Monthly Archives: March 2015

Diaspora Teachers Meet With Mr Murati

Minister of Diaspora, Mr. Valon Murati has met with a group of Albanian language teachers from Austria and Sweden, who accompanied by their students have come to visit Kosovo. On this occasion, Minister Murati, emphasized on the importance of cooperation with our diaspora towards preservation of national identity and its integration in their host country. Minister Murati’s guests announced the signing of an agreement with both the Kosovar and Albanian government on additional Albanian language learning in the Diaspora.

Edi Demaj: A high-speed mind in Detroit

Born in Prishtina, Mr. Demaj is a hardworking 29 year-old who is the co-developer and partner in several online endeavors and the co-founder of Rocket Fiber, a next generation fiber-optic internet network in Detroit.

Like the rest of people from Kosovo, in 1999 his family had to run for their lives so they fled the country. Having lost their home during the war, they were fortunate to have made it alive to the US and move to a city near Detroit. “I fell in love with the city of Detroit very early in my American life; from Detroit sports teams to the history and legacy of the city. Very early on I adopted Detroit as my new home city and began to treat it like I did Prishtina” said Mr. Demaj when interviewed for KD.

Being immigrants, his parents did everything in their power to make sure their children received the best education possible. He finished high school in a city about 40km from Detroit, called Rochester Hill. One of his first accomplishments is completing his four year degree in Political Science with an Associates degree in Business Management at Oakland University under two and a half years. Today, he is earning his Masters in Business Management with a concentration in Strategic Leadership from Walsh College.

Mr. Demaj worked throughout his high school, college and masters. Until lately, he was employed at Bedrock Real Estate Services, where he was involved in the management, leasing and development of various projects in Detroit. During his time at Bedrock, he co-founded several startups, most notably iziSurvey, a startup that provides online and offline tools to collect real time data for very low costs. He also co-founded Reozom, a residential real estate marketing platform that makes the buying and selling of homes easier, simpler and more affordable than ever before in America. Last but not least, he is a partner in the first Albanian search engine Gjirafa.com, a platform that is changing the way Albanians find and use information, as well as do business forever amongst themselves. “Gjirafa is a game changer for Albanians all over the World, by far the most innovative Albanian technology to date and something we should all be proud of” Demaj stated. All of the startups he is involved with are in partnership with his younger brother Etriti and long-time friend Mërgim Cahani who is also Founder and CEO of Gjirafa.com.

www.izisurvey.com

www.izisurvey.com

www.reozom.com

www.reozom.com

www.gjirafa.com

www.gjirafa.com

These online endeavors are a great example of companies with American headquarters; Albanian and American co-founders and partners that are training and employing Albanians in Kosovo. “Identifying what Kosovo is missing and finding a way to fill that void is how I try to contribute to Kosovo. As someone who has invested in Kosovo and continues to do so, I am hopeful that the younger generation of Kosovo will be regional leaders in innovation. We have our independence and control our own destiny, it is up to us create a business-friendly environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship” said Mr.Demaj.

Last June, together with Marc Hudson and Randy Foster, Mr. Demaj co-founded Rocket Fiber, a next generation fiber-optic internet network. “I co-founded the company with two other very ambitious and extremely smart entrepreneurs with the goal of putting a city all three of us love, in a group of cities in America and the World that have an infrastructure of ours available” he said. Rocket Fiber is building an infrastructure and will offer services that very few cities in the world have available. “Similar to Google Fiber, we are offering internet speeds that are 100 times faster than current average residential speeds in America. In addition to residences, we are taking it a step further than even Google by offering one or more Gigabits to small, medium and large commercial businesses” answered Mr. Demaj when asked to talk about RF services. ”Detroit has a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re building a platform that will make it possible for entrepreneurs and innovators to develop next generation products on“ he added. Mr. Demaj is currently the COO of Rocket Fiber and is responsible for helping with the execution of the their vision by bridging the gap between technology, product and other areas within the company. The project will start with downtown Detroit in 2015 and will expand to other areas in the upcoming years.

“Being proud of your heritage is encouraged in America and it is where it all starts with the Kosovar diaspora in my opinion. I will continue to be involved in projects that have to do with Kosova and Albanians and try to help any way I can.”

Elected Kosovar At The Lucerne Cantonal Parliament

Ylfete Fanaj has gained re-election at the Parliament of the Canton of Lucerne. In the elections that were held today, the parliament and the executive of the canton of Lucerne, the Swiss-Albanian candidate, Mrs. Ylfete Fanaj has secured a seat in the parliament by winning the second highest number of votes by party candidates in its electoral district.

Mrs. Fanaj has been active in politics for a long time (Since 2011) as a member of the Social Democratic Party in the Parliament of the Canton of Lucerne and the first Albanian woman in Switzerland on the cantonal elected for parliament and municipal assemblies. For a while Ylfete Fanaj has also been president of the organization Second@s at Switzerland, where she actively engaged in improving the social life of Albanians in Switzerland.

Mapping the Albanian National Football Team

The Albanian National Football team will play against Armenia tonight for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016. Coach Gianni De Biasi called 28 players for the preparations for the game. Most of the players are members of the Albanian Diaspora. Thirteen of them have their family roots in Albania, fourteen in Kosovo, and one in Macedonia. Four of the players are born in Switzerland, one in Germany and another in Norway.

The following maps shed some light on these statistics, and are quite telling in terms for the role of Diaspora in yet another field of life for the nation. Good luck Team Albania. We are rooting for you. #HajdeShqiperi.

 

Mërgim Cahani: Back to Lead Albanian Digital Presence Online

Mërgim Cahani is a serial Diaspora entrepreneur, who returned to his birthplace Kosovo to found a number of technology and application ventures and spearhead the young country’s road to tech industry development.

Cahani is  the founder and CEO of Gjirafa, a full-text web search engine and a news aggregator specialized in the Albanian language. He is also the founder of iziSurvey, an online and offline custom survey creator, and the CEO and founder of Phronesis Technologies. Cahani finished his Masters in Computer Science at the New York University, and BS and MBA at St. John’s University in New York. He returned to Kosovo to contribute to the social and economic development of his native country, and tells us about that decision in the following Q&A between Kosovo Diaspora and him.

A snapshot of the www.iziSurvey.com application website.

A snapshot of the www.iziSurvey.com application website.

KD: What should we know about Mërgim, as a person who left Kosovo, only to come back to contribute to his native country?

MC: Just like many others have returned – after being a student in the United States or elsewhere abroad – I too, after 8 years of education and over 5 years working (all in New York), I decided to come back to the motherland. There are many reasons why I returned – but the main one for me is: if I am going to focus on my profession and give my contribution to the community anyway, why not do it in Kosova. I think – while others may disagree – tech entrepreneurship opportunities in Kosova are better. So far the reality has met my expectations in Kosova. The success of Gjirafa.com so far shows that.

A snapshot of www.gjirafa.com

A snapshot of www.gjirafa.com

KD: How beneficial and challenging was the decision to come back to Kosovo?

MC: There are challenges of course, but most of them are opportunities. Challenges are present in almost every dimension: company operations, management, and infrastructure; then there are challenges in the product development, finding talent, and funding; of course there are challenges in the product usability, user behavior, and business readiness for new tech opportunities and products. So traditional strategic management and previous world-wide case studies do not exactly apply in this business environment, but with a small modification and creative thinking, they do wonders. It keeps our team on our feet at all time, it is dynamic, and it is a lot of fun.

KD: How were you affected by your time outside Kosovo in expanding your worldview and deepening your conviction to come back home?

MC: Naturally it did have its impact. As a high school student in Kosova, I was one of the last generations to attend a clandestine schooling system; going to houses as classrooms and running from the oppression as kids, as if it were a hide and seek game. It was difficult, but it did help me and those generations to be stronger and look at things differently. During my freshman year in New York (NY), where I was able to walk freely with my schoolbag on my shoulders, it simply felt great, really great. I bet one does not hear that very often and in fact it may sound strange to many. Thus, living in the US for over a decade, I was exposed to how things and life quality should be (at least some things). It allowed me to learn and build life expectations for myself and the community, and provided me with the belief that everything is possible given persistence and perseverance. If you can think it, you can make it.  That is the US thinking that I took with me.

KD: Kosovo is building its reputation as a state through technology. Social media have begun serving as a tool for engaging the citizen and digital diplomacy. Our platform Kosovo Diaspora is built on this foundation. What do you think of the potential that Kosovo has for focusing its capacities in building a positive image through digital diplomacy?

MC: Kosova is progressing at a fast-pace on technology innovation. In Kosova currently you have products, and innovative companies that compete on a global level with technology giants. I also think the same holds true for Albania. Our countries have started to change the global image, we are more than what the global media write primarily – we are more than the 90’s news. My personal experience also shows that as soon as you mention Albania or Kosova to the international community, at first glance, one does not receive a very positive image. But with time and work this is en route to change and will continue on the years to come. On the other hand, digital diplomacy plays a vital role in promoting our reputation as a nation. So far this has developed very well, as one can visibly notice from KosovoDiaspora.org.

KD: What is the potential that digital platforms hold to enhance cultural, social and economic growth in Kosovo?

MC: Although I partially answered this above, I think the easiest way to promote our country as an emerging economic market is through technology. In this field we are not limited by borders and other boundaries; there is no segregation. We can have a global reach as we have already started doing so.

KD: What would you say to the Albanian diaspora?

MC: Albanians living in the diaspora need to be in closer relations with recent developments in Albania and Kosova. Things have changed and have started to take a turn. There are opportunities here that could be of interest to them as well. Not just for the sake of contributing to the motherland (as many Albanians from the diaspora have done so and continue to do so), but also there are unique opportunities here that are rare to find in other markets. They should come and meet with people who are working together as a team and aiming to have a global impact. I bet many doors are open to join ventures with potentially high returns. It will happen, and I say (a statement that I hear often from many VC investors in the US): “don’t become a series B investors” (see Facebook investment phases to get a better picture of this statement).

KD: Is there something you would like to add?

MC: Yes. I wanted to mention Gjirafa.com, which is the first and most prominent Albanian Language Search Engine, quickly becoming the premier service for Albanian’s worldwide. Gjirafa, Inc., is a US corporation with offices in Kosovo and soon looking to expand to Albania and Macedonia, but it was built by Albanians for Albanians. Thus, we are always excited to receive feedback and suggestions from Albanians world-wide. Therefore I ask the Albanian diaspora to contact us with any suggestions or feedback, we will be very happy to hear from you and will respond.

Kosovar Theater Crew To Perform In New York City

“Doruntine” is a co-production of ODA Theatre and Blessed Unrest from New York, the performance is co-organised by the Kosovar Ministry of Diaspora and will per presented at the Interarts Theatre in New York City as well as Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, NY. “Doruntinë” is play that shares insight into a story of a marriage that spurns tradition, an impossible journey on horseback, a brother who defies the grave. Inspired by the Albanian legend and written by Ismail Kadare, Doruntine is a mythical tale of family loyalty, forbidden love and the power of a promise that can never be broken.
From the http://blessedunrest.org/ site, the collaboration between Teatri ODA and Blessed Unrest roots back to 2005:
Blessed Unrest of New York and Teatri ODA of Prishtina, Kosova have been collaborating since 2005, creating and performing original, bilingual plays in New York and on several tours through the Balkan nations of Kosova, Macedonia, and Albania. These plays seek to bring the American audience closer to a far away culture. Albanian is one of the oldest languages on the planet, and few Americans have ever heard it spoken. The ancient legend of Doruntine is central to Albanian culture, and in this version is retold with the perspective of American artists. We are giving artists and audience a direct and tangible connection to the history and traditions of Kosovar and Albanian people.
Here is a short coverage of a previous performance staged in New York.

Kosovology Hits The Spot At The World Famous Blue Note Jazz Bar

March 22nd was a good  Sunday for Jazz lovers. Taulant Mehmeti featured at the Blue Note Jazz Bar, bringing a Kosovo flavor to an all American music genre. Mehmeti was accompanied by his mentor, renowned jazz guitarist Vic Juris who has already 15 albums and collaborations with famous names in the jazz music industry. The event is a part of the concert organized by the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music of which Meheti is currently enrolled in.

“I’ve always dreamt of performing with Vic Juris. And it finally came true!”said Mehmeti. The audience at the club had been very receptive to “Kosovology” and had stayed for other performances such as “Song to my brother,” “Like Xhafa” and “Up to the Bronx “. “The audience has been very good. ‘Blue Note’ which is biggest jazz club in the world, was packed in both sets, I will continue to perform regularly in New York. So far I’ve played in some of the biggest clubs as ‘Iridium’, ‘BBKings’ and ‘Blue Note’, which was the biggest achievement in my career”.

In 2011 Taulant together with bass player Fatlind Ferati and drummer Enes Bajramliqi formed the “Trio of Love” and debuted at the “Pristina Jazz Festival”.

Diaspora Business Union in Finland

Diaspora minister, Mr. Valon Murati has been attending the Forum of Albanian Diaspora Business Union of Finland. Throughout the meeting, it has been highlighted that the business network of the Albanian diaspora in Finland has been exemplary so far. Mr. Murati introduced his idea of creating an intergovernmental institution that would ease doing business for the diaspora based entrepreneurs.

The meeting also highlighted the success stories of other diaspora business networks as well as the Global Albanian Business Union. During this event, the Albanian Diaspora Business Network of Finland received an additional 20 members. The current structure of the network is comprised of an 8 member board of trustees and acting president Mr. Omer Nura.

The creation of diaspora business networks has been initiated by the Ministry of Diaspora with the intent of creating a network of of all active Albanian owned businesses around the world. Eventually, the network is sought to create the necessary conditions for capital investments back in Kosovo.
Currently, there 17 networks diaspora business networks operational, including the diaspora in the USA and Australia.

Vjollca Hajdari: A Professional Lobbyist of the Albanian Issue

Kosovo’s Vjollca Hajdari (originally from Mitrovica) is a political expert, publicist, and ethnologist living in Berlin since 1991.

She started her studies in Berlin and graduated as MSc. in Publicity and Communication, Political Science, and Ethnology at Free University of Berlin (FU = Freie Universität). Ms. Hajdari is an active political activist and lobbyist of the Albanian issue. In 2005, she was awarded the prize for political commitment and humanity by the Senate of Berlin and the SOS Kinderdorf.

Currently, Vjollca is a board member of two committees that cooperate with the UN. She is an official representative for South Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the Global Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Inter Press Service (IPS), as well as political analysts at EurActiv.de (informative/media portal of EU), located  near to the German government.

In the past, she worked in the Bundestag (German Parliament), in the Senate of Berlin, as well as in many important international institutes and organizations. Currently, she is part of two committees (GCC and IPS), which operate in the framework of the United Nations. She simultaneously writes as political analyst to the European Portal News – EurActiv and for other media and international press. Her analyses are published in the European Academy as well.

Vjollca Hajdari Bundestag

As an expert of communication science and political scientist, Mrs. Hajdari has expanded her cooperation with various embassies, foundations, and German institutes. She holds a membership in the League of German Journalists, and the World Network of Journalists.

As a political scientist, Vjollca aims to directly affect the political processes about Albanians and Kosovo. As a publicist, she exercises public diplomacy, by creating networks and always focusing on improving the image of Kosovo and Albanians in general. In the field of ethnology, she aims to serve as a intercultural bridge and to present the anthropologic side of Albanians internationally.

In an exclusive interview for KosovoDiaspora.org, she explains that there is an ongoing negative media presentation of Albanians abroad. “Through my political activity and publicity, I work for improving the image of Kosovo. By using positive examples of people in politics, history, and culture, I try to inform the international public for a different reality from the one that is actually presented to them.”

Vjollca is active in institutional lobbying as well. She holds meetings with many politicians, foundations, and media. She also organizes conferences and debates that have a focus on Kosovo and Albanians.

Ms. Hajdari believes that “networking and information are the most powerful tools of governments today. Through mass communication, other states engage numerous public relations agents, the so-called Spin Doctors, Think Tanks and foundations, with the aim of lobbying and promoting a positive image in the world. Albanians are still at the beginning of this scope, so I try to professionally fill this gap.”

Depending on financial support, Vjollca plans to conduct research about the Albanian migrations and invasions around the world. She is currently having a tour throughout Germany to present her documentary film about Mother Teresa. In the future, she plans to develop another documentary on the Albanian issue.

Being asked about the importance of civic engagement in Kosovo’s society, Ms. Hajdari told KosovoDiaspora.org that “political awareness, civic courage and involvement are the key elements that should motivate people to participate in political decisions of their own country. People have the power to correct the mistakes of their government and those of the international community, which has been stationed in Kosovo for many years in a row. The fight against organized crime, corruption, and nepotism, as well the defense of human rights, rights to education, and social welfare are the key factors towards building a healthy society.”

She believes that Kosovo society needs an increased focus on education, self-respect, perseverance of identity values, and common will. During our interview, she stated that “the most intellectually productive people of Albanian origin should be united to creating a more serious movement to articulate the requirements and needs that we should fulfill internationally! More and more talents from our Diaspora are arising in the field of science, arts, culture, and sports. These personalities should be promoted, especially by their home countries! We need to organize more events that promote our values, culture, and history. We should also focus on the challenges of our Diaspora and reflect on the aspects that need improvement.”

At the end of the interview, Ms. Hajdari added that “the creation of independent electronic media – free of ideological and political interests – is another strong tool which we can use to promote Kosovo.”

Gjergj Haxhiu: The Promising Racing Champion

Gjergj Haxhiu (15) is a young and extremely talented racing driver from Prishtina, who was born and raised in Switzerland. He is the Swiss champion and runner-up world for youth in Formula 4.

Despite being the youngest and competing in first season, Gjergj Haxhiu won the race at famous Circuit de Jerez, Spain.  Before F4, Gjergj successfully won KF3 Karting Championships in Switzerland. He made the jump to single-seaters, thus competing in French F4 Championship for 2014 Season.

It all started unexpectedly! During a family outing, aged only 6 years old, Gjergj asked for a ride on the go-kart track. After the first lap, he got very passionate about motorsport. Being only 7 years old, Gjergj debuted in a competition with his first kart and brought himself to podium often. His achievements on and off the track are truly inspirational and are being recognized in professional motorsports.

GJERGJ’S TIMELINE OF ACHIEVEMENTS:

  • 2006 – Gjergj discovers the passion for Go Karts.
    2007 – With support from his father Shkumbin, Gjergj enters motorsports and attends few competitions ranking 2nd on Swiss Romand Championship Mini.
  • During competitions on Swiss Championships, WSK Master Seriers, Gjergj managed to cruise wictories and be in podium very often.
  • Local and International media started already to spot the talent of Gjergj covering a good coverage on his karting victories.
  • Gjergj was flawless on Super Mini category winning the Swiss Championship and Bridgestone Cup in Switzerland.
  • 2012 – Gjergj wins 2012 Swiss Championship in KF3 category, collecting 303 points and confirming the commitment to the sport.
  • 2013 – Gjergj defended the title of Swiss Championship in KF3 category again in 2013.
  • 2014 – Gjergj made a debut in French F4 Championship, being among the youngest to enter French F4 Championship.

Today, Gjergj is 15 years old and competes in second season at the French F4 Championship. Values of this young and promising talent are inside the family that supports him. Gjergj is really proud of his origins! He holds in his car the Albanian and Swiss flags,  while the eagle and Gjergj Kastriot symbols are drawn in his helmet.

His achievements made him a natural ambassador to Karting. Gjergj is deeply ambitious and aims to race at the highest level. Below you can watch his story covered by Top Channel:

Gjergj’s goal is to reach Formula 1!  Sponsorship is essential for him to compete and deliver results over the next years.  To learn more about his career and reach for support, you can check his official website or contact him directly via gjergjkart@bluewin.ch