BIFIDEX as the go-to platform that unites all regional business registers

The following article is part of the “.mk startup of the month” initiative of IT.MK, IT Logs and Startup Macedonia. Every month we profile one .mk startup on its way to success.

.mk Startup of the Month [May, 2024]:

What is BIFIDEX?

BIFIDEX (Business and Financial Data Exchange) is the service delivery platform of the Southeast Europe Regional Business Registry Portal that specializes in combining financial and statutory information from directly connected registry sources.

As an initiative that has been in development ever since 2014, the BIFIDEX platform today offers positive public benefits to all official registries in the region, without any intermediaries. A platform like this has been highly sought after in the Western Balkans. 

For Dejan Damjanovic, founder and CEO of Reaktiv, the software company behind BIFIDEX, business registers play key role in creating and analyzing data for companies. The beginnings of the platform date back to a decade ago and are closely connected to the core idea that’s behind business registers.

Dejan Damjanovic, CEO of Reaktiv

“We noticed that, while business registers are a key point for the creation and analysis of business data, what the region was missing was a platform that would unify such data and make it available to the businesses community,” says Damjanovic. 

Long-term experience in the industry as well as working with business experts such as Jens Bakke, who has done the integration between the London and New York stock exchanges, has helped Damjanovic pave the grounds for what will later become BIFIDEX. 

“Working with experienced professionals who know what business registers are, helped me learn a lot about financial reporting, and this was also useful when applying solid international practices in the region,” he adds. 

The problem that BIFIDEX solves has always existed, and as Damjanovic puts it, it all comes down to how to find out who your business partner is across the border. This obstacle has been identified by all governments, and it’s recognized throughout the numerous chambers of commerce all throughout the region.

“This was one of the key postulates that arouse from the Berlin process and the initiative to 
establish a single market in the Western Balkans. It was all about how to create 
an infrastructure that will unite government institutions and data, but also provide services to companies,” adds Damjanovic. 

Convinced that they have the solution to this problem, Reaktiv approached the EBRD with the idea in 2015 and launched an initiative to create a pilot program between the Macedonian and Serbian business registers. 

Ever since 2012, we have been trying to reach out to the European Commission (EC) and we successfully completed several stages, but due to the complexity and all-encompassing grandeur that came with the story of merging the government sector from several countries and building a unified technological platform, our initial efforts to secure funding were unsuccessful, ” he says. 

EBRD participation as a turning point for BIFIDEX

Everything changes to the better with the involvement of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). With the financial backing from EBRD, the idea behind BIFIDEX becomes recognizes as something that needs to be further invested in to be able to see the fruits of that labor in the future. 

“With the help of the EBRD, we managed to get the consent for a single project from five governments – something that is extremely difficult and time-consuming. A lot of convincing was necessary, especially when it came to making all the key players see that this is something that is being done as a common public good. Without it, it’s impossible to move on to technical implementation,” emphasizes Damjanovic.

Two years later, in 2017, the beginnings of BIFIDEX could already be seen. At the end of 2019, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) joined the platform. Since 2020, the platform unites all the countries of the Western Balkans.

“We began our BIFIDEX adventure in Macedonia, and, shortly afterwards, we opened a company in Serbia, where we implemented what we were already doing on the Macedonian market. Then, through the World Bank, we set out to implement this in the Middle East and countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait,” says Damjanovic, adding that what exists in those countries as a process of managing business goals is completely different from the Balkans. 

However, the ultimate goals are always the same, and they all come down to establishment of systems that will simplify operations, centralize services and help adapt those practices for each individual country. 

The long road and challenges for project implementation

Realizing the complete idea behind BIFIDEX was not an easy feat to accomplish. Implementing the technology is only one segment and it doesn’t paint the whole picture, says Damjanovic.

The main challenge, however, was in the different level of development of each of the individual registers – five different registers, five different systems, and five different jurisdictions, each of them manages the financial data in a different way. 

“For example, any item from the balance sheet is not identical and differences can be found in one, two or three items. The biggest challenge was how to make this comparable. Also, in terms of data protection, there were technical challenges. BIFIDEX is a cloud-based platform. However, the data is depersonalized and for every request from BIFIDEX, a request is forwarded to the technical adapters to each of the registers. Doing so, the depersonalized data is translated, and the original data is properly displayed,” explains Damjanovic.

During the initial process, the Reaktiv team analyzed everything needed to make that unique methodology. At the same time, a large team of people across all registers recognized the need to realize the common goal.

“BIFIDEX project and the data analytics needed for the establishment of that methodology, allowed everyone to learn from each other and to have the opportunity to initiate other additional projects from the registries themselves, for the purposes of improving their segment,” says Damjanovic.

Thanks to all that the country has done over the past decades to set up a registration model, Damjanovic recognizes that Macedonia was still at the highest level and was able to work exceptionally well, especially as a model for other countries. “Serbia also deserves praise, while the rest of the countries lacked certain concepts connected to recording the data, as well as services that they provide to the business communities,” he emphasized. 

The new technologies and future functionalities of BIFIDEX

Today, BIFIDEX has data on about a million companies registered in the Western Balkans. One of the new functionalities of the platform will be the creation of profiles for each of these companies, where they themselves will be able to submit current financial data. 

“We do this so that we can combine the past and the current data. At a later date, this can provide an integral overview for any investor in the Western Balkans who wants to look at a concrete industry or company and can get an in-depth relevant information,” says Damjanovic.

According to him, this will be extremely useful for the startup community. Namely, there will be data translated into regional languages, and comparable in national currencies from the comfort of one centralized place. The interested parties will be able to see the history as well as the performance of industries from all over the region.

BIFIDEX allows you to see which are the top 100 companies that meet any of the criteria you set, and you will be able to reach those companies for a competition analysis, a marketing plan or simply to see where you are as a company in the region. ,” explains Damjanovic.

When it comes to all the IT professionals who can respond to the challenges that BIFIDEX is facing, he says that the current strategy for the company is to position employees in those segments and domains where they can be most productive. However, even in those situations, the talents experience, as Damjanovic describes them, “generational” problems.

“There is a problem, generational in nature, connected to the mentality of the younger generation that wants quick results, and does not want to focus on things that take too long. This doesn’t bode well with long-term and complex commitments, such as with BIFIDEX, for example. So, they want to see the fastest possible results at the same moment that they are working on them,” he emphasized.

Can the solution to this problem be found in artificial intelligence? For Damjanovic, this kind of technology will definitely enable easier analytics and predictability of trends in the future, which is part of the next phase of BIFIDEX. Africa is part of the new markets targeted by the company. 

The data-based economy is already present in the more developed parts of the world. This will soon become necessary in developing countries as well. The good news is that there is huge potential here. 
We work in several regions in Africa, large African countries that have their own associations. In addition, we closely work in the Middle East as well. We present to them the whole concept, both political and technological, to be able to establish a mini zone and a mini market that will then correspond to their region,” Damjanovic concludes.

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