September 18, 2020 – The recent successes of Infobit, Riimac Automobili, Nanobit and Infinum show the potential of the Croatian private sector. Time to unleash the Croatian entrepreneur?
Even though we have only physically met once, one of my favourite people to follow on social media in Croatia is serial entrepreneur Andrija Colak. Co-founder of Croatia’s most successful franchise (Surf’n’Fries – now in 5 continents), as well as the innovative smart umbrella, Kisha (which he cheekily sent to President Putin after the World Cup Final to avoid any presidents or prime ministers getting wet due to unexpected rainfall in the future), Andrija kindly agreed to a TCN interview last year in which I asked him about the positive aspects of doing business in Croatia:
In terms of positives… well if you are up for an adventure you have come to the right place 🙂 Or… if you really want to test your concept and it survives in Croatia, you can conquer the world! hahah! Actually, I’m not joking.
Successful entrepreneurs here tell me that they have succeeded here not because of Croatia, but DESPITE Croatia. So many others have given up with the bureaucracy, high taxes and nepotism, take their concepts abroad and succeed there.
But some decide to stay and try their luck here – after all, you cannot beat the Croatian lifestyle.
I sometimes feel that I live in two countries in Croatia. The first Croatia is the same one which is familiar to all its residents, with the worsening economic situation, polarising politics, constant complaining, corruption, and negative mindset. No wonder people are emigrating.
But the other Croatia is a totally different place, one where only positivity exists, and where I have decided to spend an increasing amount of my time and energy.
The Croatia of the Croatian entrepreneur.
Despite the obstacles and the negative stigma attached to entrepreneurs in Croatia, these forward-thinking individuals are quietly achieving miracles DESPITE Croatia. One only wonders what could be achieved with the system supporting their efforts. Two stunning announcements in the last 24 hours are the latest in a series of great news from the Croatian entrepreneurial world, and they give a glimpse of what Croatia 2.0 can deliver to this country. And the thousands of jobs that have been created as a direct result of the business ideas of just a few individuals in a country which is in economic crisis is quite staggering. Indeed Rimac Automobili announced last week that it has hired an additional 150 workers during the pandemic, as tens of millions of jobs were being lost worldwide. Just over a decade ago, Rimac was one man in a garage. Today, the company is closing in on 1,000 employees.
Here are just four things that have happened in the last few weeks, the first two in the last 24 hours (all are links to TCN articles with full details.
The eco-system of Croatian entrepreneurial excellence is growing, and I come across this excellence daily in my second Croatia. A meeting last week at Human, for example, who earlier this year beat Google at the prestigious Webby awards, considered the Oscars of the industry. In December I was in Berlin to se Bagatin Clinic collect the award for best international cosmetic surgery clinic 2019. And one only has to spend a short time with Nenad and Rujana Bakic and their STEM revolution and exciting partnership with Google.org to know that the seeds of the future are being sown extremely well.
Fresh from his successful initiative to introduce the digital nomad visa to Croatia, which has the potential to make a significant contribution to Croatia’s economic numbers, Dutchman Jan de Jong and partner Jerko Trgolic are turning their attention to agriculture, with an initial project to grow tomatoes in northern Croatia, using Dutch technology and Croatian land and labour. The first phase will create 72 jobs in an economically depressed part of northern Croatia.
So many seeds, some of which have blossomed such as Rimac, Nanobit and Infobip, and SO many more that could do the same if they were getting the support they deserve rather than punishing taxation and bureaucracy. I have no idea how many jobs Rimac, Infobit, Nanobit and Infinum have created alone, but it is in the thousands. Imagine if the system was conducive to allowing other such ideas and concepts grow in Croatia – how many more tens and hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created?
Last year, I met an American consultant for the medical tourism industry at a conference in Zagreb, and we talked about what needed to happen for this Croatian industry to progress (an industry with huge – here I go saying the hated ‘P’ word again – potential). He told me that the role of government was to provide the legislative framework for the industry to thrive, perhaps bring some financing, but most importantly, then get the hell out of the way
For many years, I bought into the story that Croatia was an economic basket case, with no prospects for employment, and that the emigration was inevitable. But in this second Croatia, the world of the Croatian entrepreneur, the situation is completely different, and the opportunity is there, even more so if we can unleash the Croatian entrepreneur to fulfil his or her true potential.
And we have a very good precedent of how quickly and effectively change can be introduced. An open letter to the Prime Minister from a Dutchman on LinkedIn on July 11 asking for the introduction of a digital nomad visa started a process which resulted with the prime minister tweeting his plans to introduce the visa just 44 days later, with an amendment to the Foreigner’s Act introduced to Parliament the following day. Things are moving smoothly behind the scenes, and my understanding is that this legislation should be in place by January 1.
Croatia a bureaucratic country? It clearly doesn’t have to be.
Unleash the Croatian entrepreneur, and watch many more seeds like Rimac, Nanobit and Infobip start to bloom all over the country.