Year of return: 2018
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MOVED TO GERMANY
LOOKING FOR INVESTMENTS AND SUPPORT
In collaboration with a friend and colleague from Belgrade, Marko
applied for funds that would support their plan to co-found a
bio-tech startup based on patenting an innovative lab device. This
would solve his biggest worry of how to obtain financial independence in Serbia.
GETTING SUPPORT FOR FUNDING HIS STARTUP COMPANY
They got annual financial support from the state
to found the business. The funding was received
from the Innovation Fund in Serbia. Moreover,
they received free mentoring and consulting in
business development and sales.
Marko was born in 1988. He studied biology at the University of Belgrade. Right after taking a Bachelor's degree, he moved to Germany where he continued his education. He obtained Master’s and PhD degrees in Heidelberg and shortly afterward found a job in Stuttgart where he stayed for a few years. Marko recalls that ideas about returning to Serbia appeared in his mind in the middle of his PhD studies. At that time it was a high priority thought but it stayed with Marko in the coming years. Returning to Serbia was always an option until he engaged in finding a way to realize it.
The major concern was to secure stable income and meaningful career development. Marko and his friend, who later became his business partner, had developed a business idea. They created an innovative lab device with application in processing samples for protein analysis. In order to make it a viable business they needed financial support, so they started applying for funding. They were very successful and received a startup investment from Innovation Fund in Serbia, a state fund. This enabled Marko and his partner to found a bio-tech startup based on patenting the innovative device. They had enough money for the first year and free mentoring in business development. Receiving the investment was the turning point for Marko who was finally confident enough to return to Serbia.
Another career opportunity that was available for Marko was a job opening at the Faculty of Biology in Belgrade open for Serbian PhD degree holders how studied abroad. This was a state measure aiming to embrace highly skilled repats, and Marko was one of them. However, the procedure for getting a job depends on having a diploma recognized by the Serbian education authorities. Marko didn’t foresee that the process of diploma notification could last up to a year, the period of time that he would have to wait not being able to get employed. Having all papers in place made it easy for Marko to become a part of the academic community teaching stuff at the Faculty.
Marko did question whether leaving his career in Germany for a staff scientist in Belgrade made much sense. He recalls comparing German and Serbian academic prospects and remembers that in Germany he would have to change faculties every three to five years, which was suboptimal in his opinion. He preferred staying longer in one place so that he can create concrete results during that period. Also, it feels good having an opportunity to give back to the society in Serbia. This is the underlining motivation, but the reality is sometimes different. Lack of calls for new projects that lasted for the last four years, makes keeping up with scientific development very difficult in Serbia.
When asked about how it is like running a biotech startup in Serbia, especially compering to doing the same in Germany, Marko shared that obviously in Germany there is more financing available, but Serbia has a faster startup community with easier administrative procedures for starting a company. In general, Germany is in Markos opinion more suitable for larger companies, while Serbia is more suitable for smaller companies and startups.
Marko emphasized a lack of clear guidance on what legal procedures and paperwork one has to follow when returning to Serbia. For example, when returning to Serbia, it is unclear how to get the proper confirmations from the embassy that allows to import all personal belongings without paying import taxes at the customs office. Complicated procedures make moving back difficult and unpleasant.
In contrast to that, registering a company in Serbia was fast and easy and the support he received from the Innovation fund was exceptional. Yet, information on how to conduct businesses within the legal framework are often complex and unclear. As an example there are many unclear taxes that need to be paid (for instance compensatory membership in the chamber of commerce, ecology taxes etc.) and the transparency of such taxes are unclear.
Close to friends and family
Marko enjoys the idea of working and living close to his family and old friends. He maintained close relationships with everyone while living in Germany. He was visiting often.
Vision of the future
At the moment, Marko is satisfied with both professional and private life in Serbia. Although some of Marko’s friends moved back to Serbia, weren’t happy here and left, Marko doesn’t perceive leaving as an option for now. One of the possible reasons why he would consider migrating again is if he or his girlfriend got a great business opportunity abroad or if someone pressured him into compromising his integrity at work.