ConsciESG: Briseida Gjoza (’11) and Adeliada Mehmetaj (’13) Bring Social Innovation to the Western Balkans

July 27, 2022
ConsciESG: Briseida Gjoza (’11) and Adeliada Mehmetaj (’13) Bring Social Innovation to the Western Balkans

ConsciESG, a startup co-founded by AUBG alumni Briseida Gjoza (’11) and Adeliada Mehmetaj (’13), is among the selected few to participate in the regional acceleration program for social impact innovation BOOST, organized by the United Nations Development (UNDP) Europe and Central Asia.

The goal of the alumni-led startup is to provide Western Balkan and multinational companies, as well as global investors with the tools to assess their environmental, social & governance (ESG) impact, and efficiently and effectively align their business & investment strategies to ESG. The BOOST program amplifies, bridges, and connects innovators across the region with ideas that leverage the power of technology to support women and girls in the digital economy.

“ESG and what we are trying to do is aligned with the United Nations sustainable development goals,” Briseida said. “The most popular way to measure a company’s sustainability alignment is to follow the ESG standards. ConsciESG aspires to become one of the leading ESG data providers that focus on impact. Our methodology improves upon existing limitations in some of the most widely used ESG scores. ”

Adeliada and Briseida have known each other since high school as they both studied at the science-oriented Turkish College “Mehmet Akif” in Tirana, Albania. Then, their paths crossed again at AUBG. Yet, it wasn’t until they met by chance in a conference hotel in Albania years after graduation – in September, 2021 – that they spoke again and realized they could work on a business idea together.

“What started as a casual conversation about the “brain drain” issue on the Balkans turned into a discussion on the problem of proper sustainable business practices,” Adeliada said. “And we soon realized that the Balkan companies would not be able to achieve sustainability integration because there are no proper ESG scoring initiatives in the region that can financially reward the best cases. That’s how the idea for the ESG scoring came along.”

The Companies

ConsciESG aims to work on ESG ratings, data, and research. The two alumni say they want to integrate Research and Development into the DNA of their company. ConsciESG’s Software as a Service (SaaS) platform will help companies more easily report their sustainability impact for their sector of operation. The platform will generate research and analytics reports in addition to the collected data related to the ESG scores. ConsciESG’s daughter company, Sol-Tellus, also owned by the two alumni, aims to provide consulting to companies that want to integrate ESG or helps companies that have already integrated it on how to best communicate their sustainability journey.

“We have already started building the infrastructure working with local companies in Albania,” Briseida said. “We have located a long-term tech partner for us and have also partnered with another data & research company in addition to a marketing agency, and an IT company so that we can cover all of the layers. The consultancy is already working. But apart from that, our ambition is to develop an innovative ESG scoring product that will be a disruptor in the Western Balkans and for the ESG data industry overall.  That needs time, financial resources and a supportive ecosystem. Thus, we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Boost program, where we got access to outstanding mentoring throughout our idea validation stage and we are confident that by the end of 2022 we will have our prototype ready for our seed investment round to begin.”

The Founders

Briseida is currently a city councilor in Elbasan who participates in various leadership programs. She won a scholarship to study at AUBG and graduated with majors in Business Administration and European Studies. After graduation, she decided she wanted to gain practical experience. “I started working in Spain as a PR for an international organization that connected me with UNESCO. From there I went to Senegal, Africa, and from there I came back to Europe again. Then, I refocused on the private sector where I worked for about eight years in Albania, Kosovo, and Slovenia.”

The moment she met with Adeliada in September 2021, she had already run a national election campaign as a candidate for member of the Albanian parliament. She was invited to join the government as a young professional who studied and worked abroad, an invitation that she accepted as part of her agenda to give back and fight for the causes that most matter to her. Her responsibilities as a councilor help her to see in practice ConsciESG’s contribution not only to Albania but also the entire Western Balkan region.

Adeliada graduated from AUBG with majors in Economics and Mathematics. Unlike Briseida, she wanted to pursue an academic path so she went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business University. “Six hard years and a baby later, I graduated in 2019 with a Ph.D. in Macroeconomics and I accepted a full-time academic position teaching Economics & Business Statistics at Seattle University, a position that I held for two years before deciding to return from the U.S. I wasn’t even sure if I was coming back to Albania or somewhere in the Western Balkans. So, I met Briseida and that is when our visions united, and we decided we won’t just be the ‘hi and bye’ kind of acquaintances but we can build a successful business together instead.”

They say that their vested interest in the problem that they are hoping to solve and the careers they left behind in order to exclusively devote themselves to ConsciESG is their biggest motivation to succeed.

The AUBG Experience

Both alumni share that AUBG played an important role in their lives. “The university has tailored us to be better entrepreneurs,” Adeliada said. “To always ask the bigger questions. We developed at AUBG in this highly supportive environment. We knew that we wouldn’t fail because we always had each other in this small community. And this was a community with big ambitions that had the support of the faculty and the reassurance that ‘in every single problem, there is a solution’. That’s probably a good mindset – the solution-driven mindset. And this definitely reflects the way we find ourselves today.”

When asked on the spot what was one highlight of their academic life, Briseida did not have to think long. “I was obsessed with the business ethics class – I always liked the business approach on how to get things done,” she said. “Professor White’s approach and his mindset: What if you were in your worst case scenario, what would you do? Would you still do the same thing? Would you still have integrity? Would you still choose to do what you are saying you are going to do? What if nobody saw you? And, of course, professor Cosmina Tanasoiu – she stressed on the crucial importance of being really prepared, a professional, an expert in what you do. She was a top professor. She was very expert-driven and all of her classes were very compelling.”

Adeliada understood she wanted to explore the research field and even create her own economic models during one of the advanced macroeconomics courses at AUBG. “I can tell you which class really inspired me to go and pursue a Ph.D.,” she said. “It was an Advanced Macroeconomics class taught by Prof. Nilsen, where I realized that I was truly driven to know more about the economic models that shape our reality. And so, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the subject, so that one day my research would build upon the existing theories and address more recent and more relevant problems to our generation. I think sustainability is one such current problem.”

The Team

Both founders note that they are complementing each other – while one is thinking about the tools and the methodology behind the idea, the other one is making sure to keep it practical. “In order for such an idea to succeed you need both,” Adeliada said. “You need to go back and forth. You need the team to be creative, and research-oriented but also goal-oriented and to see the opportunity and go for it. Of course, I bring the research aspect to the table, I was trained in academic research throughout my Ph.D. and then on my own, I was a professor and researcher at Seattle University. And then you have Briseida who is extremely sharp-minded and practical and always brings reality as a litmus test of all of our ideas.”

For Briseida, what matters most is knowing that they have a well-thought foundation for their idea and that they have really researched the problem and are confident in the solution they offer.  “We are a team that complements each other: the big picture thinker who connects the dots, and the person whose focused thinking will take the idea to the next level,” she said. “And we both have sound academic backgrounds, hands-on experience and a world full of energy to push this idea forward.”

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