More than 670 employees of Moldovan small and medium businesses (SMEs) have successfully graduated from the “Startup Academy” program, a complex intensive training for entrepreneurs.
The current edition, dedicated to SMEs, delivered a series of courses in practical fields, providing participants with the necessary knowledge to make their business visible in the digital environment, helping them to continue their activity during a pandemic. For three months, they studied topics such as digital solutions, marketing tools, and online sales & promotion. The approximate 455 participating SMEs benefited from direct expertise from mentors with experience in marketing, communication, IT, logistics, and human resources for the problems they face in the process of migrating their online business. The aim of the initiative was to train entrepreneurs so that at the end of the course they understand the mechanisms underlying the growth of a successful business. “Startup Academy” is organized within the Startup Moldova program “Digital Upgrade” and is a partnership between the TEKWILL Project and ODIMM.
Ana Chirița, TEKWILL project director: “Considering our niche of projects, mostly IT, this is a new opportunity to support SMEs in Moldova. We believe that information technologies are the basis for modernizing and facilitating trade, including online. The aspects in which the economic agents needed an impetus or a package of knowledge to develop their business were offered through this methodically structured program to meet the expectations of entrepreneurs. The need for the program was pointed out to us by SME representatives in a study, in which about 90% of participants mentioned that they need expertise and knowledge to become competitive as they do not have the ability to build sustainable online businesses. I am impressed by the successes of the participants, by the large presence of those enrolled, and this makes me believe that Startup Academy is a really useful program.”
Iulia Costin, General Manager, ODIMM: “We enjoy the partnership with TEKWILL and the Startup Moldova program and thank Sweden and USAID for their collaboration, as their involvement strengthens economic prosperity in the Republic of Moldova. Through this project, we aim to help companies in rural areas. This digitization tool serves like a test to see how well companies are prepared for a future national digital training program. Training means knowledge, knowledge means a step forward – this is what Startup Academy means. The SME digitization tool is an efficient and fast solution and positive results are already crystallizing. We are working on processing the first wave of projects – 190 companies have submitted files to receive small grants and 230 – seek for large grants. On this occasion, I come with an urge to entrepreneurs to talk openly about their ideas, needs or what type of funding require. You will have the opportunity to make your voice heard at the next application session that will be launched soon by ODIMM.”
Vitalie Tarlev, Secretary of State, MEI: “We, as the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure, have the task of eliminating the constraints that may arise in the process of interaction between economic agents and authorities in the online environment. We have a number of institutions that have adapted to the online environment and several institutions that are in the process of digitization. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that this program has enjoyed a wide audience and will be further developed. In a short time, we managed to form teams, we managed to set budgets to answer the pressing questions of the business community, especially SMEs. We are also happy to see public institutions that, thanks to these initiatives, have become more efficient and provide digital solutions. I want to thank the developers and partners for this program and wish everyone success in business, since it has been enriched with useful knowledge.”
The course program was structured on two levels: intermediate and advanced. In the first stage, entrepreneurs learned the importance of having a physical presence on online platforms and how to adapt a business to be as close as possible to customers.
Digitization of the private sector supported by USAID and Sweden
The special edition of the Startup Academy dedicated to entrepreneurs is organized within the Digital Upgrade initiative of the Startup Moldova program, developed within the framework of the Tekwill project with the support of USAID and Sweden development partners, together with ATIC, ODIMM, Moldova IT Park and UNDP. To date, about 472 teams and 680 companies have received support to grow and improve their business through the program.
Adam Amberg, Head of the Development Cooperation Section, Swedish Embassy in Moldova: “I am glad to be here and thank all those who contributed to this program. I have a few years of experience in this field, but Moldova continues to amaze me with its development potential in this sector. We, in Sweden, believe that digitalization and innovation lead to prosperity, transparency and well-being. We noticed among the participants the need for advanced knowledge and digital training to develop sustainable online businesses. The number of companies that have participated in this program is impressive and I hope that they have acquired knowledge and confidence to launch e-commerce after completion.”
John Riordan, Deputy Head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID): “The Moldova Startup Program aims to provide the infrastructure to promote the digitalization of the non-IT sectors and support e-commerce. This is especially important now because about 88% of SMEs in the Republic of Moldova have been affected by declining product demand. I believe that digital innovations are the solutions for Moldovan SMEs to ensure their activity and provide jobs. Another advantage of participating in this program is the creation of valuable links with experts and investors in the field. USAID will continue to support the IT industry and entrepreneurial competitiveness, and we will soon support the development of other regions in Moldova than Chisinau. Thus, we will contribute to this digital revolution, facilitating access to the best knowledge and practices.”
The Tekwill Project – The Revolution Begins!
The National Startup Moldova Program is part of the Tekwill Project, implemented by the National Association of ICT Companies, with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sweden. Tekwill was created in 2017 as a Center of Excellence of the ICT sector in Moldova, with the main purpose of aligning the field with current market requirements. Aiming to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of the IT industry and other strategic sectors of the economy, the center has expanded its fields of activity, becoming in 2019 a complex nationawide project, with the slogan “The revolution begins!”. The basic objective of the TEKWILL Project, as a platform dedicated to the progress of the IT sector, is to ensure a major impact on the economic development of the country by improving the entrepreneurial and educational capacities of society, but also by increasing the research and development potential of education, in line with the demand in the IT market.