Monday, December 5, 2011

Case study YES Incubator/Macedonia

Case study from the classes of Professor Alfred Vernis, NGO/Social Entrepreneurship


Average predictions say that if a company stays in business its first two years, it’s there to stay. Successful completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood that a start-up company will stay in business for the long term: older studies found 87% of incubator graduates stayed in business, in contrast to 44% of all firms. A business incubator is an organization designed to assist start-up companies, generally with respect to providing knowledge and technical assistance and therefore to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies.
Macedonia obtained its independence after 1991, and had to face the big challenge of switching from a communist economy to a capitalist economy. A very hard privatisation process took place and hardly any new entrepreneur projects were undertaken. The economy was striken by a 40% of unemployment and corruption was widespread. From the total number of business entities in Macedonia, 99% falls on micro and small companies.
In this context, YesIncubator was created in 2006 in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. Before the creation of YesIncubator, there existed 5 World Bank incubators with production companies, but only one was kept operative. Yes Incubator detected the need for a new entrepreneurial impulse.
Yes mission has a very social approach, as it is an entrepreneurial project in a society that suffers from a lack of it. It is also a double mission:
1.       To provide entrepreneurs with the means to survive the first two years of their endeavour, thus creating a network of new companies in Macedonia.
2.       To increase the awareness of society concerning the need for entrepreneurial projects, by reaching those people who might be interested in it in general, and schools and young children specifically.
YesIncubator project helps companies to be created and to be successful afterwards in the free competition market. It focuses on three aspects:
·       Facilities: They are located in a commercial area in Skopje, and they give a workspace to every project with common services. Every tenant is granted a discount in the rental of its facilities: first 6 months 20% of commercial cost, second 50%, third 80%, and forth 100%. This reduces the economical pressure on the project the first years, but it also pushes the company to grow rapidly.
·       Training:  Mentorship from bigger successful companies in the same sector and also workshops that are carried out in the same facilities in a monthly basis. This counterbalances the lack of experience an entrepreneur may have, thus reducing the risk of failure.
·       Network: Tenants are granted a very wide network of contacts and colleagues: with other tenants in the same facilities; with mentors (successful industry managers, local, regional and EU);  with governmental institutions providing support; with micro-credit institutions and banks for loans with a low interest rate; with international donor organizations; with regional and international incubators.  
The process of creating a new enterprise is divided into 4 Incubation phases:
1.       Business plan application: where a competition between different applicants is launched.
2.       Business Incubator tenant: with the services described above.
3.       Virtual tenant:  a pre-detachment phase.
4.       Mature company: the company is ultimately placed in the free competition market without monitory.

It can be stated that YesIncubator has been so far successful in its undertaking from an economical perspective. It stands for more than 50 incubated companies with an 80% success rate (total turnover of 800.000 Euros). It has 20 implemented projects for SMEs support, and other business development, innovation and entrepreneurship stimulation programs.
On the other hand, from the goal of increasing awareness, Yesincubator has also had a big impact on society, as more than 6000 young people attended different trainings; they implemented programs such as the Global Entrepreneurship Week and the Start-up Weekend simultaneously with developed countries all over the world.

YesIncubator underwent a series of incubation steps itself. It started with donation money from SINTEF (a Norwegian Foundation, the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia) and Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia in 2005. The facilities were a renovated building donated by the most economically developed municipality in the capital, Skopje.
After the first step, YesIncubator reached a self-sustainable state in which it covered operational costs with rents and offerings of specialized trainings. In order to further develop this goal, they established partnerships with government institutions on bringing global initiatives to Macedonia and implementation of EU/IPA programmes.   

YesIncubator is a very good initiative that concerns the actual needs of the Macedonian society. However, improvements can be made in order to increase the impact and the quality of the service. We suggest that a new partnership with a local university could be established in order to provide innovative talents and cheap workforce to the companies of the Incubator, and more working experience to the students, in what we could describe as a win-win situation.  Also, new partnership or close relationships could be settled with other local or regional business Incubators in order to exchange managerial expertise, new ideas and to bring together their incubated companies. Furthermore, tenant companies could commercially collaborate between themselves in establishing consortiums/partnerships and easier marketing their services, as a bigger entity. With a well organized structure it’s easier to approach external financiers for ex. business angels and invite them on Investment day – networking for potential collaboration. 

Slavica Ilieska
Martí Camprodon

Political regimes, social networks and public sphere

From the classes of Professor Mohamed Kerrou, Civil society


It is common today to speak about democracy, globalization and transnational public spheres. On the contrary the author of the book The Net Delusion, Evgeny Morozov, speaks about dictatorships, government censorship and national public spheres. If we start from the Habermas (Structural Transformation of Public Sphere) point of view that emerging public sphere of civil society ‘no longer confined to the authorities but was considered by the subjects as one that was properly theirs’, can we talk about modern state intervention and attempts to control the public opinion.


Has the rise of internet and social networks helped political regimes centralize the public opinion and gain control of the national public sphere?


Online activist
Fight against censorship
Governments using spinternet
Media literacy
Online literacy

1.    There are three main differences in organizing a demonstration in the pre and post-internet era. Pre-internet era demonstrations have the following characteristics: street demonstrator, centralized and secret organizational structure, difficult to mobilize masses of people. On the other hand post-internet era demonstrations engage: online activists (start online then move to the streets), decentralized and public organizational structure, easy to mobilize people via social networks. 
2.    In the recent decades one of the main fights was the fight against censorship, because freedom of speech is a basic right given with constitutions in many democratic societies. The era of internet, blogs and developed social networks brought new problems or new solutions for the political regimes to find ways to affect the public opinion. As Morozov explains, because governments saw the success of blogging, and on the other side felt the ineffectiveness of censorship on internet (referred to as –one of the hardest to censor media), they started using a new tool called spinternet for spreading their political propaganda.   
3.    If we start from the first official state journals as a means for spreading news and important information to the educated classes, as the society and economy changed, so did the means for public information. Affected by state and private interests in the era of capitalism, people had to gain media literacy, in order to get to the right (true) information. As stated by Sonia Livingstone, the ambitious expectations society has for print literacy, can be extended to internet literacy in the information age: for these not only support a skilled labor force, but also ensure cultural expression, civic participation and democratic deliberation.


Rethinking the democracy

One of the main elements that constitute a democracy is the political participation of all the citizens, in contrary to the dictatorship, where there is an absolute authority. The second element is the civil society as looked by Habermas, the public sphere. Having in mind the current conditions, Nancy Fraser explains it’s questionable whether and how public spheres today could conceivably perform the democratic political functions with which they have been associated historically. “And could public spheres today conceivably bring such public opinion to bear to constrain sovereign powers or their functional equivalents?” If in hers conclusion she speaks about rethinking the public sphere maybe at the same time we should look from another perspective the relation between political regimes, social networks and public sphere, especially the effects of centralization versus decentralization. The other important analyst and critic of Habermas, Calhoun in his book Habermas and the Public Sphere criticizes that the “central weekness is that Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere does not treat the ‘classical’ bourgeois public sphere and the post-transformation public sphere of ‘organized’ or ‘late’ capitalism symmetrically. The result is perhaps an overestimation of the degeneration of the public sphere. The public consequences of mass media are not necessarily as uniformly negative as Structural Transformation suggests, and there may be more room than Habermas realized for alternative democratic media strategies.”