Saturday, 23 July 2022

American Billionaire Investing in Croatian-Irish Startup Fonoa

July the 23rd, 2022 - The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa is set to be richer following an investment from no less than an American billionaire linked to the likes of Snapchat and TikTok.

As Novac/Jutarnji/Bernard Ivezic writes, the Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa, which offers automated tax calculation services on a global level and has Spotify,, Uber and Zoom as clients, has received a 60 million euro investment. This is one of the ten largest investments in a startup by Croatian founders so far. The success is all the greater, because this is Fonoa's second investment round in just six months. In the first, the company collected an impressive 20.5 million dollars.

The investment in the Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa has been led by Coatue, a VC fund started by American billionaire Philippe Laffont, who is among the first investors in TikTok's parent company Bytedance, followed by Snapchat and Spotify. He was joined by the largest European B2B institutional investor Dawn Capital and one of the most successful European VCs, Index Ventures, as well as OMERS Ventures, FJ Labs and Moving Capital.

The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa was otherwise the first in the entire world to develop a cloud platform for the automation of tax calculations on a global level. This Croatian-Irish startup was started by the former leaders of Uber in Croatia - Davor Tremac, Filip Sturman and Ivan Ivankovic. Fonoa's platform allows companies to instantly, by connecting to their cloud platform, gain insight into the exact calculation of taxes in a certain country, and all this is done in real time.

Because of these possibilities, Fonoa promises its users not only speed, but also savings and an increase in the level of compliance with tax rules in a particular country.

Here in Croatia, for example, due to frequent changes in tax rules, as well as very complex tax legislation and accompanying regulations, it is often difficult for companies to enter the market. The Croatian market is small, and it is necessary to invest a lot in following these often cumbersome and frankly ridiculous regulations, so entering the market would not be profitable for some companies and thus would limit their market potential. In such cases, which are sadly commonplace, Fonoa becomes a useful tool.

Davor Tremac, the CEO and co-founder of Fonoa, says that they were helped by the fact that online shopping is booming and has been since the pandemic, so many of those who sell online are looking for the most efficient way to expand their businesses globally.

''Last year, we recorded a sevenfold increase in income. Since taxes are part of almost all online payment transactions, more and more companies are ready to switch to Fonoa's platform, and the value of online payment transactions is expected to reach 8.5 trillion dollars in 2022,'' says Tremac, explaining that with the development of their business, they noticed that a large number of companies wanting to reduce their operating costs and increase their levels of efficiency in the field of indirect tax management.

At the same time, they noticed that countries around the world were passing new regulations related to VAT, which leads to an increased demand for the tax compliance of companies. He emphasises that Fonoa provides the only tax software solution designed for use in the digital age.

''We make sure that companies pay the correct amount of taxes, that they're paid to the right place and at the right time, and they can devote themselves to their business. We're extremely glad that Coatue and other investors have supported our vision and are aware of the enormous opportunities that await us this year and in the coming years,'' says Tremac.

Lucas Swisher, a partner at Coatue Fund, says that regulatory compliance is essential for companies to expand internationally, and tax management, processing and filing are extremely complex processes.

''When we met Davor, Filip, Ivan and the rest of their team, we were taken aback by the simplicity and efficiency of Fonoa's platform, which turns an extremely complex process into something very simple and easily feasible. All of us at Coatue are excited to support Fonoa in scaling the platform and meeting the growing demand for solutions that enable tax compliance,'' says Swisher.

Hannah Seal, a partner at Index Ventures, says managing taxes is navigating the bureaucratic maze of a country and represents a real nightmare for anyone trying to build a business with customers around the world.

''The Croatian-Irish startup Fonoa makes it all very simple. Companies are aligned with existing regulations and don't have to deal with increasingly complex international taxes. This platform is an obvious choice for any digital company that operates outside the borders of its country,'' says Seal.

''We're really glad to be able to support the top team which make up Fonoa. I'm looking forward to working with Davor, Filip and Ivan to further attract outstanding talent and deliver technology to companies around the world,'' says Mutafchieva. Tremac says that in the next year to a year and a half, Fonoa plans to present some new products in its field of activities.

''In order to achieve this, over the last twelve months, the company has quintupled the number of employees to 140 people of 35 different nationalities in 20 countries around the world and this year it intends to close things with even more employees,'' concludes Tremac.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Colombian-Croatian Startup Minka Gets Enormous Investment

May the 2nd, 2022 - The Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, the head of which is a former ''Infobiper'' from the wildly successful Vodnjan-based company, has recently received a huge cash injection.

As Jutarnji/Novac/Bernard Ivezic writes, new startups have already started emerging from the rather remarkable company Infobip. A good example is the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, a fintech company which has just raised a huge 24 million US dollars in investments from two major investors, Tiger Global Management and Kaszek. In total, Minka has received 27.5 million dollars in investments so far.

Tiger Global Management is otherwise one of the largest and most active investors in startups. The assets of this American investment company are estimated at over 95 billion dollars, and its founder is New York billionaire Chase Coleman III. Kaszek, on the other hand, is the largest investment company in all of Latin America.

The Colombian-Croatian startup Mika is developing software to modernise the banking system. Its product is a cloud platform which bears the same name (Minka), and which functions like Lego bricks and enables the fast development of applications such as mobile wallets, loyalty programmes, clearing house settlement systems, and various types of infrastructure for central banks and digital banks themselves.

The Colombian-Croatian startup Minka allows both citizens and companies to exchange money between their bank accounts instantly, which, even here in Croatia, isn't yet a widespread standard.

Infobip as a starting point

In the background of Minka lies the much talked about blockchain technology, so its investment is also the largest in a blockchain startup from Croatian founders. Minka's partners are respectable, giant companies such as Google and Mastercard, and the latter is also its investor. Minka was jointly launched by Croatian Domagoj Rozic and Colombian Paola Sanchez. Rozic is the executive director, and Sanchez, who has extensive experience in finance, is the chief operative.

Domagoj Rozic was Infobip's main man for Latin America for almost three years, more precisely from 2013 to 2016. He ran a very important Infobip office in Colombia. He completed his education at MIOC, ie XV. Gymnasium in Zagreb, and then went on to study and graduate in computer science at FER. He started his career as an IT manager in the Control Bureau, then he was a training manager in the IT Centre Zagreb, a project manager in Adacta, and just before leaving for Colombia, he became a partner in Cognita.

He initially left Croatia back in 2011 when he took over the leading position of the British branch of the risk assessment company Drum Cussaca in Bogota. Two and a half years later, he moved to the local branch of Infobip, which us the first Croatian unicorn startup today. He started at Minka at the end of 2016, and the company formally introduces itself as a startup from Bogota, but is legally registered as a company in Delaware, USA.

The entire development of technology, as well as products for the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, takes place right here in Croatia. Formally, back in February this year, Rozic even registered the company Minka IT in Zavrtnica in the centre of the City of Zagreb, as a subsidiary of its American parent company. There is a support and sales team in Bogota, Colombia. The startup has a total of 30 employees.

Google has nothing but praise for this company 

Google Cloud states that the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka is a platform that allows financial institutions to quickly move to so-called open banking, claiming that through Minka, digital financial services can be developed in mere days, not years. Google Cloud itself states that the whole solution can be upgraded within 10 minutes and then live testing can begin within a single day. These are very bold statements from Google, because the development of financial applications is usually measured in months and years, which only goes to show the level that Minka has reached.

The Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, on the other hand, says they want to become an open banking standard for cash-based economies.

''In most such economies, payment and infrastructure is mostly focused on credit card processing, and most transactions take place through clearing houses and cash agents that use what are now rather outdated concepts. The development of new interfaces takes months and years and forces fintechs to spend most of their resources on overcoming this obstacle. In addition, the payment system in such economies is largely fragmented. Minka simplifies everything,'' they explained from the Colombian-Croatian startup.

The largest open banking project in all of Latin America

As an example of what this form of modernisation looks like, Domagoj Rozic pointed out the Colombian clearing house ACH Columbia, with which they realised the Transifiya project in partnership. The largest banks in Colombia are connected to it, and this new settlement system, which uses Minika's technology in the background, now allows access to up to 80 percent of Colombia's bank accounts. This means that thanks to Minka, almost all Colombians can send money from account to account in real time, without waiting for the clearing house, for example, to transfer funds between banks twice a day on weekdays.

''This is the largest open banking project in Latin America,'' Rozic said.

Here in the Republic of Croatia, the counterpart of ACH Columbia would be the Financial Agency (Fina). Across the EU, a similar initiative, but through regulations, is being pushed by the European Commission (EC). The EC has adopted the PSD2 standard, which forces European Union-based financial institutions to evolve towards open banking. This opened the space for an explosion of different Croatian fintechs, as well as for the entry of some great foreign players.

In Europe, most work is being done on standardisation in this area within associations such as Open Banking UK and the Berlin Group, and in Croatia, recently more and more startups like Minka are exploring the opportunities they have gained and offering some brand new services - not only financial ones but also, for example, identity and digital signing services.

Finance as the first association

For Croatian startups, Colombia is a pretty decent place. Although the country itself has a reputation for a completely different industry and for being a politically very turbulent region, for Croatian startups, this South American country is best known for its financial industry. Infobip has built a strong presence over in Latin America thanks in large part to its Bogota branch. However, it should be remembered that the second Croatian unicorn, the Rimac Group, found its first investor in Colombia, at a time when no one in Croatia wanted to invest in Mate Rimac's business and barely even gave him a second glance.

Bogota’s business angel, Franck Christian Kanayet Yepes, despite the entry of major investors into Rimac’s business over the past few years, has remained active within the group and is today chairman of its supervisory board.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Monday, 25 April 2022

Split Startup Alpha Sagittarius Creates Dual-Purpose Drone

April the 25th, 2022 - The Split startup Alpha Sagittarius, made up of a group of talented students, has created drones for both military and civilian purposes. They say they've been receiving inquiries ever since the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, eight students from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Split (FESB) who make up the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius, have designed and created the VECTOR V-3M unmanned system under the Aero-Navis Systems brand, part of which is an unmanned aerial vehicle of modular design and intended for dual use, ie for civil and military purposes.

Modular construction

"One socially useful purpose for drones is search and rescue, the control of land and maritime traffic, fire control, and the delivery of emergency medical supplies such as vaccines to remote locations. The drone is commercially used in the industry for the supervision and inspection of buildings, mines, power plants, gas pipelines, transmission lines, various gas emissions, etc. These are all activities in which unmanned systems are already used,'' explained CEO and Chief Engineer, Djani Vrsalovic.

The system also includes communication equipment, control equipment, mission management equipment, transport and service equipment and a launcher. Their drone can fly for three hours in a row, while with the multirotor configuration, it is able to fly for 30-40 minutes, and its range is defined by its own communication systems.

HD images are transmitted up to 50 kilometres, and the control and telemetry lasts for approximately 100 kilometres. The Split startup Alpha Sagittarius' drone is autonomous in performing various tasks, meaning it can be programmed to perform some tasks entirely independently.

“Our unmanned aerial vehicle is in the shape of flying wings, but there's the possibility of mounting modules with rotors on the wings, which turn it into a VTOL drone (an aircraft that can take off and land vertically).

We're planning a third version where the wings can be replaced with two multirotor modules on each side, each with four rotors. As such, the drone would become a classic multirotor. It's also possible to change the load, depending on the type of mission that needs to be performed. This gives a modular construction of the system that then provides great flexibility in use.

For example, let's say one journey requires a lot of hovering, vertical flights at short range for the purpose of the detailed survey of buildings or bridges, while the next day, there may be a need to record or take something to let's say... Vis, using fixed wings that provide a long range but need a landing surface and takeoff. VTOL would then be in the middle in terms of its characteristics. The system is available on the market with the drone in the basic version with a fixed wing. We're now nearing the end of the development of the VTOL version, the multirotor is conceptually complex, but it's what naturally follows in terms of finalisation. We also worked a lot on the communication systems and the control systems. We've never done a formal presentation to the market and a launch, but we've started to offer it to potential buyers,'' explained Vrsalovic.

The Split startup Alpha Sagittarius procures materials and equipment from all over the world, and they have experienced disruptions in the supply and production chains on their own proverbial skin, meaning some components are harder to come by. The technology is entirely theirs - they designed, manufactured, tested and fly it themselves. In addition to their drone, they also worked on the communication themselves, as well as the control station and much more.

Complex regulations remain dominant

According to Vrsalovic, the Croatian regulations on unmanned aerial vehicles are complex, as they are across the territory of the European Union. The rules, added Djani, are constantly changing because the market is also changing, technology is advancing rapidly and legislators need to keep up with it all, which means constant dynamics and alterations when it comes to drone regulations.

"There aren't many drone producers here in Croatia, so the agencies don't have a clear path when it comes to what, when, how and why. It's somewhat clear for drone users, but it's a little harder for manufacturers. Certification is a special challenge for BVLOS operations, which means operations out of sight when the pilot doesn't see the aircraft, but is operating it only remotely, and at long distances,'' he explained.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, interest in such systems has grown globally, we have witnessed the crash of an unmanned aircraft in the centre of Zagreb, and Vrsalovic says that they have already had several inquiries about the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius' unmanned system outside of the borders of the Republic of Croatia.

"It's difficult to reach state services, agencies and ministries here on our market. There's a lot of hesitation when it comes to accessing some advanced technologies and startup companies are struggling to get to the necessary government services. During the Homeland War, Croatia was one of the pioneers in the use of unmanned systems, but we forgot this technology as time passed and we didn't use our acquired knowledge. Now we've started from the very beginning in some areas,'' stated the director of the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Big Croatian IT Names Invest in Longevity Food Tech Startup Cidrani

April the the 9th, 2022 - The Croatian longevity food tech startup Cidrani has received investments from some big Croatian IT names, including the person behind the wildly successful Photomath.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian longevity food tech startup Cidrani recently presented a new investment round worth 190,000 euros within the Bird incubator, under the auspices of which it has been operating for the last year.

New investors in Cidrani are some very well-known Croatian IT and business names, including the founders of Five, Luka Abrus and Viktor Marohnic, the founder of Photomath Damir Sabor, private equity and venture capital investment expert Mirna Marovic, financial expert specialising in the IT industry and EU grants Tajana Barancic and serial entrepreneurs and business angels Maja and Jonathan Cooper.

Cidrani has imposed a unique concept of organic fermented micronutrients for the health of the digestive microbiome which, if taken as a daily ritual over a long period of time, significantly reduce inflammatory processes in the body and contribute to healthier longevity.

They want to conquer the American market

In terms of revenue, Cidrani is growing at an annual rate of eight times, and their goal is to become the top longevity company in the world. They were the first to introduce personalisation and a monthly subscription to fermented micro-beverages, and in addition to numerous private users, more than ten companies have already included their employees in the community of Cidrani enthusiasts of healthy digestion.

"This year we intend to enter all European markets and enter the large US market. We plan to participate in as many as five of the strongest food fairs, and we're launching our own scientific clinical study, which will further confirm the impact of fermented micro-beverages on general health. We're also working intensively on the development of artificial intelligence (AI), the foundation of a virtual assistant that will support our customers on the path to health and longevity,'' said co-founder Bruno Balen.

Investors Luka Abrus, Mirna Marovic, Tajana Barancic, Maja Jelisic Cooper and the co-founder of Cidrani Nika Pintar revealed at a recently held panel some of their personal and professional reasons behind why they decided to invest in Cidrani, and also talked about the general principles of investing and attracting investments.

The investment of 190,000 euros from some big Croatian IT and business names in Cidrani represents the so-called ''bridge round'' of this progressive startup, which is announcing a new investment cycle at the end of the summer, in order to conquer the US market and further develop machine learning algorithms.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Croatian SeaCras Among 16 Startups to Pitch in Brussels for Investment

March the 24th, 2022 - The Croatian SeaCras startup is going to be among sixteen startups to pitch for a significant investment in the Belgian capital of Brussels.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian SeaCras startup has made its way into the competition of 1000 startups to the finals of the elite BlueInvest 2022 programme, which will take place in Brussels on March the 28th, 2022. It is the only Croatian startup in the field of the blue economy that was selected to join the group of sixteen startups at BlueInvest Day 2022, where they will pitch for a significant investment.

Today, coastal waters are the areas where the most extensive activities of the blue economy take place and are placed under the greatest anthropogenic stress. In order to meet the ambitious criteria set by the European Commission (EC) under the Water Framework Directive and the European Green Plan, scalable, low-carbon digital solutions that monitor water and sea quality are needed.

Such a solution was developed by the Croatian SeaCras startup, alumni of ZICER's Startup Factory acceleration programme.

Economic development and the conservation of marine ecosystems

The Croatian SeaCras startup is one of the winners of Startup Factory 2021, and for the past year, this young team of scientists has been enjoying success after success. The latest among them is entering the finals of the prestigious BlueInvest 2022 programme, which will once again bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, corporations and all important stakeholders in the blue economy sector in the Belgian and EU capital of Brussels.

The blue economy places great emphasis on sustainability in terms of balancing economic development and conserving marine ecosystems. Aquaculture, tourism, maritime transport, wastewater discharge and biodiversity are just some of the segments involved.

From Startup Factory to BlueInvest Day

“After Startup Factory, we joined BlueInvest Readiness Assistance, a programme established by the European Commission to further develop the blue economy. It is an exclusive mentoring programme for startups and high-potential projects that have innovative and sustainable solutions for the blue economy. SeaCras' ​​analysis of satellite data plays a key role in the blue economy thanks to the possibilities provided by the high spatio-temporal monitoring of coastal sea quality. The fact that we entered the programme of the sixth cycle of BlueInvest as the only project from Croatia is a huge success. Given that each company had its own individual mentor, we had no insight into the quality or dynamics of the work of any of the other teams. At the end of the programme, we delivered the achieved key goals. This was followed by an evaluation of the goals and business plan by the PricewaterhouseCoopers team leading the BlueInvest programme,'' explained Tomislav Stolar, the co-owner and marketing director of the Croatian SeaCras startup.

They were selected among an elite group consisting of sixteen companies in the field of blue economy and the four best companies in Europe in the field of Ocean Observation.

"We also received an invitation to participate in the BlueInvest Day 2022, which is being held in Brussels in front of the most relevant private investors and representatives of European investment funds specific to the blue economy. In the shortlist for the sixteen companies that received the invitation for BlueInvest Day 2022, there were over 200 companies, and in the wider circle there were over 1000 of them! If we put modesty to the side, this is an unprecedented success for a Croatian company in the field of blue economy,'' Stolar pointed out.

An impressive win at Startup Factory 2020

It has been a little over one year since the Croatian SeaCras startup received 100,000 kuna in the finals of ZICER's Startup Factory 2020 as one of the winning teams.

“Startup Factory meant a lot to us for several reasons. Through participating in the programme, we gained more know-how and raised awareness of what's needed to achieve a successful startup story. Considering that we were one of the winners, the SeaCras brand gained recognition across the Republic of Croatia. In addition to that, with financial support, we've developed a SeaCras development strategy,'' said Stolar.

Successful projects are backed by successful teams of people. The SeaCras team consists of experts, namely Dr. Mario Spadina, Dr. Stipe Lukin, M.Sc. chem. Tomislav Stolar, M.Sc. psych. Drazen Nikolic and mag. oec. Davor Blazencic.

A vision of the future and a message for the wider Croatian tourism sector

"We have the opportunity to secure a large investment and we certainly don't intend to miss out on it. In addition, we recently signed the first commercial contracts on the Adriatic, starting with Mljet National Park, and we look forward to providing top services. We're receiving very positive reactions and feedback from all sides and we're in contact with several other clients,'' noted Stolar, pointing out that the motivation of the Croatian SeaCras startup is to be an example of the implementation of the European Green Plan in Croatia.

“Within the digital and green transition and sustainable development in the Republic of Croatia, SeaCras offers added value that has great potential for the Croatian tourism sector. For example, data show that highlighting the excellent quality of the sea brings a 5 percent increase in the number of guests,'' Stolar stated.

They say that in five years, they will see themselves in the role of market leaders in their market segment and intend to do business across all Mediterranean countries.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Cro Startup: Croatian Startups Finally Get Their Own Association

March the 9th, 2022 - Croatian startups, of which there are more and more over the last few years, now finally have their very own association - Cro Startup.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, the Republic of Croatia is the only European Union (EU) member state that doesn't, at least until now, have a proper startup association. Heidi Chenan, the co-founder and director of the airt startup, was aware of this when she represented Croatia at the Startup Nations Standard of Excellence Declaration.

Therefore, at the initiative of CISEx, important stakeholders of the Croatian startup community gathered and launched the first umbrella national startup association, Cro Startup, which was proudly presented recently at the Bird Incubator, with the aim of improving the Croatian startup ecosystem as a whole.

The exact number of Croatian startups is actually unknown

They say from the newly formed Cro Startup association that they want to help anyone who already has a startup or wants to do so through tips and experiences and connecting them here on the the domestic market as well as abroad.

“None of the existing associations is focused exclusively on startups, nor do they really include startups from across all areas and industries. The Croatian startup scene is experiencing a kind of momentum. In less than two years, we've become a country with two unicorns (Infobip and Rimac Automobili), we're witnessing a large number of startups that are stringing together ''overnight'' successes and the almost daily emergence of even more new startups. However, everyone works and succeeds not because of the supportive environment in Croatia, but in spite of it. The goal of the EU is to position itself as a driving force for startups, so that we can reach the levels of America and Asia. That is why we concluded that Croatian startups deserve such an association,'' said Cenan.

Although it isn't known exactly how many startups there are operating here in Croatia at the moment, the new Cro Startup association pointed out that the goal is to attract the entire ecosystem, not just technology companies and a number of companies and institutions such as incubators, accelerators and of course investment funds.

Davor Runje, president of CISEx, emphasised that startups aren't just all about software companies and that not all technology companies are necessarily startups, which is one of the reasons why he supported the Cro Startup initiative in the first place.

A brand new VC fund and larger assets

Removing regulatory barriers, pooling resources and knowledge, strengthening the startup community through promotion, connecting and exchanging knowledge and experiences, and international positioning through mapping and promoting the Croatian startup scene to foreign investors and global events are some of the key areas and focuses of the Cro Startup association.

The Board of Directors consists of Hajdi Cenan (airt), President of the Association, Srdjan Kovacevic (Orqa), Nikola Pavesic (Infobip), Bozidar Pavlovic (Jackie agency), Maja Brkljacic (AlgebraLAB), Mario Francesevic (CISEx/SeekandHit), Darko Jovisic (Robotiq. ai), Marijana Sarolic Robic (MSR Law Office).

“A Croatian startup is equally a global startup. Startups are scalable companies that can replicate business models without any problems almost anywhere, globally, and their headquarters is less important,'' said Sarolic Robic.

The event was also attended by Vedran Blagus and Stevica Kuharski from the leading regional VC fund - South Central Ventures - which announced recently that it is launching a new SCV Technology Fund III and increasing its assets by 70 million euros. Institutional and private investors have also invested in the new fund, the largest being the European Investment Fund (EIF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Triglav Osiguranje (Insurance) and BTC, while the Croatian investors include Five and Nenad Bakic.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Split Startup UniCompoST Treats Biowaste, Creates Fertiliser for Plants

February the 21st, 2022 - The Split startup UniCompoST has created a system for treating biowaste and turning it into fertiliser for growing plants.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, organised by the Croatian Association for Creativity and Innovation (HUKI), the global Social Impact Award (SIA) programme will be held in Croatia for the third time.

The programme is implemented in more than 15 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa and includes more than 8,000 students and young people a year, and details about applications will be known soon. One of the winners of last year's edition of the SIA programme is the Split startup UniCompoST, which develops products that combine biowaste treatment and the home cultivation of plants, such as C-Eco for Home.

As one of the founders, Zvonimir Jukic, explained, the Split startup UniCompoST was created on the basis of a project while studying at the Faculty of Chemical Technology in Split. From the very beginning, the focus has been on management, biodegradable waste and the desire to encourage the population to process biowaste in their own households through technological solutions tailored to end users.

The team consists of eight members who cover everything necessary for the development of the startup into a sustainable business entity; from business and operational development, marketing and product development to education and customer support. They develop startups in their free time because they are all employees in various companies and institutions, but they share the vision to "turn" something into a company to which they will all dedicate themselves and in which everyone will find employment.

“The goal is to develop a sales network that will enable the availability of products throughout the Republic of Croatia, and also abroad. Next month, the devices will be installed in five educational institutions of different levels in Split and the city's surroundings through the project ''Raising awareness of the role of composting'' implemented by the Sunce Split Association. This will be a good indicator of the interest of one of our target groups - educational institutions.

The processing of biowaste at its place of origin achieves many benefits, both directly for the user as an individual and for the community as a whole. For example, if the household cycle closes, less biowaste will be disposed of over time, fewer containers will be needed in public areas, less biowaste will end up in landfills, and utilities themselves will need smaller waste collection cycles.

Collectively, the move will reduce the greenhouse effect, eliminate soil and groundwater pollution, and cumulatively reduce the environmental and carbon footprints of users and the community in general. Therefore, in the development of the C-Eco for Home device, we've added the function of indoor plant cultivation, precisely to enable the user to close the loop in the circulation of substances in everyday life.

The idea is for the user to process biowaste, get organic fertiliser, use it in plant cultivation, and consume the fruits of that cultivation (cultivation is adapted to mostly leafy plants). C-Eco for Home has two variations - a model for schools that is primarily educational in nature and the functionality of which satisfies many educational outcomes in vocational subjects such as nature, biology and chemistry.

The second variation is intended for households, it's also educational in nature but with a higher volume of processing that allows the household to really eliminate biowaste as a fraction of waste. Both models are based on the use of effective microorganisms whose use doesn't create unpleasant odors during processing. The product comes in a starter pack that consists of the initial amount of effective microorganisms, sowing substrate, organic plant nutrition products and selected plant seeds,'' explained the Split startup UniCompoST's founder Zvonimir Jukić.

Product testing with test users and collecting feedback is the phase they're currently in, and those interested can try out the device in the showroom of the Krizevci Climate Innovation Laboratory.

They also launched the project "UniCompoST Classroom" funded by the European Solidarity Force, which aims to develop an innovative programme of environmentally friendly learning for primary and secondary schools to educate students about a comprehensive waste management system in a practical and fun way and strengthen educational institutions in environmentally oriented teaching.

“Through this project, we're also developing a website where various interactive video educations will be free and available to students and the general population. Through this website we want to generate and gather more knowledge in the field of waste management, the circular economy, sustainable development and environmental protection - The site will be open by the end of February,'' announced Jukic.

He believes that people today are increasingly aware of climate change and waste management, which is manifested through many formal and informal initiatives and organisations aimed at launching certain processes and changing the community image on climate and waste.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Innovative Croatian CannaPlast in Finals of European Competition

February the 3th, 2022 - The innovative Croatian CannaPlast idea has found itself quite rightly in the finals of a large European competition as the only entry from all of Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, Krizevci locals Mario Jembrek, Luka Heljic and Valentino Gudlin, founded the startup CannaPlast back in November last year, and their main idea is the production of hemp plastic.

Although the Croatian CannaPlast startup is only a few months old, they are the only Croatian representative to compete for the top prize among the top 19 candidates in the European Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus - 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards, where European startups present sustainable and inclusive climate change solutions and answers to pressing environmental challenges.

“Our expectations are high, our idea is very disruptive with the potential to directly and significantly help in the fight against climate change. We looked at the ideas of other teams and they're really great, but we believe that our team will be the winner. Once we get the necessary financial injection, we'll go on to develop a prototype. We're in very close cooperation with the company Bio Blok, which is engaged in the production of building materials from hemp, and has ambitions to expand its product range. With their help, we intend to place our ''plastic'' straws in cafes and beach bars on the coast, and if everything goes according to plan, we'll do it just in time for the tourist season. Bio Blok could also help us a lot in processing only the stem and making capsules. In addition, we intend to engage in crowdfunding in order to provide sufficient funds for the sustainable continuation of business,'' explained Mario Jembrek.

Last November, the Croatian CannaPlast startup won first place for their idea at the 2nd Krizevci Hackathon entitled "Local startup, global sustainability" on sustainable and green startup ideas, organised by the Youth Council of Krizevci and the energy cooperative KLIK. The hackathon was the reason for founding the startup in the first place.

“Our startup is currently in its very early stage of business. Our first goal is to make a prototype of a ''plastic’''capsule and ''plastic'' straws and glasses, as a demonstration product through which the customer would get an idea of ​​the quality of the material and how it feels and sits in the hand, ie whether it has the same characteristics as real plastic does. We're currently mostly involved in promotion and networking - from people from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb who help us develop the science behind making hemp plastic, to enterprises and business people who can provide us with the necessary funds to establish a production line. It will also be important to change the legal framework on what materials are allowed for packaging,'' said Jembrek, who works as an electrical engineer for solar power projects.

Heljic has many years of experience in developing business on foreign markets and has recently been in charge of developing sustainable construction through their construction section in the Cooperative for Ethical Financing. Gudlin is a student at the Faculty of Agriculture in Krizevci, and Jembrek says that his knowledge of plants, especially hemp, gives the Croatian CannaPlast startup the necessary technical and scientific foundations for the development of their ideas.

Their target customers are plastic bottle manufacturers, such as Atlantic Grupa (Group), Jamnica and Coca Cola, to which they want to offer their hemp capsules, which they will be able to use with their existing machinery.

“This would require very little investment in equipment modernisation, and will bring with it significant benefits in terms of reducing plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Our solution would thus be available to the general public in any store, and would function identically to plastic with a very important difference - our bottles would be CO2 negative and biodegradable,'' concluded Mario Jembrek.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Monday, 31 January 2022

Croatian Startups Create Glasses for Deaf to "See" Words They Can't Hear

January the 31st, 2022 - Croatian startups have come up with an incredible idea - the development of special smart glasses which allow the deaf and hard of hearing to ''see'' the words they're unable to hear.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, among the global companies that presented their technology solutions in Las Vegas at the world's largest consumer electronics fair - Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there were several Croatian representatives among more than 2,000 companies from across 160 countries.

In addition to Iron Bull, Orqa, Sportreact, Codelab and Zuluhood, two Croatian startups created in Novska at the Pismo Business Incubator - Grow and Hiroma Design - presented their innovations and products, as well as their further business plans.

"We want to achieve our goal - to help deaf people see all of the words they can't hear," said Josipa and Kristijan Bencek, who officially launched the Grow startup two years ago after completing their gaming training at the Pismo Business Incubator. They developed a prototype of VOICEE smart AR glasses for the deaf and hard of hearing, which they presented at EES Hearing at the recently held CES in the US.

"These are glasses that generate sound into text and print it in real time onto the lenses of the glasses in the form of subtitles or subtitles. When you look through these glasses, you feel like you’re watching a foreign movie. We've been researching and developing VOICEE for the last two years. We worked on the development in collaboration with deaf people, associations, as well as with hardware development experts. It's a very extensive and complex project. We currently have a functional prototype, but we're still working on improving it every day. We'll soon launch a Kickstarter campaign so that our second prototype can be released on the market,'' revealed Josipa Bencek.

Presenting the product among the largest technology manufacturers in Las Vegas was a significant experience for the Croatian startup Grow, which, as Josipa said, motivated them to present their product to the best of their ability, as well as to network and find potential partners for their further work.

"Regardless of the technology presented at CES, there was really great interest in our smart glasses. Continuous visitors around our exhibition space soaked up our every word. We were a little surprised ourselves, but it gave us a spring in our step and an incentive to do more work. We stayed in touch with some of those people and we believe that some of them were also our potential investors,'' said Josipa.

A wave of positive change

Grow is based on gaming, but also products that are related to gaming, and aren't exclusively games. Josip and Kristijan swam into the often challenging entrepreneurial waters with the desire to start a wave of positive changes in their environment and to prove that even in challenging times - they can still achieve what they want.

The support of Novska's Pismo incubator was important for them, where they had access to mentors, various workshops for improving entrepreneurship and better networking. Through the Crown project organised by the Sisak-Moslavina County Development Agency with partners from cross-border cooperation, Grow won the award for one of the best entrepreneurial ideas.

"When we talk about games, we're based mostly on augmented reality, or AR. Given today's ubiquity of technology, we use games for educational purposes, as entertainment, but also for the promotion of certain products and companies. The success of the games in these fields has been proven many times not only by us, but also by trends from outside Croatia. In addition to games, we also offer gaming education. We educate children and adults on how to produce video games and introduce them to the gaming industry. We've developed education in two fields. The first is programming, where students learn the basics of programming and the use of programming tools that are adapted to their age group. The other field is graphics. Participants in this training learn how to create graphics, animations or models that are used in the production of games, so they can implement their own ideas into the game and thus completely personalise it,'' explained Bencek.

Of the projects related to gaming, their educational game for Lonjsko polje with an emphasis on indigenous animals stood out the most. There are two of them in the team, Josipa and Kristijan, but they're also cooperating with associations and experts from various fields, and with the increase in the volume of work, they expect employment to begin shortly.

Their clients come from various fields of business, and so far they have worked for A1 Telekom/Telecom, Hrvatska posta/Croatian post, Coding Giants, the Simora agency, and Lonjsko polje itself. They are also cooperating with some foreign companies and Croatian franchises, and they believe that there will be more because they are still young in the market.

"This year has just begun, but we've started it in full swing. With education, games and VOICEE, we expect this year to be even more successful in business than last year. Our next big goal is the success of the Kickstarter campaign, and our further steps are focused on the successful completion of the projects we're working on and even more successful agreements on new projects. We also hope that we will be recognsed by foreign investors and with our personal development we'll start the development of new people in our community,'' concluded Josipa Bencek.

When it comes to other Croatian startups, Stefan and Mateja Vedrina founded the Hiroma Design startup three years ago, in which they create video games, 3D projections and augmented and virtual reality applications. They especially stood out with their educational application for children, Moopies, on the topic of waste sorting and environmentally positive behaviour, which they presented at CES.

"It's true that children today spend a lot of time in front of screens, but in our application we have a solution to this problem. The focus of the Moopies project is an educational application for children in which children learn without even being aware of it. The innovation of our product is that we put the child in the position of a teacher, not a student as is the practice in our competition. Moopies are cute little monsters that fall to planet Earth, and a child embarks on a learning adventure with one of them. The child, along with a Moopy, then learns about the knowledge of our planet like maths, foreign languages and colours. As the Moopy learns, it evolves. When downloading the app, the parent determines how long their child will play the game.

After this period, Moopy, with whom the child is currently playing, goes to sleep and they can continue the game only the next day. In addition, the application will be accompanied by content that is thematically related to the application, ie merchandise; soft toys, a catalog with pictures, tablet pens, and T-shirts,'' Vedrina explained.

Hardworking and ambitious Croatian startups

They added that the reactions of visitors at CES gave them additional motivation and self-confidence, and they were approached by numerous distributors, potential associates and investors.

“We're already working with some distributors to distribute our merchandise. We received some great feedback and interest from all age groups and occupations. The visitors were also delighted because the application uses augmented reality so that 3D models of the Moopies can be seen through the screen of the device above the thumbnails in the album,'' pointed out Stefan Vedrina.

He and his wife Mateja decided to venture into the world of Croatian startups after completing a six-month training session in video game production - Unity and Blender - in order to move more easily in the foreign and domestic markets of the gaming industry. Prior to that, Stefan completed his studies at the Technical Polytechnic in Zagreb, while Mateja received her Master's degree in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts, and switched from traditional sculptures to digital ones. Today, Stefan is the main programmer at Hiroma Design, and Mateja is the main 3D/2D artist.

Although the two of them are the only employees, they're working with eight other experts on their current Moopies project, and as the project is extensive, they plan to hire more people to complete the necessary staffing for further development. So far, their focus has been mainly on the domestic market, but they are increasingly expanding beyond the borders of Croatia, where, as they pointed out, they are becoming more and more recognisable.

Their clients are mostly cities, institutions and associations, but they also have a few private clients in the form of companies. At the end of last year, they agreed on work related to the production of video games and augmented reality applications that will be used in some cities in Croatia.

For more on Croatian startups, check out Made in Croatia.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Filip Koprcina Runs Startup Aimed at Lessening Climate Change Consequences

November the 20th, 2021 - Young Croat Filip Koprcina runs a startup which has the primary aim of lessening the dire consequences of climate change, which is as much of a threat now as ever.

As Lucija Spiljak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Filip Koprcina has always been interested in renewable energy sources and environmental protection, and he decided to act strongly on this issue. This 25-year-old Croat runs a successful startup called Energy Shift, a platform that allows people to invest and co-own solar power plants. contribute to the environment and generate revenue. He wanted, as he says, to make a change here in Croatia and the European Union, and then on a global level.

“People have the opportunity to make a profit of 10-15 percent per year while reducing their CO2 emissions. We currently have more than 1000 European citizens who have expressed their interest in investing more than 15 million kuna into solar energy. I used European youth programmes and through Erasmus for young entrepreneurs I worked in Ukraine for three months with a company that installs solar panels. There I learned how the whole process of installing solar panels works, how to install panels and a few so-called ''tips & tricks'' of the energy business.  For the past 12 months, I've volunteered in Cyprus through the European Solidarity Force (ESF), with the aim of raising awareness of sustainable development goals,'' said Filip Koprcina, who is currently the EU Climate Pact Ambassador.

For his platform, Filip received the European Union Sustainable Energy Award for the democratisation of solar energy ownership, in the Youth Energy category.

''Back in May this year, we received an initial investment from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) through their Digital venture programme. We're currently negotiating with several international investors about the next round of financing. We want to open new markets and expand throughout Europe,'' revealed Filip Koprcina.

He says that many citizens can install solar panels on the roof of their house, but they can't be very competitive in terms of earnings due to the current Croatian laws and those beyond the country's borders. Despite those obstacles, this young man has a vision and an idea of ​​how to stimulate the Croatian economy and create new green jobs in Croatia through investments in renewable energy.

''The return on investment varies from country to country. It depends on the general price of electricity, the amount of sunshine that the country/location gets, but in general the return is between 15-25 percent. For example, in Croatia we have 220-250 sunny days, while in Cyprus there are typically 320-340 sunny days a year, while the price of electricity is twice as high as it is here in Croatia. At the moment, there's no discussion about the possibilities and cost-effectiveness of solar energy in the first place. Last year, Croatia imported 40 percent of the electricity we consumed, and only 1 percent of the energy we produce comes from solar power plants. We also import oil and coal and gas, which we need for the production of electricity, and we allocate over 12 billion kuna a year for that alone. Solar energy is also a fantastic investment in the long run because solar panels produce energy and have guarantees of 20-30 years, while many solar panels produce energy even after 40 years,'' Filipa Koprcina pointed out.

He also noted that Croatia hasn't invested significantly in energy projects in the last 30 years, and that HEP's profit goes to the state budget instead of, for example, to new investments and capacities.

"Croatia is an energy-dependent country. We import about 50 percent of our energy worth up to 12 billion kuna. Of that, we import 100 percent of our coal, 90 percent of our oil, 70 percent of our gas and about 40 percent of our electricity. Croatia has almost no industry, and, according to Worldometers, our share in global greenhouse gas emissions is 0.05 percent, while in the EU we have the 4th lowest carbon footprint of all member states.

During the COP in Glasgow, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced the cessation of coal energy production at the Plomin thermal power plants by 2033 at the latest, which will further reduce our CO2 emissions. Currently, 75 percent of the carbon emissions in the EU come from energy production and use, while the EU as a whole is dependent on energy imports, mostly oil and gas. The EU imports 73 percent of its oil and 15 percent of its gas, and the largest supplier of all is Russia, which can geopolitically influence EU policies.

That's why Croatia has started the LNG terminal project on Krk, and that's why the entire EU wants to become an energy-neutral bloc. One proposal I made as a member of the Technical Working Group at the UN High-Level Dialogue, and I'd now like to give it to the Croatian Government, is to abolish the tax on investments in renewable energy (VAT + customs duties on equipment imports). This would immediately reduce the investment costs of companies and individuals by 25-30 percent, and would increase the return on investment, thereby simply increasing investment in the energy sector,'' explained Filip Koprcina.

This energy-conscious entrepreneur wants Energy Shift to become the leading platform through which individuals invest in the world’s long-term renewable energy, to contribute to the energy transition. In addition, he has a great desire for his company to become a new Croatian ''unicorn''.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

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