Croatian Company Without Own Office Creates Software for NASA, eBay…

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Filip Pavic writes on the 16th of June, 2019, Gembox and Testdome, two Croatian sister IT companies, aren’t unique just because their software is used by the likes of NASA, Microsoft, Verizon, UEFA and eBay, but also because they’re the only Croatian startups who don’t even have their own office, and according to them, that’s actually intentional.

Both Croatian companies were founded by Željko Švedić, he’s the owner and founder of Gembox, and he’s the co-owner of Testdome with the director Mario Živić. These two Croatian companies are the pioneers of the new international IT trend, which encompasses so-called remote work, and their employees, who are mostly developers, work from home from around the world, they’re scattered all over, from Australia and the USA to India and even Lithuania.

“We’ve realised that we can employ people from all over the world in this way, and that we’re not always having to move into new and bigger offices. Programmers aren’t bothered by that, they like tasks that are precise and they can sit comfortably for eight hours at their computers at home without needing people around them to motivate them. However, that’s not for everyone, some find that working from home, in fact, means a ”free day”, Švedić said when describing the pros and cons of remote work such as this.

Gembox and Testdome employ a total of seventeen people, and although the stories of the two companies are inextricably linked, they deal with quite different things. It all began back in 2006, says Švedić, a native of Slavonski Brod.

After he resigned from Microsoft Croatia and then went to work for one year over in the US, Švedić returned to Croatia as a 26-year-old with a FER degree in his pocket and a few thousand dollars in savings. He was young and he had two options in front of him. His plans were either to launch something of his own, or get a job employed in some Croatian IT company. However, he decided, like a real developer, to retire to his basement and come up with some solutions that could make him some money. That was the beginning of Gembox’s story.

“Back then, I programmed parts of the software, the component for importing and exporting data to Word, Excel, and similar formats. For example, if you go to the UEFA page to view the results of a match and download them in PDF format, it’s very likely that our software was used,” said Švedić, comparing it with the car industry – as there are small companies that produce car parts, such as airbags, and then all manufacturers incorporate it into their cars, just like Gembox produces parts of software that other companies then embed into their applications.

However, as goes the story for almost all Croatian companies, the beginning was extremely difficult, because he had no idea how to sell and properly place his product. He was forced to learn about digital advertising and website optimisation. After the first few years, Gembox managed to get up on its own financially, and then a new problem emerged – the problem of recruiting.

”When I became profitable, the second stage was to hire people, but I didn’t know how to do it. The programmers who came to the interviews were quite weak in programming, regardless of their resume and what they were saying about themselves.

I realised then that we needed a better competence testing system. It was the start of the new company, TestDome, with which we created an online test system for job candidates,”

His acquaintance from back in his high school days, Mario Živić from Požega, played a crucial role throughout the whole story.

He got better acquainted with state-run IT competitions and tenders, Both of them, with several years of difference between them, were both national champions, and later they both won Bronze at international and European programming competitions.

Zivić also enrolled at FER, and remained close to the world of such competitions, he designed tasks for high school computer science competitions. Years later, more precisely in 2011, the pair happened to meet randomly, and Švedić then presented his idea to Zivić, which was the aforementioned online system for selecting potential job candidates. Zivić, who for nine years worked for Ericsson Nikola Tesla as a manager, recognised the potential and realised that he could contribute to the whole thing with his own extensive experience.

”Every manager can list several differences between good and bad employees, but they won’t know how to test that out. The point is that candidates are best tested by applying knowledge rather than reproducing it,” said Zivić, who owns 20 percent of this Croatian company, and who also holds the position of company manager.

What sets TestDome apart is the fact that job candidates, and these candidates may be applying for positions in sales, as managers, experts, programmers… are tested on real-world, real life examples of their potential job position, instead of undergoing universal and generic intelligence tests.

With this piece of Croatian innovation, a candidate for a project manager’s position, for example, will receive examples of three projects and must be able to calculate the monetary valuation estimate to assess the risk of each project. A developer will get a code line with errors, and in ten minutes, he must find those errors and correct them.

”There’s a trend when it comes to professions in engineering, the better the resume, the worse the employee. The ability to write a resume is a marketing capability, so if you’re looking for someone to sell something for you, then you’re judging a resume, but if you’re looking for someone to design a nuclear power plant’s software, you’ll want someone who is introverted and for whom it’s no problem to sit in solitude and write code,” said Živić.

Additionally, thanks to the Croatian TestDome, the employer doesn’t have to go through the initial selection or meet the candidates in their office because everything they need is right there online. 

TestDome and Gembox are yet more amazing examples of Croatian innovation, one of which works to limit time wasted by both potential employer and potential employee, giving way to a quicker and more efficient route of finding the right person for the right job.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and Made in Croatia pages for much more on Croatian companies, Croatian products and services, Croatian startups, businesses, and investing in Croatia.


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