Entrepreneurship in the Balkans: Why is it so damn hard?!

Posted on 11. June 2014

by Milan Balaban

milan-balaban2We are now in the age of the “New Rich”. They’re smart, capable and have more money than presidents of certain countries. Say hello to the generation of internet millionaires, celebrities and entrepreneurs who earn tons of money without ever stepping away from their laptop. Why isn’t everyone doing this?

Google, Facebook, WhatsApp… All these companies have been started by a few people with ideas. Internet helped them become very popular. Online entrepreneurship started in the USA, however it quickly spread to Europe. It redefined companies and work days as we knew them. Many people started working from home which gave them freedom to set their own work hours. As with quite a few world trends, the Balkans ran a few light years behind. But we are (kind of) catching up. I like to believe that entrepreneurship is something that is embedded deep into everyone’s soul. It’s the drive to solve our problems coupled with greed that make us human.

Governments in the Balkans have been terribly closed to the idea of entrepreneurship. It was very hard (not to mention time consuming – I am speaking cosmic levels of time) to start a company. What is funny is that it was even more difficult to close a company. Yet, the tides seem to be turning and it’s becoming easier to start a business. Recently, the government in Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to give some VAT privileges to entrepreneurs. This is a good sign, and we can only hope that future policy will create a better environment for entrepreneurs.

I’ve seen quite a few people trying to start their own business. I’m part of this elusive gang as well. However, one thing people often don’t understand is that we have to fail quickly and fail often in order to succeed. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to successfully launch an idea. While sometimes lady luck helps us, most of the time it’s all down to our hard work. Each failure gives us experience. It takes time. “I fail until I succeed” is one of the most important entrepreneurial maxims. It’s something that Michael Jordan knows very well. Before he became the best basketball player in the world he failed… a lot. He missed so many shots, lost more than 300 games and doubted he will ever become a good player. Because he failed so much, he became the best.

People get easily discouraged and deterred. Attachment to your own ideas is a bad thing, no matter how brilliant they might be. Sometimes, people are just not ready for certain ideas. One example would be to give illiterate people space shuttles. It just wouldn’t work. However, there are million and one other ideas that we can implement and make everyone’s lives better. That is the beauty and essence of entrepreneurship.

Moreover, people have hard time grasping that they are afraid of not only failure but success as well. Most of my generation has been taught that if you’re rich, you are going to be blackmailed, kidnapped or worse. It’s “common knowledge” that successful people are bad and they love to steal.

Creating entrepreneurial environment is not an easy task. There are two fronts this war is  fought at. First battle is in our minds. Getting rid of the “failure” mentality and our fears to succeed. Second battle is an economic one. We need to create suitable economic environment and give incentives to people who want to create value in our society.

First step when going to the battle is to prepare. Education is our armor and shield. Entrepreneurship seminars, workshops, impromptu think tanks are already being organized to help people succeed. Motivational videos and books help as well. The trend has begun. Now it’s the time for each of us to shift to the next gear. We need to start DOING. No matter how small, start today, start right now.