Croatian Entrepreneur Marin Bek Continues to Impress

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Gordana Grgas writes on the 20th of June, 2019, Marin Bek is just 33 years old, is a Croatian entrepreneur and has founded three technology startups so far, and two have not only survived, but flourished. In Croatia, they have twenty employees, and by the end of the year, as announced, that number will hopefully be doubled. At the recent JobFair which was held in Zagreb, many candidates were attracted and interviews are getting under way now.

Bek is a member of a promising new generation of Croatian entrepreneurs who are experiencing problems around them and are therefore creating smart IT solutions to deal with them instead of merely complaining. Bek first ”dived into the water” after graduating from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing in Zagreb, and after borrowing 3000 kuna from his cousins to be able to participate in the American startup accelerator Foundation Institute in Zagreb back in 2012.

He first began his startup in the Silicon Valley, with a startup for autonomous underwater vehicles that he called Marine Tech Factory (MTF), he raised capital from numerous business angels, and sought to sell a solution to the oil industry. That, however, unfortunately failed.

When talking about the reasons for that early failure, with a smile on his face, Bek states that he believes he probably came out with it too early on the market.

“Today, I’d say that I worked on underwater drones, which was my graduate thesis at FER. Now that’s sitting and collecting dust in a warehouse at the faculty. When the MTF idea collapsed, I was left without any money so I found a job as an IT developer,” stated Bek when discussing his very first experiences in the United States.

But this failure, and then climbing up to the position of technology director in an innovative startup called Nextuser from San Francisco, where he participated in finding an investor in the total amount of 2.5 million dollars, brought him, as he himself noted, knowledge and a much better feeling for his return to the challenging entrepreneurial waters.

To speak more specifically, in the seed round of capital that just closed for his startup, the main investor is a Canadian, who he initially met back then. Meet Ascalia, a Croatian company that has raised about 200,000 euros, and is immediately moving forward to the much larger so-called ”A round”, which deals with venture capital funds in the amount of about one million euros.

“Ascalia must grow fast,” claims Bek resolutely. The idea behind it was conceived for IoT (Internet of Things) systems in the industry and in cities.

With his partner with Dejan Strbad, he also leads Kraken, a local IT company that is approaching about one million euros of income in the field of distributed data collection and processing systems with the help of machine learning. They therefore deal with large data, and their projects include those for Carrefour, Nestle, Ferrero and even Forbes.

Ascalia is currently focused on industry, and this Croatian entrepreneur was given a lift recently with a victory at the Start.Up! Germany Roadshow competition, and owing to that victory, in autumn he will take a tour of the Bavarian factories.

They have created software and a device called ADS, a kind of “plug socket” that supports numerous protocols for industrial machines that have been in existence since 1979, and then connects them to the Internet. Thus, a smart company is created without the need for any big investments, and its a viable Croatian solution that they’ll also try to sell to the Germans.

”Protocol is the way the machines speak to each other, through which information is transmitted. Through our device and software, we can measure and monitor the work of the machines online, even with the old ones that are still heavily used in the industry. In the case of sawmills, one of which is one of our clients, it means that the device can read the data coming from the saw, and with the application of artificial intelligence, it can predict when some of them will break. Through emails or via the application (app), this message will be sent to a manager who can then respond in time,” explained this highly talented Croatian entrepreneur.

The main mission of Ascalia is precisely that, optimising energy consumption and improving production processes. The main clients in Croatia are industrial equipment dealers who also maintain factory facilities, and one of them, Zigg-Pro, actually gave them the idea to develop ADS.

”This is how you raise the level of modernisation, and there’s no breakdown of the plant’s system of operation and no expensive new machines have to be procured,” explained Bek. The company’s interest in making its plant ”smarter” is great, various technical directors have visited, and their plants are currently in Delnice, with another near Zagreb.

They’re only now ”waking up”, and they’re currently not active in looking for clients, first they have to grow financially and personally, explains Bek. Although in his business biography he notes that his expertise in IoT systems and the integration of machine learning algorithms into everyday processes “is now his main activity” as a manager.

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