Friday, 14 October 2022

Croatian Entrepreneurs Ready to Fight Growing Crisis

Zagreb, October 13, 2022 (GIA) – The growing crisis should be used as an opportunity! The speakers of the Entrepreneurial Mindset conference, the fourth edition of which was held in Zagreb's Lauba, had the subtitle Unbreakable. More than 20 extremely successful entrepreneurs from various fields, from IT to education and the hotel industry to show business, shared their vision of success in challenging times with 500 entrepreneurs, businessmen, and young people. The conference was organized by the media platform Poduzetnik in cooperation with program partner EY Croatia and Algebra.


While the world fears the extent of the new crisis, entrepreneurs are pushed forward by their indomitable spirit. It is their obligation, they explained, towards employees and society.

"Companies do not exist because of the founder and his family, but because of the wider social community! Over the years, the responsibility of the founder grows, so companies must last because of other people", agreed Miljenko Borščak and Stiven Toš, winners of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 award, whose company Bomark Pak became the largest producer of stretch film in Europe this spring. The results follow the company's large investment cycle, i.e. investment in the construction of plants and warehouses. Bomark Pak will realize exports worth more than HRK 1 billion this year.


(Entrepreneurial Mindset conference founder, Ognjen Bagatin)

Davor Tremac, CEO and co-founder of the company Fonoa, which deals with tax automation, told those who are just starting out in entrepreneurship to live locally and work globally: "You only live once, but your ambitions must be global." Don't wait years to get out of Croatia onto the foreign market!"

"I don't remember a crisis like this - from the coronavirus pandemic and war to interrupted supply chains and rising prices of raw materials to inflation. We don't even know what lies ahead. We need to know our long-term goal and focus on the short-term one. In order to be able to meet business goals, we need to take care of the organization. This is where good leaders are important to us," said Lada Tedeschi Fiori, member of the Atlantic Grupa Management Board. Speaking about leadership, she pointed out that it has no gender, but that it should be responsible, correct, and long-term sustainable.

Serial entrepreneur Jaka Andabak said that he remembers difficult times from childhood, but that man always found a solution. Commenting on the current situation, he pointed out that entrepreneurs are in favor of a free market, but that state mechanisms should work so that there is no chaos in the market.


Knowledge irreplaceable in the development of innovations

The conference participants also touched on education in the role of strengthening the entrepreneurial climate in the country. Hrvoje Josip Balen, founder and co-owner of Algebra and EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2020, confirmed that investment in knowledge is growing in Croatia, and that the war in Ukraine confirmed the value of the Latin saying "I carry everything with me".

Stjepan Orešković, co-owner of M+ Group, emphasized the inextricable connection between entrepreneurship and education: "The best investments are in ourselves! Nothing without hard study and hard knowledge!"

Zlatko Hrkać, CEO of SofaScore, said that you don't have to be the first in something, but you have to be the best. He told future entrepreneurs: "Whoever wants to swim in entrepreneurial waters, should stop expecting success overnight."

Nikola Kapraljević, CEO of Infinum, wants that company to become one of the largest digital agencies in the world. Infinum already employs more than 400 people in 7 offices around the world.

Strong cooperation between large companies and entrepreneurs

Dajana Mrčela, president of the Management Board of Saponia i Kandit, and Maja Šuput Tatarinov, entrepreneur, presenter and singer, presented how successful cooperation between large companies and entrepreneurs can be, in a conversation with moderator Ana Radišić on the panel called I Can - I Want - I Know.

Maja Šuput Tatarinov explained that a man whose life is under the spotlight must toughen up in order to know how to deal with the stories of people who do not know him. In business circles, she is recognized as a person of inexhaustible energy, and she herself admits that she wakes up every morning with a hundred ideas and wishes. She adds: "When you love what you do, you attract good things."

Dajana Mrčela described the cooperation with her as a great thing. Mrčel's attitude towards work was also influenced by the fact that he comes from a family that was involved in sports. He loves beating the competition and conquering new markets. She is proud of the fact that while many companies in Slavonia struggle to find employees, in Saponia and Kandit most workers stay until retirement.


Challenges of management transfer in family companies

Entrepreneurs from Serbia and Croatia recounted what the transfer of ownership and management in family businesses looks like.

Nikola Anđelković, director of the Anđelković AI company and winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 award, who took over the management of the company from his father, said: "A successful family business is built over generations for a reason and everyone contributes, and comparing the success of individual generations is not healthy because they differ in approach, time and circumstances. Who is better - father or son?! These are not the same disciplines! Someone created the company with his great energy, and we, the heirs, are the managers. If I do things Dad's way, it will limit us. He is satisfied with our upgrade in the management of the company. True leadership means giving people a free hand."

Brothers Jakov and Juraj Urbanke from HSM informatics discovered that the key to successfully running a family business is to have different opinions, but to know that family members who work together are on the same page.

The leading award program for successful entrepreneurial stories

Berislav Horvat, Country Managing Partner of EY Croatia, invited entrepreneurs to submit their own and others' successful entrepreneurial stories to the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Applications are open until the end of November, and the winner of the eighth edition, who will defend the colors of Croatian entrepreneurship in Monaco, side by side with the world's leading entrepreneurs, will be announced at a ceremony in March 2023.

Ognjen Bagatin, the founder of the Entrepreneurial Mindset conference, emphasized that an ecosystem should be built where the excellent help the excellent in order to bring Croatia closer to developed European countries in terms of well-being, income, and ease of living: "True leaders are strong, durable and resilient, they believe in themselves and their future, they are truly unbreakable - a guide for all of us towards a better and better Croatia."

Petar Pavić, co-founder of Star Digital Group, urged other entrepreneurs to, if possible, provide scholarships to students who want to study abroad.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset conference was organized by the media platform Poduzetnik in cooperation with Algebra and program partner EY Hrvatska.

Source: Millenium promotion Photo: Krume Ivanovski

For more about business in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Inspiration and Positivity at Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 in Zagreb

September the 29th, 2021 - This year, for the third time in a row, the Entrepreneurial Mindset (Poduzetnicki mindset) conference brought together many successful Croatian leaders, who told their entrepreneurial stories in an effort to change the perspective of entrepreneurship in the country.

As 24sata/Nikol Zagorac writes, the opening of 2021's Entrepreneurial Mindset conference began with the following words: ''Today we've gathered about 30 leaders who are an inspiration to many, who are creating a better Croatia and a better Europe. These leaders are what we need in order to be better, they aren't just looking at their own jobs but creating new generations of leaders and they're there to show us that we can do it. The message to young people is: you can do it, don’t wait, get moving. These are the leaders who move mountains. When success is combined with even more success, then miracles are possible,'' said Ognjen Bagatin.

(Watch the conference in full, above)

This year, for the third time in a row, organised by the media platform "Entrepreneur" and its programme partner EY Croatia, Entrepreneurial Mindset brought together successful Croatian leaders, such as Mate Rimac, Silvio Kutic, Hrvoje Balen, Ognjen Bagatin, Lada Tedeschi Fiorio, Jasminka Horvat Martinovic, to tell their success stories in an effort to change the perspective of entrepreneurship in Croatia.

'People who create robots from Croatia are crazy'

Among them is Matija Kopic, who, five years ago, started the now very well known company Gideon Brothers, a company for robotics and software solutions based on artificial intelligence, right here in Croatia, and - he succeeded. So much so that this summer they attracted a group of foreign investors to invest over 30 million US dollars into the recapitalisation of the company, and their robots are already working in warehouses around the world.

''There are two groups of people. The first group is those crazy people who create robots from Croatia. Yes, they're crazy because statistically there is a five to ten times less chance that we in Croatia can make successful robots when compared to some other countries where there is better funding, where they have access to a wide range of talent and experience in producing complex machines. We don’t, and so all of that together is crazy. When we embarked on this adventure five years ago, I wasn’t aware of these limitations and I don’t know if I would do it again, but I probably would - because I’m crazy. The second group of people are investors who are even crazier than the first ones because they dare to hunt for their ideas,'' Kopic also pointed out that in this society networked with technologies we must not forget the people, all those who helped them, as well as their families.

'The key is in the first bit of energy shown, the first message sent out'

''It's crucial that leaders know how to shape what they love, what they do and what's different about what they do,'' said Vedrana Likan when talking about leadership, and this is especially true for female leaders who are working to change society. Vedrana herself knows very well what qualities are needed for a successful leader. She is the director of the global leading consulting company Colliers, and in the past 10 years she has been the first vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce, the founder and head of the Green Building Council and the president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Croatia. Back in 2012, she was named "Woman of the Year", after which she designed the project "21 times towards success", as well as the LeaderSHE conference.

''The key is in that first bit of energy, the first message, in that punch line of 20 seconds,'' she said.

Manuela Šola, entrepreneur, communication and event expert, who also works in the Supervisory Board of the Croatian Employers' Association, pointed out that the changes can already be seen at this conference, when men talk about happiness and family.

'What makes leaders are character and integrity. That's why there are no politicians here with us today'

''10 years ago, a typical manager would never say that, he'd only talk about numbers, and managers and leaders wouldn't say that because it wasn't something that was accepted in society. Leadership in Croatian business is definitely changing. And what makes leaders who they are, in my opinion, is character and integrity. Perhaps because integrity is needed here today there are no politicians siting with us. I'd like to have politicians here with us in five years, who will talk about leadership, because then they'd work and live so that integrity can be seen in and from their every step,'' she said.

So far, Sola pointed out, she hasn't met a man or a woman in politics who she could say are leaders.

''It's good that our work in entrepreneurship proves that you don't need to be a politician to change things, in fact, in our country, this paradigm has been reversed and it turns out that politics is a place to hide, lie, steal and politicians in our country have no integrity, they are not there to serve the citizens. And we entrepreneurs are much more in favour of the common good and positive changes in society,'' added Likan, who is also one of the co-founders of SOS Zagreb formed after the earthquake, which she started because she believes that things can change.

''Any engagement of us who are in business for anything that is characterised today as activism and contrary to some mainstream that politics leads is very risky. We're a very shallow society in the sense that everyone knows each other and it's really risky to expose ourselves outside of business, stand up to the establishment and say that our expectations are higher than that,'' she said.

Speaking about HUP, (Croatian Employers' Association) Sola pointed out that everything that the association went through was necessary for Croatian society because such a large association of entrepreneurs had to undergo a transformation in order to become a modern, more inclusive association.

''Changes are always difficult because they're demanding and we have to personally expose ourselves to some situations that aren't pleasant for us, but many colleagues pushed in the same direction with the goal of a good and quality employers' association, which is transparent, has good relations, and which will be a kind of signpost for entrepreneurs. Today, HUP is different, it's more open, more modern, we have a completely different way of leadership, but it's difficult to keep that motivation up because we all have our jobs,'' she said.

'Leadership is full of paradoxes,' said Fran Mikulcic business coach.

''Only when you experience them through your own eyes does your mental universe expand. If you want to be able to evaluate leadership, its effectiveness and the effects it creates, you must first break your own rules. It must become a habit for you, but your real goal is to become a rule breaker, that's the real difference between leaders and those who aren't yet,'' he pointed out.

''Lada Tedeschi Fiorio from Atlantic Grupa (Group) spoke with Igor Klaja, CEO of OTCF from Poland and EY Entrepreneur in 2020. Fifteen years ago, he started a sportswear business, which he sold to supermarkets, and today OTCF is a leading sportswear manufacturer and distributor, supplying Olympic teams and sports associations across Europe. A key moment for the job came when he designed the team's clothes for the Polish Ski Federation. Cooperation with the Polish Olympic Committee quickly followed, and since then he has dressed six national teams of athletes in 4F, both for the Summer and Winter Olympics, including the Croatian team.

''I'm honoured to be able to be here in the company of many Croatian leaders. There's a great connection between sport and business, sport created me, and as an entrepreneur you have to believe in what you do, but also in the people you work with. I don't even know how many stores I have, but it doesn't matter to me because I'm in charge of my people and being a leader means that I have to take care of them all,'' he pointed out.

'''I was on the verge of bankruptcy, I didn't sleep for three months, but I didn't fire any of my workers. I was horrified at the thought of letting them down,''

Although he was on the verge of bankruptcy last year, when the coronavirus pandemic erupted and lockdown occurred in countries around the world, he didn't lay off any of the 3,250 workers he employs.

''I told them that the situation is bad, that we have for salaries for April, possibly for May. We went online. We had each other's backs. As a leader, I'm responsible for my team, but I also told them that they must be responsible for each other and not to let their colleagues down. At that time, we helped numerous hospitals with ski masks for doctors. If we're already in such a situation, let's at least help, I thought. It was a stressful, crazy and emotional period, but I had confidence in my people. As a leader, you don't have to constantly push your fingers into the business because these people know what they're doing,'' said Klaja, emphasising that the coronavirus pandemic has shown just how much one needs to be ready for innovation.

''Leaders must seize opportunities as they come and adapt quickly to change. I was afraid, of course, of bankruptcy, but not for myself, I thought to myself "alright, if I fall, I'll get up", but the terrible thought was that I could let down 3250 employees, who all have their own families... the fact that I'm responsible for nine or ten thousand of people... that was my motivation. I literally slept for about three hours a week for three months, I was tired and stressed out, but I knew it was my responsibility and I had to give them hope that I knew what I was doing. I believed I would succeed and I trusted my employees to know what they were doing, too,'' Klaja said when recalling the stressful period in which he was almost left without everything.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, ups and downs are part of life and work, Klaja emphasised.

-''Sometimes we have to fall and make mistakes, there's nothing wrong with that, it makes us stronger and gives us an opportunity to come to some conclusions. I love working with younger people, millennials, I’m 45, I’m not really so young, but these young people give me energy. However, the problem is that the younger generations want everything right now, they have no patience, but in business, patience is paramount. I was born into an average Polish family, I didn’t have wealthy parents, I started with 5000 euros of capital, my father passed away when I was 18, I had to take care of myself and the T-shirt business was just there for me to survive at first, but my passion gave me hope that everything would come back to me. It's a long process and it takes patience, just keep going, don't stop, and your dreams will come true,'' he said.

'A company or community leader must cultivate four key values'

The director and owner of Prima Group, which manufactures and sells furniture, Renato Radic, also knows what it's like to take care of many employees. Namely, he employs over 2,000 of them across four countries.

''People are the most important thing of all. As a child I learned that one should always be there for people, be ready to help and have a heart, empathy. And when I got into the business and became an entrepreneur I was met with clichés that you can’t be honest in business, that you have to be selfish, and to me as a young man, that was weird. And then I decided that if I can't be a man in business, then I won't even work and deal with it,'' he said, adding that the leader of every company and community needs four key values: self-awareness, sensitivity, love, courage.

"One should know that every person is worthy" he belives.

When starting a business, he added, it's important to know the first step towards achieving your goal and to believe that this desire can be realised without too many expectations.

''If you set your expectations in order, then you actually limit yourself. If it happens, alright, if not, that's alright as well. Don't stop your wish from coming true through your own expectations,'' he said, adding that we need crises from time to time because they teach us how to be better, stronger, and more resilient.

''Don't compare yourself with others, only with yourself. If I have a goa of doing five kilometres in a period of time, every millimetre of mine on a daily basis is a success. Small steps motivate you to do more,'' he said.

'It was very difficult. But we succeeded'

Ivan Ante Nikolic, the CEO of BLINK, Petar Simic, President of the Management Board of Primaco and Tana Zimmermann, co-founder of the online shop spoke about the beginnings and changes over time.

''Everything we did well when we started is different today. It was very difficult, a lot of people didn't believe in us and our story, but we were looking forward to each of our small successes, we wanted to learn, adapt what was wrong and make it good, and then take what was good and improve it even more. There were many days when we'd throw everything away because we'd had enough, but then you need to remember that not everything is so bleak, you sleep on it and then next day you start again from scratch,'' Zimmermann said when recalling the beginnings, emphasising that nothing can be achieved without perseverance and patience.

Today, she added, the company is growing and expanding to the territory of neighbouring Serbia.

Nikolic jumped from IT into the production of food for pets, which is the first such company in Croatia.

''We knew that Croatia had certain obstacles and shortcomings, but when you analyse the food industry in Croatia, and pet food is similar to the conventional food industry because they use similar raw materials, Croatia has enormous advantages, has agricultural raw materials that aren't treated with industrial additives, it's logistically in a very good place and we weighed those things up,'' said Nikolic, adding that their primary idea was not the production of pet food, but in their analysis, they realised that Croatia already had everything they needed.

''Then we realised that there's no production of pet food in Croatia. So we started with that, there were a lot of difficulties, there was slowness, the NKD didn't have that food line, and it was very important to us because of EU funds, and then we needed permission from the Ministry of Health, so we had to invent some new rules. And the real problem was the lack of engineers who knew how to do this,'' said Nikolic, adding that all these obstacles were eventually overcome.

'Some projects are developed out of necessity'

Primaco has accepted a lot of changes in the last 10 years, Simic pointed out.

''We specialise in the pharmaceutical and food industry, where through various software solutions, which we developed ourselves, we allowed our clients to see data about their cargo while driving, which made us better than the competition. Then when we saw that these software solutions were good and that they could be used by some other players in the market, we decided to spinoff that segment of the business. And today, it's a separate company with over 14,000 vehicles in the region,'' he pointed out, adding that the project was developed out of necessity.

''Our employees respond well to changes, so we adapt every day. We have well-coordinated teams, we're constantly educating ourselves, especially through conversations with clients,'' he said.

'We started out from Croatia... and then we conquered the world'

Silvio Kutic, the co-founder of Infobip, pointed out that today his company employs 3,500 people and has offices across 75 countries around the world. Speaking about how important it is to do what you love and what motivates you, he recalled with a laugh how on his first day of work at Elektra, where he got a job after college, he went to brunch after four hours and just never bothered going back.

''I wanted to deal with my own projects. We started out in Croatia, we have about 1200 people here, the main engineering staff is here. Our guiding thread has always been our vision. Over time, the technology has changed, as have our capabilities and the way we solve problems. We started with SMS, and today we help companies to digitise their costumer experience processes through WhatsApp, video communication, e-mail, voice, our chatbot platform...'' he pointed out.

''When we started out back in 2006, being an entrepreneur wasn't as positive a thing as it is today. Today, that has changed and the state is somehow more positive about entrepreneurs, society as a whole is more positive and now it's much easier to start things up because of digitalisation anywhere in the world,'' he said.

Mistakes in business are very normal, but one should learn from them, he emphasised.

''We've made mistakes on many projects several times and were about to give up on everything. In 2010, we launched sGate for protection against spam, we didn't know the technical solution, the business model, or how to sell it... But we solved one problem at a time, and we didn't give up. In 2011 we installed this solution with the first operator, for free, we didn't know how to sell that either and over the years it has developed. Infobip now generates 250 million euros a year. The important thing is to pick yourself up, move on and to do so quickly,'' he said, adding that happiness is an important factor for success.

Infobip, he added, cooperates with schools and faculties, both in Croatia and abroad.

'We now have 1,500 employees, and we'll hire over 2,500 more'

Mate Rimac and the mayor of Sveta Nedelja Dario Zurovec spoke about the new era of entrepreneurs and the importance of creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem. In Sveta Nedelja, Rimac will build a brand new campus, which will employ over 2,500 people.

''This campus is going to be a great asset, it's the largest private investment that has taken place in this part of Croatia, if not beyond it. And I see only positives 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 the privatisation process, the company went to the birds and my goal was always to return to that part of entrepreneurial activity. I'm glad that I had the good fortune to come across Mate Rimac and that positive energy that he wanted to invest something. That's courage,'' Zurovec pointed out.

Throughout his business, Rimac has been criticised for not producing anything and that it's all a scam, but he says that he doesn't pay attention to such anonymous, negative people.

''Now, with the takeover of Bugatti, we have 1500 employees, 200 in Germany, 200 in France and over 1000 here in Croatia. We're constantly growing, we've accelerated the last few months and we don't plan to slow things down but to accelerate it all even more. We've opened a location in England, we want to strengthen our presence Split, but now we see that the campus won't be enough for us either, so we're working on additional locations, both in Croatia and abroad,'' said Rimac, adding that there is a lot of potential.

''I'm not going to say what our plan is because anything can happen, but everything we're doing now is a small part of what is possible,'' he said, adding that they need various profiles of workers - from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, production planning, procurement, sales, marketing, production workers, janitors, security guards ...

Zurovec pointed out that in Sveta Nedelja, they approach each investment individually and thus remove obstacles in the process.

''We have a trend of immigration of young families with two or more children, and we have a lack of schools and kindergartens. That's why we plan to build new ones. As for levies, to demystify the issue, the local government unit gets very little of that public funding. 80 percent of state finances are centred, up to 17 percent goes to the City of Zagreb and three percent is allocated to the rest of us. And you need to find a balance,'' he said.

Speaking about robo-taxis, cars that will drive themselves, Rimac pointed out that they have been working on this project for three years, but that he doesn't want to talk about details yet.

''We want to show it off when it's almost done. This is a very good example where you really can’t do much without local government being involved. You have to have an agreement with the cities and offer a benefit to them, it has to be integrated with the rest of the transport system, with public infrastructure ... We talk to a lot of cities across the world, but we want that first city to be Zagreb. We haven't talked to the new government yet, they just have a lot on their plate right now. But if Croatia doesn't want that in Croatia, there is no problem,'' he said.

Read more coverage of yesterday in Mate Rimac & Dario Zurovec, a Case Study of Politician Entrepreneur Harmony

For more on Entrepreneurial Mindset, follow our business section.

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.   

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Rimac, Infobip among Speakers at Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 in Zagreb

September 12, 2021 - Some of Croatia's biggest entrepreneurial names will gather in Zagreb later this month for one of the country's most inspiring conferences - Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021.  

Of all the many conferences I have attended in Croatia, none came close to the energy of Poduzetnicki Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset), which took place on this day two years ago in Zagreb. 

Only positivity was allowed into the building, and some of Croatia's most successful entrepreneurs gave up their time to share their stories in person.  They included two men who had recently been included in the Financial Times list of Top 100 Digital Champions of Europe, Nenad Bakic and Mate Rimac. 

One of the highlights for me - apart from the excellent presentations - was seeing high school students, rather than politicians, in the front row, having their mindsets stimulated by some of Croatia's finest. It was a fascinating  day, showcasing the incredible potential of the Croatian private sector.

Two years is a long time, and the pandemic has been a major factor in everything over the last 18 months. But one thing is for certain - the Croatian entrepreneurial story is moving forward, the energy of that 2019 conference increasingly evident in the private sector. 

One of the highlights of that first conference was listening to Rimac Automobili CEO Mate Rimac, who gave a fascinating presentation not only on the incredible rise of his company since 2010, but also looking at Slovakia as a case study for the impact on the economy of the car industry.  Rimac gave a detailed overview of the Slovakian car industry, and how its annual exports were already greater than Croatia's combined annual exports. 

And we all know what Rimac has been up to in the automotive industry in recent months. Mate Rimac will also be taking part in this year's Entrpreneurial Mindset 2021, which will take place at Algebra University College at Ilica 242 in Zagreb on September 28. 


Rimac will not be the only Croatian global success story to be presenting at Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021. Since that first conference, Croatia got its first startup unicorn, Infobip, one of several Croatian companies making great strides on the world stage. Silvio Kutic, co-founder of Infoip, will also be among the speakers.


Conference partners Algebra MBA Business School have also organised a valuable Leadership Talent tournament. Selected talents, from managers to experts, will participate there in a case-study competition where they will represent their companies as selected cross-functional teams. They will fight for scholarships for Algebra MBA education worth more than 100,000 kuna. This innovative business simulation, on the topic of Intrapreneurship and the creation of an ecosystem that encourages Leadership at all levels of management, is an opportunity for teams to become aware and start building the necessary personal and team competencies. Applications are open from August 23 here


Changing the mindset is one of the biggest battlegrounds in moving Croatia forward, and the Entrpreneurial Mindset initiative is already reaching its target audience of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, with its very own Entrpreneurial Mindset for Youth conference which took place earlier this year - coverage in the video below.


For more information on the event, and to register, visit the Poduzetnik dedicated website page.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Inspiring Croatia's Next Generation: 2nd Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth on Friday

November 24, 2020 - The second edition of Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth takes place this week, as Croatia's top entrepreneurs will inspire the next generation. 

There are only two main things wrong in Croatia today - the system and the mindset.

Changing the system is only possible if we change the mindset, and there are several great initiatives out there which are aiming to do just that. 

One of the best such initiatives in recent years has been the Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference, which first took place last year. Some of Croatia's biggest entrepreneurial minds shared their experiences of success - and failure - showing that it is possible to succeed in the modern Croatia. As part of the initiative, Croatia's leading entrepreneurs also committed to supporting a second conference, Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth, donating their time and expertise to inspire Croatia's next generation of entrepreneurs. 

The second edition of Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth takes place online tomorrow, due to the current situation, and more details are in the press release below. 

On Black Friday, November 27, 2020, the Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth conference will be held. Guided by the motto "The future is you", the conference will help high school and university students in their professional orientation by presenting them with successful Croatian entrepreneurial stories. Special emphasis will be placed on the visionary ideas of the younger generation of entrepreneurs and everything they have encountered on the road to success.

Due to the epidemiological situation, the conference will be held via YouTube, and high school students, students and other young people can follow the conference for free with prior registration on the website: Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth.

“The Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth Conference is being held for the second time. With it, we want to bring young people closer to people who are more than leaders for us. They are people who can be an inspiration to all generations, especially young people. It is those young highly motivated people full of great ideas who can encourage an entrepreneurial venture. For a happy future in Croatia, we need to build a new mindset, the entrepreneurial one ", said Ognjen Bagatin, the initiator of the conference.

The conference will last for four hours - from 10 am to 2 pm.

Hrvoje Balen, a member of the Management Board of Algebra, and Andrija Čolak, founder and owner of the Čolak Franchise Consulting Group and the Surf’n’Fries brand, will speak about the professions of the future.

Berislav Horvat, Country Managing Partner of EY Croatia, and Luka Abrus, leader of the digital agency Five, will deal with the topic "Where is the formula for success?".

"Go or stay?!" - is a dilemma faced by many young people, and the arguments for each of these two choices will be carefully analyzed by Dr. sc. Siniša Marijan, an experienced manager from the company Končar.

Saša Cvetojević will talk to Irena Tinagli, a member of the European Parliament from Italy, about the opportunities offered to young entrepreneurs by the European Union.

Hanza Media board member Ana Hanžeković will lead a panel in which Tomislav Car from Infinum and Albert Gajšak from CircuitMess, will talk about the importance of a good mentor and quality leadership in the beginnings of the company.HT Management Board member Boris Drilo will talk to Alan Sumin, co-founder and co-owner of Nanobit, about one of the most interesting business events in Croatia this year - the sale of Nanobit to the Swedish Stillfront.

Marko Emer, director of Moj-eRačun, co-founder and member of the Management Board of Poslovna inteligencija Anita Cvetić Oreščanin and member of the Management Board of Sv. Katarina Jadranka Primorac will all be on a panel moderated by Bojana Božanić - How important is connecting the 'common mindset?'

In the second panel, the young leaders will deal with the topic What does tomorrow bring? The director of Slavonija DI, Martina Ravlić, the co-founder of, Tana Zimmermann, and the director of Naftalina, Matea Pirić, will take part in the discussion. The moderator of the panel is the director of 24sata Boris Trupcevic.

For more details about the online conference, and to take part, visit the Poduzetnik website dedicated conference page

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 Conference Speakers: Meet Boris Trupcevic

September 9, 2020 - The second Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference takes place online tomorrow. Continuing our look at the speakers, meet Boris Trupcevic, CEO of 24 Sata.  

One of the leading lights in the campaigns for the digitisation of Croatia, as well as wider reforms, is 24Sata CEO, Boris Trupcevic. TCN caught up with Boris on the eve of the Poduzetnicki Mindset 2020 conference, which takes place online and in Zagreb tomorrow. 

1. As CEO of one of Croatia's leading media, you are on the front line of demanding change in Croatia. How are things going, and do you see cause for optimism?

I would say there’s still not much to be happy about. Again, we were focused on observing the tourism season results that caused temporary optimism, hoping we could go on as we did before, but then we got the cold shower of border closures. Also, the focus was on the money shower from EU, which was presented as a gift from heaven, requiring no effort from our side, which of course is not true. In the meantime, we did not see any fundamental reform being even discussed, let alone being prepared. There’s a long list of problems, a long list of issues that can only be resolved with so-called “structural reforms”, but still those in power avoid engaging in any destiny-changing initiatives. It’s still just cosmetic changes and keeping the status quo as much as possible. No person, no business and no country has ever moved forward by keeping the status quo. It’s simply impossible. Therefore, we will keep on creating the awareness of the necessity of change and reforms. We will stubbornly remind those in power they need to act. Fast.

2. What is the entrepreneurial mindset, and why is it so important in the Croatian context?

True entrepreneurs are indeed the ones who change the world and move the world forward. They teach us about courage, boldness, perseverance, grit, resilience, flexibility, adaptiveness, responsibility, risk taking… all that while putting on the line their wellbeing, health and assets. Values and qualities we can observe with the entrepreneurs are what is missing in Croatia. It is exactly the qualities that are not appreciated as they should be. 

3. Why is the perception of an entrepreneur in Croatia so different than in countries like the UK/USA? 

We simply don’t have the right mindset. The reasons for this are historical, political and cultural. While we could discuss those for hours, it’s all in vain. We’re held hostage by a huge dependancy of the economy towards the state, by dependancy on corrupt actors, and finally also politicians. We’re held hostage by the narrative of the trade unions depicting entrepreneurs as crooks, thieves and evil capitalists. We’re held hostage by the mentality that it is better to find an “uhljeb” job position, than work your way to success. All of this must change. And change starts with leadership. Lack of leadership is also one of the major problems.  Once we start treating our top entrepreneurs as heroes we will know we have become detached from past habits.


4. Campaigns such as 24 Sata's Reforms Now, and the Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs) movement have brought a lot of cohesion to the demand for change in Croatia. What successes have you had, and what's next?

As I said, I can’t see major changes. Both initiatives have created the type of awareness we haven’t seen before. This is important, because it lays the ground for change. Another big thing is that entrepreneurs had a strong and clear voice, unlike any time before. And they were not afraid to use this voice to demand their rights. In that regard, I think many decisions would not have happened without this kind of pressure towards the government. What’s next is to be consistent and persistent in demanding real reforms. The people of this country are very well aware we can’t move forward without reforms, but still what they feel and know is less important than the voting base of political parties. 

5. You are also at the forefront of the digitalisation discussion in Croatia with your award-winning media as well as the Digital Takeover conference. Are we seeing progress in Croatia's digitalisation process, and what should the focus be on for the next steps?

I think we’re progressing in many things, some even ahead of many countries, but that’s simply not enough. We should aim higher and strive to be at the top of the game, like Estonia. We’re late with introducing digital skills in schools, we’re intentionally late with digitising the state and governmental services to the full extent, because that narrows down the playground for corruption. It can all be done fast. We’re also known as Apsurdistan for a reason - the state does many things with obsolete technologies and methods, without a deeper understanding of what digitalisation really is. World superpowers are involved in an ongoing war to win at digital technologies, big tech companies are waging a war to acquire the best talent worldwide. We sit and wait for things to happen. We discuss the topic simply because it cannot be ignored anymore. We’ve got Croatian companies security-checked by foreign intelligence agencies in order to be vetted for working for huge corporations, but those are never invited to do something for their own country. Instead, we have digitalisation jobs often done by shady companies for too much money. So, one thing I’d point out as a failure of the state is the failure to engage our best tech companies. 


6. Prime Minister Plenkovic has announced the digital nomad visa for Croatia. How significant could this be for Croatia and its economy? 

It’s a very good initiative by Jan de Jong, and a very good signal from PM side to support it. However, it comes with many challenges, primarily in terms of sorting out the bureaucracy, all the obstacles, but also issues of not making it discriminatory towards own citizens. Prime Minister made a promise, he committed to this idea. We should hold him accountable to make it happen.

7. Tell us about your role in Poduzetnicki Mindset 2020, and what are you expecting from the conference?

There are two most important things. First, entrepreneurs should connect both more and stronger, this community needs more interaction. Second, the conference and all those participating should inspire young people to become entrepreneurs, provide valuable advice, and encourage existing entrepreneurs to think even bigger and bolder.


Read also interviews with Ognjen Bagatin of Bagatin Clinic, Jan de Jong of Webpower Adria, and Ana Hanzekovic of Hanza Media.

To learn more about the virtual Poduzetnik Mindset 2020 conference on September 10 - and to register - visit the official website


Sunday, 6 September 2020

Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 Conference Speakers: Meet Ognjen Bagatin

September 6, 2020 - The second Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference takes place online on September 10. Continuing our look at the speakers, co-organizer and Mr Positive, Ognjen Bagatin.  

There has not been a lot to smile about for most people in 2020, and that is certainly true if you are a Zagreb-based entrepreneur. The double whammy of corona affecting business and an earthquake damaging your home and business would be more than enough to wipe the smile from anyone's face, but not Croatia's Mr Positive, Ognjen Bagatin. 

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(Ognjen Bagatin with his Berlin award)

A trailblazer in the global medical tourism industry (his Bagatin Clinic was named International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year 2019 in December at the International Medical Travel Awards in Berlin), and a passionate promoter of Croatia 2.0 and stronger business links with the diaspora, Bagatin is one of the co-organizers of the excellent Poduzetnik Mindset conference, which will have its second edition on September 10 in Zagreb and be broadcast online. Bagatin is also speaking at the event and offered some thoughts on the progress of the entrepreneurial scene and changing mindset in this TCN interview.

The second Entrepreneurial Mindset conference takes place on September 10, following last year's successful gathering. How has the entrepreneurial scene changed in Croatia in the last 12 months?

Although it seems like we are moving slowly, I think in the last 12 months there has been movement in having more and more entrepreneurial stories in the media. We have a new show on TV called Entrepreneurial Mindset, in partnership with EY Croatia on N1 Television. This is becoming very popular because we share great stories and amazing entrepreneurs who are changing the world for the better.

Through our media platform, we have met and talked to hundreds of amazing and successful entrepreneurs and have seen the better side of Croatia and our purpose is to share their stories to the public so they will inspire more and more young and old to go and chase their entrepreneurial dreams.

With corona coming, entrepreneurs had a tough time dealing with this issue, but they will come out of this stronger and more connected among each other...

The things are changing, I see so many examples of excellence, and the next step is to grow that community so that it can bring positive change for the Croatian economy.

Corona has obviously affected your plans considerably. Tell us about this year's conference and some of the key presentations. 

Indeed, but that didn`t ruin our plans to organize it anyway... We had planned this conference to be in Concert Hall Vatroslav Lisinski for 1800 people, but corona has ensured that even more people will listen to our speakers speak.. We have more than 3000 applications at this moment and our proud that this content is very popular and that we are helping these great speakers become new role models for others.

This year we will have great speakers and it is very hard to underline just a couple, so I will mention them all because EY Croatia and Poduzetnik team have picked them carefully just for you.

So this year, our audience will have an opportunity to hear an amazing sessions from successful and experienced entrepreneurs , and here is the list: Joe Bašić, founder and director of MPG South East Europe, organizer and promoter of Ultra Europe ; Paul Bradbury, owner and founder of Total Croatia News; Bernarda Cecelja, member of the board at Bernarda d.o.o.; Saša Cvetojević, owner of MBE Adriatic; Jan de Jong, director of Webpower Adria; Ivan Franičević, president of the board at RASCO; Ana Hanžeković, member of the board at Hanza media; Jasminka Horvat Martinović, president of the board at Wiener osiguranja VIG; Korado Korlević, croatian scientist and astronomer, head of Zvjezdarnice Višnjan; Ana Lisak, director at Catering Lisak; Orlando Lopac, director at OrlandoFit; Zoran Mamić, president of supervisory board at TOMMY; Mate Rimac, founder and CEO at Rimac automobili i Greyp bikes, Manny Stul, CEO tof Moose toys, Emil Tedeschi, president of the board at Atlantic grupe; Boris Trupčević, director at 24sata; Ana Volk, member of supervisory board at Sunce hoteli d.d.; Ksenija Vrbanić, owner of Xenia Design and others...

One of the nicest touches last year was to have the front row filled not with politicians but high school students with entrepreneurial minds. You then organized other events for the younger generation. Tell us about that, and the levels of interest from the students. 

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Yes, our goal for this year is to inspire our students in 4 different cites (Osijek, Zagreb, Rijeka and Split), but due to corona, our plans were canceled, and instead, we organized Enterpreneurial mindset for students and young people with the goal of promoting entrepreneurial values among them. We had in our live event 1200 students listening to our conference from 7 different countries and 35 different Universities and schools. This was a big win for all of us, because this is proof that young people and students are considering entrepreneurship and are looking for inspiration from successful entrepreneurs.

We will definitely continue with these kinds of events and help inspire and support hundreds and thousands of new young entrepreneurs and professionals who will stay in Croatia and help us build a great economy here.

The entrepreneurial eco-system seems to be getting stronger in Croatia, and the Glas Poduzetnika association is a great focal point. Tell us about that eco-system, as well as the areas you see the biggest opportunities for change. 

I will reflect on that every crisis is an opportunity, and corona has brought us a major crisis. But in that crisis, new communities have grown such as Glas Poduzetnika, and I think this is now a turning point for Croatia to put the focus on the economy and how to grow it, how to attract more investment, have to export more, how to grow our GDP in the next 5-10 years, and find some higher purpose for all of us that will unite us (like the famous World Cup in 2018.) 

We need a powerful vision of Croatia in 2030. and a mission that will drive us forward.. I think doubling our GDP per capita in the next 5-10 years is a very powerful vision, and then we find leaders and doers who will help us achieve it.

Jan de Jong's campaign for a digital nomad visa has shown spectacular results, and this will be a great thing for Croatia. How significant is this in your opinion, and how do we take full advantage? 

I think it is amazing, and I have heard about that idea last year at an MBA Croatia conference from Andreas Gerdes. Then it was just an idea, and now, with brilliant Jan de Jong spreading the word and helping the government look at the opportunities of this niche we are getting into. This will, together with the student visa (referring to Hrvoje Balen from Algebra), be a new era of tourism in Croatia and all year round.

We need these niches to bring us more opportunities and brainpower from all over the world. I think this is just the beginning and beg our government to speed the law policy issues so we can launch it next year as only the second country in Europe..

We will take full advantage by opening up for professionals from all over the world, not just foreign, but also our diaspora, because this could motivate them as well to return home.. The good thing, everything is in our hands, and I beg our government to not „drop the ball“ this time and go from talking to realizing this idea.

The conference is called Entrepreneurial Mindset. Why is the mindset so important here in Croatia, and how do we change it? 

With this conference we are promoting new values like vision, courage, innovation, creation, growing through mistakes, never giving up, taking responsibility, cooperation, celebrating others success and so on, and this is kind of values and mindset is what we want to be mainstream in the years ahead.

We want to open the eyes of people and make them aware that opportunities are everywhere and we bring them people that have succeeded in Croatia, that are willing to share their stories and help others grow. We will succeed only when we start to appreciate others' success as our own, because the more people who succeed in Croatia, the easier it will be for the rest of us to succeed.

Our young families are moving abroad in search of happiness and we want to show them it can be here if we all have a common goal like doubling our GDP per capita in 5-10 years..

You are the pioneer in medical tourism for Croatia, an industry with huge potential. Where are things at the moment, and what needs to happen to push things forward?

This was supposed to be the best year ever for medical tourism, but... 

Things started rolling after lockdown but not in the numbers we all wanted, but this is just temporary, next year there will be new opportunities for our healing spas, clinics, hospitals, and medical wellnesses. Especially because we as a sector must have a chance to be able to apply to new EU funds 2021-2027.

If we want to grow as a country economically then this is a niche we need to be not among the best, but the best. We have great private health and dental institutions that are doing an amazing job, and now we need to bring some new investment in this sector.

The health sector needs to work together and create a whole eco-system that supports this industry, from schools, to EU funds, positioning Croatia as a hub for health tourism and taking advantage of digitalization of our processes inside of our health institution. If we work on that and have government support (not just oral support), then we can make this happen.

I personally will do everything I can to make sure Croatia is one of the leading countries for health and medical tourism in Europe.


To learn more about the virtual Poduzetnik Mindset 2020 conference on September 10 - and to register - visit the official website.  

Friday, 4 September 2020

Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 Conference Speakers: Meet Jan de Jong

September 4, 2020 - Next week sees the second edition of the Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference, a wave of positivity for Croatia 2.0. TCN will be interviewing a few entrepreneur speakers of the event. First up, Dalmatian Dutchman Jan de Jong. 

Can a positive entrepreneurial mindset make a positive difference in Croatia? The growing eco-system of Croatian entrepreneurs certainly believes so. One of the most positive and inspiring conferences of 2019 was the inaugural Poduzetnik Mindset conference in Zagreb (read the TCN report on last year's event - Croatia 2.0 Cloaked in Positivity at Entrepreneurial Mindset Conference in Zagreb).

This year's event will be online due to the corona situation, but with some 10,000 people already registered, its reach will be a lot bigger than last year. Among the many great speakers is man of the moment, Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong from Split. Having sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on July 11 asking for a digital nomad visa for Croatia, just 44 days later, the PM tweeted that his government would introduce such a visa, and it was formally introduced as an amendment to the Foreigners Act the following day. 

TCN caught up with de Jong ahead of the conference to learn more about his entrepreneurial mindset and perspective at this exciting time for the development of Croatia 2.0.

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1. You make it look so easy. You arrived as a student, started a company which employed 400 people, sold it, then started another one which is doing very well. Meanwhile, you send an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for a digital nomad visa, and 6 weeks later it is introduced in Parliament. Croatian bureaucracy is supposed to be impossible. What's your secret?

My secret is: Ask nicely. You will be surprised how often people say “yes” when you just ask them nicely. Let me take you back 19 years. I was 17 years old and working in a call center where I had to sell products and services over the phone. With my voice as my only weapon, you give potential customers arguments why they should buy your product/service…all over the phone. What made the biggest difference between a well-performing and non-performing sales agent was that the well-performing sales agent would at the right moment kindly ask for acceptance of the proposal. Do we agree on this? <yes>

2. How is the perception of an entrepreneur different in Croatia and your native Holland?

I wrote about this once in one of my LinkedIn posts. I am sad that in Croatia entrepreneurs don’t always get the credit they deserve. From my point of view, entrepreneurs are often very passionate individuals, who dream of a better tomorrow and who strongly believe that their company can help us all to get to that “better tomorrow” by providing their products and/or services. 

Entrepreneurs are individuals who cheer for each other’s successes. Individuals who support each other to reach goals and avoid obstacles. You being a winner doesn’t make me a loser. We can all win – through collaboration.

I am always super excited when I meet young entrepreneurs. I will be the first one to offer a helping hand where I can. In my LinkedIn post I wrote that (successful) Dutch entrepreneurs are often seen as show-offs, successful American entrepreneurs are looked at as stars and successful Croatian entrepreneurs are looked at as semi-criminals.

You hear people in Croatia gossiping. Who did he have to bribe to get that contract? You don’t want to ask a successful entrepreneur how he made his first million. He probably pays really bad salaries…profiting off of his poor, hard-working employees.

It’s sad that this happens, because if I would only look at the amount of time I have invested into my businesses to get to where I am – I should already almost be entitled to retire – and I am only 36 years young.

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(Photo credit Drazen Tomic)

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a foreign, rather than a Croatian entrepreneur here?

I believe its always good if you have the ability to differentiate yourself from your competition. Differentiating yourself and your company you can do in many ways, but in my case – being Dutch in Croatia already makes me different. At least, most of my meetings we can start with a casual talk and answering the question “How on Earth did you end up in Croatia?”

4. Your LinkedIn following is growing and it has become a beacon of social media positivity. You claim that you only see opportunities here, while so many are emigrating. Why are others not seeing what you see?

Because many people have blurred vision as a result of being surrounded by toxic people who also have blurred vision. If you spend a lot of time with people who only complain about how the weather in Ireland is better than in Croatia – then before you know it, you will start believing that Ireland is a nice sunny place. Whatever people complain about, whatever people think is not good enough – all of those are business opportunities. It just takes the right entrepreneur to start solving those issues and start charging for that solution. 

I believe that starting a business in the Netherlands is equally difficult as starting a business in Croatia – just for different reasons. The Dutch market is known for being very innovative, with a lot of competition and competition that has big budgets to fight you. In Croatia, you have a chance to soon become a market leader if you find a product or service that allows you to be a first-mover in Croatia.

I am all about being first with something and using first-mover advantage. When I started my contact center business in 2007, we were among the first professional call centers in Croatia. When I started Webpower Adria in 2016, we became the first locally present company specialized in email marketing & marketing automation. Both industries were already highly saturated in the Netherlands with strong local competition. In the Netherlands, I would not have stood a chance by opening such businesses. In Croatia, I became market leader with both companies.

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5. Are you seeing much change in the entrepreneurial scene in Croatia over the last couple of years? In which ways, if yes?

Yes! I see more and more young entrepreneurs entering the scene and building amazing companies that are solving global problems. Take companies like Include from Solin with their smart bench, Agrivi revolutionizing the AgriTech scene, Nanobit. We even have our first unicorn with Infobip. There have been more and more success stories in Croatia – which creates wonderful employment opportunities in Croatia.

6. The eco-system of Croatia's entrepreneurs is getting stronger, and initiatives such as Glas Poduzetnika have certainly helped. What should we be focusing on in the next year or two to improve things in your opinion?

I am supporting the efforts made by Udruga Glas Poduzetnika from day one simply because I believe that governments should listen more to their entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the driving force of every economy and I am putting my money on Croatia's entrepreneurs to move this country forward. 

Our focus should be on making sure that we don't create a situation where it looks like “entrepreneurs against the government“. Both entrepreneurs and the government should want the same for Croatia. Being able to have constructive conversations between entrepreneurs and the government – where we can see Croatia progress as a result of joint efforts - that will be a key component in making Croatia a better country to live in for the next generation.

7. And I am sure a lot of our readers will be curious - what's next for Jan de Jong once you have finished with the digital nomad visa?

My heart right away wanted to share some huge news, but my mind was stronger this time. I am currently working on something really big and exciting, something that will require large capital investments in Croatia, something that will help Croatia to increase export figures, something that will provide employment to many people, something that won’t easily be affected by events like Covid-19, and something that Croatia is traditionally very strong at. 

Please, be patient. I hope I will be able to make a big announcement soon. If you want to be among the first ones to know what I am working on…follow me on LinkedIn.


To learn more about the virtual Poduzetnik Mindset 2020 conference on September 10 - and to register - visit the official website.  

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Croatia 2.0: Entrepreneurial Mindset Second Edition Announced in Zagreb

 January 15, 2020 - The star of the 2019 Croatian conference season as back, as Entrepreneurial Mindset announces its 2020 edition in Zagreb in September. 

 There are not many conferences you go to where the American Ambassador addresses the audience about that time he lost US$ 4 million in a business deal. A deal that taught him a lot. 

It was one of the many stories of failure told at last year's inaugural Entrepreneurial Mindset conference in Zagreb, which brought together some of Croatia's most successful entrepreneurs, as well as the American and Israeli ambassadors, for an inspiring day of success and failure of the biggest names in the Croatian business world. 

In the front row were not the ministers and elected officials which usually take (and quickly vacate) these seats, but high school students who had won entrepreneurial prizes at school. Their prize? The chance to rub shoulders and get inspired by the likes of Mate Rimac, Emil Tedeschi, Nenad Bakic and Ivan Mrvos, to name but four. 


If Croatia is to change, a key element of that change will be the mindset of the younger generation, and the conference is aimed at that generation, with the country's top entrepreneurs generously giving their time to advise and inspire. A key lesson from the last conference was that it is ok, even necessary to fail, as entrepreneur after entrepreneur recounted their rocky road to success. It is an important message in a society where failure is hidden at all costs. 

Of the many conferences I attended in 2019, this was the one that was most cloaked in positivity. So many game changers assembled in one room, all with that positive entrepreneurial mindset that Croatia needs much more of. 

The conference, which is organised by business magazine Poduzetik and EY, has announced its second edition, which will take place on September 10 in Zagreb in a bigger venue in Lisinski. 

The organisers are promising quite a show this time around, with '1001 surprises and guests of world-class reputation.'

It is a conference TCN will be covering in depth, including interviews with several speakers in the run up to the September event. From the little I have heard from the organisers about the lineup (more details soon), it promises to be even more memorable than the impressive debut year. You can get a flavour of the Entrepreneurial Mindset 2019 edition in the video below. You can get more information about Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 from the Poduzetnik website, or follow the TCN business section.  

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Spreading the Entrepreneurial Mindset in Croatian Society: Next Steps

A week has passed since the first Entrepreneurial Mindset conference in Zagreb on September 12, 2019. And preparations are being made to build on its initial success. 

I have been to many conferences in the last few years in Croatia. Many end with a feel-good factor, but as soon as the conference is over and the next day's news stories are consumed, that is often the end of the story and of the initiative. 

Last week was different. 

There is a new kid on the block in Croatian society, and it is a kid which is much more interesting than tourism and with the potential (that word which one always seems to apply to Croatia) to generate more income than tourism itself - the dedicated and driven Croatian entrepreneur. 

Last week's conference in Zagreb brought together some of the very top names in Croatian entrepreneurship, as well as heavyweights from the diplomatic world, for the start of a new initiative to share the success of Croatia's entrepreneurs and to tell their stories - and their failures - in a big to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in the younger generation of Croats. TCN caught up with Mr. Positive himself, Ognjen Bagatin, conference co-organiser and CEO of Bagatin Clinic to find out how the conference went and what happens next. 

  1. Firstly congratulations on a very successful Entrepreneurial Mindset conference, which was very inspirational for all who attended. How would you sum up the conference now that you have had time to reflect on it for a few days?

Thank you for your kind words. It was a really inspirational day with top entrepreneurs in Croatia inspiring and sharing their experiences so we all can grow. Sum of the conference is that we have successful stories in Croatia, that you can succeed in Croatia if you work hard, if you are persistent, if you have a vision, courage, if you celebrate other’s success and you are not afraid of making mistakes. I think we planted a seed of a new hope for Croatia and presented the new leaders and role models of the country that we all can be proud of, leaders like: Mate Rimac, Silvijo Kutić, Nenad Bakić, Alan Sumina, Aleksandra Dojčinović, Matija Žulj, Ivan Mrvoš and many many others. We thank them all for their commitment.

  1. As an outside observer, one of the nicest aspects of the conference was seeing the special young guests in the front row of the audience. Tell us a little about them.

I appreciate your question, because the main idea of this conference was to influence the young people. This is why, together with EY Croatia and HUP (CEA - Croatian Employers Association), we made possible for the kids who won top prizes in their contest „Poduzetnici Budućnosti“ (Entrepreneurs of the Future), which involved more than 50 high schools from all over Croatia, have a chance to be a part of the conference and watch their role models from the first row as our VIP guests. 23 young, future entrepreneurs were delighted to be there and our responsibility is to make sure they succeed.

  1. The conference finished with an award for Vladimir Mihajlović. Tell us a little about him and his contribution.

It was very touching and I am glad that we as the organizing committee acknowledged the work Vladimir did for the past 13 years in Slavonia where he brought more than a hundred entrepreneurs, managers and business people to give inspirational speeches to elementary school and high school pupils. He is one of true silent leaders in Croatia and an example for all of us. He is a driving force in promoting entrepreneurial mindset amongst our kids which is why we gave him this prize and awarded him with the lifetime award for promoting entrepreneurship with Magazine Poduzetnik and spreading the entrepreneurial mindset. We are really grateful to have people like Vladimir here in Croatia.


  1. During the conference, you announced 4 more regional conferences over the next 12 months. Tell us a little about those and what the focus will be.

Our plan is to continue Entrepreneurial Mindset events but for students and high school pupils in Osijek, Rijeka, Split and Zagreb. We think the best investment in our future is for the students to hear future leaders like Mate Rimac, Alan Sumina, Ivan Mrvoš, Matija Žulj etc. We want to share the entrepreneurial mindset and values with them and help them succeed in Croatia. The goal is to break the paradigm that you can`t succeed in Croatia, because you can, as our speakers have proved that.

  1. Two of the key themes I noticed during the day were the need to share success stories (including the failures on the way to success), and the need to improve education for the next generation. What initiatives are being taken in that regard?

Interesting question, thank you. From Nenad Bakić we have heard what is the impact of a great project he and his wife started which influences more than 100.000 Croatian kids, the „STEM revolution“ and IRIM – Croatian makers are definitely one of the top initiatives and we all support them. Stjepan Orešković (who is a Harvard Professor and entrepreneur) mentioned that we can make Croatia a student hub of Europe and bring top world teachers and a lot of foreign students if we put focus on that. Initiative for sharing success stories are many, from this conference, to Business cafe, to AmCham, AHK, HUP and other organizations that organize business talks with successful entrepreneurs and managers, but we need more media coverage for the successful stories we already have. In „Poduzetnik“Magazine we are focused on sharing these successful stories every day through video, print and web platforms and will not stop until we make entrepreneurs, the leaders of our society.

  1. The conference high-level international support in the form of both the Israeli and American ambassadors as speakers. What role does the international community have to play in developing the Croatian entrepreneurial sector?

Yes, we had ambassador Kohorst from USA and ambassador Mor from Israel as key notes because we wanted them to share stories from their countries that can help our entrepreneurs and business people get more ideas and inspiration.

Ambassador Kohorst is an entrepreneur and he shared with us his big successes but also his big failure. In one business he lost 4 mil. $, but it was a huge learning opportunity for him and we appreciate him sharing that, because it just shows that failures are just bumps on the road to success.

Ambassador Mor’s role was to share how Israel became one of world’s top Start-up nations, and there is a lot to learn from them.

The international community is important for Croatian entrepreneurial sector for investments, know-how, franchising and so on and we need to keep our eyes open for these opportunities.


  1. A successful working partnership with the relevant ministries will help Croatian entrepreneurs. What are the key issues you would like to see worked on to improve the entrepreneurial environment?

I think the biggest help will be with lowering taxes on salaries, but also to do more campaigns which would celebrate our entrepreneurs` success so they have a better perception in the public, because small and medium companies are those that benefit Croatian economy the most. Help entrepreneurs grow, so we all can grow. The goal for all of us together should be the growth of Croatian GDP overall and GDP per capita - this is something everyone in Croatia will sense in their salaries.

You can learn more about the first Entrepreneurial Mindset conference and meet some of its key speakers in the dedicated TCN section

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