Croatian Startups: From Taking Over Bugatti To Starting A New Airline…

There are many people who believe startup companies are the stuff of small to medium businesses and mostly on the margins of international corporation pathways but events in Croatia this month are proving such train of opinion wrong. We have before us two examples from business entrepreneurship in Croatia where humble startups have and are growing into a giant business landscape of electric cars and airplanes.   

Croatian electric supercar startup Rimac Automobili is taking over Bugatti – was one of many headlines on this business venture across the world early this month. Both Western and Croatian media were breaking news and dishing out accolades and praises to Croatia’s Mate Rimac, who started realising his dreams of developing and manufacturing electric cars via a small startup company that operated in his garage, and his striking a deal with Volkswagen to take over a controlling stake in Bugatti. Rimac and Volskwagen will focus on Bugatti.  Rimac will reportedly hold 55 percent of shares in the new company, while Volkswagen will then delegate its stake of 45 percent to its luxury sports car unit Porsche. The new company will be headquartered in Zagreb and be known as Bugatti-Rimac. Currently Porsche itself holds a minority stake in Rimac. It bought direct shares in the Croatian company in 2018 and has gradually increased its stake to the current level of 24 percent. Mate Rimac will be the CEO of the new company, which is to employ around 300 staff in Zagreb and 130 at Bugatti’s existing site in Molsheim, France. It will initially produce two luxury car models – the Bugatti Chiron and the all-electric Rimac Nevera – with more models planned for the future.

It took Mate Rimac only 12 years to cross the path from the owner of a startup company, founded in his own garage, to a businessman who became the first man of a famous company for the production of sports cars. After this acquisition, “Rimac cars” were transformed into the “Rimac group”, which will consist of “Bugatti Rimac” and “Rimac Technology”. Born to a Croatian family in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1988 Mate Rimac is an innovator who designed the first Croatian electric car “Concept One”, which accelerates from 0 to 200 kilometres per hour in 6.2 seconds, while the top speed it reaches is 355 kilometres per hour. He is also the founder and director of the company “Greyp Bikes”, which is engaged in the production of electric bicycles.

Front: Mate Rimac / July 2021 during meetings in the Bugatti takeover deal Photo: Facebook

Rimac’s fascination with cars led him to enter racing and for this purpose in 2006 he bought a 1984 BMW E30 323i. After the car’s combustion engine exploded during a race, Rimac decided to turn the car into an all-electric. The converted BMW then went on to compete in motorsport events and won against the conventional machines. For a time, it was the world’s fastest electric vehicle. Seeing the potential in electric performance, Mate decided to start a company to build electric cars. Initially called VST Conversions, the company offered conversions of traditional cars to EVs. The company that would eventually turn out as Rimac Automobili, the one taking over Bugatti today, was founded in September 2009, when Mate was 21. While the company was founded in 2009, Rimac had no employees until 2011. In 2010, Rimac met Croatian born Adriano Mudri, who was a car designer at General Motors at the time. Rimac had proposed to Mudri to develop an electric supercar together, which he accepted. Mudri is director of design at Rimac Automobili.

Adriano Mudri (L) Mate Rimac (R) Photo: Screenshot

Mate Rimac appears set to lead on the world stage of fast electric cars and parts of such innovation will surely rub off into a making of a future family car that may surpass the capabilities of today’s (or future) Tesla EVs and the likes.

Stjepan Bedic, ETF Airways CEO Photo:

Up in the skies, though, Croatian startups are evidently attempting to achieve the amazing success achieved on the ground by Rimac.  A new airline emerged in Croatia at the beginning of this month – the ETF Airways. The airline, founded by a former MD-80 and 737NG pilot, received its AOC in May this year, and it is already flying across Europe every day. ETF Airways is a Croatian company founded in November 2020 by a group of aviation industry professionals and former pilots. Among them is the ETF Airways’ CEO, Stjepan Bedic, who was a Boeing 737 pilot for Sun Express and an MD-80 pilot for Dubrovnik Airline.

The ETF in ETF Airways stands for “Easy To Fly.” Speaking to Simple Flying, Bedic revealed that the airline might soon start hiring more pilots because the entire staff is already deployed.

The airline’s business model is charter and ACMI operations only, and it believes it will quickly establish itself as a flexible and reliable aircraft capacity provider. ETF does not consider itself to be a competitor to Croatia Airlines because, according to its CEO, its market is not Croatia but all of Europe.

At times of the Covid-19 pandemic when all existing airlines have been spiralling downward, threatened with extinction here are some brave young people who are just starting in the business amidst the alarming downturn in air travel. But the idea of founding an airline appeared a few years ago, Bedic recalled recently. From the very beginning, they focused on charter flights, that is, selling planes to travel agencies for nothing. It took them a long time to reach the investors who were willing to invest in the project.

“The coronavirus ‘helped’ us in that because we had the opportunity to get to the plane easier. We are aware that 2021 will not be a fabulous year and will help us put the company on its feet, and that is a lot of work – from maintenance systems, airworthiness, cabin crew, pilots, fuel budgets, flight planning to the organisation of ground flights…” said Bedic recently for Dubrovnik Paper (Dubrovački list).

“The market has undergone a speedy recovery after the pandemic subsided in the spring,” said ETF Airways CEO Stjepan Bedic. “The demand for our services outside Croatia has been growing beyond expectations. We were even surprised a bit, but we have a great team that rose to the challenge and prepared the company for its first operating season with two Boeing airliners. This is the first time in the past three decades that a Boeing aircraft entered the regional market,” points out Bedic.

Despite economic uncertainty and a volatile market, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in startups. More businesses are being launched than at any time in the past decade, and existing startups are showing a rapid acceleration worldwide. It has been said that for many companies, the driving force behind this surge has been an alignment of market forces, teams and innovation and I would add persistence and courage. Ina Vukic

Move Over Bugatti Croatia Now Has Fastest Electric Car Ever

Rimac Concept One Electric Supercar from Croatia

Rimac Concept One
Electric Supercar
from Croatia

In case the Bugatti Chiron launch a few days ago, that would set you back some cool US$2.6 million (before tax) but will take you as fast as 420kph, had you saying to yourself you could really do with a hypercar but Bugatti’s old-fashioned internal combustion is too uncool for school, never fear: the Croatian Rimac Automobili (headquarters Sveta Nedjelja, near Zagreb, Croatia) has you covered. Move over Tesla (electric car) as well – here comes the Croatian made Rimac Concept One – the fastest electric car made so far and will only set you back a cool US$1.4 million. The Croatian electric vehicle maker has been showing off the Concept One for about five years now but the production version broke cover spectacularly at the Geneva auto show on 1 March 2016.

Rimac Concept One was designed by a 28-year old wunderkind named Mate Rimac, a Croatian-native with some serious talent, who is also the founder and CEO of Rimac Automobili company that’s backed by investments from abroad including South America and Asia.

Mate Rimac CEO of Rimac Automobili in Croatia and inventor of Concept One and Concept S supercars

Mate Rimac
CEO of Rimac Automobili in Croatia
and inventor of Concept One and Concept S

With 1072hp the Rimac Concept One accelerates from zero to 96 kph in 2.6 seconds. It reaches 193 kph in 6.2 seconds and has a top speed of 335 kph. Quite simply, it leaves a Tesla electric car (US manufactured car named after the 19th century Croatian born inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla) in the dust and is hailed as the fastest electric car on the planet.
The Concept One uses a pair of electric motors fed by an 82kWh lithium-ion battery pack and all-wheel torque vectoring that Rimac says provides the functions of traction control, stability control, and antilock braking by constantly calculating the optimum torque for each of the four wheels. So, the use of for electric motors mounted at the center of the both axles give the Rimac Concept One a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that continuously calculates optimal torque distribution between the front and rear wheels. The all-wheel drive system has four different modes –comfort, control, track and drift. Owners have the option of deactivating the system if they so desire or customizing it to suit their needs.

Rimac Automobili Headquarters in Croatia

Rimac Automobili
Headquarters in Croatia

The car isn’t just fast. A quick look at the Concept One gives away the fine craftsmanship. No parts in the interior are plastic. Rimac opted for carbon, aluminum and alcantara, a high-end fabric found in yachts and Formula 1 cars.



Rimac Concept S - is one amped up supercar

Rimac Concept S –
is one amped up supercar

And if the Rimac Concept One isn’t enough for you, it now, literally, has an evil twin, called the Concept S that has just stepped from the shadows at the Geneva Motor Show, but instead of sporting a sinister Van Dyke beard and a menacing glare to denote the devilish difference, this doppelganger goes all-in on an aerodynamics package to put its perverse point across. The deviations are more than just skin-deep too – says auto blogger Domenick Yoney.
Unseen like an ulterior motive, the Rimac Concept S turns up the wick of an already diabolically powerful electric drivetrain, adding enough muscle to turn this all-wheel-drive supercar into a megawatt machine. Boasting 1,018 kW (1,365 horsepower) at peak with 1800 Nm (1,328 pound feet) of axle-twisting torque, we mean that in the most literal sense.
This version drops some weight (50kg) and gains an additional 296hp (200kW) and 147 lb-ft (200 Nm). That drops 0.1 seconds off the 0-100kph time and more than a second from the dash to 300kph.

True, Rimac Concept One and Concept S, or Bugatti Chiron for that matter, will go just as fast as any other car on the planet in city, town, village and any road traffic and a couple of handfuls or few dozens will own such a super super car  – most will not, but, hey, one can dream. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: The First Green Island In The World Project For Mljet

Launching on Island of Mljet "First Green Island in the World" Project 8 March 2015 Photo: Screenshot news

Launching on Island of Mljet
“First Green Island in the World” Project
8 March 2015
Photo: Screenshot news

Sunday 8 March on the stunningly beautiful Island of Mljet was abuzz with the gentle, almost inaudible sounds of electric car engines and enthusiasm on people’s faces. The day marked the launching of the “Mljet – The First Green Island In The World” project, set in motion by the largest financial stimulus for electric cars in Europe so far.

Deputy Environment Minister Tonci Restovic has presented the project ‘Mljet – the world’s first green island’, which amongst other incentives, will give grants to residents who purchase electric vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions and preserve protected areas of the island. The project is also part of the government’s plan to encourage energy efficiency in transport.
Electric vehicle charging stations will be accessible on the island and will be free of charge to use for locals as well as visitors to the Mljet National Park.

“ Energy efficiency projects are recognised as the most effective ways of battling against the consequences of climate change and they are a part of the government’s to push the country forward. That’s why we have secured 600 million Kunas (79 million Euro) from the Fund in this year’s budget as stimulus for energy efficiency projects, which benefit everyone, the young and the older, the employed and the unemployed, the families and the single people in order to enhance the quality of life and the living standard, and move forward as a society. In addition, “Mljet – the first green island in the world” project, which includes the participation of the ministry for the protection of the environment and the nature, the European Union Fund and the National Park Mljet, will provide the opportunity for people living on Mljet to utilise the available 105,000 Kunas (14,000 Euro) for the purchase of an electric car and thus contribute to our efforts towards sustainable development of all parts of Croatia,” said Restovic.

Electric cars on Island of Mljet

Electric cars on Island of Mljet

The island’s permanent residents who join the so-called “I drive economically” project will qualify for the one-off funding of 105,000 Kuna towards the purchase of an electric car. It is envisaged that the subsidies will cover between 40 to 60% of the cost of an electric car and various models are already on offer.

In addition to the above projects, National Park Mljet is making good progress with its “Green Line” project, which involves EU Fund subsidies for the purchase of ecologically acceptable vehicles for parks including electric mini-van, 2 electric tourist trains, 10 electric bicycles, 1 electric and 1 hybrid plug-in vehicle.

Although born in the continental part of Croatia – village of Smiljan – way back in 1856, the legendary and world famous inventor within the area of electrical supply system, Nikola Tesla, would be very proud of the “Mljet – the first green island in the world” project.

Electric car charging station - Mljet, Croatia

Electric car charging station – Mljet, Croatia

Mljet received its National Park status for its unique cultural and historical heritage, which dates back to the Illyrian period, the Roman Empire, and the times of the Republic of Dubrovnik (1358 – 1808). But this proclamation was also due to its “salty-fresh” lakes, the flora, the unique jagged view of the shore, the reefs, the steep tall cliffs, the numerous small islands and the varied evergreen flora of the nearby mountains, which steeply rise over the deep blue of the sea and block the view of the numerous stony fields and ancient settlements made of stone.
The system of saline lakes of Mljet is a unique geological and oceanological karst phenomenon, which is important not only within the scope of Croatia, but also within the scope of the world.
The waters of Mljet are a favoured habitat of the Mediterranean monk seal. The famous French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, when he was diving in the sea area of Mljet, declared that the waters there are among the cleanest in the world.

Mediterranean Monk Seal

Mediterranean Monk Seal

The isle of Mljet, covered in unique flora, is one of the most beautiful islands of the Adriatic Sea. It is located between Dubrovnik and the island of Korcula. A third of its area in the west (31 has been declared national park due to the unique features of this place.

The ancient Illyrian tribes left traces of their habitation of the island — stone structures, burial sites. In the times of the Roman empire, the island was mentioned in several documents. The most valuable evidence of that time is the ruins of a Roman palace dated the 1st century, a basilica, and the fortification structures in Polaci. In the middle of the 12th century, Benedictine monks built their monastery and a church on the island in the middle of the Large lake.

One of the landmarks of the isle of Mljet is Babino Polje cave.

Odysseus Cave - Mljet, Croatia

Odysseus Cave – Mljet, Croatia

According to the local legend, Homer’s the King of Ithaca survived a shipwreck on his way back home from the Trojan war, and it took place near the island of Ogygia. Odysseus swam into the cave for shelter and there nymph Calypso, daughter of Poseidon, God of the sea, waited for him. Charmed by the beauty of the island’s nature and kept captive as an immortal husband to the nymph Calypso, Odysseus stayed on the island for 7 long years. Scientists have not agreed where to place Homer’s island of Ogygia , some say it’s around Malta, some say it’s on the Atlantic and the people of Mljet in Croatia say it was right there where the Odysseus cave is, in Babino Polje, in front of which is a rocky island called Ogiran! And why not live the legend, I say!
At present, the Odysseus hotel accommodates tourists coming to the settlement of Pomena.

Benedictine monastery - Mljet, Croatia

Benedictine monastery – Mljet, Croatia

The largest coral ridge reef in the Mediterranean is located at the entrance to the Veliko lake in a place of strong currents.
For many tourists, Mljet is one of the islands lost in the vastness of the sea. Indeed, it is not so easy to get to this island. But it is no excuse for not going there. The scenery of this island, which are mentioned in the stories of Odysseus’ exploits, in the parables of St Paul and the Benedictine monks deserve being seen.

Mljet, Croatia First Green Island in the World Project "Together, We Look After The Environment"

Mljet, Croatia
First Green Island in the World Project
“Together, We Look After The Environment”

And now, in a not too distant future, the green beauty of its forests, sea and lakes is set to intensify as Mljet becomes the first green island in the world – green as in energy used to power its cars, trains and boats. Such a great story and it seems many of Mljet’s residents are keen to participate – ditch the petrol car engines for the new electric ones! Perhaps even some of the more expensive models like the Tesla Electric Car will make their way to Mljet in not so distant future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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