Saturday, 23 July 2022

American Billionaire Investing in Croatian-Irish Startup Fonoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 January 2022

Pizza Master Ante Svoren Returns from Ireland to Lika, Opens Business

January the 14th, 2022 - The exodus of Croats to countries like Ireland has been going on ever since the country joined the European Union (EU) back in July 2013, but while Croatia's demographic crisis has been going on far longer than the coronavirus crisis has, many people have returned home from Ireland. Lika pizza master Ante Svoren is just one of them, who has returned to Lika after four years on the emerald isle.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after four years of living in Ireland, Ante Svoren, his wife and his children returned home to beautiful Lika three years ago. The family's reason for leaving, but also for returning, was not economic.

"We didn't go to Ireland or come home for financial reasons like most people do, we went to see something new, to learn something new, to gain some new knowledge," says Ante Svoren, the owner of the Sinac pizzeria.

Over in Ireland, Ante Svoren worked as a pizza master with a starting salary of €500 per week, given that Irish employers are extremely appreciative of their workers and make sure to show that where it means the most - in their pockets.

"In this country, people seem to believe that their boss is some sort of god, and the worker is a slave. The first time I went there, I went to work, finished work, and my manager shook my hand firmly and said thank you,'' recalled Ante Svoren. After proving his ability to work, his salary rose to a thousand euros per month and he became the co-owner of several pizzerias.

"It's a little different for them than it is here, when they see that you're trying hard, they give you an incentive to keep hold of you," Ante Svoren told HRT.

In Ireland, rent is the highest cost and luxuries such as alcohol or cigarettes also add up. Everything else is cheaper than in Croatia. The costs imposed on employers here, he says, are much too high.

"Too much is taken out of a person's salary for their healthcare, for their retirement, a guy will say I have a salary of eight or nine thousand kuna, I'll pay people into their bank accounts, and they end up with five thousand kuna. Over in Ireland, what you've earned, you almost get everything, so it's much better in that regard,'' added Ante Svoren.

Now, home in Lika, they have turned a new page business-wise and started an extremely successful catering and hospitality business on the property belonging to his wife's parents, right next to the Gacka spring and the mill, where they employ eight people and encourage local family farmers to buy local products from them.

For more, check out Made in Croatia.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Irish Ambassador Ruaidhri Mark Dowling Discusses Irish-Croatian Relations

August the 16th, 2021 - Irish Ambassador Ruaidhri Mark Dowling has discussed how Croatia and Ireland might learn from one another, and how economic cooperation between the two countries could be further developed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Irish Ambassador Ruaidhri Mark Dowling also discussed the possibilities of improving economic cooperation between the two EU member states and why Croats often choose Ireland as the country of their dreams.

Is it easy to find a job in Ireland?

People tend to find work in the tourism and IT sector and these seem to be the main sectors in which they currently work. These are the two sectors that have great growth and the greatest opportunities! Ireland has been doing economically well over recent years and there has been work to be had, although COVID-19 has had a dramatic negative impact on parts of the Irish economy, which has also affected employment opportunities.

How do you see the economic cooperation between Croatia and Ireland?

Economic cooperation between Croatia and Ireland isn't enormous and I would like it to develop more. Ireland and Croatia are small, open economies that must trade with their neighbours if they're to be economically successful.

In areas such as the green transition and digitalisation, Ireland and Croatia can learn a lot from each other. Croats who have returned from Ireland with useful contacts, experience and ideas have great potential for building yet more economic ties.

On top of that, Croatia could act as a base for Irish companies that want to enter the Balkan region, there are many opportunities for research.

How much has the global coronavirus pandemic affected the Irish economy?

Much like it is in Croatia, many sectors of the Irish economy have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, especially the hospitality sector. For example, the number of tourists decreased from approximately 18.5 million back in 2019 to just 4.5 million in 2020.

How much do the Irish know about Croatia? Could the number of tourist arrivals from Ireland be higher?

I think they're getting to know Croatia more and more. Many have visited Croatia in recent years and some have come here to live or know some Croats living in Ireland. Back in 2019, 111 thousand Irish tourists visited Croatia, which is 32 percent more than in 2018. I have no doubt that if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn't occurred, these numbers would have continued to increase.

We're now hearing about a number of Irish visitors and it will be interesting to see the final figures. The small Irish community in the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian community in Ireland are also very active in this.

For more, follow our politics section.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Will Lower Income Tax Rates Really Attract Croatian Emigrants Home?

March the 2nd, 2021 - Croatia has lowered its income tax rate and there are hopes that the move might attract a few Croatian emigrants home from Ireland. Just how realistic is such a hope? To some - it's even laughable.

As Novac/Ivan Zilic writes, there are fewer and fewer people in Croatia. According to demographers' estimates, up to 10 percent fewer people can be expected in the new census than in the 2011 census, a dramatic drop for an already very small country. If, by any chance, we lost 10 percent of Croatian territory in 10 years, and not 10 percent of the people, the alarm would likely have been louder, but in Croatia, land has a price, but people don't.

At the same time, even from a narrow-minded economic perspective, people are the most valuable resource any country has. Without people there is nobody to create, produce, spend, fill the budget, pay pensions, without people there can be no economy. This is something that has placed such a spotlight on Croatian emigrants as the country's demographic picture worsens.

Although demographic decline is a deeply layered problem, one of the important factors of Croatian depopulation is emigration, especially after the country joined the European Union back in 2013, when whole families headed off abroad in search of a better life. According to official data, in the seven years since joining the European Union, over 100,000 more people emigrated from Croatia than immigrated to it, but that number is actually higher, because official statistics fail to fully cover the scale of emigration.

Youth unemployment

Often when analysing the causes of migration, economists talk about the factors that encourage migration from a person's home country and the factors that attract migration to their destination country (push and pull factors). Analysing the causes of migration, the European Parliament's report Exploring migration causes - why people migrate, lists three basic groups of push and pull factors - socio-political, demographic-economic and environmental.

In the case of Croatian emigrants, these factors are often reduced down to the labour market, which gives migration an economic connotation. Indeed, looking only at the basic indicators of employment opportunities in Croatia and the countries to which Croats have emigrated in the last decade - Germany, Austria and Ireland - it's clear how unattractive Croatian economic optics are. For example, according to Eurostat data for 2019, the average annual net income in Germany, Austria and Ireland is more than three times higher than it is in Croatia, while youth unemployment (15-24 years) in Croatia is almost three times higher than in the aforementioned countries.

In addition to the labour market, a poor political economy also contributes to Croatian emigrants making the decision to jump ship. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Croatia is at the very bottom of the European Union, while when it comes to the Democracy Index, calculated by The Economist, the country has been falling in recent years. But perhaps the most important indicator of the poor state of the political economy and the general lack of perspective are the results of the Life in Transition survey, conducted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The results suggest that people in Croatia, but also in the entire former Yugoslavia, have record low beliefs that a decent life can be achieved through hard work and effort, and that political ties are a much more important factor.

Economic migration

It should be borne in mind that in the survey, Croatia is compared with post-transition countries and yet it still ranks low. By joining the European Union, the powers that be thought Croatia would become more powerful economically, but nobody counted on young, working age people going off to Ireland and Germany far more easily. They instead thought that Croatia would instead become as developed as Ireland and Germany. Not so.

Croatia's institutional and economic convergence with the European Union is a slow process, so emigration should be seen as a democratic act of "voting by foot". However, the emigration wave after Croatia's accession to the EU is a given situation. People who have left live in better and more responsible systems, and their return can be an opportunity to create the potential for social and economic change. Observing emigration to the Western Balkans, Ivlevs and King in their 2017 paper conclude that people who have a family member who emigrated have a lower propensity for corruption, and that emigration often causes the transfer of cultural norms from the place of emigration to the home country.

Additionally, there is evidence that the human capital that people acquire in migration in the event of return can have a positive impact on the economy. In a 2017 paper, Bahar and his co-workers looked at where refugees from the wars in the former Yugoslavia worked in Germany, and conclude that when these same people return to their countries, the sectors in which they worked begin to export more. Although the episode of war migration is different from the economic migration we're currently witnessing, some patterns can be revealed - people who have gone to more developed countries carry considerable human, financial and social capital, and an attempt should be made to bring them back.

Political will

Will many Croatian emigrants happily jump on a plane and return home from Ireland just because of a slightly lower income tax rate? In order to significantly eliminate the initial pressure on people to emigrate, Croatia needs to converge institutionally and economically with the European Union, and this requires more fundamental changes than changes in tax rates. We need to tackle the problems. Otherwise, existing worrying emigration and demographic trends will continue, and each new census will only bring worse news.

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Monday, 9 March 2020

Croat in Ireland Details Other Side of "Irish Promised Land" Story

One Croat in Ireland has detailed how he often finds himself on the verge of purchasing a ticket back to Croatia, more specifically to Dubrovnik, from what is often marketed as the promised land - the Emerald Isle.

Ireland has become a favourite destination alongside the likes of Germany for Croatian citizens seeking a better life and more economic stability abroad. Since the country joined the EU back in July 2013, the barriers to foreign labour markets within the EU dropped and allowed for the ease of entry of Croats hungry for a fatter wage packet and the chance to get jobs based on skill rather than connections.

While many are glad to have left, others are greeted with quite the shock after the novelty of life in Ireland has worn off, and it isn't just this Croat in Ireland dreaming nostalgically of home in Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 9th of March, 2020, the beginnings of almost anything are always difficult, and for this Croat in Ireland and for many others like him, one has to get used to the different customs, the very different Irish climate, they need to find an apartment... but Mario thinks that he's doing well, and his desire for learning and new experiences hasn't left him.

Mario Miletic changed his address at the end of January this year. A Dubrovnik man who founded the Croatian Parking Services Association and very often and very openly criticised various social anomalies online, but also warned others about the bad situation in Croatia, decided to seek his happiness in Ireland, which, as stated, has become a new home for thousands of Croats over the last few years.

He told Dubrovacki dnevnik a little more about his experiences, as well as a decision he had long thought about. After landing in Dublin in January, he had to return after a week for personal reasons, but did not give up on the move to Ireland. He said that staying here in Croatia was simply not an option.

“I've been thinking about leaving for years, since the first legal process was initiated (a precedent for an administrative lawsuit against the University of Dubrovnik was obtained). Before leaving, I decided to do everything in my power to try to change things and try to make a positive impact on society, so I set up a civil society association with my colleagues. The idea of ​​leaving was, de facto, realised by itself. When you decide to do something, everything comes together for you to be able to accomplish it. Although, the internet has helped a little bit,'' says this Croat in Ireland who is currently working as a bartender in an Irish pub, but doesn't intend to stay there.

Therefore, he applies daily for job advertisements, aiming to get a job in the IT industry. He has even contacted Google and is aiming to continue his education, perhaps to graduate from college in Ireland. The decision to leave was not an easy one.

This Croat in Ireland often finds himself on the verge of buying a ticket back to Dubrovnik.

"The departure was extremely difficult, it still is, and I'm on the verge of buying a plane ticket to Dubrovnik every day. The people close to him in his life, right up until his last day in Croatia, didn't believe he was really leaving. And now it's hard for them, at least that's what they say,'' Mario said.

"My first experience was a bit negative, it was a clash of customs. But after things were explained, the positives prevailed and I returned again. As the Irish explained to me, the weather in February 2020 was the worst in recent years, after our January sunshine, this was a huge change for the worse. For now, I think I've done well, the language isn't a problem, the fact the system is all online is a great thing for me, and I'm learning a little more. The biggest challenge is finding a reasonably priced apartment because they're astronomical when compared to what we're used to,'' said Mario.

The biggest Croatian problem is the reluctance of institutions to change anything, according to Mario.

In Croatia, he said, he was extremely disturbed by the lack of functioning of institutions, which isn't the case in Ireland, which, Miletic points out, respects the rights of workers. General inertia, nepotism, an atmosphere of less value, lies that came from representatives of political power and, as he says, an artificially created negative atmosphere, are just some of the reasons for his departure from Croatia, despite the pangs of his heart that often lead to him wanting to buy a return ticket home to Dubrovnik.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Irish Dream or Illusion? Osijek Doctor Returns to Croatia From Ireland

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 13th of November, 2019, following the surge in Croatian nationals heading abroad, which has been and continues to be extensively monitored by the media, there is a growing trend of returning people who have experienced life and work for several years in Western Europe, yet decide to return home to Croatia and try their luck again here at home.

The fact that this trend of return doesn't solely regard people who have gone to Ireland to work in positions that don't require higher education is evidenced by the case of Dr. Delalle, a psychiatrist from Osijek who after three years in Ireland, decided to return home to a Croatian institution, more specifically to KBC Osijek.

According to Glas Slavonije, this doctor, who worked at the aforementioned Osijek hospital since 1986, and was head of child psychiatry at KBC Osijek from 2003 to 2015, says openly that the reason for her departure has never been dissatisfaction with the institution or system, but was solely because of family and financial reasons, and of course, the idea also came from a dose of professional curiosity.

''Within a month, I got a job at an Irish Government hospital, but it was a 45-minute bus and train ride and then another four miles on foot. All this is quite exhausting at my age, especially when you come from Osijek, where everything is at your fingertips,'' recalls Dr. Delalle when recalling some of the problems there.

This psychiatrist also worked for a while in the department for child and adolescent psychiatry in a public government hospital, and although she was initially very enthusiastic, disappointment with the system quickly followed.

In the end, she resigned from this institution, worked for a while in various other institutions, but nostalgia to return home to Croatia still prevailed.

''Financially, there were high incomes and as a psychiatrist you could earn about 5,000 euros a month there, but housing is very expensive and when you pay all the expenses, you're left with an only slightly higher income than you get in Croatia. For a doctor with scientific titles, length of service and on-call duty can also bring you a very nice income here.

It was interesting to go there, see it, experience it all, but I became nostalgic. I wanted to be close to my family and friends again, be where my home was. Thanks to the understanding of the director of KBC Osijek, I was given the opportunity to work at the Clinic for Psychiatry at KBC Osijek again.

''This is an experience that can enrich everyone, but in the end you see that despite all of Croatia's flaws, our system is still much more accessible, more professional, and significantly more empathetic to the needs of the patient,'' Dr. Delalle concluded.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Irish Dream Shatters for Croatian Woman: ''I Cried Every Day''

The Croatian demographic crisis is becoming more and more concerning as time goes on. The fact that some don't actually announce their departure to MUP and other relevant bodies when leaving the country tends to cloud the true number of people who have left Croatia in search of a new life abroad, a negative trend which has increased enormously, posing a serious threat to the domestic economy, since Croatia joined the European Union in July 2013.

Upon joining the EU, Croatia entered the single market, one of the fundamental four freedoms of which is the free movement of labour. Barriers to the labour markets of other, wealthier European countries in the West, such as that of Ireland, fell, and with that so did Croatia's numbers.

While it cannot be argued that Western European countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom are more desirable in an economic sense, anyone who has spent any time in those countries (I spent 21 years of my life in the UK), will be quick to tell you that the rivers aren't flowing with milk and honey, and that landing employment and a living wage isn't that easy at all. Still, many hungry for a good wage and better conditions are blind to these warnings, and cheap one-way Ryanair tickets to Dublin are almost too difficult to resist.

Not every story ends in success and happiness, and despite what many Croatian publications tend to claim, there are numerous people who have realised that The Good Life in countries like Britain and Ireland is just as plagued as anywhere else, and they do make the trip back to Croatia. Here's one such story from Poslovni Dnevnik/VLM on the 16th of July, 2019, which is more than worth paying attention to.

''I got the impression that it was amazing for everyone who went there - people were buying cars, living well, they were managing to save money. Overnight, I decided to go to Ireland and told myself I'm going to do something with my life,'' says Adrijana from the continental Croatian town of Virovitica.

As stated, emigration has become one of the burning topics in Croatian public life during the last few years. Many in search of their daily bread, and more of it for their work, went off to wealthier European countries like Germany, the UK and Ireland. Some adjusted and liked their lives there, some didn't, some decided to pick their battles and stay for work, to save, but there are also many who came back.

Among the latter is 40-year-old Adrijana Ružička, a Virovitica-native from Zagreb, who told Deutsche Welle just why she returned from the emerald isle to Croatia.

"I left with assurance that I'd be better off, but then I realised what my priorities in life were. When you leave your country and make your way yourself abroad, when you're separated from your family and friends, you realise that you just miss it all far too much and you don't need the money to be happy. I realised that my home and my family were a source of personal happiness and that I didn't want to have a separated family and miss my son's diploma, and then today, or tomorrow, his marriage and the birth of my grandchildren. I missed my husband and son so much that my heart broke and every day I cried. In addition, I'm an only child, and my parents are old, so it wasn't acceptable for me to not be in a position to be there and help them when they needed it,'' Adrijana said.

Before leaving Ireland, she worked as a bookkeeper, which she continues to do now, but with better financial terms. The main reason for going to Ireland was of course, money, she had a low salary, and lived as a sub-tenant. Her husband was due to come and join in several months.

Adrijana, who ended up in Killarney, south of Dublin, was quickly disenchanted by the stark reality of becoming a foreigner in a strange (and rainy) land, and was hired as a maid at a hotel. The Irish dream was fading, and fast.

Her salary was far higher than the one she received in Croatia, but it turned out that for the usual Irish conditions, she was actually working for minimum wage. Her gross income was 1,600 euros, her net earnings were 1,420 euros, and her apartment and utilities sucked up 850 euros...

After everything was paid for, as well as food, 200-300 euros remained in her pocket, and as she says herself, life in Ireland can be very expensive. Still, she says she is not sorry she went to Ireland because she is richer for the experience, learned a lot, and that Ireland taught her what is important, and how to save.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

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