The Balkans is the perfect breeding ground

Interview with Filip Despotoski

Born in Skopje and moved to Australia at a young age. I come from a large family. I’ve got a Bachelor of Laws and I’m currently completing a Masters of Business Administration. I am the State Director of Australia’s 5th largest political party.  I enjoy the company of friends and family the most, as well as traveling, politics, learning about different cultures, and exploring new ideas.

1. The United Macedonian Diaspora as an organization in Macedonia is recognized as a serious lobbyist of Macedonian interests in the United States. What is UMD doing for its fellow citizens in Macedonia?

The UMD is giving back to its fellow citizens primarily through cultural and economic investments. Culturally, the UMD is the largest and most active organisation lobbying to represent the interests of the Macedonian people, their identity, culture, and human rights. If one values this, as most Macedonians do, then one values the work of the UMD. This is perhaps best embodied through the Birthright program run by UMD; a sponsorship program where young Macedonians in the diaspora spend the summer in Macedonia discovering and reconnecting with their heritage. Every citizen wants to be proud to call Macedonia home, or their homeland if they live in the diaspora. Unfortunately, we are far from that now. Divided, we cannot achieve this. United, we stand a chance.

Economically, the UMD acts a conduit and a network between those that have established successful and profitable careers and businesses in the diaspora, and Macedonia. It is no secret, and equally humbling, that many want to give back to Macedonia by investing their money to create jobs and opportunities in her backyard. Further, the UMD regularly makes charitable donations to Macedonian causes and projects. Most recently, the UMD made a $50,000 contribution to new Pulmonary clinic to combat COVID-19 at the main hospital in Skopje.

2. What can a startup expect from UMD mentors?

Honest and frank advice, from someone who wants you to succeed in your business, venture or project.

3. What kind of support can you personally give to the Macedonian startups, Accelerator UKIM clients?

I work in politics which doesn’t lend itself much to support, but startups will have to forgive me for that!

Technical expertise and proficiency can be learned. A degree or skills in a certain discipline is only the beginning. Teaching people to learn from their mistakes and overcome problems with action, rather than excuses, is probably the most valuable lesson I can offer.

Being able to communicate your ideas with others, negotiate, and generally get people to do want you need them to do, takes a certain degree of confidence. Sometimes startups require a sounding board or a push in the right direction with a little bit of encouragement.

4. Why do you help the Macedonian start-up community? What are your expectations?

Why not? No expectations other than that I might be able to help a start-up become the next Google!

5. How do you assess the start-up climate in Macedonia and in the Balkans?

In its infancy. The Balkans is the perfect breeding ground for what could become the next equivalent Silicon Valley. The mix of a highly educated population, strong English proficiency and competitive labor costs, lends itself to this. All we need is for the politicians to stay out of the way!