Andreas Wil Gerdes: Entrepreneurial Change for Croatia 2.0

Total Croatia News

June 2, 2019 – Does Croatia have a bright future with so many young people emigrating and the economy in trouble? Serial entrepreneur Andreas Wil Gerdes thinks so, and TCN caught up with him ahead of his participation in this week’s MBA Croatia conference, How to Be Globally Competitive from Croatia. 

One of the things I have learned over the years living in Croatia is that any foreigner talking positively about the future of Croatia is often met with ridicule. Foreigners don’t understand how Croatia really works, the realities below its very photogenic, tourist-friendly exterior, and any sign of positivity from a foreigner is a sign of how little they truly understand about the country. 

It is a mindset I have some sympathy with after my 17 years and continuing education about the realities of Croatia. I now understand Croatia a lot more than I did even four years ago, and yet I too continue to have hope for the country’s future. I do truly believe that technology will eventually conquer Uhljebistan, and that the rising entrepreneurial class, investment power of the diaspora and increasing foreign investment in a more transparent Croatia will bring lasting and positive change. 

But change must come. 


One of the things I have enjoyed most about moving from gorgeous Hvar to equally gorgeous Varazdin has been the proximity to Zagreb, its next-generation entrepreneurs and stimulating foreign businessmen who see opportunities in this country. After years of writing just about tourism, this new angle of Croatia has been refreshing indeed. 

The Croatian entrepreneurs, in particular, have been a pleasure to spend time with. They are from the culture of the modern Croatia, are familiar with the negativity and disadvantages, and yet still they try and want to succeed.

 I interviewed successful entrepreneur Andrija Colak last year (whose Surf’n’Fries franchise is now on 5 continents) about doing business in Croatia and will never forget one sentence. 

“If you really want to test your concept and it survives in Croatia, you can conquer the world! hahah! Actually, I’m not joking.”


The subject of how to be globally competitive from Croatia is the theme of next week’s MBA Croatia conference in Zagreb, an event which has attracted an impressive list of international entrepreneurial speakers. Among them is a German entrepreneur, whom I met recently, and whose positivity is both infectious and motivating. He also very much believes in the future of Croatia based on his experience elsewhere and believes that the positive change is not too difficult to obtain, or even that far away.

“Meet Andreas Wil Gerdes, Entrepreneur, (World Citizen #8) and a passionate father. Andreas sold his first business at the age of 20. Working out of a garage, he then successfully built what would become part of Orange PLC. Andreas has been at the forefront of the mobile telecoms revolution empowering lives for over 25 years.” (from the 2017 Malta Innovation Summit).


1. You have been taking a greater interest in Croatia in recent months. Tell us how you would assess the business climate. What are the opportunities and constraints?

Croatia is blessed with its people, climate, nature, and location. 

The current attitude seems ideal to preserve the status quo. To boost positive change an ‘update’ is essential. The current attitude reminds me of East Germany. 

2. A lot of Croatia’s youth is leaving in search of better economic opportunity. What needs to happen to reverse that, and how optimistic are you that this exodus can be reversed?

A booming Croatia, embracing international people/ businesses/ projects, and digitalization opportunities.

This will stop what you call ‘exodus’, attract great talent to Croatia, and empower the youth, and future generations.


3. You are here to speak at a conference on making companies globally competitive from Croatia. What advice do you have for companies here looking to succeed on the international stage?

Focus on people with an international attitude and a commitment to keep learning. Implement mobile working solutions which allow most of your team to work anytime, anywhere. Consider Croatia as your test-market, for scalable and multinational business models.

4. There is a lot of pessimism about the current situation and the future, and yet you are very positive about things changing here, talking about Croatia 2.0. Why such positivity when you are surrounded by so much negativity – what are you seeing that others are not?

Positivity is a daily choice, boosting health and happiness✨

I actually keep receiving – all I do is to transmit what comes up in my head and my heart. 


5. You enjoyed considerable success bringing change to your adopted homeland of Malta. Tell us a little about that and what, if anything, could be applicable to Croatia today?

Headware/ attitude changes triggered change, enabling Malta1.0 and all that followed. Malta became a booming place, by embracing international people/ businesses/ projects and digitalization opportunities. 

6. What will be the main drivers of positive change in Croatia in your opinion?

People, people, and people✨


7. Where do you see Croatia in 10 years from now?

If it makes the right choices, I can see Croatia very much prospering ten years from now, but it will not take that long for the effects to be felt. It needs to embrace international people, businesses and projects and take advantage of digitalization opportunities.

Digital Nomads will be the core to boost prosperity. The digital nomad culture and the wealth it is generating is increasing rapidly. Croatia has many natural advantages to become a major digital nomad destination. 

When I first arrived in Croatia, on 1 October 2017, together with my daughter Maya (4 at the time), it felt like ‘home’ to us. There is a connection which goes back more than one lifetime. We love coming back, and spending time in Croatia, e.g. Zagreb feels like the most Mediterranean German town, combining great German features with a Mediterranean lifestyle.

For more information about the MBA Croatia conference, click here

You can connect with Andreas Wil Gerdes via LinkedIN and Instagram.


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