I first met Martina a few years back when we both sat at the same table at my cousin’s wedding. It was a great night, one that involved drinking a lot of top quality wine and eating until we felt sick, but we danced our hearts out and had fun. Then we started bumping into each other on Saturday evenings, realized that we have a bunch of friends in common, and finally made our friendship official by becoming friends on Facebook in 2011.
Martina was named one of the 12 female entrepreneurs under 30 you should know about by Women in Adria (click here to read the article), and she is the cofounder of an amazing company called Smart Lumies that builds smart toys for children (you can visit it here).
1. Hi Martina, could you tell us something about yourself?
Hi, of course. My name is Martina and I am the co-founder of Smart Lumies where we build connected toys for kids. I have a Master’s degree in Mechanical engineering, with the main focus in product development. I was always into technology and interactions between the user and the product. I believe that each person should listen to their gut feeling about every decision and try out new things every day, things that make life a happy and good place. I would say that my life mission is to expect nothing and appreciate everything, but work hard for the things you want to achieve. I tap danced my whole life. I like good rhythm and music. Most of all, I like meeting new people and I am amazed by each story.
2. You’re a girl in what are still considered to be traditionally male fields, mechanical engineering and technology. What’s that like?
Well, it’s ok, but I do encounter some prejudice. People sometimes don’t believe you when you tell them you’re an engineer, but they’re ok once you start talking to them and they realize that you really do know what you’re talking about. There were some sceptical professors at the university who would wonder why women even bothered to study Mechanical engineering, and they would depreciate your work by saying that everything you do is a lucky guess, and you know how hard you tried, so that was a negative example, but overall, it’s ok. I know that men and women can be different, but that’s a good thing, because when we work together, everyone brings something unique to the table.
3. Do you like living in Zagreb? What are some good and some bad sides about living here?
Zagreb is a lovely place. It is not too small and not too big. When I was younger, I always wanted to live somewhere else. I travelled a lot and found every place I went to interesting and asked myself “Why don’t we have the same things here in Zagreb?”
The more I travel, the more important I find local people. Locals are the ones that make a place special. As I become older, I find that Zagreb is changing in a good way. There are things that could be different, for example we don’t have an underground public transport (probably not an important issue for many people), but if you need to travel from one place to another, it takes a lot of time with our current public transport or you need to take the car.
In general, the best and worst thing about Croatia and Zagreb is the ‘lako ćemo‘ spirit, which means don’t you worry about anything. Sometimes this approach is so funny, except when you need to do business with someone when this approach just gives you a headache.
If people would respect each other more and didn’t always look at only the bad sides of everything, Zagreb would be the best. If people would appreciate eachother more and stop thinking about events that happened 20 years ago, nothing could stop us.
4. What’s your absolute favourite place in Zagreb?
My absolute favorite places in Zagreb are the parks, probably Zrinjevac and Tomislavac. Sometimes I go there just to find my inner peace, I sit on a bench, watch people passing by and think about life. I find parks really attractive, especially when there are certain events happening, when you can drink coffee and have a great time with your friends. Sljeme is also a good spot for weekends, during winter you can ski there and it is just half an hour away from the city.
5. Best restaurant and café and why?
This is a difficult one. The most important thing about choosing the ‘best’ is if they have this special energy inside. They’re probably not the best-looking ones, but they link you to certain events that have happened during life. My favorite coffee place is Golf in Preradovićeva Street. It is a bit hidden, always full and the waiters are nice. When I was starting my company, most of the strategic talks were made there. We didn’t have an office but we had this one place that was inspirational and where we went to have a talk. It’s hard to understand by looking from the outside, but this place always makes me happy. There are also a couple of places in Opatovina that have craft beer which I really like, for example Harat’s pub and Craft Room. I think if I start talking about good beer places in Zagreb, the list would get long. The self-called Design district which is around Martićeva Street offers very interesting places, like Mr. Fogg.
In the best restaurant category, my mission is to find, from time to time, new and exciting places that provide good food and a great atmosphere. I find it important to have nice waiters which make you feel better and make your day. Zagreb has a lot of places that offer all of it and that’s what excites me. If you want to have a great cake, where each one is made like a masterpiece, you should go to Meet Mia in Vlaška Street.
6. Can you think of any great Zagreb places that most tourists miss?
I would recommend any tourist to hang out with locals. Probably the places that locals would show you, would be different than the ones that are listed in ‘Top 5 places to visit in Zagreb’. Depending on the things you like, visit places outside the centre, explore lake Jarun or Bundek, have a walk in Maksimir and just talk to locals. I am sure that every tourist can have a lot of fun hanging out with locals.
7. Do you think Zagreb’s changing and how?
If you compare a couple of years ago with today, you can see that Zagreb is different, but in a good way. Let’s start with Christmas and winter time in Zagreb. There are literally hundreds of food stands where you can chat with friends, drink mulled wine and eat something. It really gets cold during winter in Zagreb, but it can’t stop people from enjoying life. People in Croatia are easy-going people and the life balance is the most important thing for them. I guess this is the reason tourists find Zagreb attractive and visit more and more Zagreb. My favorite season in Zagreb is spring because everything blooms, it gets warm but not too warm and I am addicted to the sun.
8. Best places to go out on weekends in Zagreb?
It depends on the mood you’re in. I would describe Croatians as lovers of socializing. We love to hang out with friends anywhere, at home, in a pub, in a club. I like music and concerts, so my go to mission are usually events that involve something like this.
9. Can you tell us a little something about your interactive toy, Smart Lumies?
Smart Lumies is a company that builds connected toys for kids aged 6 and above. The idea came from the mission to have a single toy that can adapt to kids’ needs.
The first product by Smart Lumies are physical cubes that can light up in different colors on each side. By using colors, light and sound, combined with sensors inside the cube, kids can choose between different categories that are divided into Logic games, Music games, Fun and Social games, Games in space, AR games and Edutainment. The games are selected through our application and can be played alone or with friends.
Basically, the game adapts to each child depending on the play. Each level can be customised and after a while of playing, the software recognises the user’s preferences and provides new content accordingly.
There is nothing better than to see kids finding their own game, having fun and learning something at the same time. The cubes are the first step of making a connected educational environment.
We will launch soon, so I would be over the moon if you would give a quick visit to our website and recommend the product to anyone who might find it useful and interesting. We plan to make games and products for younger children as well in the future, so you should definitely stay in touch.