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Labbox, Kosovo edtech startup teaching kids engineering, is looking to expand beyond the Balkans

For more than two years, edtech startup Labbox Education has been bringing science, electronics, and computer engineering closer to children across Kosovo, through fun and interactive ways that encourage thinking and finding new and innovative solutions for various challenges.

According to the startup’s founder Arta Zaimi, who has already founded a coding academy in Kosovo and also has extensive experience in programming and electronics, the idea about the company originated while she was searching for a solution that would solve both the difficulty of teaching and understanding the complex scientific fields. 

Enjoying the magic of creation

“Labbox aims to expose children to real-world electronics and engineering as early as possible. Based on our testing and general pedagogical advice related to child development, the best age to start exposing children to technology from a creator’s perspective is age 8. This is the time when their mathematical thinking is developing strongly and children have a grasp of the basic math functions, which if compared to how electronics work, are similar in difficulty,” Zaimi tells The Recursive.

“By learning and practicing engineering activities, kids not only start to enjoy the magic of creation, but they also develop crucial skills in the process. That form of thinking takes children a long way in life,” Zaimi points out.

Arta Zaimi combines more than nine years of experience developing complex systems for bank and enterprise use, as well as more than four years of experience in the field of education.

The main concept behind the startup’s products is using STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Every month, kids that are using Labbox are getting boxes with new STEM projects and engineering tasks, through which they learn to understand ‘Why’ and ‘How’ things work. 

Expansion plans

While public schools in Kosovo have already started using Labbox’s curriculum, now the company is looking to expand on foreign markets as well.

In 2018, Labbox received joint-equity financing from the EBRD and the EU through the Western Balkan Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WBEDIF). Labbox is also a Techstars portfolio company, accelerated from Techstars Berlin in the first quarter of 2021.

This year, Zaimi and Labbox will also be featured in the Romanian investment platform SeedBlink. For Zaimi, this cooperation means that the startup will also gain more exposure and visibility.

“As Labbox is growing beyond the borders of the Balkans, and with the demand, we are seeing from European countries, we felt it is the right time for a crowdfunding round. We decided to share the opportunity of investment with smaller investors that usually don’t have the chance to invest in a startup at this stage,” Zaimi tells The Recursive.

“We also would like to give the opportunity to high-value individuals who are also parents, as we believe that the best supporters and investors we can have with us are those that will be our customers,” she adds. 

At the moment, with an investment of €300K the company has set up its own production line in Kosovo. And Zaimi points out that there is room for growth.

“There is an amazing opportunity for growth for Labbox and due to the economics that we are seeing and the market performance, I think the business is basically a no-brainer,” Zaimi explained during the SeedBlink presentation earlier this month.

“The other reason is, especially for those that understand the importance of our mission and the value proposition, I think that there is an opportunity to take joy in helping our world develop in the right direction and opening the minds of those that will hold our future,” Zaimi concludes.

This article was first published at The Recursive – an independent community-born online media focused on the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe (SEE).

OH, THOSE SUMMERS IN KOSOVO

REFLECTIONS FROM THE DIASPORA ON SUMMER VISITS BACK HOME.

Every summer we left at different times. Sometimes at dawn, sometimes in the evening just after dinner, sometimes at midnight. No matter what time it was, the only thing that really mattered was the direction: Kosovo.

Every year we were enraptured by this magic that made us forget the length of the journey, one that sometimes took up to 36 hours. Endless waiting at the borders, nights spent trying to sleep in the car, everyone sitting in their own seat. One summer, having grown, my legs needed more space, so I slept on the ground in a parking space next to the car. I did it with pleasure. We did everything with pleasure because the only thing that mattered to us was to get to Kosovo as fast as possible.

I grew up near Milan, in Italy, and just getting to Trieste at the border with Slovenia would have been enough of a journey. 500 kilometers is a long way. But that was only the beginning.

Once we entered Slovenia everything tasted different. The language changed, the signs on the road were different and my mind was filled with anticipation. Then came Croatia and that endless coastal stretch before leaving the highway and entering Montenegro. 

Driving through the mountains of Montenegro we tried to eat up as many kilometers as possible. These mountains were the point when happiness began to take a concrete shape, even if there was still a long way to go. And so, as we toured those mountains, I began to imagine what that summer in Kosovo would bring. 

The football matches with my cousins and my friends, the evenings playing hide and seek, all the delicacies I would eat every time I visited a relative. I would lean my head against the window, smile and ask mum and dad to confirm that we weren’t far away. 

“Almost there, almost there,” they would say. 

After Montenegro, a slice of Albania, with just enough time to enjoy our language, and then finally Kosovo, where we immediately went off to visit uncles and cousins. Their happiness to see us and ours at finding them. My joy at people pronouncing my name correctly and the excitement about the next month of fun.

ONLY DURING THAT MONTH, ONCE A YEAR, DID I SEE MY PARENTS HAPPY.

And so began the most wonderful time of the year, the one we had been anticipating for 11 months. Sometimes I think that the life of an immigrant is just that, survival in the country where she/he has decided to go, just waiting for the moment of the year to go back home. Especially if she/he is as lucky as we were, being able to afford going home to Kosovo every summer. And after all, it was not so far away. 

Only during that month, once a year, did I see my parents happy. I have never seen them smiling like that, except in Kosovo. I never saw them so relaxed, so full of life. I saw them living and breathing properly during those summers. But they could do it only one month out of 12, and believe me, that’s not enough for a person. 

As a child I didn’t understand, but as I grow older, I am starting to get what it meant to live as they lived, and how fundamental those summers were for my parents. How crucial for their health it was to go back and see their parents, siblings, relatives and friends. To touch, smell and breathe what used to be their life.

But those summers were also important for me. They meant freedom, running in the country fields, climbing trees, playing football until dark, being with my cousins, hugging my grandparents and having someone of my own to share my life with, even if only for one month a year. 

Growing up abroad, you’re rarely lucky enough to have a few relatives by your side. You see your friends going to their aunts, uncles and grandparents, celebrating birthdays and holidays with houses full of relatives, and you know that you will have to wait until summer to enjoy just a small part of it. 

But most of all, now I can say how crucial those summers were in shaping my identity, and in helping me understand parts of myself and who I am. This is especially true after having decided not to go back for several years, a decision that I do not regret at all. I might be wrong, but to understand what something means to you, you have to deprive yourself of it and see if you can live without it. It may sound incoherent and weird, but the less I went back, the more I felt I belonged there. 

The real sign of what those summers meant to us are all the tears we cried. We cried when we arrived, our happiness was enormous and our bodies could not contain it. And then we cried even more when it was time to say goodbye. I was always the first one to start, both as a child and a teenager, and then everyone followed behind me. 

The sadness I felt was too strong. I didn’t want to leave, for any reason in the world. I didn’t want to go back to Italy, I wanted to stay and play with my cousins and be around people who pronounced my name correctly. 

Every summer I would tell mum that I wasn’t going to go back to Italy, I would ask my aunts if they were okay with having an extra child. Every summer I tried to come up with a plan to hide somewhere. One summer I thought of disappearing into the fields, I thought that they would never find me, that they would get tired of looking for me and go back to Italy. 

I was so sad in the days before returning to Italy that I could hardly wake up in the morning. I started crying days before the return and tried to hide away, like I’m doing now; I’ve been crying since I started writing this piece and luckily there’s no one at home to see me.

I miss those sensations, those smells and that magic that took shape in those summers. I didn’t grow up waiting for Santa Claus, as my Italian friends did; instead of Santa Claus I had that highly anticipated journey home each summer.

IN 28 YEARS OF LIFE, NOTHING HAS MADE ME AS HAPPY AS THOSE YEARLY SUMMER RETURNS TO KOSOVO.

I have a feeling that the concept of happiness for a person changes as they grow. You focus much more on yourself and personal goals become your highest aspiration. You become happy when you get a good grade at university, or get a job, or date someone you like. Yet I have the distinct feeling that the happiness I felt during those summers in Kosovo will forever be the highest point. 

I miss feeling that explosion of joy in my heart, I miss living through that 11 months of anticipation, knowing that happiness would arrive in August. I don’t think happiness as an adult can be compared to what we experienced as children. No matter how lucky one may be to have the opportunity to achieve remarkable personal goals, to have a person to love and enjoy good health, nothing compares to the joy one experiences as a child. 

In 28 years of life, nothing has made me as happy as those yearly summer returns to Kosovo. Even though I’ve been lucky to have a wonderful life so far, in the end I think it’s okay for this to be the case, because Kosovo is where I was born and people say that the attraction of your homeland is the strongest thing you will ever experience.

I would just like to go back for a couple of days and relive those moments, when my life, looking back at it now, was so simple. I was constantly waiting for that journey, because Kosovo represented my idea of happiness and I didn’t need anything else. 

At the same time I’m so proud and happy to be able to write about those moments, about the fact that the happiest moments of my life were related to my roots and the place where I was born. Is there anything better? I don’t think so.

Feature image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.

This article was first published at Kosovo 2.0 

GERMIN Launches ShqipShop: Handcrafted Products from Albanian Artisans Online

GERMIN has launched a new platform called ShqipShop that brings together artisanal crafts and patriotic home-goods sourced from producers around Albania and Kosovo.

ShqipShop provides our large Albanian Diaspora with the opportunity to buy traditional Albanian handicraft products no matter where they live; and gives Albanian artisans the chance to reach a wider market to sell their products, thus increasing their revenues and providing them with more opportunities to develop their skills. Shqip Shop aims to serve as a platform that provides space and access especially for local artisans – those who do not have visibility and access to online markets to promote their carefully handcrafted, authentic highly valuable products. 

Your purchases on Shqip Shop will show your love for your people, as the money you spend will provide income for small producers and further development of their skills. This support is particularly critical given the negative economic impact of COVID-19 over the past year.

Among the products listed in ShqipShop you can find folk costumes, traditional instruments, art and home goods, books, etc. For those of you who want to know more and get acquainted with the creators behind these special products, please visit shqipshop.org/pages/meet-the-aritisans and read the stories of all of the artisans.

Through Shqip Shop you are one step closer to the homeland.

Qysh me u regjistru per votim nga Diaspora?

*Afati për regjistrim

13 – 21 Janar 2021 në ora 18:00, sipas kohës lokale në Kosovë

Nësë jeni SHTETAS i KOSOVËS apo jeni i regjistruar në Regjistrin Civil të Kosovës apo nëse jeni regjistruar suksesshëm për votim përmes postës në zgjedhjet e fundit

Hapi i Parë

Shkarko dhe plotëso (dhe nënshkruaj) formularin e aplikimit për votim jashtë Kosovës:

https://www.kqz-ks.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Formulari-i-aplikimit-per-votim-jashte-Kosoves-%E2%80%93-Formulari-I-.pdf

Hapi i Dytë

Pasi të plotësoni formularin, bashkangjitni një dokument të vlefshëm identifikimi të Kosovës si:

  1. Pasaportë
  2. Leternjoftim
  3. Patent Shofer.

Hapi i Tretë

Skanoni apo fotografoni në të dyja anët dhe dërgoni aplikimin në e-mail adresat e KQZ-së.

[email protected]

[email protected]

KUJDES! Nëse dokumentet tuaja nuk janë të vlefshme për shkak se ju ka skaduar afati, BASHKANGJITENI në aplikim një dokument të vlefshëm të shtetit ku jetoni të fotografuar apo skenuar në të dyja anët.

Nëse NUK JENI SHTETAS i Republikës së Kosovës, por KENI LINDUR NË KOSOVË 

Hapi i Parë

Shkarko dhe plotëso (dhe nënshkruaj) formularin e aplikimit për votim jashtë Kosovës:

https://www.kqz-ks.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Formulari-i-aplikimit-per-votim-jashte-Kosoves-%E2%80%93-Formulari-II.pdf

Hapi i Dytë

Bashkangjit njërën nga dokumentet mbështetëse

  1. Kopjen e dokumentit identifikues, kopjen e pasaportës ose kopjen e patent shoferit të lëshuar nga administrata e UNMIK-ut, ose,
  2. Kopjen e certifikatës së lindjes e lëshuar nga administrata e UNMIK-ut, Kopjen e certifikatës së martesës e lëshuar nga administrata e UNMIK-ut, ku dëshmohet se keni lindur në Kosovë,
  3. Kopjen e certifikatës së lindjes e lëshuar nga Republika e Kosovës, Kopjen e certifikatës së martesës e lëshuar nga Republika e Kosovës, ku dëshmohet se keni lindur në Kosovë, apo
  4. Kopjen e një dokumenti të lëshuar nga administrata e ish Jugosllavisë, si letërnjoftim, pasaportë, patent shofer, certifikatë e lindjes, etj., ku këto dokumente duhet të përmbajnë si datë të lëshimit të dokumentit, më së largu me 10 qershor 1999, dhe në të cilat dokumente vendi i lindjes është në Kosovë.

Nëse NUK KENI LINUDR Në KOSOVË POR KENI NJËRIN PRIND TË LINDUR NË KOSOVË: 

Ju mund të aplkoni duke dërguar kopjen e dokumentit tuaj të identifikimit së bashku me njërën nga këto dokumente:

  1. Kopjen e dokumentit identifikues, ose
  2. certifikatën e lindjes, e lëshuar nga Republika e Kosovës, ose administrata e UNMIK-ut, ose administrata e ish – Jugosllavisë të prindit tuaj,

ku përmes njërës nga këto dokumente dëshmohet si prindi juaj ka lindur në Kosovë. Në këtë rast ju duhet ta dërgoni edhe një kopje të dokumentit, si certifikatë e lindjes së shtetit ku jetoni, ku në këtë dokument emri i prindit tuaj përputhet me dokumentet e kërkuara të cilat janë lëshuar nga Republika e Kosovës, administrata e UNMIK-ut, ose administrata e ish – Jugosllavisë

Hapi i Tretë

Skanoni apo fotografoni në të dyja anët dhe dërgoni aplikimin në e-mail adresat e KQZ-së.

[email protected]

[email protected]

Aplikimet pranohet deri me 21 janar në ora 18:00.