What is GIST Innovates The Balkans?

GIST Innovates The Balkans is a ten-week pre-accelerator training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology. We will coach teams about how to apply the Lean Startup entrepreneurship methodology and how to do effective customer discovery for problem/solution fit of participants’ ideas. By the end of the program, teams will have completed at least 40 interviews with target customers, gaining valuable insight on how to shape their product for maximum impact. The program will provide innovators with the training, mentoring, and resources they need to build their entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to market. The program will provide opportunities for teams to connect with mentors in the US and provide opportunities to interact with U.S.-based investors and companies.

After the training, teams may have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors at the Venture Devils Demo Day and visit ASU.


Important Dates

We will accept 12 teams (2 members per team) for this program. We encourage teams to apply as early as possible.

  • Application window: 15 December 2022 - 15 March, 2023 (CLICK FOR APPLICATION)
  • 10-week training program: Summer 2023
  • December 2023 Venture Devils Demo Day at ASU in Greater Phoenix, AZ


The training will focus on customer discovery-based entrepreneurship, real-world practical experience, and functional expertise.

  • An inclusive and immersive entrepreneurship curriculum based on the Lean Startup methods.
  • Establish connections with experts and investors in the U.S. and perform customer discovery for the U.S. market.
  • Train in person two diverse cohorts of STI entrepreneurs recruited from IHubs in The Balkans region the first of which will be in the summer of 2023.
  • Culminate the training experience of the Balkans entrepreneurs with their proposal presentations at a Venture Devils Demo Day at ASU in Greater Phoenix, AZ.


Who Should Participate?


This program is perfect for Balkans startups (eligible countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia) that are looking to take their innovations to the next level by getting mentoring, U.S. market expertise, and valuable business model training. All Balkans science and technology startups whose founder is 18 - 40 years of age are eligible to apply. Please read the full eligibility requirements before applying. The broader aim of GIST Innovates The Balkans is to reinforce productive values in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Balkans, including merit-based competition, diversity of experience, scientific rigor, societal impact of technology, ethics, transparency, and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups. Apply today! Questions about this program: [email protected]

Balkans Innovates 2


GIST Innovates The Balkans FAQs


Q. How do I apply?

A. The application is available on this page from 15 December, 2022 - 15 March, 2023. Once it is available, click the APPLY NOW button, create an account on GISTNetwork.org, and complete the application. 

Q. Can I complete the application in a language other than English?

A. No. All application questions must be answered in English.

Q. Is knowledge of English required to participate?

A. All instructors will be native English speakers.  At least one member of your team must be proficient enough in English to participate in the one-on-one meetings with the instructors. 

Q. How much of the course is in-person versus virtual?

A. There will be 1 week in-person in The Balkans region followed by 9 weeks of virtual training.

Q. What is the average age of selected participants?

A: The age of the selected participants is usually between the ages of 18 and 40.

Q: How much of a time commitment (hrs/week) should be expected from selected participants during the entire program? 

A: You should expect to spend an average of 10-15 hours per week.

Q: Do I need a fully working prototype to apply or will a proof of concept (very rough prototype) suffice? 

A: A fully-working prototype is not required. A proof of concept will suffice. The purpose of this program is to talk to potential future customers to help shape the initial minimum viable product.

Q: Do I need Intellectual Property (IP) to participate?

A: No.  But if you do have IP we will not ask you about it during the program nor will we expect you to share that information. This program is not about your technology - it is about the process of exploring market potential and whether you are solving a need in the marketplace.

Q: What specific measures will help prevent IP theft? 

A: IP information will not be shared by anyone during this program.

Q: Can the same person apply with multiple teams?

A: We will only accept one application per applicant.

Q: Can the same team apply with multiple projects? 

A: Each team can only submit a single innovation.

Q: Are there any fees for participants in the program?

A: No. All fees are covered by the program.


GIST Innovates The Balkans Partners


About the Implementer

GIST Innovates the Balkans is administered by Arizona State University (ASU). ASU is a public research university that is committed to access, excellence, and impact at scale. In 2022, for the eighth year in a row, ASU was named No. 1 among the nation's most innovative universities by U.S. News & World Report. ASU is one of the fastest-growing research enterprises in the U.S. and a national leader in bringing innovations to market. It is currently ranked #4 by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) among universities for U.S. patents issued and ranked #4 for startups generated. ASU is the lead university of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Hub: Desert and Pacific Region building on its experience as an I-Corps Site since 2016.

One of the core tenets of ASU’s vision is the pivotal role universities can have to maximize the impact of use-inspired research through entrepreneurship. Over the last ten years, more than 180 startup companies based on ASU intellectual property (IP) have been created, which has generated over 1300 jobs and raised nearly $1B in funding.

Meet the Program Team

● Visar Berisha, Associate Professor
College of Health Solutions & Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University (ASU) Berisha has a history of STI entrepreneurship success, including co-founding a VC-funded ASU startup.

● Ji Mi Choi, Director, NSF I-Corps Hub: Desert and Pacific Region
Choi is the Project Director of the ASU-led, NSF-funded I-Corps Hub and previously served as Vice President, ASU Knowledge Enterprise and Founding Executive Director of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. She serves in various capacities for numerous start-up organizations and boards.

● Zachary Holman, Associate Professor
Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University Holman leads entrepreneurship training for the College of Engineering and has successfully co-founded several start-up companies.

● Eusebio Scornavacca, Professor
School for the Future of Innovation in Society, College of Global Futures, and Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University Scornavacca has extensive experience developing digital entrepreneurship curricula as well as multinational, cross-disciplinary, inquiry-based learning projects with start-ups around the world.

● Denise McKenzie, Academic Associate | Lecturer
J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation, Arizona State University | Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California (USC) McKenzie provides instruction for the NSF I-Corps national program, works with founders and teaches the Lean Startup methodology at USC and ASU, and has 20 years of experience as an engineer and a patent litigator.

● Uranik Begu, Executive Director Innovation Centre Kosovo
Begu has led implementation of externally-funded training programs in Kosovo and the Balkan region.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Read More.