Croatia – Startups Jostling To Economic Success

Photo: face-enterpreneurship.eu

 

The world of entrepreneurship has had a case of “zoology envy” (with a proliferation of animal terms used to describe different types of companies) for a few years now in the Western developed and business thriving countries that constantly keep on the lookout for new job creation opportunities. Spend enough time talking about entrepreneurship and you’re likely to hear people refer to “gazelles,” “cheetahs,” or other fleet-footed animals (even the mythical unicorn!). These terms may leave you scratching your head, wondering if you wandered into a safari—not an accelerator.

Like many labels, the utility of these terms is limited; but these words are used because we need a way to describe and talk about an important phenomenon in entrepreneurship—the fact that some businesses grow and others do not. And even among the firms that grow, a few blossom substantially bigger and faster than the rest.

Startups have significantly contributed to economic growth, encouraging it also, and new job creation in economically thriving countries even if they primarily drive innovation. Startup rates are positively correlated with innovation in only those countries that invested in research and development. So evangelizing entrepreneurship in a place that isn’t ready for it might not pan out so well in Croatia, given its relatively minuscule attention to investing in innovation and development. For Croatia to pick up on benefiting from startup entrepreneurship it must get much better at promoting research and development from government coffers.

Entrepreneurship drives economic growth, but it requires long-term patient investments in research, a culture that accepts failure, agile and skilled talent, and a resilient ecosystem that will enable workers and ideas to flow easily from one firm to the next. The way things are in Croatia innovation developers and researchers to a large extent struggle to find support and development funding in and, hence, leave the country and go to the one that will support their work.

Nevertheless, Croatian people brainpower seems to be paving its way to develop a thriving startup community in Croatia as an increasing number of startup events and venture funding dot the calendar. Established within the last three years, five startups appear to have the potential to shake the Croatian tech ecosystem and to push Croatia up on the European startup map. The startup ecosystem in Croatia is on the upward move and this is mainly due to the solid base of young, hard-working entrepreneurs with great ideas and who are highly qualified in the areas of technology. Unfortunately, what doesn’t exist yet are a matching number of investors and capital that back these bright young people.

Furthermore the utterly inflexible and unfriendly bureaucracy (held on life support it seems by the former Yugoslavia communist mental blocks) for creating businesses does business development enormous damage: it is long, complicated, often riddled with corruption and bribery, lacks stable procedures and policies, expensive… In short, the structural conditions are discouraging and make many entrepreneurs give up before they’ve even started.

But there are success stories even if they are thus far few in number. The success stories like electric supercar developers and producers Rimac Automobili, the global team of microfinance and technology experts Oradian and App developers for field team connections etc. Repsly, leads one to look for new rising stars in entrepreneurship and startups during 2018 in Croatia.

PARKLIO is world’s first truly smart parking solution, which prevents unauthorised parking and enables real-time parking place reservation. Their smart parking barrier will not only protect the parking place from unauthorised usage but it will also provide the possibility to share digital keys with other users via the Parklio app. Winner of 2017 Get in the Ring Croatia competition and Croatia’s nominee for the Central European startup awards.

 

 

 

VOLLO aims to provide the easiest way to search, compare and book bus tickets in Croatia. Search hundreds of lines, routes and connections and find best way for your trip. Vollo is Croatia’s leading online retailer of bus tickets. The Zagreb-based startup allows customers to travel smarter and save time, money and hassle. Vollo was officially founded in 2016. Its CEO Marko Jukic previously worked for Rocket Internet as co-founder and Managing Director of foodpanda in Azerbaijan.

 

SENTINEL MARINE SOLUTIONS – With a vision of building “IoT at sea”, Sentinel is solving boat maintenance and logistics problem by bringing boat’s data online. They provide a quick and easy overview of the boat’s position and vital on-board systems for private boats and charter fleets, through a central unit and a series of sensors placed on the vessel. South Central Ventures together with private investor Matej Tomazin invested €1 million in Sentinel Marine Solutions.

 

 

 

TRAKBAR – provides smart business intelligence solutions for hospitality SME to help with day-to-day decision-making, while saving time and money. Trakbar provides precise forecasts of traffic, consumption, stock status, etc. assisted by artificial intelligence, which enables users to be proactive and optimize their overall business to make them more efficient. Part of the Startupbootcamp FoodTech class of 2016, the startup is slowly expanding from Croatia and Italy to Austria and Germany.

 

 

 

NANO-DIY – has designed a printing innovation which drastically reduces the price of printing patterns on textiles, by using a standard home printer and a thermal press. The printing technology enables the binding of dye to cotton materials with a very high percentage of adhesion, realizing a more cost-effective production. The startup received an investment from the Croatian business angels associations and was a Croatian nominee for the Central European startup awards in the category Newcomer.

 

 

The Croatian government should be utilising the positive energy emanating from startup industries across the developed world and allocate more funds to boost the already positively mobile startup energy in Croatia and bring successful startup accelerators to Croatia to help the local startup entrepreneurs expand and grow their businesses. This would also be a practical avenue through which the wealth of knowledge within the Croatian diaspora is utilised for economic growth in Croatia. Accelerators are an important component of the ecosystem and boost the skills of participating startups through training, mentoring and exposure to investor networks and a national program and policy that would see an implementation of startup supports on local areas’ level would mean a revitalisation of business development and job creation especially given that an overwhelming number of people seeking employment and economic prosperity are leaving regional parts, smaller towns and villages in droves. Perhaps 2018 will, after all, be the year of awakening within the Croatian government to the fact that you need to invest solidly from state budget in innovation and development, both money and effort, in order to achieve real progress.

Talk has always been and will remain cheap.

Of course, a bunch of new startups won’t create sustainable jobs overnight. But as long as we’re in it for the broader vision and the long haul, it’s certainly the way to go. Because every company in a thriving economy to which Croatia aspires was once really a startup. Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. “Talk has always been and will remain cheap.”
    ” a bunch of new startups won’t create sustainable jobs overnight.”
    Correct, true words but where are the incentives from government? Who will be able to obtain them?How will they be managed?

    Start up = Innovation, Technical Knowledge, Free Thought, Investment and Risk

    Croatia system of government, lack of legal structure and mismanagement (corruption) will unfortunately impede on progress.

    There are highly intelligent people in Croatia with technical knowledge but that is only one component what it means to have a start up industry. There are also a few people who want industry to grow so people can live in the country.

    With all its resources Australia struggles with start ups.

    Croatia needs to crawl before it walks.

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    • I reckon, Splithead,if the government paid more attention to this branch of possible job creation there could be significant progress especially in the feeling that opportunities for business development are vibrant etc. Much needs to change indeed.

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  2. Andrian Juric says:

    Croatia’s startup ecosystem is unlikely to have a government backed future, nor would it want to. The best startup ecosystems have all come up through the private sector. Macquarie bank builds Australian businesses, not CSIRO.

    What we need is a privately run venture capitalist firm that specialises in Croatian startups. If you knew that one of the companies you listed above would become as successful as Google would you not invest some of your own money? There is, (as far I know) nothing stopping us from doing this.

    We have an entire generation of Croats born in the west who will never own homes in major western cities. Why not turn these would-be property investors into tech investors? Why spend your home deposit on a house you plan to rent out for the next 10 years while you live with your parents when you can invest in the next Croatian Steve Jobs?

    What we need are our best and brightest Croatian diaspora who specialise in finance, tech and management to head to Zagreb with funding and leadership.

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    • Could not agree with you more, Andrian. Croatia lags behind in the field and desperately needs the know how and enthusiasm that comes from countries who have established solid startup ecosystems. Your idea on investments is great and many would like to see it play out in reality…here’s to the future! 🙂

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  3. Interesting insight into a country I thought only offered tourism 🙂 Governments need to get over their tech phobia & old ways to realise that automation brought about mainly via innovative startups can make public service easier to adminster and help accelerate all other industries and boost the economy in the long run. Thanks for the well-written and insightful piece!

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