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 6% of the GDP, with generated exports of EUR 1.4 million in 2019, which is a 55% increase compared to 2017. According to Eurostat data, the sector employed 75,000 people in 2019, which is almost twice as many as in 2013. 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, whereas e-invoices will be introduced as of 2022.

Tax reliefs

Serbia strongly supports startup teams by offering tax incentives. Hence, there is a personal income tax exemption for the founders of innovative startups for a three-year period, an exemption from taxes and contributions in the amount of up to 70% for new employment and a 70% reduction in tax and contribution bases for employing repatriates and foreigners. If intellectual property is mainly created in Serbia by using the IP Box incentive, qualified income tax from deposited IS may be reduced to only 3% instead of the standard 15%. Another relief is an increased deduction for R&D costs in the tax balance sheet, and a company investing in a startup is entitled to a tax credit of up to 30% of the investment.

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. 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 gaming industry in Serbia employs 2,000 people. In 2020 it generated revenue of EUR 120 million, which is twice as much as in 2018.

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.

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 18 million was realised by Tenderly, and Orgnostic in the amount of USD 5 million. Another investments that should be singled out include Anari AI – USD 2 million, and Trickest – USD 1.58 million.

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.