Capacity Building for Western Balkan Accelerators


The Partners

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution promoting the transition towards open market-oriented economies in more than 30 economies from central Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern mediterranean.

This program was run by EBRD and funded by Luxembourg – through the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund (SBIF)

The Goal: Increase Capacity and Enhance Sustainability of Accelerators in the Western Balkans


Under its Small Business initiative, EBRD offers innovative tools to support small and medium-sized enterprises, delivering advice and know-how to early stage companies.

Working with regional accelerators and local advisors, they designed the Star Venture programme to help high-potential early-stage companies know-how, mentorship, and for growth.

In the Western Balkans, the Star Venture programme is funded by Luxembourg –
through the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund (SBIF). Other donors include Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA.

The program was implemented in partnership with identified partner organizations from the region, including accelerators and accelerator-like partners that need support in capacity building. Since 2020, the Star Venture program had started actively supporting the increase of capacities of these partners and their start-up cohorts through advisory services.

However, they realized at the time that most of the focus had been placed on helping companies kick-off growth, while neglecting their development phase. They needed to better equip the accelerators so they can support and help startups and scale-ups be more successful in startup strategy, securing investment and scaling up.

From March till June 2021, the EBRD team worked together with Strategy Tools to design and deliver a Train-the-Trainer program specifically tailored for accelerators. Titled Scale Up Accelerator Coach, the program ran from April to June 2021 and had 12 participants join from accelerators, hubs and ecosystem builders in the Western Balkans.

I have been a part of several trainings around startups and scale ups, but I’ve never seen a more structured or better working environment than what I saw in the Scale Up Accelerator Coach program. The program was demanding but it taught me to look at the big picture.

Arjan Ymeri

Executive Director & Board Member

An digital immersive and rich learning experience

Working with EBRD, Strategy Tools and Christian Rangen developed and ran a 6-week Scale Up Accelerator Coach program (SUAC) that is a mix of live digital workshops, digital mentoring, and a self-paced intensive Scale Up Coach program on the Strategy Tools Academy.

As the main objective was to equip the accelerators with what they needed to support the growth of startups, the SUAC program took a deep dive into the challenges, strategies, business models and value impact behind successful accelerators across the globe.

Chris worked together with EBRD to develop content, case studies and tools that are tailored to helping build better accelerator programs.

This resulted in a blend of working through an e-learning platform, discussions and working on visual tools in interactive live digital workshops, as well as invites to group coaching sessions.

Participants were expected to complete the Scale Up Coach program on the Strategy Tools Academy, join in on the live workshops, as well as deliver 4 projects, as well as show up to the live sessions, which made for an intense six weeks. 

“I found the program very intuitive and inclusive – when you have a PowerPoint just presented in a one-direction, you feel like it’s a lecture. The Scale Up Accelerator Coach program run by Chris was really inclusive, the flow was great and the people you get to meet from different backgrounds provided different perspectives from the ecosystem which contributed a lot to my learning,” said Milos Matic, an investment manager at ICT Hub Venture.  

“The case studies gave insight on what companies are doing on a global scale – it helped us see what it takes to build a solid investor pitch, what it takes in order to scale from both a European and global perspective” added Arjan.


“The methodology developed by Strategy Tools goes much deeper in every aspect of developing a scale-up. Much deeper than the Lean Startup methodology that we’ve been using since 2012.”

Vladimir Corda

Ecosystem Facilitator
START Centre Banja Luka

Interactive Learning Through Doing


Throughout the six weeks, Christian Rangen ran five interactive workshops where the focus was on doing rather than listening. Every workshop had a theme and cases for the participants to work through, with key deliverables expected after the session.

Participants worked in groups on canvases designed by Strategy Tools, as well as incorporated their learning with the real-life startups they’re helping in their respective accelerators.

The combination of the e-learning platform, live workshops and mentorship sessions created an active learning environment where they could immediately put the canvases to use in their day-to-day work with their portfolio companies.

“I really enjoyed the small groups during the live workshops – it gave us an opportunity for more interaction, sharing our experiences and knowledge. The mentorship sessions also gave me more opportunity to pick the brains of Chris and his experience in this field,” said Vladimir Corda, an Ecosystem Facilitator at START Centre Banja Luka.


Equipping Accelerators with a
Powerful Toolkit

As part of the program, participants were taught to use the full Scale Up Coach toolkit where they learned canvases that help with all aspects of the scale up journey, from early strategy, value creation, mapping investors to exit.

Every live workshop also featured some canvases which the participants had to work on and bring into their real-life work.

“Scale Up Accelerator Coach has a very good layout of tools – I have not seen so many tools in any other program. It was overwhelming initially but after learning how to use them, I found that they helped us focus. Different stages of growing a company require different solutions and expertise, and these canvases pinpoint a particular stage and helps visualize it. We went from writing everything down to being able to work very visually,” said Arjan.

“One of the great aspects of this format is the ability to combine tools with brand new, up-to-date case studies, literally case studies taken from today’s news. During the program we dug into European success cases like UI Path (Romania, Unicorn, IPO New York) and Lilium (Germany, Unicorn, SPAC New York) to really showcase what is coming out of the European ecosystem”, says Christian Rangen.

“This gives the participants a chance to both learn from today’s leading scale ups, while also mastering the tools, like the Scale Up Map and the Long-Term Funding Roadmap, to be able to apply these tools with impact into their own ecosystems”.

“The utmost value I got from this program were the canvases – they helped create a flow on how we can work with startups. I could read all the blogs out there but I wouldn’t have gotten all the insights that I’ve gotten from this program.”

Milos Matic

Investment Manager
ICT Hub Venture



The Scale Up Accelerator Coach Program was well received by the participants, despite them having different competency levels.

Many of them are now using the canvases and know-how gained from the program in their daily work with startups.

Looking ahead, a wide number of these tools and canvases will be implemented into various accelerator programs, startup and scale up programs across the region.  In the process, helping implement a new way of helping grow the ecosystem in the Western Balkans.

“The program opened up my mind to how we can improve our accelerator to further develop it. It opened my eyes to the items I need to focus on in the future, what should be in place to make a long-term plan and how to develop it.” said Vladimir.

“It has really helped me understand our role as accelerators in this scale up process. We’re not just providing the standard templates and technical help, but also there to help with the strategic vision and funding of the startups,” added Arjan.

Facilitator Notes

Europe needs a new scale up paradigm. We have known this for years. Mainland Europe has been falling further and further behind US, UK and China in building and scaling startups. For the Western Balkans, the situation is even more dire.

Fortunately, we now understand even better how to grow startup and scale up ecosystems. Through the research and development at Strategy Tools, we have been able to develop a vast series of visual strategy tools for startups, scale ups, investors and ecosystems. From the Investor Map (beginner level), the Scale Up Map (intermediate level), the Mapping the Deals Map (advanced level) and the Exit Canvas (expert level), we have been able to simplify, synthesize and visualize a lot of complex information into easy-to-use visual canvases. This is a game-changer.

Having applied these tools with venture funds, angel networks, accelerators, ecosystems, national innovation agencies, startups, scale ups and economic development agencies, we have seen first-hand the power of visualizing strategic topics in these fields.

This was the core idea we brought to the EBRD program. Over these weeks we have really dug into advanced level topics in accelerator development and scale ups. We have analyzed cases, worked on complex challenges and applied these tools in practice.

This is not an easy topic. Developing scale up ecosystems, investor readiness and scale up strategies is hard, it is challenging, it is demanding. Yet, the participants have handled the work very, very well.
Next, I look forward to following the participants as they really start putting their new knowledge and tools into action.

“This is a good foundation for anyone working with startups, or even someone looking to build a company themselves. The simple canvases that are intuitive and easy to use, combined with the program itself gives you the flow and structure you need when you’re working with startups.”

Milos Matic
Investment Manager
ICT Hub Venture


Featured Accelerators

In the research and writing of this case study, we’ve interviewed 3 of the 10 accelerators which were part of this program.


Milos Matic, Investment Manager at ICT Hub Venture

Milos helps start-ups and small companies to develop and grow in all directions. Through his role at ICT Hub Venture, he has been instrumental in shaping one of the first early-stage venture capital initiatives in the region. He is currently the full-time investment manager at ICT Hub, helping companies raise financing and scale beyond the local ecosystem.

Check out ICT Hub Venture


Vladimir Corda, Ecosystem Facilitator, START Centre Banja Luka

Vladimir Ćorda is startup enthusiast and active participant of the Bosnia and Herzegovina startup scene. Vladimir is co-owner and CEO at Virtuo Ltd, company providing virtual office services in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

Vladimir is engaged by Swiss Entrepreneurship Program as Ecosystem Facilitator for Bosnia and Herzegovina working on development of startup ecosystem and direct support to startups in local communities. Also, Vladimir works with ICT Hub from Belgrade combining two worlds, startup and corporate in one.

Vladimir is a founder and president of START, Association for promotion of entrepreneurship in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In last three years START has developed two startup programs, STARTER and KATALIZATOR. From 2018, twelve STARTER programs were organized supporting 56 teams in development of their business models. KATALIZATOR was organized in 2020, as 11 weeks long online startup program providing support to seven teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

Arjan Ymeri, Executive Director & Board Member at OFICINA Innovation Hub

Arjan is a highly experienced management and marketing executive, who is currently serving as the Executive Director of OFICINA | Innovation Hub. He is currently engaged in enriching the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albania and in supporting growth of innovation capacities in the Balkan region. He is an active advisor and mentor to founders and startups and is specialized in helping the startup ecosystem to cultivate new programs through a combination of curricula development, commercialization plans and community facilitation. Arjan actively participates in the development of policies and legislative progression of the Albanian entrepreneurial sector.

About the Scale Up Coach Program

Scale-Up Coach is an online program to help you build better start-ups, scale-ups, and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Contact us to custom-tailor the program to your organization’s needs.