The USAID Belarus Entrepreneurs Support and Training (BEST) project invested in expanding opportunities to boost entrepreneurship and develop a startup infrastructure in Belarus.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the USAID Belarus Entrepreneurs Support and Training (BEST) project is BEL.BIZ, a former local online business content provider, which the project transformed into a unique infrastructure institution that fosters small and medium enterprise development, entrepreneurship growth, and innovation countrywide.
USAID assistance helped BEL.BIZ launch Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), a popular annual global event promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Belarus. Since 2011, this major entrepreneurship forum has attracted thousands of participants, including entrepreneurs, business owners, local and international experts, and youth. The event engages participants in policy discussions and facilitates experience exchange, which serve as a starting point for new initiatives. For example, BEL.BIZ introduced the International Startup competition, the first-ever contest of this sort for Belarusans and citizens of neighboring countries. The competition offers selected teams an opportunity to pitch their ideas to international investors, with a study trip to Silicon Valley as the grand prize.
Tatiana Marinich, the founder and CEO of BEL.BIZ, stated, “Thanks to USAID support, thousands of Belarusian entrepreneurs were able to get access to information and master key skills, which helped them to effectively start and grow their businesses. Launching dozens of new small- and medium-sized companies contributed to developing a pro-business mindset and improving the business environment in the country. “
In 2013, BEL.BIZ established IMAGURU, a co-working space, startup hub and training platform that stimulates business and professional development. Leading companies, think-tanks, civil society organizations, and business experts hold over 1,000 public events and training programs annually in IMAGURU.
Since 2013, BEL.BIZ has been a key promoter of innovative youth entrepreneurship and startup ecosystems. The company launched TechMinsk, a unique training camp for startups, which provided several cohorts of more than 200 young entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn from the leading mentors, entrepreneurs, and experts from IT and investment industries. Trained by TechMinsk, six Belarusian teams launched successful startups.
Among the more successful is Meet-and-Greet Me, a peer-to-peer platform that connects individuals willing to offer local social concierge services to travelers located in many parts of the world.
BEL.BIZ was among the pioneers that introduced hackathons to Belarus, and a dedicated start-up day was among the major events of the last GEW. The hackathon gathered together representatives of global IT companies and venture investors, who listened as startups pitched their projects on the IMAGURU’s stage. The investors then provided them with feedback and recommendations
USAID continues supporting BEL.BIZ’s innovative initiatives by directly partnering in a new project, “Building Opportunities for Startup Development in Belarus,” launched in October 2015.