Meet the People of Zagreb: Davorin, Formula 1 Supremo and Angel Investor

Total Croatia News

There is a lot of vibrant young entrepreneurial spirit in Zagreb these days, none more so that with this young man. Continuing our series meeting the people of Zagreb on March 8, 2017, meet Davorin Stetner, a man who advises the president, does business with Bernie Ecclestone, persuades Bruce Dickinson to speak in Zagreb and invests in bright new Croatian ideas. 

1. Tell us who you are and your connection to Zagreb?

I am Davorin Stetner, 35 years old. For the first time in one interview I will try to name all of my current roles…: Entrepreneur – I have 4 profitable companies including Kreator TV Ltd., a specialized sports channel with its own studios & broadcast facilities, OB vans, production facilities…, Film & video company Kreator Film LLC in New York, Zimo digital in Varazdin and TV Bar in Jastrebarsko.

I have invested in 5 startup companies (Ultijack, Unique Travel Set, Nanodiy, Scorrers, Zimo). I am President of the Croatian business angels network (CRANE), president of the EBAN CEE Committee (European Business Angels Network – world’s strongest union of Business angels), advisor to the President of the Republic of Croatia in her Economic Council, Deputy President of the Croatian Car & karting federation (governing body for all motorsport in Croatia, member of FIA), Pilot, Skipper, adventurer who traveled to more than 70 countries…

I was born in Vinogradska hospital in Zagreb at 5:45 PM on 10.11.1981. I moved to Knežija in 2001. when I started my University career. Haha, enough?

2. You are the man for Formula One racing in Croatia. Explain!

I was the man, correct. In 2011 I started negotiations with Formula One Management about possible co-operation. I was 29 then and one of my colleagues told me that Croatian National television HRT would not renew a contract with F1 after decades of co-operation. Since I had worked for a three-year period as Investor and CEO of one regional free-to-air television I had a plan. I knew I could hardly make a deal with two other national free-to-air tv stations and used my experience and contacts to connect 10 regional free-to-air tv stations to act like one national channel. After months of negotiations, I signed a contract with Bernie Ecclestone and became the world’s youngest private Formula 1 media rights holder. Formula One was really my step onto the world stage.

3. And also the man who brought Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden to Zagreb for an investment conference last year. Great story – tell us more.

Bruce Dickinson is a global superstar. In addition to that, he is a good business man. I was organizing one of the Europe’s biggest conferences of Business Angels in Zagreb last November, and one agency presented me with a list of potential speakers. I saw Bruce’s name and immediately knew I wanted him. Nobody agreed with my choice but when they saw my persistence – there was only one solution. After months of negotiations, Bruce agreed to come. And he made a spectacle in Zagreb!

4. As president of the CRANE angel investors network in Croatia, tell us about the investment and entrepreneurial climate in Croatia.

I love Croatia so that’s why is hard to talk about the business climate. It’s not good yet. There is too much bureaucracy. Almost every step is too complicated and lasts too long. For example – we were making changes in one of my companies and it took over 40 days for those changes to be made by the Court. For example – I have done similar changes in USA in one day. I know lots of business people who lost money and the will to do business in Croatia. I am in business over 15 years. I started my first company when I was 20. I can really tell from my experience. I failed lots of times. In Croatia if you fail people think you’re an idiot, but if you succeed – people think you’re a criminal. For me failure is just part of success because I learned from my mistakes and implemented that knowledge into my successful projects. We need to change that mentality and attitude toward business people. Young people are afraid to go into business because they are discouraged by those opinions.

On the other hand, that business climate has prevented many foreign companies from investing in Croatia, so now when we finally have a government which talks mainly about business problems (at least they made small steps in right direction) – Croatia has big potential for investments, and we are close to boost this if things continue to develop in the right direction. Croatia has an ideal geo-strategical location. A great coast, and it is in the EU. I expect a real boost in the next five years. The same is with investments in startups. Croatian creativity is amazing. We have some extraordinary young talents. CRANE has gathered some 30 private investors, and members of CRANE have already invested in over 30 startups.

5. And now to Zagreb. What do you love about Zagreb, and what would you change?

I love Zagreb! It is not too big – it is not too small. I love the architecture, the botanical garden, the people, the events. The iconic views from Medvedgrad castle, the vibrant heart of Zagreb – Tkalča street, small breweries, the beautiful upper town with St Mark’s square, the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary and St Steven and Ladislav elegantly overlooking the city, Dolac market but maybe the best thing is the location. Only 20 mins drive from Zagreb you have fantastic places like Samobor, my hometown Jastrebarsko with its great wine roads, some fabulous castles and lots of great stuff to enjoy. And not to forget Advent in Zagreb and the Snow Queen Trophy FIS World cup race on Sljeme!

I would definitively change the traffic jams and think we have a chance. Recently, public transport ZET issued new rules and tram rides are now 0,50 Eur per 20 mins. We have Uber too, and Zagreb should raise prices for car parking in the city Centre. I cannot escape the fact people are driving alone in the cars in the morning. If we manage to teach people to save money and go to the work on a public transport – there would not be traffic jams.

6. Your favourite place in the city, and why?

My favorite place is the Upper Town – Gradec. It is liike a time machine. You can soak up the rich history of Zagreb just walking there! I would definitively recommend everyone to spend some time there.

7. How has Zagreb changed in the last ten years?

The major change is the number of tourists in the city. Tkalča as a main tourist street exploded. Zagreb was voted Best European Christmas Market destination two years in a row so that time is great for enjoying the gastronomical offer in the heart of the city.

8. Three cool places most foreigners miss?

The first thing – Secret Zagreb. Innovative Iva Silla has assembled a great tour of Gradec by night. You can imagine how things were in past centuries. Second thing – summer in MSU – the list of events on the rooftop of Zagreb’s museum of modern arts. And third – the Race of legends of the FIS ski shampionships – this was introduced this year and it is amazing to see winners of the World cup skiing from the Cathedral to the main square!

To learn more about Davorin, visit his website.


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