Annual Meeting 2022

18th INSME Annual Meeting

“Empowering SMEs: Economic Diversification and Green Growth”

1-2 December 2022
Baku, Azerbaijan

    Co-organised with the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (KOBIA)



The current international context cannot be more complex as we are witnessing generalized inflation, high interest rates, a recession around the corner, the growing damages produced by climate change from floods to drought, the Covid-19 pandemic that is transforming itself and has not yet disappeared, an enduring war in Europe that has ripple effects all over the world, particularly on energy and food prices and supply. The economic trend is clouded with business shutdowns, value chains disruptions, volatility in financial and trading markets which have a negative impact on SMEs, threatening the survival of many viable enterprises and entrepreneurs.

SMEs are a major component of the world economy, accounting for more than half of formal employment globally and contributing on average between 50% and 60% of national GDP in OECD countries, so if we want to recover and the green and digital transformation to succeed, then we have to commit every government in earnest for the full involvement of SMEs in this process and provide full support to facilitate and accelerate a structural change. Empowering SMEs and entrepreneurship is crucial to achieve more inclusive societies and growth.

The mission of INSME is not only to exchange best practice in the implementation of effective policies for entrepreneurship and SME growth but also to improve the understanding of the drivers of SME productivity and growth and how policies can ensure that SMEs and entrepreneurship strengthen their contributions to quality job creation and inclusive growth. SMEs should also succeed in combining economic growth with environmental and social objectives, as well as contribute to address environmental challenges and social issues throughout social and green innovations.


The INSME Annual Conference aims to:

  • understand the role that innovation can play in promoting green growth
  • uncover the potential of SMEs and entrepreneurship in the face of global crises
  • reflect on how SMEs can cope with energy crises and how governments should intervene
  • network and engage with innovative and forward-looking people in these fields


KOBIA, the Small and Medium Business (SMB) Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated December 28, 2017. As a legal entity under the Ministry of Economy, the Agency is authorized to support the development of small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country by providing them with a number of services and ensuring coordination and regulation of services rendered by government entities to SMBs. The Agency’s mission is to increase the efficiency of small and medium enterprise system regulation, ensure a variety of support mechanisms and entrepreneurs’ smooth access thereto, achieve sustainable SMBs sector development and its increased contribution to the national economy.


JW Absheron Marriott Hotel, 674 Azadliq Square, Baku 1000, Azerbaijan.


We invite you follow the event digitally via this link.


N.B. All times indicated in GMT+4, please check your time zone here.

*Speaker will participate online

1 December

9:00 – 10:00 Registration for INSME’s 18th Annual Meeting
Venue: JW Absheron Marriott Hotel, Sharg Ball Room

10:00 – 11:00 Opening ceremony

  • H. E. Mikayil Jabbarov, Minister of Economy, Azerbaijan
  • Sergio Arzeni, President, INSME, Italy
  • Yusif Abdullayev, Director, AZPROMO, Azerbaijan
  • Yves Leterme, President, ToJoy, former Prime Minister, Board of Trustees Member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, Belgium
  • Mammad Musayev, President, National Confederation of Entrepreneurs, Azerbaijan
  • Boyko Takov, Executive Director, Agency for SME Promotion, Bulgaria
  • Orkhan Mammadov, Chairman of the Management Board, KOBIA, Azerbaijan

MOU Signing Ceremony between WBAF and INSME
MOU Signing Ceremony between KOBIA and BSMEPA

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break

11:30 – 12:45 1st Session: Sustainability and energy challenges for SMEs

What are the main obstacles to SMEs access to diversified and sufficient energy sources to fuel their productive activities? Moreover SMEs face numerous challenges towards their green transition: limited funding, regulatory/institutional constraints, priorities imbalance, low-awareness, lack of expertise and specialized personnel etc. To fully overcome barriers and unlock their potential, SMEs will need full support from the public and private sectors. The panel will discuss these issues by presenting research, projects and initiatives that shed lights on the opportunities to be grasped and the challenges to be addressed as SMEs are the most vulnerable victims of high energy prices.

Chair: Hamsa Thota, Founder and President, IBD Inc., USA

Panel discussion with:

  • Boyko Takov, CEO Agency for SME Promotion, Bulgaria
  • Aurora Candel, Director for SME, Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism, Romania*
  • Kamran Huseynov, Deputy Director, Renewable Energy Agency, Azerbaijan
  • Cristian Camisa, President, CONFAPI, Italy*
  • Mehman Abbas, Founder, Caspian Group, Azerbaijan

12:45 – 13:00 Family picture

13:00 – 14:15 Networking Lunch

14:15 – 15:30 2nd Session: Building SMEs readiness to cope with current and future crisis

The main ongoing global “bundled” crises, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new geopolitical realities, are gravely affecting SMEs worldwide. What are the main factors of SME vulnerability to geopolitical and financial shocks, and what can be done to increase their resilience to future crises? While it is essential for SMEs and the wider economy to increase their future readiness, SMEs can thrive only with the necessary supporting infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. In this panel speakers will present potential strategies to ensure SME achieve not only economic survivability but also ensure their full development and exploitation of their potential.

Chair: Roberto Santolamazza, Managing Director, t2i, Italy

Panel discussion with:

  • Carlo de Simone, Institutional Relations, Simest, Italy*
  • Agil Samadov, Director of the Risk Management and Economic Analysis Department, Entrepreneurship Development Fund, Azerbaijan
  • Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, Executive Director, COMSATS, Pakistan
  • Shahriyar Esmailie, Advisor, KOBIA, Azerbaijan

15:30 – 16:45 3rd Session: Promoting innovation for a green growth

Green growth means fostering economic growth while continuing to provide goods and services in an economically sustainable way. There is a global increasing concern about the future sustainability of economic growth, which requires careful analysis of the main factors at stake to develop strategies and plans that benefit all parties. With innovation being the key driver to advanced business ideas, cutting-edge technologies, and cross-cutting markets and jobs, SMEs are in a great position to push for green innovation. The panel will analyse the specific barriers and solutions to green innovation, notably the prevalence of dominant designs, technologies and systems in energy and transport markets.

Chair: Giovanni Zazzerini, Secretary General, INSME, Italy

Panel discussion with:

  • Paola Zerilli, Senior Lecturer, University of York, UK*
  • Ali Muqaibal, CEO, Sharakah, Oman
  • Igor Ovcharenko, Consultant, Innovation and Digital Development Agency, Azerbaijan
  • Baybars Altuntas, CEO, World Business Angels Investment Forum, Turkey
  • Andrea Di Anselmo, President, META group, Italy*

16:45 – 18:00 4th Session: Policy responses

This panel will provide insights in the key role that governments and policy makers can play to act on economic diversification and green growth opportunities, thus shaping up a twin transition for SMEs.

Chair: Jay Mitra, Founder, IEF, and Professor, Essex University Business School, UK

Panel discussion with:

  • Simona Marzetti, Director, Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy, Italy
  • Zaharina Todorova, Head of International financial institutions and EU funds Division, BDB, Bulgaria*
  • Rashad Huseynov, Head of Economic Analysis and Analytical Information Department, Center for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication, Azerbaijan
  • Dimitrios Rallis, Deputy Secretary General, BSEC, Turkey
  • Patrick Meinhardt, Board Member and former Member of Parliament, ESD and INSME, Germany*

18:00 – 18:15 Closing remarks:

  • Sergio Arzeni, President, INSME
  • Representative of KOBIA

19:00 – 21:00 Gala Dinner


10:00 – 12:00 INSME General Assembly (Members Only)

Members of the General Assembly are informed about ongoing and future activities, projects and achievements, including the INSME 2021 financial statements and the forecast for 2022. Delegates share updates about their projects and initiatives and new members introduce themselves.

12:00 – 14:00 Cultural tour



H. E. Mikayil Jabbarov

Minister of Economy


Born in Baku on September 19, 1976.
In 1992 admitted to the International Law Faculty of Baku State University and in 1997 graduated with honors.
In 1997-1998 obtained Master Degree in Law from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific (Sacramento, California, US), and in 2004 Master Degree in Economics from the Azerbaijan State Economic University
Since 1999 Member of the New York State Bar Association. Began his career in 1995 in the banking sector, in 1999-2002 worked as a lawyer in a law company and in private sector.
In 2002-2003 – Advisor to the Minister of Economic Development, in 2003-2004 – President of Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO).
By the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 20 February 2004 was appointed Deputy Minister of Economic Development.
By the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 19 April 2013 was appointed Minister of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
By the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 5 December 2017 was appointed Minister of Taxes of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
By the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 23 October 2019 was appointed Minister of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Sergio Arzeni

International Network for SMEs – INSME


Sergio Arzeni is President of the International Network for Small and Medium Enterprises – INSME. Mr. Arzeni is also Senior Advisor of Friends of Europe; Executive Member of the Global Coalition for Efficient Logistics GCEL; Member of the Advisory Board of SRM, the Research Centre on the Mediterranean of Intesa San Paolo Bank, in Naples; Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies (published by Sage Publishing in London, New York and New Delhi). For over 30 years he has been the Director of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in Paris responsible for SMEs, Local Economic and Employment Development and Tourism

Yusif Abdullayev


Yusif Ikram oglu Abdullayev was born on 5 June 1983 in the city of Aghdam. In 1999, he entered Baku State University and studied for a bachelor’s degree in international law. He started his professional career between 2004 and 2007, working in sales, insurance, and logistics. From 2007 to 2015, he directed the export department of Azersun Holding. From December 2015 to 1 June 2018, he served as Vice President of AZPROMO; on 1 June 2018, he was assigned to the position of AZPROMO President, and on 8 October 2021, as part of AZPROMO’s reorganization, he was appointed to the position of the Agency’s Executive Director.

Yves Leterme

President, ToJoy, former Prime Minister, Board of Trustees Member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center


Yves Leterme holds degrees in Law and in Political Sciences from the University of Ghent. As of June 2014, Leterme became the Secretary General of The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Since December 2011, Yves Leterme has served as Deputy Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). After starting his career as an Alderman in his hometown of Ypres, he became a Member of Parliament in the Chamber of Representatives, Group Chairman and leader of the opposition, Secretary-General and Chairman of the CD&V party, Minister-President and Minister for Agriculture of the Flemish Government, Federal Senator, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Budget and Mobility, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister. During Leterme¹s tenure as a Prime Minister, Belgium held the Presidency of the European Union. At a professional level, Yves Leterme has worked, inter alia, as a deputy auditor at the Belgian Court of Audit and as an administrator at the European Parliament.

Mammad Musayev

National Confederation of Entrepreneurs


Mammad Gurbanoglu Musayev was born in 1955 in Gazakh, Azerbaijan. In 1972 he finished secondary school, and in 1976 he graduated from the Institute of National Economy named after D.Bunyadzade with honors. In 1976-1984 he has worked in various senior positions in the office of the State Bank of the Republic of Azerbaijan, from 1984 to 1992, he worked asHead of Garadagh Department of State Bank and Operations Department of Agrarian Industry Bank, since 1992 Chairman of the Board of the Republic Joint-Stock Commercial Agrarian Industry Bank,from 2001 to present, he has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Aqrarkredit” Joint-Stock Credit Organization. On his initiative, under the co-founding of the largest agricultural bank of the Republic of Turkey –“Zilaat Bank” and Agrarian Industry Bank, “Azər-Türk Bank” Joint-Stock Commercial Bank was established in 1995.Jointly with one of the largest insurance companies in the Republic of Turkey, “Başak” Insurance Companywas also established by M.Musayev’s proposal. Currently, “Aqrarkredit” Joint-Stock Credit Organization led by him is a member of the “International Confederation for Agricultural Credit”, Azerbaijan Entrepreneurs Confederation, Eurasian Association for Agricultural Credits, International Organization for Agricultural Credits of the Pacific Ocean Countries, Azerbaijan Banks Association, Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association, “Baku Interbank Currency Exchange”, and Azerbaijan Turkey Business Association

Orkhan Mammadov

Chairman of the Management Board


Orkhan Mammadov was born in 1984 in Baku.
2005 – graduated from the Baku State University, Faculty of International Relations.
2005 – studied at the Regent’s University London on the International Business and Finance Program.
2009 – received master’s degree on Business Administration, 2012 – second higher education on Finance and Credit at the Azerbaijan State Economic University.
Held various positions at the Ministry of Industry and Energy, Ministry of Economy.
Since February 27, 2018 – has been appointed as the Chairman of the Board of the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Foreign languages – English, Russian and Turkish.

Hamsa Thota
Founder and President
IBD Inc.


Dr. Hamsa Thota is the founder and president of US based Innovation Business Development (IBD), Inc., a company specializing in product innovation performance improvement. He has 40 years of accomplishments as an inventor, entrepreneur, innovator, and teacher. He trains and consults with organizations to improve new product success rates in the US, China and India. He holds 10 U.S. patents. He co-authored “Key concepts in innovation”, a fundamental reference book for practitioners, students and scholars of innovation. He served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Art of Science Learning (ASL) project. Under his guidance, ASL project teams explored connections among arts-based learning and scientific innovation. Working in Innovation Incubators operating in San Diego, Chicago and Worcester, MA, the project teams developed STEM based novel solutions to pressing civic challenges.

Boyko Takov
Executive Director
Agency for SME Promotion


Dr. Boyko Takov is Executive Director of The Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency, appointed by an Order of the Minister of Economy, Mr. Emil Karanikolov, dated November 12, 2018. Dr. Takov has a proven executive management track record and over 12 years of experience in business management. He spent four years at The Executive Agency „State Property of the Ministry of Defense“, where he served in various expert positions. From 2008 to 2012 he was CEO and member of the Board of Directors of the Bulgarian subsidiary company of a leading South Korean energy company.He earned his doctorate in Economics, Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technical University in Sofia and his Master’s degree in Marketing and Economics at the University of National and World Economy, Sofia.

Aurora Candel
Director for SME
Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism


Aurora Elena Candel is the Head of Public Affairs for Business Environment within The Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism, in Romania. In charge with foreign affairs in matter of SMEs and
entrepreneurship, she is also a coordinator of implementation of the National Resilience and
Recovery Plan and the coordinator of Romania’s accession to OECD. She started her career in public administration, as an advisor for an ex-prime minister, while she was still in high school. She built legal expertise within three central institutions, representing the entities of The International Court of Arbitration. In sector, she worked as a consultant on public affairs and business matters. Aurora has an overall experience of 6 years in the management of the board of directors of 5 state owned enterprises in the defence industry. As a highlight of her work for the defence industry, it is to mention the incorporation of three joint ventures between Romanian and foreign companies.

Kamran Huseynov
Deputy Director
Renewable Energy Agency


Kamran Huseynov completed in 2008 a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics. Kamran Huseynov was working at different positions in finance, information technology, and marketing fields between 2007-2009.
In 2011, he received a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from the University of Glasgow (U.K.), funded by SOCAR Foreign Scholarship Program. Kamran Huseynov held various positions at the Head Office of SOCAR, including working as the specialist in Marketing Planning department, moreover as the specialist, senior specialist, and the head of Investors Relations department from 09.01.2012 to 20.12.2021.
He participated in the commercial negotiations with international oil and gas companies on the Southern Gas Corridor project within ENT (Export Negotiation Team).Kamran Huseynov was contributing to Project Promoters Team that promoted TANAP project on the various EU platforms from 2014 to 2018. The Project Promoters Team has attracted grants from the European Union CEF Fund for TANAP and TAP projects in the amount of €30 mln. He has been awarded a PMP-Project Management Professional certificate by the PMI Project Management Institute. Kamran Huseynov was appointed as a Deputy Director of Azerbaijan Renewable Energy Agency under the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Azerbaijan by Order of the Minister of Energy dated December 23, 2021. He is fluent in English and Russian languages.

Cristian Camisa


Cristian Camisa is President of Confapi, the Italian Confederation of small and medium-sized industries, the most important Italian organization of small and medium private industries (116.000 industries and 1,2 million employees). He is currently President and CEO of T.T.A. (Tecno Taglio Acciai), a family business founded in 1976, specialized in cutting, trade and processing of sheet metal, special and stainless steels. He has been member of the national board of Confapi since 2012 and in 2020 he became Vice President. He was also President of Confapi Industria Piacenza, the local association of Confapi. Since July 2015 he has been a member of the Central-Northern Italy Advisory Board of Unicredit, one the most important Italian Bank.

Mehman Abbas
Caspian Group


Mehman Abbas has 30 years experience and achievements both in public and private sector as well as international development organisations. During 2011-2014, he was leading strategy management at the Islamic Development Bank Group and played important role to define mid-term business strategy for the Group as well as was responsible to enlarge business portfolio of the IDB Group in major non-member countries like China, India and Russia. During 2019-2021, he was Deputy Chairman and Board Member of the Azerbaijan SME Development Agency (KOBIA) during which he introduced various new initiatives and flagship programs to support MSMEs including SME Development Centres, SME Financing Advisory Platform, SME business support facilities, PPP Development Center etc. Mehman Abbas is currently the founder of Caspian Group Ltd and provides investment advisory and management consultancy both for public and private sector as well as international development organisations.

Roberto Santolamazza
Managing Director


Roberto Santolamazza holds a Master Course degree in Car Engineering (MBA) and a Master’s degree in Electronic Engineering (Industrial Automation and Robotics) from Padua University, Italy. Prior to joining t2i – trasferimento tecnologico e innovazione as Managing Director, Roberto ha managed an innovation agency, Treviso Tecnologia, and worked for several years in a major consulting firm, Accenture. Previously, he worked for a wide famous Italian Car Manifacturer, Ferrari SpA, and at the European Technical Center of a major Japanese multinational electronics company located in Holland, Omron Corporation, as visiting fellow. He’s Adjunct Professor of Innovation and Development Economics at the Cà Foscari University in Venice.

Carlo de Simone
Institutional Relations


Carlo de Simone graduated in Economics and Commerce at the University Federico II of Naples, specialising in Corporate Finance at LUISS in Rome. After a brief experience at Arthur Andersen MBA, for twenty-two years I have been dealing with internationalisation tools for Italian companies, first at Mediocredito Centrale and currently at SIMEST SpA as Senior Expert in the External Relation Service.

Agil Samadov
Director of the Risk Management and Economic Analysis Department
Entrepreneurship Development Fund


Agil Samadov is the Head of Risk management and economic analysis department at the Entrepreneurship Development Fund of the Ministry of Economy.
Holds MBA (2012) from University of North Carolina Wilmington and BS in Finance and Credit (2009) from Azerbaijan State University of Economics.
Worked for Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2018-2019) as a head of risk management and was involved in preparation of risk documents, risk appetite and risk limits, development of new products such as credit guarantee scheme for SMEs and rent to own mechanism.
Worked for Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund OJSC (2016-2018) as a risk officer and was involved in preparation of internal documents regarding controlling risk, doing stress tests and scenario analysis, development of new products such as mortgage guarantee scheme.
Worked for Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund under the Central Bank (2013-2016) as a treasury dealer and was involved in calculation of coupon payments and income tax of the outstanding bonds issued by Fund, forecasting the cash flow with different scenarios, analyzing the liquid portfolio and monitor the accuracy of it according to investment policy.

Mohammad Nafees Zakaria
Executive Director


Mohammad Nafees Zakaria is a seasoned civil servant of Pakistan, who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1988. In his illustrious diplomatic career, he represented Pakistan as its High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2019-20), and Malaysia (2017-19). He also served at various positions at Pakistan’s foreign missions in UAE, Indonesia, Thailand, the UK and Canada. At the Ministry’s Headquarters in Islamabad he performed the duties as Additional Foreign Secretary/Spokesperson, Director General (South Asia and SAARC), as well as Director General (Europe). Most recently, after his retirement from the Foreign Services of Pakistan, he served as Member of Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) of Pakistan (November 2020 – October 2022).

Shahriyar Esmailie


Holds an MBA in Corporate Finance from NYU Stern School of Business, NYC. Currently serving as an Advisor to Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (KOBIA).
25 Years’ experience in developing and managing medium and large non-oil sector manufacturing and service-based enterprises in Azerbaijan
Represented and promoted European and US based entities in Azerbaijan
Prior to arriving in Azerbaijan, served for ten years as financial officer for NYC Conserve (nonprofit organization) funded by The US Department of Energy.

Giovanni Zazzerini
Secretary General


Giovanni Zazzerini is the Secretary General of INSME – International Network for Small and Medium sized Enterprises, a legally recognized not-for-profit Association that gathers international stakeholders and other key economic players involved in the development and implementation of policies and programs in support of SMEs and entrepreneurship. He is adjunct professor at LUISS Guido Carli University and Visiting Professor at St. John’s University in New York. His specializations are Innovation Management, Entrepreneurship and Marketing. Since 2008 he works as an expert for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regularly carrying out technical assistance, training, and capacity building activities for Development Cooperation projects in China, Vietnam and in Tunisia. Since 2012 he is also appointed by the European Commission to advise on research projects about exploitation of research results, commercialization of innovation, and business plan development. Previously he has worked as consultant for almost 15 years, developing projects in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship, and internationalization of SMEs. He holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Perugia (Italy), a Master’s Degree in Technology and Innovation Management from SPRU, University of Sussex (United Kingdom) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Perugia.

Paola Zerilli
Senior Lecturer
University of York


Dr Paola Zerilli is lecturer at the University of York. Her expertise is in applied financial econometrics with a focus on energy derivatives. She has direct experience with financial markets as she worked for a number of years as a trader on Italian Treasury bonds at Credit Agricole Indosuez, Milan branch. She is currently Director of the MSc in Financial Engineering and Scientific Coordinator of the XPRESS project (Support for Public Procurements to facilitate the collaboration between SMEs and public sector for the development, and adoption in renewables in regions) funded under the EU Commission H2020 programme. Dr Zerilli is also Scientific Coordinator of the SUPER-i project funded by the EU Commission H2020 programme.
The general objective of SUPER-i is to support the funding of EE (Energy Efficient) refurbishment of social housing stocks across Europe while increasing the share of renewable energy in the final energy consumption. The SUPER-i project will contribute to generate substantial investments in energy efficiency within the social housing sector in two folds: 1) by establishing a direct dialogue, at local government level, between financial institutions, other private investors and social housing managers while also involving ESCOs (Energy Service Companies); and 2) by collecting relevant data on EE investments, helping to develop efficient financial schemes. The direct dialogue and data collection will be pivotal to effectively boost the development of energy efficiency PPPs (Public Private Partnerships).

Ali Muqaibal


Ali Muqaibal is an influential Board-Level Leader and current Strategy and Business Development GM at Oman Oil Marketing Company, where he has stepped into the role of aligning the company’s vision and mission to the needs of an international clientele by driving innovative and quality products and services to a global market. As a customer and employee-centric leader who creates cultures devoted to superior services, he has been credited with a key role in shaping the world-class reputation Oman Oil is known for today. Ali’s career success for the past 20 years offers broad experience across retail management, corporate relations, microeconomics and financial operations; team building and leadership, plus international marketing. This diverse exposure to building business strategy has led to his most recent success, an appointment to head GM Strategy with a direct reporting line to the CEO and Board of Directors.

Igor Ovcharenko
Innovation and Digital Development Agency


Igor is a startup enthusiast and tech-savvy professional with over ten years of experience developing startup ecosystems in emerging markets.
Igor has extensive knowledge and experience in startup ecosystems building in Central & Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East & North America via his Estonia-based company with offices in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. He made angel investments in MyPlace, GreenBin, and seats on the advisory board of 5 other startups. From 2012 to 2014, Igor worked in the most significant venture fund in Ukraine, TA Ventures. He organized the largest startup-related event in the CEE region, which gathered 2,500 people from 50+ countries, 300 TOP global investors, and 150 best startups from CEE. Igor was also responsible for scouting the investable teams for the fund. In 2014, he worked in an investor club, U-Start, backed by one of Italy’s most influential family offices, to develop its operations in BRICS countries. From 2015 to 2018, Igor was a Regional Manager for CEE and MENA at Seedstars, a group of companies based out of Geneva that builds, connects, and develops entrepreneurship in emerging markets, where he was responsible for running acceleration programs, fundraising, company building, and events. Under Igor’s management, Seedstars launched its first corporate acceleration program, which was held in April – July 2018 in Astana, Kazakhstan
Igor has helped three B2B and B2G later-stage startups from Armenia, Turkey, and Ukraine to scale to new markets: South Africa, Bahrain, Turkey, EU. From June 2018 to April 2019, Igor consulted Infocommunication Holding Zerde under Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry on developing the tech startup ecosystem. In January 2020, Igor joined Global Innovation Catalyst as a Head of Programs. He is responsible for teaching and certifying the Stanford Online “Idea to Market” course to people worldwide. GIC has accelerated the soft skills and mindsets of 200+ people from 30+ countries, which built 35+ companies. In January 2021, Igor co-founded DeltaWorks. He supports the Founders and ventures to build companies via transformation from MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to creating an MVC (Minimum Viable Company) as a Managing Partner.
In June 2022, Igor started to consult the Innovation and Digital Development Agency of Azerbaijan on the development of the tech startup ecosystem. In August 2022, Igor joined White Hill Capital as a Partner. He is responsible for deal sourcing and investment portfolio management.


Baybars Altuntas


Baybars Altuntas is former Senior Advisor of the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) for the Elite Program, Chairman of the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) – an affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) chaired by the Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, Co-chair of the Washington DC- based Global Business Angels Network (GBAN), President of the Business Angels Association of Turkey (TBAA), the World Entrepreneurship Forum Ambassador to Turkey and the Balkan countries, and President of Deulcom International Inc.

Andrea Di Anselmo
META Group


Andrea Di Anselmo is the President of META Group an international advisory and investment firm with offices in Italy, Slovenia, Poland, Sweden and Belgium (Brussels).
He is Vice President of INSME (the International Network for SMEs), sits in the Board of Directors of META Ventures, the fund management company operating Ingenium Funds, EURADA, the European Association of Regional Development Agencies and of several companies.
Andrea’s most recent professional experience is at international level and concentrates on challenge based innovation, innovation strategies (S3), financial tools and support to “Knowledge Intensive” enterprises and entrepreneurs, exploitation of research results. He has a background as civil engineer and research experience in materials science at the University of Storrs Connecticut (USA).

Jay Mitra
Founder, Professor
IEF, Essex University Business School


Jay Mitra is Professor of Business Enterprise and Innovation. He is a Visiting Scholar at Luneburg University in Germany and has held Visiting Professorships at the Institute of Management Technology in India, the School of Management, Fudan University in China, at Bologna University, Italy and at Externado University in Colombia. He has acted as a Scientific Adviser to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris. Prof. Mitra is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK and is a board member of INSME (International Network of SMEs) headquartered in Rome. He also leads the International Entrepreneurship Forum (IEF) a unique network and forum for researchers, policy makers and business practitioners working on entrepreneurship, innovation and regional development. He has written widely on different aspects of entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development, and his latest book is ‘The Business of Innovation’ published by Sage in 2017. He is the editor of the ‘Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies’, also published by Sage, and a member of the board of numerous refereed journals around the world. He has worked with various institutions around the world such as UNCTAD, UNIDO, ASEAN, EU and other government agencies and private sector organisations.

Simona Marzetti
Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy


Simona Marzetti is in charge of multilateral and bilateral relations at EU and international level, including managing collaboration agreements, Memoranda of Understanding and projects with International Organizations and IP National Offices as regards the promotion, protection and enforcement of industrial property rights. She is the contact point for activities and initiatives with the European Commission, EUIPO, EPO, WIPO. She organizes, in collaboration with international partners, training and information activities targeting SMEs, business intermediaries and IP professionals.

Zaharina Todorova
Head of International financial institutions and EU funds Division


Zaharina Todorova is in charge of the long-term funding and guarantees and international partnerships of Bulgarian development bank. She represents the Bank in various international and EU organizations, among which the European association of public banks; Network of European Financial Institutions; European Long-Lerm Investors Association; European Investment Fund, China – CEEC 17+1 Belt and Road initiative. Zaharina Todorova is experienced in the dialogue with EU institutions, development banking, mandates implementation, financial instruments, state aid and EU policies. She has an MBA degree from IAE, Nantes and graduated with honors from ESFAM, Sofia and a joint program of the University of Sofia and Université Bordeaux IV. Fluent in English and French.

Rashad Huseynov
Head of Economic Analysis and Analytical Information Department
Center for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication


In 1998-2002, he graduated with honors from the Faculty of Economics of the Azerbaijan State Agrarian University.
In 2004-2006, he studied MBA at the University of Weishtefan, Germany, majoring in Business Administration.
In 2007-2009, he got a second master’s degree in Economics of food and resources from the University of Boon, Germany.
In 2010-2015, he graduated with honors from the Institute of Economic and Agrarian Policy under the University of Boon, Germany.
Since 2006, he has been teaching “Menagement Economics”, “Microeconomics”, “Development Economics”, “Public Economy”, and “Agricultural Economics and Agrarian Policy” at ADA and Khazar Universities.
In 2016, he worked as the head of the Projects Department of the Center for Anlysis of Economic Reforms and Communication of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Since 2020, he has been working as the head of the Economic Anlysis and Analytical information Department of the Center for Analysis of Economic reforms and Communication of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
He worked as a consultant in projects implemented by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the UN agriculture and Food organization (FAO), the UNDP, the German agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

Dimitrios Rallis
Deputy Secretary General


Dimitrios Rallis was born in Athens, Greece. He graduated from the Law School of the Athens University with distinction. On July 1, 2022 he assumed his duties as Deputy Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization – Permanent International Secretariat in Istanbul. During his professional career, which spans over 40 years, Ambassador Dimitrios Rallis acquired deep knowledge and vast diplomatic experience with emphasis to the promotion of multilateral, regional and international relations. He served in the Greek diplomatic missions in Berlin-GDR, New York (UN), Damascus, Moscow and Brussels (EU). As Ambassador he represented Greece in Nicosia and Berlin. He also served as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hellenic Cultural Foundation. For over ten years he was actively involved in passing EU legislation regarding economic integration and cooperation in the fields of, inter alia, internal market and development, transport, environmental protection, industry, energy, trade, agriculture, research and culture. As Chairman of the EU Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper I) and, subsequently, as Director General for European Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, he worked for the promotion of stability, good neighborliness and international, European and regional cooperation, especially in the fields of economic integration and development. In his capacity of EU Coreper I Chairman, he headed the Council of the EU in the Conciliation Committee with the European Parliament for the adoption of EU legislation. As head of the Greek delegation, he actively worked for transforming the Black Sea Economic Cooperation into a regional economic organization.

Patrick Meinhardt
Board Member, former Member of Parliament


Since 2021 he is Member of the Board of Directors, European Association of Self Employed. Since August 2014, Mr. Meinhardt was responsible for Public Affairs, Public Relations, Economics, Cooperation with Associations and Foreign Trade as Head of Politics and Public Relations at the BVMW Federal Office Berlin (Bundesverband mittelständische Wirtschaft Unternehmerverband Deutschland e.V.). In addition, he coordinates the European policy and the Brussels office and strengthens the federal management of the association. From 2005 to 2013 he was a member of the German Bundestag. Here he was spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group for education and the group “Christians in the FDP parliamentary group”.