Why develop a startup in Serbia?

There are many reasons for launching a start-up in Serbia or moving it here, or for seeking investment opportunities in our ecosystem. In recent years we have put tremendous efforts into creating a favourable environment for innovative business opportunities, particularly by adopting various legislative amendments. As far as the community itself is concerned, there has been a big increase in the number of startup support organisations, business incubators, workshops, educational events. In Serbia, we are committed to and quite keen on following the best examples and creating conditions in order for our startup ecosystem to reach greater heights in the coming years.

We present you with a few key reasons to launch a startup in Serbia.

1. Be part of a success-driven ecosystem

The Serbian startup scene is rapidly developing, but it is far from being saturated. Hence, it provides a good business opportunity for new and ambitious teams and companies. The Financial Times also wrote about “the hunger” of Serbian tech entrepreneurs for success, comparing the Belgrade startup scene with that in Berlin. The Serbian IT sector accounts for about 10% of the GDP, with generated exports of EUR 2.7 bilion in 2022, marking a 45% increase compared to 2021. For the year 2023, IT service exports are expected to reach 3.8 billion euros. The Microsoft Development Centre in Belgrade claims that the quality of Serbian IT staff is similar to that in Seattle.

Advanced e-Government services

Since 2018 any company can be incorporated digitally using only a qualified digital certificate (electronic siganture) instead of going to the Business Registers Agency, and the minimum initial capital requirement is only RSD 100. Submitting tax returns and having access to tax liabilities can also be done with a single click, while payments on the e-Government portal are made using e-banking and credit cards. E-documents have been legally recognised as equally acceptable as printed documents, where as e-invoices will be introduced as of 2022.

Tax reliefs

Serbia strongly supports startup teams through tax incentives. There is an exemption from income tax for founders of innovative companies for three years. Additionally, there is a 70% exemption from taxes and contributions for new employment and a 70% reduced tax and contribution base for repatriates and foreigners. If you create intellectual property predominantly in Serbia using the “IP Box,” the corporate income tax on qualified income from deposited IP can be reduced to just 3% instead of the standard 15%. Another benefit is an increased deduction for “R&D” expenses in the tax balance, and a company investing in a startup is eligible for a tax credit of up to 30% of the investment made.

Top engineers are our big asset

Serbia is known for world class engineers and for nurturing their potential from a young age. Computer programming is a compulsory subject for all pupils over the age of 11, which means that the fifth grade curriculum in primary schools includes Scratch, Python, Pygame and Jupyter programme. Additionally, there are 44 specialised IT courses taken by 800 pupils annually in secondary schools. A total of 3,300 engineers graduate from 26 faculties every year. Enrollment in technical faculties has increased by 20%, while currently, there are approximately 95,000 people working in the IT sector. There is no doubt that these engineers and other expert profiles can speak your language as 86% of job candidates in Serbia can speak English, 12% – German and Russian, 6% – French and Spanish, and 4% can speak Italian.

Gaming and blockchain are our speciality

American Startup Genome recognised gaming and blockchain as the two greatest strengths of the Serbian startup ecosystem and ranked Serbia as one of the top five global ecosystems according to the number of blockchain developers. Celsius, one of the most famous cryptocurrency platforms, was created by a team of a local company MVP Workshop. Some of globally successful gaming companies are from Serbia: Nordeus, the creator of Top Eleven and 3Lateral video games, which is recognised as a leading company involved in developing human digitalisation technologies. The construction of the BIO4 Campus, the first natural sciences campus in the region, will begin in Belgrade in 2023. Spread across an area of 110,000 square meters, it will house six faculties and nine scientific institutes. Video games created in Serbia are played by over 370 million people worldwide.

Heaven for digital nomads

Apart from numerous repatriates, foreign nationalsdigital nomads account for one-fourth of those employed in the technology sector. Serbia is one of a few European countries that does not require citizens from the USA, China, the EU, India and other countries to have an entry visa. Employment of foreign nationals has become very simple – a work permit can be obtained in seven days based on an approved visa for a longer stay. It is equally easy for foreign nationals to get to Serbia due to direct flights to most European, Middle Eastern and Asian destinations, as well as a direct flight to the USA (New York).

Great place to work and enjoy yourself

Serbia is one of the safest places in the world. Its hospitable people will do their best to make you feel at home wherever you are. It has lots of leisure areas and facilities, spas being the main ones and the most visited tourist attractions in the country. There are over 1,000 healing mineral springs (500 cold and as many hot ones) in 50 spa areas and special climate areas. The highest temperature of thermal mineral water in Serbia is 110°C. Serbian mountains, lakes and ethno villages in oases of still untouched nature are equally enchanting and great for recharging oneself. However, if you prefer the seaside, some of the most beautiful coasts in the world are only one- or two-hour flight away from Belgrade.

Science and economy under one roof

Serbia has four science and technology parks – in Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad and Cacak – which popularise and develop technology entrepreneurship and stimulate startup development closely co-operating with universities. It is where modern IT solutions associated with biomedicine, agriculture, smart cities, energy efficiency and civil engineering are created. The Serbia Ventures program aims to encourage private investors and institutions to finance startups and establish venture capital funds in Serbia. It will invest up to 5 million euros in newly established venture capital funds.

Great success of Serbian startups

One of the biggest acquisitions in the Serbian startup ecosystem was Nordeus, which became a part of the global company Take-Two Interactive for USD 378 million, known for some of the most popular game titles, such as Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K and Civilization. One of the two largest domestic investments amounting to over USD 58 million was realised by Tenderly, and Orgnostic in the amount of USD 5 million. 3Lateral and Epic Games continue planning and constructing a future campus in Novi Sad to support educational infrastructure.

Startup community is flourishing across the country

Our capital is both spiritually and physically close to European capitals, such as London and Berlin – only a few-hour flight away, which makes Belgrade an ideal spot for city breaks. Such a metropolis of rich culture and stupendous positive energy is an attractive place to live and work and the epicentre of our startup scene. However, if someone prefers smaller and quieter towns, Novi Sad, Subotica, Kragujevac, Nis and Cacak have developed communities and great conditions for startup development, including inspirational workspaces and numerous networking events.