Good Afternoon to you all :  Distinguished Guests, Jury Members, Mentors, Organizing Team, Staff, Volunteers and StartUp Live Participants!

The marathon of this year event is coming to an end and we are all eager to reward the best ideas that may have been developed during these past couple of days. 

Before celebrating the outcome and  closure of this traditional acceleration program, which we are hosting for the 2nd year in a row in these premises of ours, I think I can also interpret everyone else’s desire to thank Faola Hodaj and her team for organizing it, and the great  “Maestro”, Georg Kuttner, who with remarkable style and know-how has conducted for you here this whole affair.

The pitching of ideas, the team forming and the business model introduction that took place on Friday evening, provided the base for you, the ‘Participants’, to work upon the new “seeds” of your ideas, also aided by the nurturing advice of mentors that kindly dedicated time to you yesterday afternoon.

All these components are allowing you now to present a better formulation of your concepts and to compete for the great prizes of this 8th edition of StartUp Live Tirana.

In addition to the Jury’s selections, the Ivanaj Foundation, guided by its own separate jury, will also provide a certificate for “best potential business idea”, and, with it, comes the opportunity to join our ”Business Incubator Hub”.

It is one of the 3-prong approach that we have adopted as part of our mission in proceeding with our goals. Through it, we nourish entrepreneurial ideas by offering a variety of services to help support, especially young Albanians that have a business idea and want to take it from concept to reality. Of course, you can always go to our website for more information, or reach out to one of our staff members here for more input regarding this process and how we go about it.

Most people have started their own business all by themselves, and some may have been successful in having found help along the way into their projects’ development, but you are fortunate enough to have an initial ‘lift off’ here, today!   Even in brief format, you have the possibility of presenting a concept of your own that you believe could make a difference in one way or another in this world of ours, aided by suggestions and directions for further implementation and application.   

For myself, I have never started a personal business of my own, as such. Nevertheless, I have experienced several startups during my life, some of which have changed my way of living and, notwithstanding the challenges, have provided me with the pleasure of a variety of successful outcomes.

Some of you already know that I have had two careers in two different fields: 1st) in Economics-Business Administration Management and 2) later on, in Computing when this field was in its early starting stages. I held a variety of positions serving for many years large business, such as the Italian FIAT conglomerate, and Ivy League Academic Institution, such as Columbia University in NYC.

My experience spans over half a century of all sorts and type of work that, in addition to managing large International projects worth millions of dollars, also involved quite an amount of resourcefulness in carrying them out. Additionally, let me add that, although I was occupying permanent positions, I never accepted the status quo in them and applied new concepts, modifications, or changes (obviously implemented after appropriate approval), but, nevertheless, they could be defined as initiatives. These not only enhanced the end results of the assigned projects, but actually enriched the outcome of these experiences of mine.  

Aside from taking initiatives most of my life, I also had a dream that I never thought it could become reality, but it did!

After the first 5 years of my life in Tirana as a baby, I had to leave Albania due to the Italian occupation of WWII, and never thought I would be able to come back to it. I spent time in Italy during my teens and there I completed my scientific studies by getting a Bachelor of Science degree. All subsequent years I have lived in NYC where I emigrated with my Mom, having lost my Father at an early age, and there I continued my studies at night getting a 2nd  degree of Bachelor of Arts, while holding full time employment during the day.

I graduated in Economics – Business Administration Management, but continued taking a myriad of other courses, especially after entering the field of computing and specialized in work simplification, disaster recovery plans, business, tactical and strategic planning, etc.   

All these experiences and initiatives allowed me to even change career in my mid thirties. I made a plan, took into consideration the possible consequences of it, and the proper steps to take in case of failure. I learned a lot by doing, but by putting together good basic plans, I enjoyed even more the satisfaction of their successful implementations.      

Aside from changing career, as I said, I went through quite a few startups in my life, by introducing initiatives that became the norm throughout the orgs I was involved in. At Columbia University, where I spent 22 years in 9 different positions, I was asked to manage reorganizations, develop and implement new application systems that needed to be introduced in this institution.

A couple of examples: I launched the use of email for Columbia’s administration, created an online network for American Universities to implement and improve computer security (still ongoing), and issued regular newsletters on this subject throughout the campus, as well as directions for disaster recovery;  also trained administrative personnel in computing at CU, and so on.

My biggest startup, however, is the planning and creation of this place, which was not even formulated when my dream was just to return to the country of my origin!

I shall spare you the details of how this was accomplished and took 25 years to fruition, but, as you see, it’s the reality of a dream, and the development of a plan, for which I had no real  partners or financial backers  to count upon, and no competitors to take into consideration.

I had, however, lots of encouragement and long term loyal support from new friends I made along the way to conquer stagnant bureaucracy, incompetence of state employees, inadequacies and snags of all sorts, all of which today, may not necessarily, however, play a heavy burden such as the one I encountered, in whatever you may be doing with your new ideas now.

May the ‘lift off’ of today open for you new horizons and hopes for a better future in whatever you do and want to do, AND have the freedom and the power to forge!

Be determined and committed to your plans if you really believe they can make a difference; be prepared to accept hurdles that needs surmounting, and even failures, if need be. The latter, by the way, can actually enrich your bag of valuable experiences, and strengthen your resolve for other ventures.                  

Have faith in what you are doing and diligently work at it.  This weekend you have received excellent advice about how to approach the development of a plan, and have made connections that could help you along your way. Capitalize on what you have heard and strive to make the spaghetti tower exercise of Friday evening a reality example, so that one day you’ll reach the top of the tower that you plan to build, and will be able to put your marshmallow on it!

Now it’s your turn to speak and may the best project ideas win!

Enjoy the rest of this day!