GetTreated was featured on Eurasianet

Posted on: 02-08-2016

Rafi Elliott

Author

It’s no secret that Startup-fever has hit Eastern Europe.

A quarter of a century after escaping the Iron Curtain’s grip, small states across the region have turned to their natural competitive advantages to quickly catch-up to the rest of Europe: their tech sectors. This phenomenon is called technological ‘leap-frogging’, and is understood like this: for many of these countries, it isn’t enough to try to follow into the footsteps of the Developed World, but to use technological advances to skip a few steps in order to quickly close, or even surpass the development gap between the two extremities of the continent.

This is why Estonia, a tiny former-soviet republic of 1.3 million inhabitants now has the best e-health system in Europe, if not the World. Resource-strapped Armenia’s capital Yerevan, for instance, has been using an SMS-based digital payment system for city parking for at least two years before cities like Montreal and Toronto came up with similar payment methods.

These small success stories have been noticed by other governments in the region, as well as by the European Union, which has been struggling to properly integrate Eastern Europe into its economic community ever since the rapid eastward-expansions of the ’00s. Instead of promoting what Eastern-European entrepreneurs needed most: deregulation, and ease-of-access to markets, the typically-eurocratic solution they had was to jump on the start-up bandwagon by financing the creation of multiple Accelerators across Eastern Europe with the condition that startups which were accepted into their programmes be faced with a hiring quota.

Thus, job-creation, not innovation, became the name of the game.  This, perhaps, may explain why these initiatives have been met with mixed success. I shared some of my thoughts on the creation of  top-down, government sponsored technology startup ecosystems as opposed to organically nurturing them in a recent article by Eurasianet, which can be accessed here.

 

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