The second conference from the "Digital Den Connects" series of events, called "The Region", was held today at the CUE Hotel.
Startup hub Digital Den, in cooperation with the US State Department, as part of the Montenegrin Tech and Startup Bridge (MTSB) program, brought together the Ministry of Science and Technological Development and Foreign Affairs, representatives of the IT and business community, the American Embassy in Podgorica, as well as representatives and founders of accelerators from the region - who signed the application form to the historic Balkan Ecosystem Startup Tree initiative - BEST. BEST is a unique network of accelerators in the region, which aims to develop and implement innovation and entrepreneurship.
Digital Den Hub founder Darko Ivanović addressed the attendees at the beginning, who thanked the attendees for their energy and time and said that Digital Den is trying to create a wide network of cooperation.
"Digital Den is something we dreamed of, put on paper, and then with the understanding and friendship of the State Department, good relations in Montenegrin IT companies and the US Government as an ally, we succeeded, and now there is a regional network of startup incubators whose center is in Montenegro", said Ivanovic.
Ivanović also added that this is a historic thing, because nothing similar to this event in Montenegro has been done before at this level.
Digital Den co-founder Nenad Novović said that with this event, Digital Den continues the journey they started.
"We should work together to overcome all efforts, some steps have already been taken, but we hope that the regional startup will spread globally. I encourage everyone to connect and cooperate", said Novović.
The Minister of Science and Technological Development, Biljana Šćepanović, thanked the organizers for all the events they organize.
"We already had one of these conversations and this is the second conversation in this period and I think we will just move forward and take new steps. We have the Law on Incentive Measures for the Development of Research and Innovation, but it was not fully usable. Now we want to make changes to that law and push it forward. We are available for all initiatives," said the minister, adding that they have already initiated new steps for startups, as well as that, in addition to the law, they also have various documents that make up the legal framework.
Minister Šćepanović also emphasized that cooperation in the region needs to be made and that everything should be more difficult.
"We cannot survive alone in this world, it is normal that we cooperate and I am glad that we cooperate and we are here to listen to you, our partners in Montenegro, in the region. We are on the right track and we can work together," Šćepanović concluded.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ranko Krivokapić pointed out that he is glad to be a part of this story, as well as that he is pleased to support the activities of Digital Den, which imply cooperation in the region.
"You make Montenegro recognizable in the world. Small countries tend to be more modern and your modernization and behavior is a good example for us all. New Montenegro is a new time, but based on tradition. We are a small country that has an open mind for the future, we are more mobilized and the easiest to change," Krivokapić said.
Bjelopolje humanist Hajriz Brčvak said that he was very pleased to be a part of this story.
"In addition to Montenegro, in Bosnia and Herzegovina we employ about a hundred people who deal with administration. We have knowledge and we need to use it in our country. This project is very important for the Western Balkans, we cannot export something big in Europe, but we have the knowledge and we can make it an export product", said Brčvak.
The panel discussion on the topic "Implementation of innovations (needs, wishes and initiatives): Differences between the wish list and reality" included representatives of the US Embassy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Science and Technological Development, the Ministry of European Affairs, the Innovation Fund, the Montenegrin Network diaspora/Mreža dobra, Technopolis, ICT Cortex, Science and Technology Park of Montenegro, as a representative of Digital Den's regional partners - Universum from Serbia, Foundation 787 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vigan group from Albania, Comeunity Business Incubator from North Macedonia.
The executive director of the Innovation Fund, Bojana Femić Radosavović, said that their organization was registered in September of last year, and that they have already done a lot for the innovation ecosystem.
"We have close cooperation with the region, especially with the innovation fund in Serbia and North Macedonia. We are new, but we don't see it as a problem, but as an opportunity," said Femić Radosavović.
She added that we have many opportunities to work together and that we should be connected.
"I think this is a good start of cooperative talks between institutions, and we have many chances in the times to come," concluded Femić Radosavović.
Aleksandar Janičić from the IT community said that this event is the result of the hard work of Digital Den, in an attempt to connect the region.
Janičić added that people with great ideas and new knowledge are needed.
"We want to invite people to work and present their ideas. Great things are yet to come," he said.
The founder of CNN Japan and the initiator of several successful startups, Kathryn McManus, said that she loves the topic of innovation very much and noted that she was happy for such an event.
"The connection that Digital Den has with the USA is great. What is very important is that when an organization decides to invest, it first invests in its team. Also, the support of journalists in what you do is important," said McManus.
During the second panel, the BEST memorandum (Balkan Entrepreneurial Startup Tree) was signed, which brought together regional partners in one network, determining further steps and clarified goals for a better perspective of the regional startup community.
The first signatories of the BEST network together with Digital Den as the initiator and connecting point are their aforementioned regional partners Comeunity Business Incubator from North Macedonia, Fondacija 787 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Univerzum from Serbia, Vigan group from Albania, as well as ICT Cortex from Montenegro.
The next event in the Digital Den Connects series will have the theme of Continents and will bring experts from the world scene to contribute to the development and networking of the startup community together.