In mid-July, about 85 teams from all over Uzbekistan, having successfully passed preliminary selection, pitched their startup projects to experts. Based on the results of expert evaluations, about 30 best projects will get an opportunity to participate in the three-month Youth Startup Support Programme. The programme is implemented by UNDP and CCI ‘Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase III)’ joint project with the support of the Agency for Science and Technology and ‘Sasol’ company.
More than 20 experts were invited to evaluate the candidates’ projects, applied for the ‘Startup Initiatives’ programme. The panel consisted of specialists from ministries and departments, experienced entrepreneurs who have founded and run successful business. Therefore, participation in the selection stages of the programme for students and young scientists is a chance to develop entrepreneurial skills, gain advice from market leaders, and broad networking opportunity.
A brief presentation of the project (pitching) is an important part of the startup founders’ growth. Here they not only hone public speaking skills, but also get feedback from experts. Questions and recommendations from the entrepreneurs and experts of the industry help participants to shape their vision and improve their idea.
This year, the second cycle of the programme is being implemented. This means that even more than 1000 students from all over Uzbekistan explored the community problems to find an idea for startup. Having united in teams, students and young scientists submitted 419 applications, about 220 teams took part in the interview, and about 110 of them were trained on pitching. Teams of 85 projects pitched their projects and received recommendations on the development of their business.
Statistics also proves the growth of youth's interest in startups. In 2016, to participate in the first cycle of the programme 308 applications were received from 24 universities in Tashkent, while in 2017, 419 applications were received from 57 universities all over Uzbekistan, which is 1.4 times more than in 2016.
“Compared with 2016, there are significant positive changes in the quality of projects. But there is still room for improvement,” said Botir Arifzhanov, invited expert and founder of Paynet and LeBazar.
“For three days I participated in the selection process. In addition to IT-startups, there were a lot of teams developing machines and devices. And it's great! Problems for many are the same though – participants focusing on a technical or IT idea, do not think about the way of its implementation, exploitation, about the benefits that all participants in the process will gain, what will keep interest in the idea in a month, six months, a year and beyond after its launch, monetization,”- said Aziz Rakhimov, independent expert who advises Click.uz, Arba.uz startups.
The organizers of the programme also highlight better quality and thematic diversity of the projects.
“The projects of the first cycle mainly aimed at the development of software applications, in the second cycle, teams represent technical and engineering solutions. This means that young people began to apply knowledge more widely and offer solutions to public problems through startup projects. This is only the second year. In the future, the projects are going to be improved and cover more areas of the economy and human life. This will affect the quality of services and products, as well as the development of a new concept of the digital economy in the country,” said Bakhodir Bekov, project manager of the UNDP’s ‘Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase III)’ project.
‘Startup Initiatives’ programme plays an important role in stirring up of the creative and entrepreneurial potential of youth. The practice of implementing the pilot programme in 2016 jointly with the universities of Tashkent gave its results - the universities, having mastered the methodology of the programme, plan, and some of them already launch similar support programmes in their universities.
The ‘Startup Initiatives’ programme is a comprehensive programme to support the development (acceleration) of startup ideas and projects of students and young scientists of higher educational institutions.