November 17, 2018 – Continuing our look at the exciting world of Croatian IT startups, meet Belma Gutlić, CEO of RioBot which earlier this week won an award for the best startup at the G2.4 diaspora conference in Zagreb.
One of the things I have appreciated most about moving from Hvar to Varazdin is my proximity to Zagreb. Don’t get me wrong, Hvar is a wonderful place to live but not the most practical choice of base if most of your face to face business is in Zagreb. Moving closer to Zagreb has opened up a new and very stimulating world to me – the young, motivated and extremely talented next generation of Croatian IT entrepreneur.
The more I delve into the layers of Croatia’s capital city, the more I have hope for the future of this country. The Croatian IT sector has a huge future here, and a growing number of very smart young Croats who want to live in their own country and not follow the depressing road of emigration taken by so many. They have a huge part to play in Croatia’s future, and although a large part of their technology is already too advanced for this British Neanderthal, it is a pleasure to mix with and learn from them, as well as giving them a little help with some international exposure.
One of the many things I liked about this week’s G2.4 diaspora conference in Zagreb was the chance for young Croatian startups to pitch their ideas and investment offers to the wealthy international diaspora gathering. Ten of the best Croatian startups were given 5 minutes each to present their idea and request for funding, with the winner getting 15,000 kuna of consultancy from Ernst and Young. Meet the winner – Belma Gutlić, CEO of RioBot.
- Congratulations on being named the best startup at the recent G2.4 conference in Zagreb. Introduce Rio Bot to us, and tell us what makes it special.
RioBot is a personal assistant on Facebook Messenger for small businesses that takes care of appointments 24/7 through Messenger while being super easy to set up for anyone with just a Facebook page.
It’s great because it uses already existing platform that majority of people are already apart (let’s be honest, almost everyone has Facebook) so they don’t need to install any new application or register new account somewhere. We plan to expand to other platforms like Viber too. On the other side, service owners like dentists and hair or beauty salons don’t need any IT knowledge to make their chatbot and have online booking.
Also, my team members Marin Petrunić and Željko Dragosavac are making it special!
- When did the project start, and what phase are you at now?
It took us around 8 months for development because we are still bootstrapping and doing this in our “free time”. We are going to production now and as of this week, we have one client who is already using it so we are super excited about it! More are incoming, of course.
- Take us through the user experience, both from someone making the reservation, and the business managing those reservations.
If you want to make a reservation you can just contact your desired place over Facebook messages or directly in Messenger to the page. You can type which service you want and when do you want to come but we offer buttons in chat that Facebook is strongly suggesting to use as people are more likely to click than type. Chatbot is answering instantly at any time of the day or night, however, we try to make it as humanly as possible so people don’t feel uncomfortable 🙂 Feel free to test the demo at Rio Salon Ljepote page (it’s in Croatian).
Businesses have their separate admin application from which they can manage incoming appointments, their services, employees, locations and turn RioBot on/off. It is important to point out that admin is a standalone application, custom tailored for the needs of business owners and employees. Core of admin application is an easy-to-use calendar of appointments from which owners can track, cancel or add new ones. We have plans to add new cool features like chatting with customers directly from the admin panel, notifying them about any unexpected changes etc.
- Money! What are your cash projections from Rio Bot, for a city like Zagreb, for example?
We did some calculations and estimated that if we take 8% of beauty salon and dentists only in Zagreb that we’d be making 10k Euro monthly. I may say that’s modest because the market and possibilities are much bigger than that.
- What kind of investment are you looking for? Where will it be used, and what will the investor get in return?
We are looking for a smaller seed investment, up to 30k Euro for 10% of equity in RioBot. It would be used to polish current features and add new ones, with payment integration being the most important. We’d also integrate some new features that we received by feedback from our customers that were part of the testing phase. From then we can take it global.
- Rio Bot is only part of what you do at Node Factory. Tell us more about your core business and other projects you are involved in.
NodeFactory is a blockchain development agency that Marin and I have co-founded this year. It’s a pretty new technology so everyday has something interesting, it’s one of the reasons why we love it! Our business developer and third team member is Željko and he’s running his own web development business (Husky Bytes).
- Although Zagreb does not have any of the big IT companies with offices there, the Croatian IT and startup industry is having considerable success. Tell us a little about that, and the Croatian IT startup in general.
There are some really successful companies around here but things could be even better. There’s a lot of people and project with potential so it is sad to see them often leaving because of economic and political reasons. I’ve been following the startup scene here for some time now since this is not my first startup and I can see that things are improving. We now have many more startup competitions, networking (both local and global), possibilities of financing and startup incubators like Zagreb Innovation Centre (ZICER) that we are part of.
- Where will Belma Gutlic be in 5 years?
That’s a tough one. Hopefully developing new technologies and leveraging them to make better applications worldwide and our lives easier. Where? Around the world, I guess. Software really doesn’t have limits.
To learn more about RioBot, visit the official website.
To learn more about innovation coming out of Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated Made in Croatia section.
Below some screenshots from the RioBot system.