Tree of Knowledge Grows In Croatia

Landing in Croatia a few days ago I knew it was going to be an experience akin to entering into the grounds of political clutter that leave one standing in disbelief at crossroads where the past is clear but the future not. So much to fix and so many voices pulling in same and desired direction of how the future could be and yet these voices unable to join forces into a joint effort that would see Croatia rid of corruption, nepotism, clientelism … driven by the remnants of the former communist regime’s mindset that has no room for progress that consumer-oriented developed democracies grace their people with.

Visiting the Tree of Knowledge (Stablo Znanja) base in Zagreb was a real treat for me as it demonstrated to me that among all the political clutter that stifles progress, in particular economic one that paves the way to new job prospects and business entrepreneurship, there are people who actively seek progress despite the hardships the system may present them with.

There are bright spots that keep Croatia as a land of opportunities towards prosperity and innovation. And that is so very inviting.

A couple of days ago I decided to visit one of Croatia’s bright spots. I met up with Marko Komericki, the founder of the Tree of Knowledge (Stablo Znanja), and Mate Paskanovic Pavkovic, accounts manager and a recent returnee to Croatia from Canada.

Stablo Znanja mission is “to provide students a place where they can learn, do group work, attend different seminars that we organize, and to chill out and socialise, free of charge.”

People at Stablo Znanja say that students, the youth, are the ones to change the society. And I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

Stablo Znanja” (The Tree of Knowledge) is a project geared toward students and youth. It was started with the idea in mind to encourage excellence in all areas of study, entrepreneurial ventures and the exchange of ideas and knowledge.
It was created to offer students and youth modern tools and a place to help develop individually as well as develop their soft skills. This would in turn allow many to realise their ideas in the beginning stages of their projects.

Inside Tree of Knowledge main hall
in Zagreb

This vision led them to renovate the 1st floor of the student center in Zagreb and Stablo Znanja has in its relatively short existence become a central meeting place for students to go to daily from 9am to 5pm, cost-free, where they can access mentoring, coaching, on new technologies such as Block Chain, skills in all areas of business development and implementation relevant for projects geared for Startups. Outside of normal working hours, Stablo Znanja transforms into a place where students and other organisations hold workshops, lectures and seminars. Stablo Znanja enables students to gather and work through its modern amenities including: internet, a mini studio with a green screen for filming, individual and group work areas, charging stations for cell phones, 10 high performing computers that are ideal for programming and editing videos and photos, and a modern space that has been completely renovated for working and socialising. All of the amenities at Stablo Znanja are free of charge for all students.

Stablo Znanja is the social capital, social enterprise, Croatia needs desperately and the people who founded it and work in it have invested their own savings to contribute in this very important way to the development and expansion of Croatia’s economy. Stablo Znanja is a very important establishment as it provides a professional guidance and knowledge development to all young students seeking assistance with putting their business ideas into practice. The facility attracts between 200 and 400 students per day and that is no small matter. A worrying flaw of Croatia’s system and administration is that setting up a business there is filled with bureaucratic hurdles and lack of clear pathways for an ordinary person to get ahead and Stablo Znanja seeks to make such administrative and practical nightmares disappear for those who seek assistance.

The mentoring, coaching, assistance offered and facilitated by Stablo Znanja is nothing short of amazing. It can cover areas such as learning new technologies, developing an idea into a real business proposition, legal topics, market development, marketing, web development, preparing for job interviews, motivational topics … simply all aspects of business development and operations can be covered via coaching and mentoring.

Currently Stablo Znanja is working on assisting 20 Startup businesses to get off the ground and that is a significant contribution to helping Croatia’s economy.

Start-ups play a key role in developing the economy, especially those that are started by students. We believe that we can influence students, educate them about their options and put them in the right direction. We want to work with students to create and initialize business plans so they can market success and contribute to a better economic climate in Croatia,” says on Stablo Znanja website

Tree of Knowledge Croatia. Stablo Znanja

At Stablo Znanja they are particularly keen on focusing on connecting with the Croatian diaspora, building the trust between the homeland and the diaspora that would be a prerequisite in engaging the diaspora more with Croatian business and economic trends. For any young person, especially, living in the Croatian diaspora, I take this opportunity to encourage them to make contact with Stablo Znanja and explore the great links and opportunities for Startups that Croatia can provide. Ina Vukic


Croat Among New Europe 100 Changemakers

Mate Rimac at Geneva car show March 2016 Photo: Gregor Prebil

Mate Rimac at
Geneva car show March 2016
Photo: Gregor Prebil

Res Publica, Google, Visegrad Fund and the Financial Times have named 15 November 2016 Croatia’s Mate Rimac, the founder and chief executive of Rimac Automobili, a Croatian car manufacturer that develops and produces high-performance electric cars, as one of Central and Eastern Europe’s top 100 changemakers.

The event held at BIP Brussels brought together the New Europe 100 challengers and the EU policymakers to celebrate success and debate the digital and innovation agenda across Europe. The individuals and organisations involved, business innovators, political challengers, social entrepreneurs, and cultural animators leverage technology to transform the region and create impact at a pan-European or even global scale. Their stories offer important lessons on technology-driven innovation, entrepreneurship, and broader socio – economic transformation in Europe, which currently (as many other parts of the world do) urgently needs to reboot its economic and innovation performance.

The list of New Europe 100 was created as part of a campaign, which aims at promoting innovation in Central and Eastern Europe by distinguishing those who are the engine of positive changes. Candidates for the New Europe 100 list could have been people and teams that use new technologies in their industries, and their activities have a positive impact on the economy, science, culture and the local communities. 2016 produced a list of outstanding challengers, leading world-class innovation from Central and Eastern Europe, this list celebrates their achievements, tells their stories and establishes a community of people whose work may change the world.

Autonomous driving software for self-driving cars, telemedicine company supporting women during pregnancy, animated sign language messenger, self-driving car software, ‘iKnife’ scalpel that can tell surgeons if tissue is cancerous – these are only some of the 2016 finalists of the third edition of the New Europe (NE) 100 list.
NE100 challengers create apps, run social initiatives, invent projects of usefulness in many life’s and living domains and technologies useful for people in Europe and around the world in business, in society and politics, in science and in media and culture. They share creative approach both to their projects, and the region in which they work – Central and Eastern Europe.

We want to tell a story of inspiring, creative and socially engaged innovators from Central and Eastern Europe. Our region can be proud of developers, business owners, scientists and cultural managers, who are now the driving force behind the innovation for the future” – says Wojciech Przybylski, president of the Res Publica foundation, initiator of the project.

The final one hundred was chosen from nominations submitted by Nominating Partners and general public. This year, the largest group of finalists represent individuals and teams working in business (54%), for society and in politics (29%). Other categories include science (10%), media and culture (7%).

It is great to see there are more and more cases of successful and innovative businesses that were born in Central and Eastern Europe. It shows how immense potential exists in our region and how new technologies and digital economy became not just a challenge, but rather a great opportunity for outstanding scientists, ambitious entrepreneurs and creative activists to transform their plans and ideas into reality” – said Marta Poślad, Head of Public Policy & Government Relations CEE Google.

The idea behind New Europe 100 was to show the potential and creativity of people from Central and Eastern Europe. It is also a networking platform, which helps challengers to meet and exchange. We believe this is the best way of supporting the advancement of fresh, innovative ideas, the progress of which benefits all of us in the region” – added Beata Jaczewska, Executive Director of the International Visegrad Fund.

New Europe 100 aims to continue supporting innovation in Central and Eastern Europe by identifying leaders of positive change. This year is the third edition of the project, organised by Res Publica, Google, the International Visegrad Fund and the Financial Times, in collaboration with many other institutions from Central and Eastern Europe. It’s about attracting central and eastern Europe’s brightest and best people as well as plus the organisations who are changing the region’s societies, politics or business environments and displaying innovation, entrepreneurialism and fresh approaches to prevailing problems.

The aim is to raise the profile of world-leading changemakers in emerging Europe and to build connections among those in the vanguard, says Financial Times.

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe are home to some of the world’s oldest universities, best inventions and it’s no surprise that efforts such as NE 100 are a potent focus on the value of nurturing progress and connectedness into the future. The American visionary inventor and entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, Eastern European born Nikola Tesla’s contemporary, once said “to have a great idea, have a lot of them”. The constant and abundant flow of ideas is a prerequisite for the emergence of technologies that can make a positive difference to society. As bastions of knowledge and learning, universities and research institutes are awash with curious minds that seek to develop creative solutions to present-day challenges. As hubs of creativity, universities and research organizations represent countless opportunities to forge intellectual potential into creative solutions. Hence Start-up companies and projects are a whole relatively new breed of economic promises that may hold solutions to quite a few problems today’s societies face, which include gainful employment in areas we hardly are able to dream of without our young innovators. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe have a strong academic tradition, are home to some of the world’s oldest universities dating back to 14th century. Countries in the region have a deep pool of talented and well-educated inventors and creators and a strong capacity for producing and expanding knowledge.

"Nearby Hostel" a Croatian budding idea for a new startup mobile or pop-up hostel, what a great idea Photo:

“Nearby Hostel” a Croatian
budding idea for a new startup
mobile or pop-up hostel, what a great idea

While, in general, Central and Eastern European countries have significantly boosted their innovative capacities, many within the business community are acutely aware that further progress is needed to ensure the region realises and benefits from its full innovative potential. Croatia, in particular has so much great talent and innovation drive in its people who, regretfully, due to either the lack of local support or the lack of investments in innovative ideas more often than not find themselves searching the world for a place outside of Croatia that will embrace and support their innovations. Start-up venture capital has been rather slow coming to Croatia, however, the World Bank did in 2015 announce some interesting movements in this area of development. The development objective of the World Bank Innovation and Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Project for Croatia is to strengthen risk capital financing for innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups in Croatia. The project comprises of three components. The first component, pilot venture capital fund will consist of both public and private financing, in a ratio consistent with European Union (EU) state aid regulation. It will be established with the purpose of providing financing, in the form of equity or quasi equity instruments, to innovative SMEs (including startups) with the locus of activity in Croatia. The second component, seed co-investment fund will strengthen the early stage investing industry in Croatia by providing smaller amounts of risk capital financing alongside investors in the market such as angel investors and incubators. The third component, technical assistance consists of following four sub-components: (i) global advisory network; (ii) capacity building and networking; (iii) monitoring and evaluation; and (iv) project management and audit.

A push for faster burning of red tape in Croatia to facilitate and aid faster small to medium business growth is still on the agenda and has been for decades. But, with each new government we get promised it’ll all go away and business will thrive, investments will pour in, startups will rise like mushrooms after rain. I personally would like to see more entries from Croatia in the New Europe 100 competitions and in others like it but for that to occur the new Croatian government will need to take a hard look into the incentives and supports it provides for young innovators on a daily basis.

The new government in Croatia keeps saying it wants to stop the “brain-drain” from Croatia; it wants to stop or slow down emigration of young people in particular. It would do well to see that closer and more effective collaboration between academia and business can help stem the outflow of skilled labour from the country. The current “brain drain” experienced is making it increasingly difficult for universities and businesses to retain the high-calibre individuals they require to enhance their capacities to generate high-value technologies. The link between technological development and economic growth is now firmly established throughout the world and Croatia needs to do much more in retaining its talent. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.,Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: