Interview with Meto Koloski, United Macedonian Diaspora President
1. The United Macedonian Diaspora as an organization in Macedonia is recognized as a serious lobbyist of Macedonian interests in the United States.
What is UMD doing for its fellow citizens in Macedonia?
Thank you for the opportunity to inform you more about the United Macedonian Diaspora’s critical work. Founded in 2004, UMD is the leading non-partisan, non-political, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization promoting the human rights, interests, and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities worldwide. We envision an influential, respected and united Macedonian diaspora committed to building and sustaining the global Macedonian community. UMD is essentially the bridge-builder between the homeland, Macedonia, and the countries that are home to Macedonian communities.
Few highlights of our work, which have a direct impact on all Macedonians regardless of where they reside, over the past 16 years:
- Hosted 4 Global Conferences bringing together 2,500+ guests from 26 countries, creating linkages between people in Macedonia and abroad. Some of the participants of these conferences opened businesses or invested in businesses in Macedonia as a result of our efforts.
- Sponsored the first-ever Macedonian music CD through the renowned Smithsonian.
- Brought together over 150,000 people through 40 We Are Macedonia collaborative global rallies against a name change.
- Donated over $500,000 to Macedonian cultural and educational promotion activities in Macedonia, Greece, Albania, and among the diaspora.
- Provided over $200,000 in humanitarian and flood relief aid in Macedonia. Most recently, $50,000 for the new pulmonary clinic in Skopje to combat COVID-19, with another $50,000 to follow soon – a total of $250,000 in Macedonia.
- Granted over $100,000 in scholarships to students from Macedonia, and the diaspora, to study at universities abroad.
- Helped kick-start the first-ever Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans, which has 35 members of Congress currentl – all working to improve U.S.-Macedonia relations, including trade and economic development.
- Hosted over 120 students at the UMD office for internships.
- Brought 32 diaspora youth to Macedonia through the Birthright Macedonia program to bring their know-how to Macedonian institutions for 3-week programs.
- Co-sponsored the past 14 years of the Toronto-based Macedonian Film Festival – the only film festival outside of Macedonia dedicated to our more than century-old film-making history.
- Co-sponsored the North American-Macedonian Studies Conferences on the Macedonian language at the Universities of Chicago and Utah.
UMD views itself as the “State Department” or “Foreign Ministry” for Macedonians.
2. What can a startup expect from UMD mentors?
Our mentors while largely in the United States, also come from Australia and Canada. While the hope and goal are for successful diaspora business leaders to invest in the Macedonian startup scene, providing critical know-how of starting/running a business, soliciting investors, putting together proposals, marketing products / services, creating key relationships, etc.…is just as important. This is largely the focus of these mentors in my opinion. The global market is extremely competitive and those who have excelled in their careers have a duty to help mentor others. Being Macedonian by heritage is a happenstance.
We will see what the latest U.S. Census shows, but the American market is 330-350 million consumers, 38 million in Canada, 26 million in Australia. We hope we can make Macedonian startups competitive for these markets through our knowledge, insights, experiences.
3. What kind of support can you personally give to the Macedonian startups, Accelerator UKIM clients?
The key role I see myself in helping Macedonian startups and the Business Accelerator UKIM is serving as a liaison and relationship broker. UMD is a startup as well, not-for-profit, but still a startup. Setting it up, garnering support, soliciting members/donors to invest in the future of the organization, fundraising, event-planning, short-term, and long-term strategic planning, improving the product over the years, to modernize it, to make it appropriate for the changing times is no different than a for-profit startup. My experience through UMD, as well as my past professional jobs for other think tanks, and a law firm can benefit Macedonian startups. My network is quite large and I am happy to use it for helping Macedonian startups.
4. Why do you help the Macedonian start-up community? What are your expectations?
We Macedonians are responsible for one another – if we don’t help each other out, don’t expect others to. Given that this partnership is in the development stage, my only expectations are that we have a win-win relationship between mentors and the startups. I see both equally responsible for creating a successful relationship. Each can learn from one another. I rather set lower expectations and hopefully surpass them in the future.
5. How do you assess the start-up climate in Macedonia and in the Balkans?
I have always viewed Macedonia as the Silicon Valley of Southeast Europe, and the crossroads in the region. It’s not by chance that the Romans built the via Egnatia through Macedonia – because it has been a prime trading route for millennia. There is a huge potential, and from what I have seen from reading about the Macedonian startup scene, and meeting several young entrepreneurs, I cannot be more excited for what the future holds – the Macedonian startup scene looks very promising. All they need is someone to believe in them, and the capital to go with their idea.
Biography of Metodija A. Koloski
Metodija A.Koloski, the Co-Founder and President of the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), headquartered in Washington, D.C. Koloski, who co-chairs the Southeast Europe Coalition, is an expert on Macedonia’s right to its name, religious freedom issues and minorities in Southeast Europe, Diaspora-Homeland relations, and NATO and EU enlargement issues. He has published in the Washington Times, Fox News, the Foreign Policy Association, The Hill’s Congress Blog, the National Post, the Journal Gazette, and the International Relations Forum.
Koloski has 15 years experience in non-profit management, government and legislative affairs, media and public relations, political campaigns and grassroots activities, fundraising, as well as conference and major event planning. At the United Macedonian Diaspora, he has developed and implemented strategic and financial plans to achieve organizational goals and objectives, oversaw all programming, conferences, and event coordination, liaise with 5,000+ stakeholders, U.S. and foreign government representatives, Congress, Parliaments, media, and “think tank” community, and secured more than $4 million in grants, major gifts, corporate, and individual contributions.
A fluent Macedonian speaker, having learned the language during his childhood, Koloski is proud to serve on the Board of the Macedonian Language E-Learning Center. For
his efforts to promote the rich immigrant heritage of the United States, Koloski was recognized and appointed to the Honorary Board of Welcome.us in June 2015. He is also a Marshall Society Member of the American Jewish Committee.
In his previous capacities, Koloski has worked for the Foreign Policy Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and DLA Piper LLP. He holds a Bachelors of Arts from Manhattanville College in Political Science and International Relations.
Koloski’s family migrated to the United States from Macedonia in the early 1950s due to communist Yugoslavia’s anti-democratic policies. Koloski was born and raised in Garfield, New Jersey. His family has roots in the Republic of Macedonia, Aegean Macedonia (current day northern Greece), and Korca, Albania.