interview

She Starts Up: Prishila Gjoka – AlbaniaTech

If you are an innovation and start-up ecosystem enthusiast, then surely you have encountered AlbaniaTech.  AlbaniaTech, is a platform to inform about the Albanian Start-up and Innovation Ecosystem, its actors and their offers as well as a place to share success stories and an overview of active start-ups. It serves as an online place bringing together the Albania Start-up community and consequently strengthening capacity for innovation among the innovation ecosystem actors and building linkages within the Albanian innovation ecosystem and internationally. Besides the portal-lead, Mr. Gerti Boshnjaku, there is one person behind it making sure that the information shared on AlbaniaTech is consistent, up to date, appealing, inspiring … she is Prishila Gjoka. Prishila has a background in Business Administration and Journalism. She has worked as an editor and journalist for the first online magazine dedicated to Business in Albania and is the Head of Content at AlbaniaTech ever since the creation of the platform. Prishila is an innovation enthusiast open to helping everyone on their journey. The following is an interview of Prishila, focusing on her contribution to AlbaniaTech and the link to EU for Innovation programme.

EU4I: Can you tell a little us something about your background and how that links to what you currently do for AlbaniaTech?

Prishila: I have always been the quiet girl that sat in the corner of the class in high school and read books as a break, when I had to surf social media would be to listen to Gary Vee and Tom Bilyeu’s podcast of some of the greatest entrepreneurs. Later, that turned into a passion for business as I studied business administration in university, the closest degree to the entrepreneur’s world, or so I thought at the time. In my 3rd year of university, I had the opportunity to win an internship at the only magazine dedicated to Business in Albania, I took it and from there on I have fallen in love with the start-up and innovation world even more. While working as a business journalist for 2 years I got the opportunity to oversee content at AlbaniaTech, which at that time was only an idea of the platform that would unite our ecosystem, but the idea was exciting enough! We made it happen, 1 year and a half since that happen and I am still leading the content for one of the most challenging platforms I must say, as we need to be attentive in real time to update constantly the platform with all the information needed regarding start-ups, competitions, ecosystem events and conferences, accelerators, digital nomads, investors and investments and much more.

EU4I: How did AlbaniaTech come to life? How does it feel for a young woman to be involved in such an initiative and be given a lot of responsibility?

Prishila: AlbaniaTech was the initiative of the ecosystem of Albania and EU for Innovation as a major supporter, to facilitate the growth and development of Albania’s ecosystem. It took many hours of meetings and discussions to get to the digital product that we have today and more research and analysing content to achieve the aim. I have been given a responsibility that I didn’t believe I could hold but did so with intense learning along the way by a group of mentors and advisors who to this day believe in our vision.

In the beginning, we had to work our way with few people on board and a lot of tasks, my responsibility was to research, analyse, summarize, proofread, interview, discuss partnerships, and share our vision with others. Luckily, we had the team of EU for Innovation to guide us given all their experience in different ecosystems. In July 2021 we launched AlbaniaTech to the ecosystem, so part of my job became event planning and moderating also, 8 months later we did the same thing by launching the first Start-up Database for Albania in partnership with a provider that held 50+ ecosystems worldwide and we put Albania in the map! Our work there had just begun as I had to develop a consistent marketing campaign that would make start-ups register on our platform and benefit from the database’s visibility.

Currently, I am managing the content of AlbaniaTech and our own podcast dedicated to Digital Nomads in Albania.

EU4I: What do you think are the key successes in such an initiative?

Prishila: I believe AlbaniaTech’s key success is that it became the main source of information for the ecosystem, especially start-ups, and that gave us momentum to focus on other topics that could benefit the ecosystems, such as facilitating acceleration processes, building bridges with foreign investors and bringing foreign expertise.

We have developed a periodical event, “AlbaniaTech Talks” which highlights specific topics for professionals and we haven’t gone one event without a full venue, which shows that people believe we are here to spread valuable content. We also launched the first Start-up Database for the Albanian Ecosystem, putting our Ecosystem on the World Map together with more than 50 other ecosystems worldwide and we are still working to direct start-ups to that database so they can gain more visibility.

EU4I: When and how did you hear about EU for Innovation? How did EU for Innovation support AlbaniaTech and you personally?

Prishila: I had heard about EU for Innovation ever since university when we were presented with start-up competitions and many of them were supported by this project. However, I got a more in-depth understanding of it through working with their team on the creation of AlbaniaTech.

AlbaniaTech was a whole new idea for Albania and EU for Innovation made sure to gather experts from different countries and wide backgrounds to share with us and guide us before the launch and afterward. A big project can never be possible without monetary and timely costs, and both of them were entirely covered by the project, we had two advisors who had worked on creating the same platform in the country of Ukraine, a project manager who has been part of many ecosystems worldwide and their experience made AlbaniaTech grow in the right direction, as well as made me personally grow by learning, there could be many mistakes that could have been done on the process but were prevented because of the constant support of people who knew what they were doing and were straightforward about it.

EU4I: What is your stand, have EU for Innovation’s activities contributed to your personal and company’s improvement? Or even wider to the innovation and start-up ecosystem in Albania?  

Prishila: We are the mere example of how EU for Innovation has impacted the ecosystem, regarding uniting the start-up ecosystem and start-up development. In the last 3 years, you can witness more and more activities and initiatives and we see that 80% of them are supported by EU for Innovation, this way the facilitators have started to learn by doing, and even after the ending of the project this season the programs and events have only grown. The possibilities for start-ups in different industries are growing consequently, which paves the path for more innovation in Albania.

What I personally appreciate the most is the format of working with all actors involved starting from students, youth with Tirana Inc. and moving on to diaspora, non-tech industries, accelerators, and the government.

EU4I: Do you envision further continuation/ strengthening of cooperation between you (Albania Tech) & EU for Innovation programme? How?

Prishila: We are excited to develop AlbaniaTech to a new level, this time to facilitate the process even more for start-ups looking to scale their idea and I would undoubtedly trust the advice of EU for Innovation team to help us along the journey. We are working to develop an online acceleration bootcamp that can easily align with on-site accelerators and make the process easier, and I see this as one more successful project for us all to make happen.

EU4I: What should be done to further promote success stories and improve the visibility of EU for Innovation beneficiaries/ collaborators such as yourself)? Any recommendation?

Prishila: I have always loved events that gather people to share success stories but most of them are focused on entrepreneurs and I don’t blame them, we are a start-up ecosystem at the end of the day. However, more events where people who work backstage, such as project managers, mentors, trainers, etc share their expertise, their stories, would probably give out a lot of value too. So, I see that as a minor improvement on the whole.

EU4I: What would you like to share with readers/ to encourage them in either sharing dreams with alike people or starting their own entrepreneurial journey?

Prishila: Hard work pays off! That is all I would like people to keep in mind, doesn’t matter the situation, doesn’t matter how many “NO’s” you get if you work hard and you ask for big things you will be involved in big things; and for newly created start-ups, just visit AlbaniaTech and you’ll already be one step ahead.

EU4I: Would you like to share any favourite inspirational /motivational quote?

Prishila: Steve Jobs says, “Stay hungry, stay foolish” and I think is one of the best mottos you can follow in life!

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