Aug. 2014—It seemed like a long shot to four young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) when they decided to see if their business ideas could stand up to scrutiny and garner support from a USAID program to help innovative—and hard-working—youth like them. But since then, they have won first and second place in a regional competition for startup business ideas, and have been invited to present their concepts at a major conference in London, for all the tech investment world to see.
“We are young and under a lot of pressure by our parents to finish school, and then find good and secure jobs. But one day I heard about some USAID/BIZOO project in Sarajevo, and signed up, thinking ‘we have nothing to lose,’” said Adnan Mujic, who, with Emin Hodzic, both 17, developed the winning concept, Light Docs. “After a few weeks, it became obvious that it was one of our best decisions ever.”
The creators of Light Docs and runner-up YuTransfer are recent graduates of a USAID-supported mentorship program for early-stage startups in BiH, the BIZOO Business Startup Accelerator and Angel Network. They were two of 11 startups from BiH, Croatia and Macedonia selected to pitch their concepts at a competition for Balkan startups held by the European Union’s leading accelerator program, Startupbootcamp, in May 2014.
Light Docs is an online, subscription-based support platform for local and regional businesses that Mujic says will simplify one of the most boring—and expensive—processes in the business world: creating legal documents.
“The program really meant a lot to us and our business. Their lessons and years of experience are leading us today. They showed us the path, and it’s on us to follow it to success,” Mujic said.
The program helped them develop and refine their business idea and gain some exposure—and it changed their lives.
“By the time the project started to grow, there was no more of the old life for us—no crazy nights out, no hanging out with friends. Because of our business, I don’t even have a girlfriend. I don’t have time for anything else,” Mujic said.
YuTransfer is an online intermediary for international money transfers that will provide radically reduced transfer fees compared to current bank or money transfer agencies. The focus, as its name implies, is on remittances from ex-Yugoslavian diaspora in the EU, North America and Australia. YuTransfer—developed by Djordjije Sipcic, 23, and Rade Strizak, 22—is set to launch in January 2015.
“BIZOO was a great way to start because we didn't know anybody in the startup scene and we didn’t know how to make the first move,” said Strizak. “We would not have been able to participate in the most important startup events in BiH without the basic knowledge and connections provided to us by the BIZOO program.”
Since starting the program, the YuTransfer team has created a website and struck a deal with Google DoubleClick, which will provide up to $65,000 in online advertising. They also partnered with a U.K.-based financial institution that will let YuTransfer use their platform for trading foreign currencies and automate all the processes in the back-end, allowing them to cut costs.
“We also received an important offer from an investor, but we refused it because he wanted 51 percent of the company—too much,” said Strizak.
In October 2014, they all plan to attend TechCrunch Disrupt, a major technology conference in London, where Light Docs will be given a special presentation stand.
“We will probably be the youngest there, but I assure you we’re going to prove that we are tough competitors for anyone in world,” said Mujic.
USAID supports BIZOO through its Partnership for Innovation project to help young people in BiH, where youth unemployment tops 63 percent, develop their business ideas. The five-year program, which ends in 2016, will help at least 60 youth launch their startup businesses.
Last updated: November 03, 2014