Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Croatia Initiates Procedure to Conclude Double Taxation Convention with USA

ZAGREB, Sept 30, 2020 - The Andrej Plenkovic government on Wednesday launched procedures to conclude the double taxation convention between Croatia and the USA for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric told the press before the government's meeting that the conclusion of the Convention would lead to many benefits in the taxation of all kinds of income and to the improvement of conditions for boosting bilateral trade.

"This is a great signal for investors. We are tackling the matter that has been present for more than two and a half decades," the Croatian minister said.

In October, the country's Tax Administration will open preliminary talks on holding negotiations on the document.

The convention will be beneficial to all industrial sectors, notably the IT sector.

Companies' income will be taxed in their countries of residence, the draft convention reads.

It will enable Croatian air and shipping companies that transport goods between the two countries to pay profit tax in Croatia only.

Croatian builders operating in the USA for less than 12 months will not pay taxes in the USA.

The convention regulates the taxation of income from real property, income, and salaries of athletes, artists, and so on.

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Final Criteria Met: Croatians Don't Need A Visa For The USA From 2021

September 26, 2020 - A 20-year-old diplomatic and business stumbling block has finally been resolved - Croatians don't need a visa for the USA from 2021

With a considerable amount of the country's diaspora living in English-speaking countries, the issue of visa requirement to enter the USA has been of significant interest to Croatians for years. Discussions have been ongoing since the late 1990s, complicated by the fact Croatian passports can be issued in a different country altogether - Bosnia and Herzegovina. But now, the wait is finally over - Croatians don't need a visa for the USA from 2021.

As detailed in Total Croatia News on 7th September, the final hurdle for the removal of visa requirements was the issuing of 2000 further visas before the end of this month. Sources inside the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have revealed this criterion has now been met and thus the annual level of rejected applications will be less than 3%. This was the bar set by the USA to the Croatian state.

Meeting this figure was complicated by the decrease in travel due to the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, with full disclosure to their American counterparts, sections of the Croatian government set about orchestrating the required number of applications. They enlisted the help of the Croatian business community and members within it who were sure to submit successful applications.

Next Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Croatia. Final details for the abolition of visas will be discussed between his accompanying team and that of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and Minister of Defense Mario Banožić, who will meet him in Dubrovnik. The official announcement that Croatians don't need a visa for the USA from 2021 could potentially come as soon as the end of the US Secretary of State's visit.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

International Medical Corps' Donation Delivered To Croatia

ZAGREB, June 3, 2020 - A HRK 1 million donation of the International Medical Corps from the USA was presented to Croatia's Health Ministry on Wednesday by the head of the Croatian office of that global humanitarian organization, Ivana Petkovic.

The donation, delivered to the Croatian civil protection directorate's logistic centre in Jastrebarsko, consists of 70,400 KN95 ventilator masks, 12,000 face shields, and 18 pulse oximeters. The donation is aimed at contributing to the protection of Croatian medical staff against the coronavirus.

Seeing that Zagreb and its environs were struck by the March 22 devastating earthquake which put some of the health institutions and medical equipment out of use, the International Medical Corps made this donation in an effort to relieve the consequences of the earthquake, the civil protection directorate informed.

In attendance at the donation-delivery ceremony was US Ambassador to Croatia William Robert Kohorst, Croatian Assistant Interior Minister Damir Trut, and the director of the Croatian Emergency Medical Service, Maja Grba Bujevic.

The International Medical Corps is a global, nonprofit, humanitarian aid organisation dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering by providing emergency medical services, as well as healthcare training and development programs, to those affected by disaster, disease or conflict.

Croatia has intensified its cooperation with the USA in the area of civil protection over the past five years particularly with the Minnesota National Guard in the segment of disaster response preparedness through exchanging the know-how in the prevention and participating in exercises in the field.

Friday, 14 February 2020

USA Ambassador Kohorst Clarifies 2020 Croatian Visa Waiver (VIDEO INTERVIEW)

According to Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, the United States (USA) planned to waive visas for Croatian citizens by the end of 2020 when the two countries sign a Double Taxation Treaty. While US Ambassador Robert Kohorst backed the 2020 timeline in yesterday's interview, he also emphasized that Croatia has not yet met all the conditions. And an inside source has confirmed that a Double Taxation Treaty is still 3 to 4 years away.

USA Visa Waiver Contingent on Refusal Rate Reduction: UPDATE

In an interview with Paul Bradbury of Total Croatia News yesterday, February 19, 2020; US Ambassador Robert Kohorst commented on Grlić Radman's claim that Croatia has fulfilled the conditions for the visa waiver program. 

"We expect that there is a very good chance that Croatia will qualify for the Visa Waiver Program in 2020, but there are some things that need to be completed yet. Both, you get the refusal rate below 3%, which is calculated on September 30. So, it's starting to look like they'll achieve that goal, but it's still subject to what happens in terms of people applying for visas," he explained.

"The second one is that there is about four or five documents that need to be with the Department of Homeland Security. Those enrollment processes: Croatia is working hard on them. We expect them to be completed but they are not done yet. So, he (Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman) wasn't wrong in terms of expecting to get it done, but there is still some work to be done," he concluded.

USA Croatia Double Taxation Treaty Not Expected in 2020: UPDATE

According to an inside source, the USA Croatia Double Taxation Treaty will not be signed in 2020 and is likely 3 to 4 years away under the best circumstances. A Double Taxation Treaty portfolio has not yet been created by the US Treasury Department. After the portfolio has been created, it is a 2 year process to prepare the DTT Treaty for signature by both countries. Then it is sent to the US Senate for approval.

There are currently 30 countries ahead of Croatia on the USA DTT priority list.

Croatia Foreign Minister Claimed Visa Waivers, Double Taxation Treaty for 2020

"We have fulfilled all (conditions) and this is now just a matter of the exact time. It is in the interest of both Croatian and American businessmen," Grlić Radman told reporters on February 14, 2020. He had met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of the start of the Munich Security Conference, the world's leading forum for discussing international security policy.

Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus are currently the only EU members for which the US has not yet waived visas. Citizens of Poland were exempted from the United States visa requirement at the end of 2019 according to Index on February 14, 2020.

After the meeting with Pompeo, Grlić Radman had said that the visa waivers and double taxation agreement would be implemented by the end of this year. 

Croatia Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Croatia and the US are NATO allies and cooperate closely in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Poland and the Baltic States.

Asked if Croatia, like the US, would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan; the minister replied that Zagreb would coordinate an eventual troop withdrawal with Washington.

"It is a matter for the two countries' defense ministries, but we have reaffirmed that we will coordinate our actions. Croatia defends its interests through NATO and UN membership," he added.

Kiowa Helicopter Crash Discussed With Pompeo

Without going into detail, he indicated that he had spoken with Pompeo briefly about the acquisition of fighter jets and the recent Kiowa helicopter crash near Zablace. The USA had donated that aircraft to Croatia.

Grlić Radman will also meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later on Friday.

"Croatia insists on respect for international law ... and we are doing everything we can to urge Iran to strictly adhere to the nuclear deal," said the senior Croatian diplomat, the country which currently holds the six-month EU presidency.

Follow our Politics page to keep updated on the upcoming USA visa requirement waiver for Croatian citizens.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Croatian Doctor Accepts Harvard Researcher Position: Alen Juginović Story

Croatian Doctor Alen Juginović, a recent graduate of the Faculty of Medicine in Split, will be leaving Croatia in two weeks to start a Postdoctoral Researcher position at the most prestigious college in the United States.

Dr. Juginović graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in Split in 2018. In September 2019, he was in Houston, Texas completing the second of two US observership programs. Then, he had an idea. Since he was in the US, why not visit the top universities with Neuroscience programs? So, he reached out to the Neuroscience departments at Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Columbia to arrange campus visits.

Harvard Campus Visit Leads to Instant Job Offer

He spent a day and a half in San Francisco and walked among the majestic red-roofed Romanesque sandstone buildings of Stanford University in perpetually sunny Palo Alto. Then he jetted across the country to Boston. After touring MIT, he set off for a visit of the Neuroscience Department at Harvard. With a name tag pinned to his lapel, he met Dr. Dragana Rogulja, an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology. Instead of leading him on a tour of the department, Rogulja, originally from Belgrade, brought Juginović to her office where she began inquiring about his academic background, interests and experience. Two hours later, she offered him a job in her lab.

“Everything was moving in slow motion,” the young medical school graduate recounts. He had a bus to catch to New York City for his planned visit to Columbia University, so he briefly toured his future employer’s lab. They parted ways, and Rogulja promised Juginović that she would give him all the time he needed to think about her job offer. “You’re not dreaming,” she assured him. Upon departing the Ivy League institution, however, the young Croatian doctor was in such a state of shock, that he sat motionless and in a daze while he rode the Boston Metro. Then he realized that he had missed his bus to New York.

Alen Juginović waited over a month to accept the Harvard professor's offer.

Three months later, Total Croatia News received a tip about Dr. Juginović’s job appointment at the most prestigious university in the United States, if not the world.

“I am reaching out to you with an exceptional success story about a young Croatian doctor who, as one of a very small number of Croatians in history, is leaving for the most prestigious university in the world – Harvard! I believe that this story, with all its successes, is very positive, incredibly unique and motivating for everyone in Croatia, especially the young. They will see how it is possible to reach the top of the world from tiny Croatia. I would ask you to consider this ultimate story of medical success for publication in your portal,” the source, overwhelmed with enthusiasm, wrote to us while insisting upon remaining anonymous.

Unique Story Follows Long-Lasting Croatian Tradition

Another story of a young talented Croatian leaving the county for better opportunities abroad; what makes this story so unique and motivating, I wondered. What’s the message for young people? Work hard for a future which only exists beyond your country? That scenario is so commonplace, so predictable – and has flourished without interruption since boatloads of young Croatian emigrants, housed in cramped steerage on majestic passenger steam ships, began making their way in masses across the Atlantic over 130 years ago. Croatian independence, secured in a hard-fought war 105 years later, was supposed to curb mass emigration, not accelerate it. It's worth noting that Alen Juginović was born just a year before the last war officially ended.

The doctor and I agreed to meet at Vincek at 6pm on Friday. I’d passed the dessert café on Ilica many times but had never been inside. Frankly, I could do without the extra calories. I knew that the young doctor would arrive on time, a policy which seems to be hit or miss in this country, so I entered the very bright crowded café right at 6pm. As I meandered past glass cases of cakes and tarts, a lean spry figure passed me on the left from behind. I recognized him immediately, so I quietly followed him to the corner empty table, and waited for him to turn around, so as not to surprise him.

We shook hands and laughed about our simultaneous on-time arrival. He insisted on paying for dessert and coffee, I protested but quickly capitulated, still not entirely confident in Croatian customs. Juginović is a bright, wiry and very energetic figure. We chose sumptuous chocolate desserts, both of which were packed with calories. However, the young doctor, who was comfortably draped in an Adriatic-blue sport coat, white pressed shirt and muted chinos, showed absolutely no evidence of caloric abuse.

Juginović Outlines ‘Hygiene’ of Healthy Sleep Habits

I was pleased to learn that Dr. Juginović’s area of interest is studying and treating sleep disorders, because I’ve read a little about the subject, and could ask a few informed questions. Somewhere during the onset of middle-age, I had become a finicky sleeper. Sleeping a consecutive 8 hours is no longer a given, it has become a much-valued gift. So, we launched into a discussion about “sleep hygiene” as he called it. Admittedly, I was amused by the word hygiene, especially as it relates to Croatia. Try riding a crowded Zagreb tram in July and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about.

So the young doctor enthusiastically reviewed the necessary components for “sleep hygiene”, some of which I already knew: keep the same sleep schedule, afternoon naps are OK as long as they are shorter than 45 minutes, avoid computers and smartphones (blue light), the sleeping room should not house elements of daily awake life (work-related tools) etc. He then went on to review the stages of sleep, the mechanics of each stage and circadian rhythms. I mentioned that I had read, to my relief, that the concept of a consecutive 7 to 8-hour sleep pattern only came into existence at the turn of the 20th century. Before that, many societies thrived on segmented sleep, with an interim wake period, which was integrated into daily life. He emphasized that sleep cycles are adaptable but that humans are not nocturnal by nature.

Dr. Juginović struck me as someone who lives fully scheduled days where every minute is accounted for, so I steered our discussion toward his autobiography. It unfolds like a resume every job recruiter dreams about (undoubtedly during REM sleep): President of Student Union, founder of NeuroSplit and member of the organizing committee for ISABS conferences.

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Practical Knowledge for Students | Alen Juginović

Organizer of World Class Medical Conferences in Split

Most notably, he was instrumental in organizing two Split-based world conferences. The first, Practical Knowledge for Students, is an annual event which provides medical, dental and pharmacy students the opportunity to practice key physical functions in their chosen professions: like suturing. Suturing, I thought, don’t students practice how to suture in medical school? Apparently, not enough. As the young doctor pointed out, students only know how to perform many of these tasks in theory. I immediately wondered if this was true for US medical schools too. The conference has been a smashing success and participation has ballooned to over 400 students, who arrive in Split from all corners of the world.

The second conference, Nobel Days, brought together four Nobel Prize winners in one auditorium for panel discussions, which were free and open to the public. The panel comprised of Biochemist Richard Roberts, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993; Biophysicist Joachim Frank, who received it in Chemistry in 2017; Physicist Georg Bednorz, who won the prestigious award in 1987; and Harald zur Hausen, a Virologist who received it for the discovery of the HPV virus and its association with cervical cancer. The 500-person capacity auditorium in Split was packed; with standing room only.

He also organized several fundraiser concerts with popular Croatian musicians to upgrade a home for children with special needs and finance improvements to pediatric and other medical facilities.

We briefly touched upon his observerships in Milwaukee and Houston, where he was impressed and surprised by the level of student involvement in extracurricular activities. Juginović considers participation in extracurricular activities essential for students’ well-being. It also brings balance to student life and takes the focus away from just attending classes and studying for exams. There are a lot of students who just spend their free time drinking coffee, he lamented, when they could be engaging with others in areas of personal interest and public concern. He also emphasized that he did not consider high grades to the most important criteria for success and even admitted that he didn’t have a perfect grade point average.

So, Juginović’s autobiography is full of significant and impactful achievements, which he shared with enthusiasm, energy and passion. It wasn’t at all difficult to imagine how he wowed that Serbian professor in Boston, who runs a lab at the most prestigious university in the world. And, their partnership suggests a promising overseas Serbo-Croatian collaboration, which is still a rarity in the homeland.

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Nobel Days | Alen Juginović

The Croatian Journey to America Spans Over a Century

My grandfather arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Slavonia, which had departed Rijeka on a 19-day journey to America. The trans-Atlantic journey, which he had most likely spent in steerage, was long and grueling, but the young nation was open to everyone who arrived. One hundred fifteen years later, getting into America has become much more complex. One way is to successfully and illegally traverse an increasingly fortified Southern border. Another way is to obtain a H-1B visa, and eventually a Green Card, which can be a complicated affair, and is only expedited by possessing vast financial resources, outstanding individual talent or powerful connections.

In Dr. Juginović’s case, Dr. Rogulja and Harvard will likely process a H-1B visa application which allows a US employer to temporarily hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation. For a world renown institution like Harvard, that process will likely be streamlined and accelerated, regardless of legal route. It’s worth noting that Croatia remains among just a handful of EU countries for which the US still requires a visa for entry, even as a tourist. However, US and Croatian efforts are now finally underway to abolish that requirement within the next few years.

So, in a little over two weeks the young Croatian doctor will board a plane bound for America. He’ll arrive in Boston in a matter of hours, not weeks, where he will immediately be taken under Harvard’s wing and will undoubtedly surpass their high-performance standards. His job offer comes with a three-year renewable contract, and from there the possibilities are boundless. In the meantime, he must pack for relocation to “The Hub of the Universe”. And HRT (Croatian Radio Television) has just contacted him for a news feature, which will be filmed at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Zagreb, where he remains employed until his departure.

No Long-Term Plans to Return to Croatia Permanently

For a young man who proceeds with such deliberate intention; like organizing significant world conferences with science visionaries and planning personal tours of America’s top universities, I wondered where Dr. Juginović saw himself in the future. Did he consider America a place to expand his knowledge, absorb her best practices, learn from her shortcomings, and return to his homeland to share that vision, knowledge and optimism? Or was America a more permanent destination?

“I don’t think that far ahead, and am open to all opportunities,” he responded, and emphasized that his focus was on the moment and never extended beyond the next day or two. One could not help but sense the empty space that someone, who had been such a daily inspiration to fellow students, would leave behind. Is he coming back to visit, I wondered. He replied that he’d be back during summer break. How does summer break work for a researcher at a university, I thought aloud. Does it follow the academic calendar? He’d probably come back for a week, he answered tentatively and emphasized that his primary passion is to motivate students. “Never underestimate the power of students,” he proclaimed with conviction.

Even if Alen Juginović’s return visits to Croatia are brief and rare, I’ll safely bet that a more refined version of his story, which he shared with me over coffee and dessert, will appear as a TED Talk on YouTube. It’s simply not even a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. And sure enough, it turns out that his future Serbian mentor has already given a TED Talk. Young Croatians seeking motivation will be able to locate inspirational footage of the soon-to-be former Split resident online by a Google search. Some will be enchanted by his fulfillment of the American Dream, a concept which has long ago achieved mythical proportions. Others, perhaps, might be inspired to stay and effect change in their homeland. Dr. Juginović emphasized that his parents and three close friends have been his main source of inspiration.

Saying Goodbye and Reaching Out for Something New

He admitted that the last few weeks have been emotional. Late one night he sat on a bench ten meters from the sea with a close friend and disclosed that he was leaving for America. Without saying a word, the friend simply hugged him. “Everglow” by Coldplay was playing on the car radio on their way home and that song will always commemorate the moment, he reveals. Then he showed me a stunning image of a sunset taken high up in the hills overlooking Split and the Adriatic Sea. The soft horizontal bars of deep blue and orange were broken up by the silhouette of a young man with mussed up hair and the roof of a car. Flickering lights of Croatia’s second largest city, a city that existed long before the arrival of Croatian tribes, dotted the lower right-hand corner of the image. These were among the reflections of a young man saying goodbye.

Near the end of our conversation, we spoke briefly about his favorite songs. In addition to “Everglow”, he mentioned “Purple Rain” by Prince. We immediately agreed that it was impossible to enjoy songs with meaningless lyrics. In that context, “Purple Rain” seemed like an improbable choice, not to mention that the song was a massive worldwide hit a decade before he was born.

Prince explained the meaning of his song to an interviewer as follows: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.”

At the beginning of the song, the late musician’s lyrics appear to be directed toward an individual and allude to the end of a friendship. Then he acknowledges that times are changing and “it’s time we all reach out for something new, that means you too.” Had the young Croatian doctor experienced the end of a friendship? We hadn’t gotten that personal, but I suspect that his affinity for this song hinted at a more collective, rather than personal experience. Near the end of the legendary anthem, Prince calls out to his audience:

You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind

If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon, raise your hand

Follow our Lifestyle page and Diaspora page for more information on Croatians and their successes abroad. For updates on Dr. Juginović’s pursuits and health advice, follow his Twitter page here.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Croatia: USA Planning to Waive Visa Requirement for Croatian Citizens

Finally, 28 years after Croatia declared independence, the United States is on the verge of waiving travel visas for Croatian citizens. The Croatian government and their US partners have been working together closely since Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic’s visit to the US at the beginning of last year.

Extremely important security criteria and agreements should be finalized this month according to Sandra Veljković/Večernji List on December 3, 2019. And visa denials, which is the main obstacle to abolishing the visa requirement, have been reduced from 5.96 to a record 4.02 percent, which is close to the 3 percent threshold that will guarantee entry into the visa-free program.

Croatia Encouraged to Follow Poland’s Path

To further this goal, the US encouraged Croatia to follow Poland’s path, which reduced the number of refusals this year, and entered a visa-free program with a collective application from officials, businessmen and citizens who will certainly be granted visas. In Croatia, this action has already been initiated at various levels, especially among businessmen.

- Croatia is close to meeting the criteria and we will continue to work with the relevant authorities to help Croatia meet the requirements. We urge the Croatian Government to take a proactive role and review the successful steps the Polish government has taken in its bid for admission to the visa waiver program, the US Embassy in Zagreb said.

Three Percent Rejection Rate Goal

So, what steps has Poland taken? And what is the background story regarding the sharp decline in visa refusal rates from nearly six percent in 2017 to below three percent? That country, in agreement with the US, initiated a process of encouraging its citizens to obtain US tourist visas. In addition, Polish officials also applied for visas, thereby reducing the rate of visa refusals. They concentrated, of course on those groups of people who have the best chance of obtaining visas. This method, which has been discussed with Americans for a long time, could theoretically function in Croatia, since the real numbers of rejections are rather small: around 300 to 400.

US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst also spoke with Croatian Chamber of Commerce President Luka Burilović about the Polish model for reducing visa rejections. The CCC confirmed this meeting and discussion regarding visas.

Croatia Among Four EU Countries Needing Visas for US

- Croatia is one of four EU member states, along with Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, whose passport holders still need visas to arrive and stay in the US. They stressed the need to reduce the rejection rate to at least three percent, and both sides agreed that they could achieve this goal by this time next year. This will require a concerted effort to encourage members of the business community to apply for visas within the next ten months, the CCC reported. In addition, another cause for optimism is the large number of valid visas, which are issued every 10 years, so that their renewals could positively impact the balance between approved and rejected visas.

Secure Source of Income Required

Although Americans have the discretion to refuse requests without giving a reason, according to diplomatic sources, most of the rejected requests are being filed by Croatian nationals in Serbia and Bosnia. Most of the visa rejections were for people who could not prove that they had a secure source of income. And applicants have often contacted family members living in the US who have businesses or trades, which was another indicator that the applicant was going to the US to get a job with a relative.

Check out our Lifestyle page here or our Politics page here to follow travel and visa information for Croatian citizens.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Croatia to USA and Back: Marin Bek Reflects on Success

Marin Bek, electrical engineer and co-founder of Ascalia and Kraken Systems, reflects on his life and success for Generacija NOW, a Hrvatski telekom project, in the form of a recent letter to his younger self. After graduating from FER (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing), he moved to America and found a job there, but eventually returned to Čakovec, Croatia. Today, at age 33, he runs two very successful companies.

When he was a kid in elementary school, he was dismantling TVs and burning things. And it was obvious to everyone that he wouldn’t study history but something STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). He often went cycling with his mom, and while they rode together, she tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He entered eighth grade and he told her that he wanted to be a programmer and work in California. Then he completed his degree in electrical engineering and computer science and lived in California for a while. After a few years, he returned from America to Čakovec, Croatia and started an IT company and later a tech startup there. It might have seemed like an odd path to his peers, but he knew that he had made the right decision because it is not important where you work in IT, but the kind of work you do.

Computer Whiz

Everyone in elementary school was interested in technology, but when he chose a high school, he encountered prejudice for the first time. He didn’t want to enroll in high school and chose the technical middle school in Čakovec instead, and since that school was not at its best, his former professors slandered him. They also summoned his mom to school and recommended that she take him out of technical school and enroll him in high school. And then his cousin Siniša, who had graduated from FER and the technical school in Varaždin, advised Marin’s mother to allow Marin to study what he wanted. Fortunately, she understood and gave him that choice.

The technical middle school was too easy for him. He was 16 years old, and advanced to the second level. Everything went smoothly, even though he wasn’t learning anything, and that's how it remained until he enrolled in FER. However, he found math so difficult there that he nearly lost a year and almost dropped out of college; but he advanced (barely). It took him some time to get used to the fact that things were not as simple as they were in high school, and he would have to study harder.

Working Full-time in College

He started working full time at Bosch during his second semester of college so that he could stay in Zagreb. He skipped typical student life and extended his studies to six and a half years. After working at Bosch for a few years, he had had enough of small programming jobs and he quit. Then he started working for the Austrian company AVL, and stayed there until leaving for America.

In the summer before his third year of college, he took a bus from Zadar to Čakovec. Among the documentaries shown during the bus ride was one about underwater robots exploring the Titanic. Seeing this encouraged him to enroll in a seminar on electrical engineering and the design of autonomous robots. He enjoyed this seminar and his professors persuaded him to switch from computers to electronics.

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Autonomous Underwater Diver

He remained at AVL and his seminar paper turned into a graduate thesis. Then he made his own autonomous underwater diver, which was like a small underwater drone. Shortly before graduation, FER gave a lecture on startups, which still seemed like an abstract term back then. After that lecture, he spoke to the lecturer and Vladimir de Franceschi, a startup lawyer who worked in Silicon Valley, and told them about his autonomous diver. The lawyer like what he heard and suggested that he apply for the Startup Accelerator Program at the US-based Founder Institute in Zagreb, and later helped him with his startup in San Francisco.

After graduation he continued working at AVL. He wanted to enroll in the Founder Institute's American Startup Accelerator Program but needed an investment of 3000 HRK, which he didn’t have. His grandmother had a stroke and he helped pay for her care. Then his mother became ill and he looked after her as well. After discussing options with friends, his cousin Siniša lent him the money which was a major turning point. In Zagreb, he became familiar with the startup culture through the accelerator program.

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From Croatia to San Francisco

One afternoon in Čakovec in the winter of 2012, he cut off part of his thumb above the bone while splitting firewood for his mother. They saved his thumb and the three months of sick leave turned out to be a positive thing. During his time at home he realized that it was better to work alone than in an office, and started thinking about moving to San Francisco. He founded his first startup while still in Zagreb, and soon found a job online at the Nextuser startup so that he could pay rent, food and finance his own project. Many of his peers warned him of the risk of quitting a job at a well-off Austrian company to launch a startup with someone that he had met on the Internet, but he believed it would pay off in the end.

He enjoyed San Francisco, and like everyone else, he juggled several jobs while developing his startup. It was entirely commonplace there to be sitting in a cafe and have a waiter share an idea for a startup. He tried to get involved with marine technology and underwater drones but couldn’t obtain financing. Six and a half years later, he realizes that his idea was ahead of its time, and making it happen would have been extraordinarily expensive.

His project eventually failed, and he ran out of money, but quickly connected with people who would play a key role in his future. At Nextuser he had advanced from IT developer to CTO, and became involved with finding investors, which enhanced his knowledge and pool of acquaintances. However, he wanted to return to Croatia for his mom's sake and didn’t want to get stuck in America forever. In 2013, he and his friend and colleague Dean Strbad launched an IT company called Kraken Systems which dealt with big data in Čakovec. For a while he lived on the Čakovec-San Francisco route. After two and a half years, he left Silicon Valley and returned to Croatia.

Return to Croatia

When he set up Kraken Systems in Čakovec, his critics thought it strange that he had not chosen Zagreb. But his reasons were based on logic: Dean, who is also from Čakovec, worked alongside him. He also set up a home office so that he would not have to rent a space. Besides, he wanted to be closer to his mom because she was ill and needed his help. And, he didn’t allow himself to be influenced by peer pressure, because he had been shaped by American business culture, and knew that the location of his firm was completely irrelevant.

He didn’t plan on working with Croatian clients anyway, and it didn't matter to anyone in America whether the company is in Zagreb, Čakovec or Varaždin because they’d probably never heard of any of those cities. Also, in America, he never experienced prejudice regarding where he worked or where he came from. San Francisco is a melting pot, which is a positive aspect of life there. People arrive from all over the world and come from many different backgrounds.

However, after three and a half years, he decided to move the business to a more central location. His mother’s health didn't improve, and he moved to Zadar, where it became apparent that he would never return to Čakovec. As he continued to add staff; he decided to rent offices in Zagreb. However, he kept an office in Čakovec, where three people are currently working.

Kraken Systems is a now a company with close to 1 million EUR in revenue and they work with clients like Carrefour, Nestlé, Ferrer and Forbes. Four years after Kraken Systems began operations, he launched Ascalia, another tech startup, and now has over 20 employees in both companies.

He found investors from Canada and Croatia and his new startup focuses on industry and helping factories to modernize. They use the benefits of technology to reduce environmental impact and overall costs while optimizing operations. He created software and devices which allow industrial machines, made from 1979 to the present, to connect to the Internet. This allows clients to run a smart factory without a major investment. He has continued to develop this company, which is active in London, Paris and Germany. Everywhere except Croatia.

These days he travels all over the world: one day he’s in Paris, the next day in Munich or London. He also travels through America, Europe and China for work.

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Advice to Young Entrepreneurs

His advice to young entrepreneurs? Don’t hesitate to take risks and follow your instincts without overthinking things. There will be tough times and obstacles, but be persistent and don't give up. Unfortunately, he no longer has any close relatives: mom, dad, or grandparents, so he doesn’t rule out living abroad again. Seven years ago, he was raising money for gas in Čakovec, and he never dreamed of achieving such success in his early thirties. He has no idea what his forties will bring. We’ll have to wait and see.

About Generacija NOW

Generacija NOW is a donor-sponsored program implemented by Hrvatski Telekom in partnership with the Institut za razvoj i inovativnost mladih (Institute for Youth Development and Innovation). In four years, more than HRK 4 million has been invested in preparing young people for jobs of the future, and the program works with more than 300 educational institutions across Croatia.

With the documentary “Generacija inspiracija” (Inspiration Generation), as well as a series of activities within the donation program, Hrvatski Telekom emphasizes the importance of investing in better education for all school age groups – so that they can successfully navigate life without missing out on opportunities provided by the latest technological advances. The importance of destroying preconceptions and prejudices must not be forgotten. And one of the more common preconceptions is that businesses cannot be started in smaller environments.

For more information on Croatian entrepreneurs and business in Croatia, follow our Business page here or our Made in Croatia page here.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

American Ambassador and Students Visit Successful Croatian Company

As Novac writes on the 25th of May, 2019, the headquarters of the Zagreb-based Q IT company were visited by US Ambassador W. Robert Kohorst, where the representatives of the Croatian company Q and the US Ambassador discussed their US business operations, projects and further plans.

Ambassador Kohorst, who comes from the business world, was particularly interested in Croatian Q's business strategy on the American market and what challenges they encountered. The conversation was also conducted in the spirit of bilateral relations between the United States of America and Croatia, with the aim that the US embassy could further assist Croatian companies with their operations in the United States, but also American investors here in Croatia.

''We're glad that we had the opportunity to host US Ambassador Kohorst and to Q and the projects we've worked for the US market to him. The exchange of knowledge and experience is crucial because those who can influence laws must first hear what's going on out in the field. That's why we were delighted to be able to share our experience with the ambassador,'' stated Filip Ljubic, CEO of Q.

In addition to the American Ambassador, Q was visited by three groups of American students from the Quinnipiac, Michigan and Redlands universities this year. For a total of 110 students who visited, the story of Q's success was their main interest, since Q grew by a staggering 4,000 percent in the last four years alone, and several of them expressed their personal desires to work in this Croatian company.

Across the Atlantic over in the United States, this Croatian company operates through its Los Angeles and New York offices, and they have so far successfully completed projects for leading American companies such as Coca-Cola, Facebook, Walmart, and the United States Postal Services.

In addition, last year in the United States, they were rewarded for the excellence of their brand, receiving the REBRAND 100® award alongside the likes of American HP and Cadillac.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia and business pages for much more.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Croatian Innovation Provides Solutions in 5 Continents and 89 Countries

This Croatian startup currently employs 45 people. Its income in 2013 was thirteen million kuna, last year it reached 35 million, and in 2019, 50 million kuna is expected.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Bernard Ivezic writes on the 20th of May 2019, the Croatian startup Zipato develops and manufactures smart home systems, which results in a Croatian solution that can compete globally with the likes of Apple, Google and Samsung. Just recently, 10,000 central ''Zipabox'' smart home computers have been delivered to the USA from right here in Croatia.

With that contract, the Croatian company concluded its single biggest job so far. Sebastian Popović, the co-founder of the former Vodatel, who is today the co-founder and director of Zipato, didn't want to delve too deep into the details of this contract, but he emphasised the fact that it was so significant that the production of Zipabox systems has moved to Zagreb.

For nine years now, 30,000 pieces of the same product but in its smaller series were sold across the Atlantic in America. Since then, far bigger orders have been dealt with by developers and OEM partners who have been equipping a larger number of apartments and various business premises with Zipabox's system.

"I expect there will be more similar contracts," stated Popović.

Sebastian Popović, along with Damir Sabol, is the only Croatian entrepreneur who has managed to build a profitable startup on the Croatian telecom market and then sell it successfully. Sabol sold Iskon to Croatian Telecom for 100 million kuna back in 2006, and Popović sold Vodatel to the former Metronet (currently integrated into A1 Croatia) for 80 million kuna just one year later. While he was in Vodatel, he developed the "eTV media centre", a computer that is the counterpart of today's well known IPTV set-top box.

Moreover, his former Vodatel was the first in Croatia to launch IPTV as a commercial service back in 2005. It had almost all of the functionality of today's IPTV, including video on demand. After the sale, Vodatel briefly moved to the building industry, but the global financial crisis, which hit Croatia in 2008, pushed that Croatian company back towards technology.

"We started nine years ago when we imagined ourselves quickly developing hardware and offering a smart home service in Croatia. However, we needed three years just to be able to show the first version of Zipabox," Popović noted.

He added that despite this, the hard work and effort definitely paid off. Although there were already many devices on the market and various smart home sensors around, either they weren't properly compatible with each other, or their installation and connection required large and burdensome investments.

"From the outset, we attracted the interest of customers from different parts of the world, mostly from some of the most developed countries, and they started contacting us and distributing and promoting Zipato in their countries," Popović said.

Today, the Croatian Zipato is present in an impressive 89 countries and across five continents. On its platform, more than 300,000 IoT devices are currently connected to 50,000 households and other spaces. The big business opened up its doors when this Croatian startup started to work directly with integrators and developers in the construction industry, instead of just with individual customers and distributors, who were so well equipped with new builds.

Popović emphasised the fact that they have had contacts with such companies in that industry since as far back as the year 2000.

As stated at the beginning, this impressive Croatian startup employs 45 people, it saw income of thirteen million kuna back in 2013 and as much as fifty million kuna is expected this year. In the last four years, they have also begun to contract OEM deals for telehandlers, power companies and other utility companies.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and Made in Croatia pages for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Bernard Ivezic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Croatia Searching for Fighter Jets Again, Negotiations with USA and Sweden

The recent fighter jet story was a bit of a flop (yes, that's an understatement) for Croatia, but it seems that not all is lost, despite the entire situation having been made the butt of numerous jokes ever since.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of May, 2019, a delegation from Sweden was led by an individual from FMV, a state-run company that deals with arms export operations.

Throughout 2019, the Croatian Government will try its hand at yet another attempt to procure some fighter jets. It appears, despite the total and utter failure to reach a deal with Israel and Croatia's previously desired acquisition of some F16's, that the government just isn't giving up on its plans.

As Vecernji list reports, after the Croatian Military Delegation returned from the United States over a month ago from the initial round of talks about the aircraft, the same type of initial meeting was held on the 8th of May, but with the Swedes, in which Croatia's "interest" was activated once again, this time for the purchase of the JAS-39 Gripen.

The delegation to the United States was headed by General Mirko Šundov, while Robert Hranj was placed in charge of the talks on the specific topic of the aircraft. All that was found out after that was that from the American side, no offers on the aircraft had been made.

As for the Swedes, they showed somewhat greater ambition. As Croatia's delegation had returned from the United States visibly disappointed, and they'd even heard that the Americans were astonished when they realised that Croatia still had a firm intention to acquire those jets, MORH set up a similar meeting, but this time with the Swedes.

As stated, the delegation from Sweden was led by an individual from FMV, which is a state-run company that runs and deals with arms export operations. In addition, there was also a representative of SAAB, the manufacturer of the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft. The Croatian delegation consisting of ten persons was headed by Hranj.

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

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