Kosovo's Bootstrapped Hackerspace Needs Your Help
Image: Prishtina Hackerspace


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Kosovo's Bootstrapped Hackerspace Needs Your Help

Prishtina Hackerspace, a hub for coding and DIY in poverty-stricken Kosovo, is raising funds on Kickstarter.

Hackerspaces are everywhere these days, but it's pretty hard to keep one going if you're based out in Kosovo, and operating on a shoestring budget.

"Hackerspaces are still new concepts here in Kosovo, and we're having problems raising funds locally because people aren't familiar with what they are or how they work," co-founder of Kosovo-based Prishtina Hackerspace, Altin Ukshini, told me.

A hackerspace is like an open community lab or workspace, where people with common interests in everything from science and tech to art can hangout and mash together different ideas.


Twenty-year old Ukshini learned all about them as an exchange student in Louisville, Kentucky in the US. So when he came back to Kosovo, he co-founded Prishtina Hackerspace with his friend Gent Thaçi. Prishtina Hackerspace, which Ukshini dubbed a "popup hackerspace," has been active for eight months. Namely, it's a place where both young and old can get exposure to new tech and just hang out.

But there's a problem: With few funding opportunities, it's really hard to keep such spaces going in Kosovo. So the pair have turned to Kickstarter to generate some funds. The campaign just got started and it looks like the duo will clinch their goal, as with 24 days still remaining they've already racked up over $13,000 of their $15,000 target.

The duo want to use the funds to buy more equipment, pay the rent for their space, and keep the project going for another year. Ukshini and Thaçi have been active members of FLOSS Kosovo, a tech non-profit, since it was established in 2009. And the pair even tested their entrepreneurial skills by trying to set up a space when they were 15 years old, though Ukshini noted that their first attempt fell through. But back then, there were no hackspaces around, and Ukshini recalled organising meetings in cafes or hanging out at their friends' offices.

Image: Prishtina Hackerspace

"Even though the youth in Prishtina are very creative, the economic situation isn't good in Kosovo," explained Ukshini. "There are no cultural centres for youths to express their creativity."

Ukshini and Thaçi want to change this, get more people involved in creative art-tech projects, and promote their activities in school and universities. However, they realise that even asking members to pledge ten to 15 euros a month for membership can be difficult when the average person earns 250 euros a month.

Despite the setbacks, Ukshini told me that the startup scene was really booming in Kosovo, with opportunities to join local meetups, and submit your project to startup incubators increasing.

Prishtina Hackerspace currently has 13 permanent members, and Ukshini told me that within a week he'll see around 25 people coming and going. Some of the duo's Kickstarter goals include building a 3D printer and a quadcopter, so that they can pique more people's interest. "We'd really like to have more equipment, and make something exciting that we can show people and build up the community," Ukshini told me. "Even though there's a lot still to be done, people really want to see stuff like this [hackerspaces] develop."