Entrepreneurs and startups in Croatia often have a difficult time getting things off the ground when starting with their business here, with the country’s notoriously draining red tape and a usually slow and outdated approach to everything, launching a business, company, or startup in Croatia isn’t a particularly attractive thought for most. Despite that, many startups in Croatia are seeing the arduous process through to the end, and are succeeding.
Just what can Croatia and Croatian startups learn from the wildly successful TransferWise founder?
As Novac.hr/Jutarnji/Gordana Grgas writes on the 15th of December, 2018, because of his ”robbing” of the earnings made by banks on their faithful customers’ money, this Estonian entreprener is being referred to as a modern day Robin Hood.
The financial and tech startup that he founded with his partner back in 2011, TransferWise, was one of the most valuable in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and was built on the foundation of offering a cheap and fast money-sending service around the world with the help of a simple and handy mobile app. Already holding 0.5 percent of the global market, transferring about 4 billion dollars per month, and having four million users, it’s not doing too badly, to say the very least.
The brain behind the genius idea which is rubbing the banks up the wrong way is Taavet Hinrikus, 37, an Estonian citizen, and this past week he was in Zagreb, because in the meantime, he has gone a step further and become a business angel, entering into the development process of the promising Croatian startup based in Osijek, Gideon Brothers, which deals with robotics and was founded by Matija Kopic and Milan Račić, who he says are a fantastic team.
While Novac.hr talked with the Estonian in the Katran club, where the first industrial robot made by Gideon Brothers had just been presented with great enthusiasm, the talented entrepreneur was asked about just how he earned the title of Robin Hood, Nottingham’s famous outlaw who went down in history by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Taavet responded with the fact that TransferWise ”returns” the money to the people, which they would otherwise be forced give banks in hidden and sometimes very unfavourable exchange rate costs when it comes to international transfers.
“We’ve noticed that as a global problem and we’ve been able to find a ten-fold better solution for that than the existing ones,” said Hinrikus, and this point was also the main ingredient of his ”recipe” for business success in a lecture he had previously given to his young audience at the largest hall of the Zagreb Faculty of Electronics and Computing (FER). Among the students, all of whom are interested in startups in Croatia, were the minds behind the Gideon Brothers startup from Osijek.
”There’s no better place in Croatia to start a technology company than FER,” Kopić of Gideon Brothers told them.
And what exactly does Transferwise do so well to make it so popular and successful? The best description is probably the fact that it is the ”Skype for money transfers”, and they have succeeded in a world that has been, at least until now, ruled almost entirely by banks and their often unfair fees, these all-powerful banks have been ”wounded” only by the likes of America’s PayPal and Western Union, so far. They came to this business idea because they often sent money to Tallinn from London and were shocked and hindered when they’d see that they lose money each and every time.
”How we started is very simple. We’re focused on applying new technology. And we’re less greedy,” said Hinrikus, adding that there’s no real reason why sending money electronically should actually be expensive.
They’re even anything from five to ten times cheaper than PayPal. Since last year, their services have also been made available in Croatia, and they are currently focusing on the further expansion of their business platform, and further remuneration for cash transfers. They currently employ about 1,300 people, several hundred of them are in Estonia, where both founders are themselves from.
Their success was initially driven by marketing, and they were rebellious against the “evil banks in London”, as was recalled by Ivo Špigel, a Zagreb entrepreneur and the founder of Perpetuum Mobile.
Hinrikus’s acquaintance with Matija Kopić from Osijek, who also also presented his own startup at the same London event, has gone from strength to strength. Both then won over investor interest with their performances and ideas.
Should Croatia dream of being like Estonia? Novac.hr asked Hinrikus.
”Of course you should. You need a government that appreciates the importance of technology, a government which thinks about how to make the government more efficient itself, and better for citizens with the help of technology,” responded Estonia’s answer to Robin Hood.
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