Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Mate Rimac & Dario Zurovec, a Case Study of Politician Entrepreneur Harmony

September 29, 2021 - The entrepreneurial beacon of Sveta Nedelja lit up the Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 conference in Zagreb yesterday, as Mate Rimac and Mayor Dario Zurovec gave a tantalising view of Croatia 2.0.

It is two years since the introduction of a new conference to the busy Zagreb congress calendar. Poduzetnicki Mindset - Entrepreneurial Mindset - brought together some of the top entrepreneurial names in Croatia to share their stories, visions, and failures. In the front row of the audience where not the usual politicians who left after the opening speeches, but students and high-school kids with entrepreneurial aspirations, looking to learn from the very best in Croatia. 

It was one of those rare days in Croatia day to day life (Croatia, the tourist destination is another animal) which dripped in positivity and hope. Attendees left feeling inspired, with so many success stories despite the realities of operating within the bureaucratic confines of the Croatian business reality.

The most high-profile speaker back in 2019 was Mate Rimac, whose entertaining presentation focused in part on how Slovakia built up an entire automotive industry, which today exports more than Croatia's total exports. You can read a report of his presentation in Lessons from Slovakia: Mate Rimac on Croatian Car Industry Potential.  

A lot has happened in the Rimac story since then, including plenty of good news for the Croatian automotive industry, as high-profile investments from the likes of Porsche and Hyundai culminated with the acquisition of Bugatti. 

Rimac was back at Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 yesterday, one of a number of star speakers, who also included Silvio Kutic, co-founder of Croatia's very own first unicorn - Infobip. A full recap of an illuminating day can be found here. You can also watch the entire conference on the YouTube video below.

Rimac shared the stage this year with Mayor of Sveta Nedelja, Dario Zurovec, who has been trailblazing in pioneering ways of his own since entering the political scene as Mayor of Sveta Nedelja in 2016. Having won just 22% of the first-round vote in 2016 before going on to win in the second round, Dario Zurovec win a landslide victory in 2021 with a stunning 64.5% of the vote. 

And no wonder. His business-friendly approach was paying early dividends, even without the Rimac factor. In an age of emigration, unemployment and depopulation, the population of the small town outside Zagreb has grown 10% since 2011, there are 20% more jobs since 2017, full transparency in local administration, free bus travel for all was introduced last year, and local taxes slashes to encourage more businesses to move to the town. It is little surprise that Sveta Nedelja has been voted the best medium-sized town for the economy three years in a row, or one of the top 5 places to live in Croatia

Mate Rimac and Dario Zurovec took part in a discussion moderated by Hrvoje Balen called The Leadership Ecosystem - Building Blocks of a Sustainable Future. It was, for me at least, the highlight of a very stimulating day. 

The presence of Zurovec at the conference at all was telling of his political mindset. Apart from one MEP, he was the only politician who was present. His declaration that politicians should be there to serve the people sounded a little strange in the Croatian context, and the disconnect between entrepreneurs and the state has been one of the ongoing themes of the conference presentations over the last three years, although several speakers declared that things were slowly getting better. 


Rimac and Zurovec are clearly glad to have found each other. Friends for some time, Rimac revealed that he has been talking about building his campus even before he became mayor. The campus was one thing, the expanding business another, both of which provide challenges for the local administration to provide the necessary infrastructure and services to meet this increased demand. 

Rimac explained that there are now no less than 45 different nationalities working with him in Sveta Nedelja. With the population growth and with more families making the move, there is a growing demand for more schools and kindergartens which now take up a significant part of the Sveta Nedelja budget.  Rimac currently employs 1,500 people, the vast majority in Sveta Nedelja, but the campus will bring an additional 2,500 people. 

"This campus is a great asset, the largest private investment that has taken place in this part of Croatia, if not beyond," said Zurovec. "And I see only pluses here. The best protection against unemployment is to have a place to work. Some 20 years ago, opposite that campus, there was a company where my father worked, unfortunately, during privatisation, the company went bankrupt, and my goal was always to return to that part of entrepreneurial activity. I am glad that I had the good fortune to come across Mato Rimac and that positive energy that he wanted to invest something. That is courage."

Accommodation, schools, facilities will need to be found for this new influx of people, which brings with it both challenges and opportunities to develop parts of the town to meet that new demand. With a dynamic private sector and a progressive local administration, the development of the building blocks of an ecosytem for a sustainable future are very much in place in Sveta Nedelja. Visionary leadership from the public and private sector working in harmony for the people and the development of the economy does not sound too revolutionary a concept. But it is sadly a rarity in Croatia today. The Sveta Nedelja bubble will be an exciting one to watch.  

It would be easy to dismiss the story as being 100% due to the Rimac Factor, but a closer look at what is happening in Sveta Nedelja shows that there are plenty of other businesses contributing to the success story and evolving ecosystem. I was surprised to learn, for example, that Rimac was not even the biggest show in town - at least for now - with another Sveta Nedelja business turning over more than 250,000 million euro a year (Read more in Meet Sveta Nedelja's Biggest Company, a Success Story Born in Syria).

Zurovec pointed out that in Sveta Nedelja they approach each investment individually and thus remove obstacles in the process. He said that more than 920 businesses are now operating in the town.

The Croatian entrepreneurial class has much to contribute to the Croatian economy, and the removal of barriers and bureaucracy will only increase that contribution. Few towns will have a superstar like Mate Rimac, or a true public servant such as Dario Zurovec, let alone both, but the more entrepreeneurs and politicians can find each other on this path, the quicker the ecosystem of a sustainable future can take hold. 

An inspiring day.   

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Rimac Campus Project Moving Forward, Sveta Nedelja Mayor Signs Contract

April the 17th, 2021 - The Rimac Campus project, which will work to further showcase what Croatia can offer to the automotive world through its most impressive entrepreneur, Mate Rimac, has taken another step towards fruition as the Sveta Nedelja Mayor, Dario Zurovec, signs on the dotted line.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the signing of the appropriate contract for the future Rimac Campus in Sveta Nedelja between CEO and founder Mate Rimac and Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec will start the wheels turning on a very significant cooperation.

With their signatures on the contract, the Rimac Campus project will officially be off the ground and firmly on track for 2023. Their new headquarters, with a capacity of 2,500 employees and at location only sixteen kilometres away from Zagreb, will cover 200,000 square metres of land in total.

The planned investments in the Rimac Campus project have been announced in the amount of more than 200 million euros - in the form of the construction on the new location which is expected by the end of the year, and its completion is planned for 2023, while on the other hand the size and ambitions of the new Rimac Campus project are so large that according to general estimates, it is set to be among the largest of its kind in all of Europe in terms of its various industries.

However, given the company’s rapid growth, the location is designed so that it can expand over time while still blending in with its natural environment. In the long run, the new location will, as stated, accommodate over 2,500 employees, which exceeds the current number of employees by more than 100 percent, and is therefore going to be divided into two different areas.

The first is the company's headquarters building, where the main functions, management and research and development centres will be located, as well as the offices of Greyp, a company for the production of electric bicycles, which was also founded by Mate Rimac.

For more on Mate Rimac and other Croatian entrepreneurs, make sure to follow Made in Croatia.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec Reveals Details of Rimac Investment

March the 26th, 2021 - Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec has spoken out in more detail about the enormous investment tied to Mate Rimac's name.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, Mate Rimac, as expected, was the only one to submit a binding offer to Sveta Nedelja for the establishment of building rights in a field in Kerestinec, in the area near the old Erdödy Castle, which proved to be an ideal location for his upcoming Rimac campus construction project.

The tender, which closed very recently, envisions the conclusion of a 69-year-long contract, with an annual rent of 199,000 square metres at a price of 0.10 kuna per square meter, and sets out, among other things, a three-year deadline to complete the investment and the beginning of the works beginning within the first 12 months.

Judging by Mate Rimac, who has been looking for such a location for a long time, none of this will be a problem, because the lack of space has been a problem for him for a long time, and he has just announced that he has found a temporary solution to accommodate his current 400 to 500 employees in the former Pevec building located in Jankomir.

Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec revealed that the total investment of Rimac Automobili in the future Rimac campus oriented to new technologies and the automotive industry will amount to more than one billion kuna in total, which is significantly more than what was set out as the minimum amount in the tender (one hundred million kuna) and is being seen as one of the largest investments to have ever taken place in Croatia.

According to data from Rimac's offer, Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec says that the creation of around 700 new jobs is planned, mostly of highly educated members of staff. The location in Kerestinec has already been spatially adjusted to the needs of the Rimac campus project, which, in addition to the production plant and research and development centre, also envisages the construction of a testing laboratory, an information and educational complex, a restaurant and a space for short stays, as well as various facilities for employees such as a gym, sport and recreation areas.

Zurovec has made no effort to hide his sense of pride and satisfaction in the fact that everything is now ready for this huge investment venture, which will result in an even better position of Sveta Nedelja on the Croatian and even on the European investment map.

"This is by far the largest investment in the history of Sveta Nedelja", said Mayor Zurovec proudly, who expects to sign a contract with Rimac Automobili, in accordance with all relevant decisions, in just a week or two.

For more, follow our business section. For up to date coronavirus information specific to Croatia, including travel and border rules, as well as testing centres across the country, bookmark this page.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Croatia, Full of Transparency: Meet Sveta Nedelja Mayor Dario Zurovec

January 22,  2021 - Looking for a local administration and business success story in Croatia? Mayor Dario Zurovec explains why Sveta Nedelja is the place to be. 

There are thousands of articles online complaining about the terrible state of Croatian bureaucracy, but no so many celebrating the success stories. And there are few places which do bureaucracy, transparency and a positive agenda for Croatia 2.0 better than the town of Sveta Nedelja, just outside Zagreb. It was a real pleasure meeting Dario Zurovec and Davor Nadji, Mayor and (then) Deputy Mayor of Sveta Nedelja. They initiated quite a revolution in their first term of office, and Dario Zurovec kindly found time for an extended interview to tell us more about the success stories inside a small Croatian town which has been voted the best medium-sized town for the economy for the last few years, as well as in the top five places in Croatia for quality of life.  


(Photo credit Grad Sveta Nedelja)

1. A population increase of 10% since 2011, 20% more jobs since you took over in 2017, unemployment at just 3.9%. These are sensationalist numbers in the current economic climate in Croatia. Congratulations! What is the secret?

We have shown that steps can be taken at the local level to create a good entrepreneurial climate and attracting investors which contributes to the development of our community. We invest intensively in the development of the economy. One of the resources we boast are our entrepreneurial zones in which many successful enterprises are located.

We have abolished and reduced certain fees, which represents significantly higher savings for enterprise owners, and we co-finance interest placed on entrepreneurial loans for investments up to a total of 6%. Additional plants are being constructed which expands the business, thus creating new jobs. The progress as a result of the aforementioned is visible in regard to many indicators, such as the growth of the number of companies, the fall in the unemployment rate, and the growth of income and average net wages.

I believe that it is necessary to encourage the growth and development of entrepreneurship, continuously create and strengthen the foundations for business operations and provide more tax and other reliefs.

2. Sveta Nedelja was named the best medium-sized town for the economy for the third year in a row last year. Tell us more about that, and what are you doing differently?

For the third year in a row, we have won the title of the best city for the economy in the medium cities category, and I see this as an indicator of our shared success and desire for excellence. I am proud of the results we have achieved, and a special thanks goes out to our enterprise and craft owners, who are working diligently and responsibly and developing their businesses, thus contributing to the wider community.

3. Sveta Nedelja was also named in the top five towns for quality of life, which might surprise people. Why is it such a good place to live?

The combination of a safe family environment, a high quality of life and idyllic nature make Sveta Nedelja an excellent place for family life. High economic development, entrepreneurial zones and natural beauty are just some of the recognisable things that make Sveta Nedelja attractive and pleasant to live in, as well as for doing smart business.

We abolished surtax, which amounted to 6%, and reduced utility/communal fees in the range of 2% to 30% for most of our fellow citizens. We follow children from birth to the end of their schooling, and we also raised our allowance for newborns, we provide co-financing for pre-school education, scholarships for students, co-finance transportation and offer scholarships for the best among them, and we continuously carry out large infrastructure projects that contribute to a higher quality and standard of living.

(Living and working in Croatia - fabulous snapshot through the eyes of Rimac staff in Sveta Nedelja)

4. Sveta Nedelja is perhaps best known internationally as the home of Rimac Automobili. How important is the Rimac factor in attracting other businesses to the town?

Numerous successful companies are located in our entrepreneurial zones, but certainly one of the most famous is Rimac Automobili. Relatively young, but by far the most successful company. Sveta Nedelja is certainly known all over the world precisely because of Rimac’s company, and with that creativity and knowledge, it further encourages many young entrepreneurs in terms of their further growth and development.

5. Let's talk public administration. You have become a beacon of transparency and progress, even introduced cryptocurrency payments, slashed local taxes and increased revenues to the town budget. Summarise it all for us.

The service of processing cryptocurrency when paying for public services to the City of Sveta Nedelja means the conversion of cryptocurrency into HRK according to the valid exchange rate at the time of service execution, and this is performed via cryptocurrency payment processing platforms. In our city, there are companies that use cryptocurrencies, like Greyp Bikes, which also belongs to Mate Rimac.


Sveta Nedelja has become the most transparent city and a leader in the Republic of Croatia in terms of innovation solutions for access to information and quality communication with fellow citizens.

We were the first in the Republic of Croatia to introduce employee appraisal by the citizens themselves and have their salaries and rewards align with those very appraisals whereby we are actually introducing a fixed and a variable part of their income. We were the first in the Republic of Croatia to introduce public announcement for all contracts, purchase orders and invoices in order to see the documents to which the invoices are linked, and such a system was also introduced in the city’s kindergarten and the fire and sports board(s) of the city.

Respecting the basic principles of public procurement and legal, purposeful spending of budget funds, we have a certificate called "Transparent Public Procurement".

We are also pioneers in the introduction of electromagnetic field monitoring systems in cooperation with the Končar Institute. This regards the amount of radiation that is ranked in relation to legal regulations and is made visible so that their levels and the locations where they are located can be seen.

We also were the first to introduce an advisory e-referendum in our country, so that citizens and entrepreneurs alike can be involved in important decision-making processes. We have also introduced the Geographic Information Centre, a system in which all information related to urban and spatial plans of the city of Sveta Nedelja and detailed information related to the communal infrastructure can be seen. The entire GIS system is unique in Croatia. Through this system, everyone can have access to even the smallest details of the entire city system: the transparency of spatial plans, water supply networks, land, forests and infrastructure. 

Through the choice of location within the map, any type of utility problem can be reported. The free mobile app is also available which reports the problem anonymously and through the means of photography. For our fellow citizens and for our family farms, we have introduced an e-marketplace system, an online store boasting domestic products, thus enabling the direct purchase of fresh and healthy ingredients and produce.

6. Lower taxes, higher revenues, more jobs, rising population. It all sounds perfect. Are other local administrations following your example, and what is stopping them if not?

Some local governments are following our example, but most still do not want to make such a big step forward, but they will soon have to because of the law that will come into force.


7. One more recent initiative you introduced to the town late last year was free buses for the town, connecting up to the Zagreb network. Tell us more.

I’m extremely happy that we have provided the citizens of Sveta Nedelja with new city transport, and that very transport will soon begin to operate. Public transport will be completely free. Three lines have been proposed but are subject to change. Better connectivity within the general area will be ensured, as will that which will take passengers to the City of Zagreb. If there is a need for changes in timetables on the lines that will operate, we will accept and realise them in agreement with the carrier.

8. You are not from the two big parties, SDP or HDZ. How does that affect your ability to get things done?

At the local level, I often face a number of challenges, most often due to political opposition. I think that with my work over these three and a half years, I’ve shown how things can change for the better, when you really want that and you choose to work exclusively for the benefit of all your fellow citizens.

9. What's next for Dario Zurovec. You have built a very solid platform in Sveta Nedelja. Is it time to take the revolutions of transparency and sensible governing to a bigger stage?

Of course, I will always encourage the further growth and development of the city.

10. And finally, what is your message to anyone contemplating Sveta Nedelja as a place to live or move their business to?

Sveta Nedelja is certainly a city for smart business and a comfortable life.

The combination of a safe family environment, high quality of life and idyllic nature make Sveta Nedelja an excellent place for family life. Because of its positive policy towards entrepreneurship, which includes zero surtax and consumption tax rates, the abolition and reduction of levies as well as location and transport connections, we’re an ideal city for investment and entrepreneurship.

For the latest news from Dario Zurovec and Sveta Nedelja, follow the dedicated TCN section