Unlocking the Potential of the Western Balkan Startup Scene

The startup scene of the Western Balkans may be small, but it is characterized by diversity, motivation and persistence, judging by the recently completed NINJA accelerator program, organized by the Digital Serbia Initiative.
This program has shown on the micro level within which industries startups operate in Serbia, what are their most common challenges and which form of support is most important to them.

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west balkans startups

Illustration: Milica Mijajlovic


Since the NINJA accelerator was created in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and sought to point out possible opportunities in the Asian market, Zenhire startup immediately recognized itself in this description, as it targets markets such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Asia in general. 

Specifically, Zenhire aims to help companies that receive a huge number of job applications to optimize, accelerate and improve the process, while making it more efficient when it comes to finding talent. Moreover, they claim that in just one year they managed to develop more efficient algorithms compared to their biggest competitor, LinkedIn. 

How come? 

According to them, companies are using a 20-year-old technology to filter out top talent, based on keywords that exist or do not exist in a particular CV. 

“This means that some really good candidates do not get the opportunity to be interviewed, and that as many as 80% of the best talent is lost, not to mention financial costs, motivation of candidates and many other problems that arise along the way. To make matters worse, large customer support companies receive up to half a million job applications a year, so you can imagine the problems their HR departments have,” CEO Vladimir Bozović said during the pitch at the NINJA Accelerator Demo Day. 

zenhire vladimir bozovic

Source: Digital Serbia Initiative

That’s why Zenhire has developed an AI recruiter who interviews candidates in real time, just as a human would. While talking to a person, he can analyze the candidate’s facial expression, tone of voice, the logic behind what he is saying and, based on that, make a shortlist of selected talents to be further interviewed by the HR. 

In addition, to those candidates who did not advance to the next round, Zenhire sends personalized deepfake video feedback with the face of an HR officer. This type of content can be personalized and sent to an indefinite number of addresses, to explain to each rejected candidate how s/he can improve his application. In this way, employer branding is also strengthened, along with improving talent acquisition and financial savings. 

For WebMind, Vladimir says that the NINJA program allowed them to understand what is necessary to re-erase in the existing product and market approach, and that it has prepared them well for further success. 

“The most useful segment for us was building a community, this workshop helped us connect with a potential reseller, so we made a partnership there. In addition, the market launch workshop also meant a lot to us to understand as adapting our European or Western approach to the Eastern market, where things work completely differently,” explains the founder of this startup. 


EasyPass is the name of an online educational platform where users can find tutors for a wide range of subjects and book private lessons in just a few clicks. In addition to providing all interested students with an equal access to education, regardless of where they are, on average, it takes only seven minutes for users to find the right teacher, compared to the traditional way that requires several days of active search. 

“As someone who grew up in a small town, I faced a common problem for many students, which is access to reliable tutors. Currently, parents and students rely on informal recommendations, but it’s time-consuming, unreliable and geographically limited,” explains one of the founders of this startup, Jana Antić. 


Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

According to statistics they’ve mentioned during the pitch, there are about eight million students in the Balkans, 30% of whom regularly take private lessons. Most often this is due to preparations for final exams and entrance exams when enrolling in high school or college, so that’s why the platform is mainly focused on these subjects. 

According to one of the founders of EasyPass, Marijana Jovanović, with the expertise of mentors involved in the NINJA program, they developed skills crucial for the further progress of their startup. 

“What we noticed through the research is that, among high school teachers, 50% of them are working part-time. These are people who have education, who want to share their knowledge and who want to add to their course load, so the turnout of professors is quite large for us and we currently have more than a hundred tutors in the database,” says Marijana in an interview for WebMind. 

By the end of 2024, their goal is to become the first educational platform that will cover all countries of the region, which they consider feasible, since the language and the education system have great similarities. 

Data Do 

Representatives of Data Do, Marijana Agić Molnar and Goran Tintor, presented a unique product called Spectra, which solves everyday problems of most consumers in a thoughtful and systematic way . 

“Everyone knows the scenario when, as a customer, you go to a store and you can’t find the product you need. Keep in mind that today’s customers do not have much time, and at the same time manufacturers are pushing so many different products, but they do not have enough shelves or capacity to do so. No one is satisfied with that,” Goran Tintor said while pitching this product. 

data do

Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

How does their team solve this problem? 

They use advanced algorithms to find connectivity between products in order to develop a localized assortment, offering the client the opportunity to set priorities and track development through the platform. 

“We promise to increase revenues by a minimum of 3% and reduce waste. We optimize the range for both offline and online retail. What our clients especially like is the fact that we do not take money from the current budgets, but create a new budget and take a minimum of 1% of revenues that we increase,” he says, adding that the average time for the overall implementation of this solution is 6-8 months per client, while the process of collecting data and testing phase takes much less. 

Smart Watering 

Smart Watering offers an automated solution for irrigation and fertilization with sensors and an application that saves time and makes the process optimized and efficient remotely. 

According to co-founder Lazar Jovanović, their smart systems reduce irrigation costs by 30%, but also save water, money and time. 

“We use real-time sensor data and provide farmers with advice and recommendation. All data is uploaded to the cloud, and we have a cloud application that helps farmers automate the process by telling them precisely where and how much they should irrigate, which solves two problems for farmers and that is what distinguishes us from the competition”, explained Jovanovic and added that, although they have big goals, their current priority is to be easy to buy,  easy to install and easy to use. 

smart watering

Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

Moreover, it is possible to use Smart Watering systems even with old equipment. 

“Farmers who already use non-smart devices can upgrade manual irrigation systems within a day, i.e. just add smart sensors and digitize them,” he explains. 

Digital Spark 

Digital Spark deals with a common problem that companies around the world have, concerning the complexity of the sales process. According to McKinsey & Co., companies miss $300 billion in revenue annually because they are unable to communicate well with frontline employees. 

“Our solution is a fully automated tool that enhances the way brands manage sales and reward the performance of the retail team. We want to help companies quickly engage tens of thousands of sellers who sell their product on a daily basis, by using a mobile application that includes a reward wallet as the ultimate means of incentive for sales,” explained CEO Ognjen Lukić. 

digital spark

Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

This tool can be easily integrated with existing third-party products that companies already use. In the long run, it will allow them to improve sales revenue, track sales in real time, build strong relationships with employees, measure ROI and quickly engage different sellers. 


Tapni has become very popular among the younger population in the past period, and the idea behind this startup could be briefly described as unlocking the full potential of in- person networking. 

“When we first meet someone, we usually ask them for a business card, LinkedIn profile, or an email address. Here we recognized the hidden cost for companies, because it implies a bad first impression, lead generation is inefficient, performance at conferences and social events is unknown due to the inability to track analytics”, explained co-founder Mihajlo Nikodijević. 


Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

Their product is a sustainable and branded digital business card that shares user information in seconds, simply by tapping on another person’s device, who does not need to have an app or Tapni product to receive this information. 

The novelty they have now developed is intended primarily for managers and executives, and is called Tapni Business Dashboard. They give them access to so-called central management through which they can automate the creation of profiles for the entire organization, as well as easily order new cards. In addition, they have insight into overall analytics and performance tracking to improve and understand their ROI and reward the best team members. 

In this way, Tapni has unlocked a new stream of revenue, which will be further enhanced by the premium version of the app. 


OmniShop focuses on the challenges of small retailers, primarily from the fashion industry, who have to keep up with the demands of a huge market and compete with large competitors, such as Amazon. As CEO Dusan Popović explains, their goal is to help small businesses reach their full potential and be where customers are – on mobile phones. 

OmniShop is a platform for creating apps for mobile stores, which directly solves one of the biggest problems, which is that 80% of items are left in a shopping cart. Our application is synchronized with the website, so there is no additional interface that sellers need to master,” Popović says. 


Izvor: Inicijativa Digitalna Srbija

In addition, their idea is to allow sellers to use the data they collect to grow their business. Not only that, in 2026, they also want to provide an immersive interface, the Metaverse, that will be available in their distributed marketplace. 

“Most of the competing solutions are mobile versions of the client’s website. We don’t do that, we have our own app, which is fully designed for mobile devices. Also, it is not a DIY solution, but you will always have a customer support agent who will onboard a new client and navigate his/her needs,” Popović pointed out. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.