[Interview] Here’s how this Startup is set to become the “Netflix of Mobile Comics”

This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about AI startups, Chatbots and Big data.

The digital boom is everywhere. People who used to sleep with paperbacks in their hands are now keeping Kindle on their side tables. After bringing music, reading and writing to the palm of your hands, the digital world is now rapidly reinventing the comic industry. According to the American Association of Publishers, the industry generated $28 billion in revenue in 2015. While the latest Pew Institute studies show that 28% of Americans now consume published material through electronic formats, there is a prevailing lack of original comics created for the mobile medium.

Among many startups that are disrupting this interesting niche, there is one that stands out as the “Netflix of graphic novels”…an app named Stela. Stela is topping the charts as a one-of-its-kind app that has a curated library of original visual content created by award-winning artists and storytellers, including graphic novels, comics, illustrated novels and other rich visual media. I got a chance to interview its CEO, Jason Juan to discuss the state and future of the digital medium.

Hira: What exactly is the Stela app? And most importantly what’s the mystery behind the name “Stela”?

Jason: Stela is a reading app with original titles covering tons of amazing stories, comics, and illustrated books. For the first time in history, all the content on Stela is originally designed specifically for mobile phones. Fresh new content can be accessed monthly with our affordable subscription model.   

Hira: What inspired you to make this idea a reality? How do you consider yourselves the “Netflix” of mobile comics?

Jason: Netflix is the subscription model we really like and it allows readers to read whatever they want, whenever they want. We believe this is what the majority of the audience in the US would like to have. Eventually, Stela will NOT be just limited to comics. We consider Stela the future bookstore or library for the mobile industry. Graphic novels and comics is the first step on that journey.   

Hira: Are you a comic reader or maker? How did it start?

Jason: We are all comic readers and makers. We discovered that the mobile space lacks real reading content that moves people. Most content is news or content that is in a poor format which is impossible to read on a mobile device. Stela wants to solve that by providing a truly premium reading experience with rich visuals and deep stories that draw readers in and lets them escape.

Hira: Are you planning to have a web portal or will this be a mobile app forever?

Jason: The web portal has recently been launched, and you can read some free chapters now at https://www.stela.com/read. The full experience is still mobile app only. We will release a subscription for the web portal soon for the people who would like to read all the content directly on browsers.

Hira: What genre of comics are you featuring the most and how are you planning to take submissions?

Jason: It is not so much about the genres, but more about the premium quality that I believe is the most important for the readers and Stela. We feature top quality content and we do take submissions from talented storytellers.

Hira: How are you managing the comic library? Is it free for all, freemium or premium?

Jason: We measure how readers react to the titles and chapters. Based on our algorithm we sort our page and content for the readers. We are also constantly growing the content weekly. Because of the high originality of the stories, our model is premium with a few chapters free to try.

Hira: Where do you see Stela in the next 5 years? What is the vision behind the app?

Jason: We would like Stela to be the place for all the premium comics, top quality illustrated books and most mobile-friendly books where every single title is 100% designed for a mobile device.

The vision is the revolution for true digital books. Each book needs to be designed to every single pixels, not just a text file, or rich text file, such as ebooks.

Hira: What stage is your app is currently at?

Jason: There are still many features we are currently building for the app. We also want to have more more premium contents, and we constantly raising the quality bar. We will also expand into various types of books such as food, drink, literature, art, and design.

Hira: I don’t see any competitor for Stela out there. Are there any? Enlighten me.

Jason: Amazon Kindle. 🙂

Our ten-year goal is to beat Kindle. In the end, each book requires a designer to design, not just a simple ebook. Stela designs every single book where readers can truly enjoy the content and not worry about font setting or background color or an uncomfortable flow.   

Hira: Who are you targeting as an audience? Male, female or both? What’s in it for girls especially as they aren’t into comics as much.

Jason: Anyone on earth who wants to read a premium quality story with rich visual graphics is our target audience. Recently we tested ad campaigns reaching out to female readers. The surprising result was that acquisition costs for new subscribers dropped drastically as female-targeted ads saw consistently high returns. Now our subscriber base is over 45% female and growing, subverting the traditional belief that girls don’t read comics.

The problem isn’t who, it’s what. Unlike traditional publishers and distributors, Stela isn’t limited to your typical comic content and genre, meaning we can provide readers with a wider range of material to suite different tastes, interests, and lifestyles – including material that appeals to a female audience. Because as cool as they are, we can’t all love super heroes and zombies. Unlike the traditionally male-dominated comic book industry, Stela’s creative staff is over 80% female, providing our audience with content from a hitherto unexplored point of view.  Stela’s creative and growth team is led by writer and illustrator Sandra Lanz – creator of the House Girls series, and VP of Development Yaling Catorcini – a veteran of both Apple and T-Mobile.

Hira: Any other comments? I’d be happy to feature!

Jason: Since computers have been invented, digital books have never been designed properly, especially any books with pictures. It has been more than 40 years and someone has to fix it. Today finally almost everyone can have a phone with Internet access if they want and all the phones are roughly the same size with about 4.5 to 5 inches of display space. All the creators finally have a standard to aim for which means each book can be now be designed without a moving target. I would like to see each book actually being designed and presented in the best format for all the phone readers to enjoy.

Why Startups should not ignore Testing and Quality Assurance

Before I jump on whats, hows, and whys, remember three things about Quality:

  • It’s better than quantity.
  • It’s the most important thing in a service or product.
  • Customers are always ready to pay money for quality.


Startups brainstorming

Startups are raw. They are always on a roller coaster ride not only because they are breaking through a competitive industry but because they are developing and introducing something which is unique, new, unheard of, or maybe even unimaginable to some.

Every startup starts with the minimal resources it could gather, and even if not, nobody tends to put in that extra effort (or money) to hire a QA team or get QA Consulting company for product testing. So, most startups, naturally end up testing their products on a self-managed team and ad-hoc basis. This is not so bad at the beginning, but as your product gains success and reaches to an advanced stage, maintaining quality becomes a top most priority. That is where QA comes in. To define it in the simplest form, “It is the process of assuring that the product and service have the intended quality at every stage.” Why is it necessary for Startups to consider it as a full-time work rather than a side job? Here’s an explanation!

Confidence, Stability, and Security

Every minute spent on assuring the quality of your product brings with it a certain level of confidence. The confidence is that your product will solve the problem of an end user in the best possible way. Confidence does not only mean that you know your product’s strengths and abilities, it means that you also know the weaknesses of it. Identifying loopholes will make you work on the bugs, iterate and re-iterate, bringing the end result closer to a stable and more reliable product. Also, for your customer, reliable product is the one which is secure and tested. Hence, security is also an important function of quality assurance and very much needed to kickstart your product in the market. Andrea Corey, VP of QA dept. at Eloqua (Oracle), also advises startups to use some Agile methods for their QA process.

When should Startups hire a QA team?

You might not need a QA manager (or QA at all) in the beginning of your startup. At that time, most of the testing will be done by the developers and the product managers. But with the maturity of your product, the team members need to get themselves well-versed with the quality assurance policy. The QA policy should be laid down by the sole person incharge of delivering a stable, reliable, secure and finished end product. As the product grows, it has to be tested into a different environment by different people to get best possible analysis.

At each stage of your product, the need for QA is different. Let me cut down these for you.

  • Idea Stage: Not needed at all.
  • LaunchPad or MVP stage: Will be a distraction. Avoid.
  • Beta stage: Very important! Start hiring team if seed funding exists and make them find bugs before your beta customers do.
  • Pre-Launch Stage: After Beta stage, you will be with a better and enhanced product. Keep your QA team busy in making your product better than before and fixing the bugs identified in Beta stage.
  • Launch Stage: It’s already late if you haven’t. Hire a team of QA/Testers who can help you find loopholes and bugs, write test automation and most importantly, keep your customers connected with your product. Learn from their patterns and behaviors. Ask them to report you a bug and take their feedback continuously.

How extensive the QA process needs to be?

The extent of your QA analysis entirely depends on the depth of your product and size of your team. For some development phase. you might not need a single QA manager (your product managers would be sufficient to approve of the feature). However, there are would be projects and tasks where you would need a complete quality assurance team setup always on the saddle throughout the development phase. For a safe practice, we can say that you would need one QA inspector for 2-3 developers, ideally.

Testing process

Testing should be made a habit for all members of the development and management team. But leaving everything to be done by the QA or QC manager tends to put the developers in the slumber. They would just write heaps of code and let the quality team run their havoc on the code lines… Result? A complete breakdown and a failed product.

Hence, the QA person needs to be familiar with the development process. He can act as a bridge between the user and developer by evaluating the product as critically as the user/client and correct the bugs/anomalies found in the process. He must be proficient with some knowledge of the software development tools and most importantly, must have the experience of dealing with the client, since only then he is able to run the tests with the clients and end users’ perspective.

*For this article, I have assumed that the startup belongs to tech domain.


Data Acquisition Strategies for Startups

Data Acquisition Strategies

Starting anything from scratch means putting a lot of sweat and effort to make it running. Startups always go through this phase, be it getting their first investment or launching their Beta test. Every step needs their wholesome attention.

Data acquisition strategy usually goes hand-in-hand with the choice of business model that you are opting. For example, startups with a chatbot can assign a human “AI trainers” who manually create or verify the utterances their chatbots make. This gets tougher when you have multiple data centers and information that is coming is very sensitive. If you plan to build a Big data enterprise, you go for application integration and business intelligence firms for data mining, aggregation, and validation. But did I tell you that it will cost much higher than what you earn at your early stages?

The following list of strategies will give you an idea of how to start acquiring data for your startup at the teething stage.

Run a Beta Campaign

Launching a beta before your actual product is another approach. Design a campaign in which the customer can give an input on a web based environment with his information. This is a little challenging though as people hesitate from giving personal data online but if they like the campaign, they will. Many startups create a beta community who will get the product before the world. Making your potential customer feel privileged is the formula here but For this, you need to fascinate your potential user regarding the actual product.

Setup a Local Wifi for Free

Free-Wifi is a perk no one denies! Every person carries a mobile device and the need to stay connected with the internet would urge them to use your Free WiFi connection. WiFi network can give the information of people around the area, a number of people inside and outside the specific area, the concentration of users at a particular website, their browsing history and what not. For example, SocialSign.in has created a system where customers catch the wifi, and to use it, they have to log-in via their social media profiles. After signing in, customers can be asked to like a page, subscribe to a mailing list or just land to your website directly. Even when customers don’t bother with that optional step, you can have insights about their customers through their social sign-ins alone

Use social media websites

Engage with your potential customers on these websites and run a campaign to have them onboard. LinkedIn having more than 450 million users is a great source of data on professionals, a suitable amount of information can be collected with their professional profiles. Twitter having over 300 million users with the huge number of images and data they put in every day. Facebook, crossing above 1.75 billion users (and no restriction of 140 characters) has manifolds of data, with the people sharing almost everything from the places they eat to the car they drive. The best part of this approach? You don’t ask for it! 🙂

Use GPS and other Sensors

GPS and many other sensors are embedded in every application we use. Different sensors can be used to analyze different trends of the people. What places they commonly visit, what websites they surf, what stores are the center of attention, all this information can be extracted by using this data provided by the embedded sensor on your application, device or website. For example, with over 100,000 sensor-equipped vehicles on the road, Tesla is currently building the largest training datasets for self-driving cars gathering more autopilot miles every day than Google.

Manual Data Approach

The use of survey tools is the most primary and direct (Read: hassle) way of data acquisition and collection. The survey forms, questionnaires, etc and interviews with the customer targeted on the requisite data with generic and specific questions as per the need. However, this method is not a very attractive approach because filling up these forms can be a hassle for the users at times, or you may need to put in some goodies for the customers in order to motivate them to give you the information you need.

Startup Weekend is the Best Place to Start: SW Kazakhstan

Anurag Maloo (Techstars Regional Manager, South & Central Asia) was facilitating both the Startup Weekend Kazakhstan and supporting the local startup communities in India and Asia Pacific.

Within two weeks, there were two Startup Weekends in Kazakhstan. SW Almaty took place at MOST Business Incubator, Almaty from September 23rd through the 25th and SW Astana took place at INO.HUB, Astana from September 30th to October 2nd with the support of the German-Kazakh Business Hub (GKBH). 

This is just the beginning of building a strong startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kazakhstan. It is also just the start of the movement to make it the hub of the Central Asian Innovation ecosystem.

I am happy to see the winning teams from both of the SWs getting incubation and mentoring support from the local startup incubation programs in both cities – I’m excited to see the founders grow in their entrepreneurial journey. Thanks to all the attendees, mentors, organizers, judges, institutions and sponsors who are helping us build the startup ecosystem in Kazakhstan.

This is a story from Dilya and Shukrat, founders of the winning team at SW Astana, on their experience at Startup Weekend. Best wishes to them in their startup journey.

On Friday morning, we had no idea that on we would be in Astana taking home first place at a Startup Weekend the following Sunday.

It was a normal Friday until we got a message from a friend informing us about the Astana Startup Weekend. We had no prior knowledge about Startup Weekend and had no clue what to expect. We had a couple of ideas and had been contemplating on how to implement them for a while – they seemed quite raw, so it was really difficult to comprehend how we could possibly turn them into something within 54 hours!

There were also a number of issues to resolve before we could attend the event. There was a remarkable distance we needed to travel (1200 km distance between Almaty and Astana), we had to find a place to stay in Astana and figure out who could take care of our kids. Luckily, all of these issues were quickly resolved and we began our journey to the Startup Weekend.


At Startup Weekend Astana, we experienced full immersion in the atmosphere of innovation, aspiration, creativity and teamwork.

We were lucky to have a great facilitator, Anurag Maloo. He masterly used his energy and enthusiasm to inspire participants to voice their ideas. Our idea made to top 9 out of 26 ideas announced!


Saturday and Sunday were full of challenging and interesting work with our teammates and mentors. It was invaluable to have such excellent mentors all in one place, sharing their expertise and specific insights for our idea. The fact alone that we had the opportunity to network with such great professionals had meant a lot for us.


Our team had some eye-opening experiences during the weekend. For example, we had some concerns about voicing up the idea. Many people feel the fear of their idea being stolen.  This event demonstrated to us that the idea itself is worth nothing if no action is pursued.  

Brainstorming and actions are more effective and fun when they are done with the help of a team and mentors.

During the weekend, our progress was immense compared to what we had managed to achieve for the past couple of months keeping the idea to ourselves.  


Another example was a validation exercise. When we were asked to validate our idea with other participants or even strangers, we learned that our vision about the value of our product is not necessarily the same as potential customers. Validation helped us to understand how we need to reshape our product and what we need to do to stand out from the competition.

During the weekend, we also learned how to effectively pitch the idea in a five-minute presentation. The feedback that we had received from mentors was quite beneficial for our idea.

After 54 hours of challenging work and collaboration with others, our idea ended up winning first place in the Astana Startup Weekend! Having experienced the innovative atmosphere of the Startup Weekend, we encourage all to take their idea forward and take action. Startup Weekend is the best place to start!




Are you interested in organizing a Startup Weekend in your community? Reach out to Anurag Maloo at anurag.maloo@techstars.com or visit www.startupweekend.org.


Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week

5 hand-picked articles from across the Startup Digest Reading Lists. Sign up to receive great weekly content on various topics from expert curators.


1. Startups Are Everywhere

By Steve Blank

Digest: Customer Development
Curator: Nathan Monk

Steve Blank has discovered SoundCloud and it is a great thing for us he did. Check out his podcasts and information in this episode of ‘Entrepreneurs are Everywhere.’ Read More

More in this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bTTtF5


2. Inside Instacart’s fraught and misguided quest to become the Uber of groceries

By Alison Griswold

Digest: Product
Curators: Sophie-Charlotte Moatti & Reza Ladchartabi

The challenge of on-demand companies to become the next Uber. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bTSB9X


3. Facebook Messenger now lets you hail a Lyft car

By Andrew J . Hawkins

Digest: Mobile
Curator: Edith Yeung

Lyft is also expanding its API program, in which developers can use Lyft’s application program interface to embed a button in their apps to hail a Lyft car. The announcement is a sign that API integration is quickly becoming yet another space for these two ride-hail giants to compete with each other. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bTR93b


4. An unforgettable welcome for your new hire

By Jennifer Kim

Digest: Leadership & Resiliency
Curator: Sarah Jane Coffey

Every time a new employee signs their offer, the team at Lever records a personalized welcome gif. Sometimes it is the thought that really counts. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bTREBP


5. Spend Time with A+ People in Other Industries

By Hunter Walk

Digest: Startup
Curators: Zubin Chagpar & Chris McCann

“From my experience you’ll find that many of them are open to chatting because they’re happy to talk about what they do and want to learn more about technology. So the quid pro quo is that you go to their office, or set up a call, and say ‘Hey, if you’ll give me 20 minutes to talk about what you do, I’ll share some ideas and trends about where tech may be impacting your industry.'” Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bTSSpr


Sign up for these or other Startup Digest reading lists, here.

Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week

5 hand-picked articles from across the Startup Digest Reading Lists. Sign up to receive great weekly content on various topics from expert curators.


1. I Grew Up Poor in a Rich Person’s World

By Deborah Chang

Digest: Startup
Curators: Zubin Chagpar & Chris McCann

“Entrepreneurs are generally driven to solve the problems they themselves have experienced. The problem with the vast majority of entrepreneurs coming from middle or high income backgrounds is that the problems they choose to solve are not necessarily the ones of greatest impact.” Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bR4yRT


2. Did you miss Startup Grind’s Global Conference?

By Startup Grind

Digest: Women Entrepreneurship
Curators: Babs Lee & Lilibeth Gangas

Missed the largest startup conference in the US? No sweat – check out the plenary session on demand. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bR5kHT


3. Teens have a smart reason for abandoning Facebook and Twitter

By Felicity Duncan

Digest: Product
Curators: Sophie-Charlotte Moatti & Reza Ladchartabi

New data shows that teens are moving from broadcast social media to narrowcast. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bR49Ij


4. The Crowdfunding Guide

By Fundable

Digest: Crowdfunding
Curator: Michael Ryan Norton

A general overview of the elements of crowdfunding and a practical step-by-step guide to building your own campaign. If you think crowdfunding might be the right route for your business, this is a great place to start. Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bR4FKb


5. Someone is pretending to be the IT guy at Hogwarts and it’s hilarious

By Stephen Daw

Digest: Education
Curators: Aurelio Jimenez Romero, Vicky Guo & Deborah Chang

Meet the Tumblr account bringing WiFi to Harry Potter. And, you thought you had it rough… Read More

More from this reading list: http://eepurl.com/bR4bc5


Sign up for these or other Startup Digest reading lists, here.

What is Global Startup Battle?

GSB Statistics

Startup Weekend & Global Startup Battle explained:

We’re all super excited for this year’s Startup Weekend and not only that, but also for the Global Startup Battle that is happening as well. That means that not only will you be able to try your skills against your local entrepreneurs, but also be able to compete for some awesome prizes in a number of different tracks against participants in over 100 countries! So what does this all mean? Let’s break it down.

But first you should take a look at this awesome infographic about the 2014 Global Startup Battle just to get an idea of what’s in store for this year!

OK. So what are the details you ask? Very simple:

  • In order to compete in the GSB 2015 you will need to attend a Startup Weekend event on either the weekend of Nov 13 or Nov 20 (Since you already signed up for the event this shouldn’t be a problem!)
  • After the end of the event you will need to submit a 90 second video of your pitch within 48 hours of the event ending
  • You can submit to as many Tracks as you wish, as long as your team meets their requirements
  • Please see the GSB 2015 Attendee Pack for additional information
  • Hashtag Battle: have a little fun during the event & tweet with #GSB2015 and #SWTampa to create buzz about Tampa Bay & Startup Weekend!

Tracks? What are these tracks you speak of?

  • The Champions Track: the top 3 winning teams from each Startup Weekend event are able to compete against other teams from across the globe.
  • Didn’t win, but still have an awesome idea? No worries, there’s plenty of Themed Tracks for everyone!
  • Great in the Making Track – Made great by Mr. Coffee: If you seek to make a difference (a great difference) in the lives of others, this is your track.
  • The Innovators Track – Powered by .CO: Calling all Startup Weekend teams that are launching their brilliant ideas on a .CO domain!
  • Disruptors & Big Ideas Track – Powered By Transpose: For the entrepreneurs setting out to change industries with visionary ideas.
  • Education through Video and Beyond Track – Powered by YouTube: How will you harness video to make great educational experiences possible around the world?
  • Mobile Growth Track – Sponsored By Branch: Calling all app developers and enthusiasts! Let Branch help you launch your next big idea!
  • Startup Women Track – Supported by Techstars Foundation: Join us and help create diversity in technology entrepreneurship around the world.
  • Open Track – Sponsored By Incorporate.com: A brand new way to compete! This Track is for teams who do not attend a GSB event and are in the early stages of launching their ideas.

This all sounds awesome, how do I start? If you have yet to sign up (really, why haven’t you signed up yet?) then just follow this handy link and register today!

Tips to survive a Startup Weekend

You’ve probably heard, read or even been part of a Startup Weekend. So you probably know that it is a 54 hour race to develop an idea into a startup. It takes place from Friday to Sunday; you have the opportunity to go on stage and pitch a startup idea; if your idea is selected you will form a team, develop it and present what your team has created to a panel of judges. Simple, right?

The whole event is designed to help you to learn and apply techniques like the Elevator Pitch, Business Model Canvas and the Lean Startup methodology. Startup Weekend aims to connect you with potential partners and co-founders who can combine their resources and abilities to build a validated prototype as fast as possible.

If you’re attending for the first time it’s important to understand that this is a massive learning exercise, so don’t expect to walk away with the next Facebook or Tesla after just one weekend.

Here are some tips to clarify what the weekend is all about:

Trust the process (honesty is the best policy)


Time to pitch! – SWAKL, June 2015

On Friday attendees will have 60 seconds to give their best idea. After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Maybe your friend proposed an idea, but that is not reason enough to vote for him. If we want to give value to Startup Weekend and the efforts of many people who organise it, we have to get the best ideas to the the finals. Here is where the policy of honesty applies: Vote for the idea you think is addressing a real problem and is innovative, interesting, and could have a global impact. This way we all have an awesome experience.

Build your capability, not a business

Can I pitch my existing business? Is this event the ideal place to promote my products or services? It is not. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for creating new businesses from an idea to a prototype over the weekend. If you have an idea and it is selected, it is an excellent opportunity to find talented people to help you develop it – the central value for participants is the spirit of complete collaboration. The most important thing is to team up with new people and learn new things.

There is no age limit to participate!

Around the world, the age of Startup Weekend participants ranges between 11 and 76 years. Startup Weekend is open to everybody. Anyone can have a good idea and the skills needed to achieve it, whether a business person, designer or developer. Our main mission is to promote entrepreneurship to all.

In Startup Weekend we are all equal

Team work! – SWAKL, June 2015

“Judges and mentors know everything”. False. Every Startup Weekend we have excellent mentors and judges, all of them from different experiences and backgrounds. They may offer suggestions and opinions, share a personal experience, speak out their minds about the product but this does not mean that they have the final word.

We must consider this world of entrepreneurship, as a space where everyone must contribute something. Maybe some entrepreneurs are more experienced or have achieved success earlier, but that should not make a difference between entrepreneurs, judges and/or mentors. We have seen partners or co-founders of companies that already have some popularity sitting at a table to continue undertaking Startup Weekend, and transmitting their experience and knowledge to amateurs entrepreneurs.

No talk, all action!

Startup Weekend is the perfect place to experience startup life, the “rules” are simple: Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.
And very importantly, not everyone can be a winner but we can guarantee you this: Work hard, play hard, be open to learning and you will never forget this weekend.

So… Are you ready to participate in Startup Weekend Auckland?

Meet South Central Ventures

South Central Ventures (SCV), the manager of ENIF, is open for investments in startups in Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This October, the fund officially started operating with offices in Belgrade, Zagreb and Skopje. The Skopje team, led by Managing Partner Tatjana Zabasu, with Investment manager Ivana Stankovic and Associate Irena Efremovska, is responsible for covering Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.

How can Macedonian startups approach the South Central Ventures office? 

South Central Ventures tend to be “start-up (or entrepreneur) – friendly”, so it should be quite easy to get to us. The best place to start from is definitely a recommendation, but we will also be present in as many events as possible, so start-ups can feel free to approach us and present their businesses. In fact, we’ll be at the upcoming Startup Weekend Skopje.

South Central Ventures do not operate like most of the accelerators that periodically invite start-ups to apply to get into their programs and get their funding. One can approach us whenever they feel ready to present their business. We would therefore use this opportunity and invite companies to approach us before they run out of money and desperately need an investment to continue operation, so that we can get to know them and learn more about what they do.

What kind of startups do South Central Ventures invest in?

The main focus is on startups and early stage companies that exploit new web, IoT, SaaS and similar technologies, catering to global client base, primarily with their B2B business models. Life science or nanomaterial companies are among those which are out of the scope of South Central Ventures, since those are too much capital intensive industries.

The wanted startup DNA: dream and do it BIG!

South Central Ventures is open only for startups that dream and do it big. Target are the most promising, high growth tech companies that aim to take their business global. Basically, South Central Ventures want to see the most ambitious, fresh-thinking, brave and relentless teams that work on conquering international markets. This is a fund for Earth-shakers, building solutions that disturb their industry and serve large global client base. Startups that limit their ambitions to local markets only are out of SCV’s investment focus.

What comes first: excellent team or good product?

Technology evolves fast, markets change… What remains constantly valued is an exceptional team of problem solvers, who are fully dedicated to international growth and expansion of the business. Thus South Central Ventures due diligence process is thus focused on the team, not only to the technology and solution.

At what stage are the investments made?

South Central Ventures is dedicated primarily to early stage and growth investments.Within the fund’s ‘seed pocket’, 1.5 million EUR are allocated to investments of up to 100 000 EUR per company. The majority of the funds is allocated for early stage and growth investments ranging from 0.5 – 2 million EUR per company. These investments should fuel the international business expansion and growth of the most promising tech startups that can show traction and prove their potential to “make it big”.

More than just money!

South Central Ventures go beyond financial investments and add additional value by leveraging the experience, knowledge and social capital of its ‘Founders’ Club’ members. The startups get smart money and are able to tap into the pool of the successful entrepreneurs, investors and mentors with extensive experience, and global personal networks. Hence the SCV motto is: Regional expertise – global reach.

Looking forward to meeting all the great teams and ideas at Startup Weekend Skopje!

Startup Weekend is proof of growing startup culture in Kuwait


Third Startup Weekend Kuwait took its place from September 17 to 19 in Al Tijaria Tower. The event was very important to all people who are into startups and coding. It was organized by startup enthusiasts Salah Alrefai, Ahmad Marafi, Ana Tadic, Mijbel AlQattan, Hashim Bahbahani and Tariq Nimer. From almost 200 registered participants in only 3 weeks, 135 of them attended the event which can be considered as a great success.

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