‘Who are you? Serbia’s new identity verification technology’

With EU support, two university professors are taking their digital identity company beyond Serbia

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Miloš Milovanović is an IT professor at the University of Belgrade and cofounder of IT company Blinking. He has done many things during his career: he was a musician, a radio host, and a postman, he worked briefly in construction before becoming a university professor, and finally he became an entrepreneur. The only thing that has remained constant is his love for technology and interest in how it can change the world. As a scientist, he has devoted his research to digital identity and biometrics. Eventually, he and his friend and fellow professor, MiroslavMinović , decided to establish a company that could enable society to perform the ultimate digital shift.

Their idea to start a company came from the conclusion that the current model of manually acquiring data and documents on physical premises or through insecure and unverified digital channels is flawed and outdated. During the process of applying for a service, for example, people often leave copies of their data or documents in the hands of each person their application passes through.  Miloš and Miroslav knew that this model was prone to breach, identity theft, and misuse of private data and is costly in terms of individuals’ and organisations’ time and money. They therefore worked to produce a reliable, secure, and simple way to confirm identity.

“For years now, companies have been looking for a way to turn their business towards digital interaction, but they lacked adequate solutions.”

Miloš Milovanović

Ending the queues in front of the banks

In 2017, university professors Miloš and Miroslav found themselves wondering when the queues in front of bank branches would disappear and people would really start to finish things “with a click”. Miloš says that they basically just developed something that they wanted to use themselves. “For years now, companies have been looking for a way to turn their business towards digital interaction, but they lacked adequate solutions,” he explains.

He goes on to describe how, although there was a perceived clear need for the product in the market, also recognised by big decision makers, there was reluctance to introduce the product. “They were simply not ready,” he says, so the two men took alternative action to get the market used to digital ID. One approach was to introduce the technology piece by piece; the other was promoting the benefits of the technology in lectures and presentations to influence companies and other stakeholders to use the product.

Eventually, all their efforts paid off and Blinking is now the leading company in Serbia for digital identity verification and one of the leading companies in the region. But their ambitions did not stop there, they wanted to increase their regional sales and enter the EU and global market. For this they needed support, which came from the EU-funded PowerUP programme which was launched to support Western Balkan Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to build resilience to COVID-19 and expand their market presence.

“PowerUP was a very good programme where we got very useful information and skills. The most important part for us related to international growth beyond the Western Balkans.”

Miloš Milovanović

The EU-funded PowerUP programme supported Blinking to upgrade numerous skills: from people management, to better addressing customers and marketing. “PowerUP was a very good programme where we got very useful information and skills. The most important part for us related to international growth beyond the Western Balkans,” says Miloš.

Blinking currently has 30 full-time employees and other external associates. “When it comes to the future, we want to build something long-lasting. But one of the things I know well is that we need to be patient. We also need to continue to believe that even if you come from the Western Balkans you can become an important international player in this market. That is why we are investing, improving and developing new products, some of which will see the light of day by the end of the year. So follow us on social media networks for the latest updates,” says Miloš.

About the project

PowerUP is a free programme designed for SMEs and start-ups who are looking for new ways to attract customers and adapt their business models, and who are interested in outside investment.  The programme was launched by the World Bank in November 2020 and is funded by the EU under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF), with leading consulting company, Deloitte, supporting its implementation.  Over 200 other companies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia participated in the programme, receiving training aimed at supporting companies’ further growth, ability to attract investment and crisis resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo credits: Blinking

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