model for instilling an entrepreneurial mindset among students and teaching staff in academia. This recognition subsequently prompted NITRA to issue an open call for higher education and research institutions in Serbia to establish their own Innovation incubators. 

Building on the accomplishments of its teams, the Route2Launch program is undergoing strategic evolution. Amidst the ongoing 3rd cycle, significant modifications are being introduced to shape Route2Launch into a continuous startup support program, allowing student teams to apply throughout the year. 

There is also emerging interest from the regional academic community. After seeing successful development of student startup teams in Belgrade, faculties from universities in North Macedonia and Croatia have shown keen interest in adopting the program. Expanding its horizons, Route2Launch is now actively pursuing the establishment of international partnerships to facilitate the scaling up of its successful startups and entering the markets of Switzerland and Portugal.

Creators of the Route2Launch program are resolute in their efforts to propel student startups into international markets. This pre-incubation mentorship program has significantly contributed to better integration of academia into Serbia’s startup ecosystem, encouraging entrepreneurial mindset in youth and driving innovation-driven development.