February 20, 2020 – Some very clever people from Cambridge University are coming to Kastela to help make it great again, including one young lady who Melinda Gates raves about.
Can a few good men and women change a country? It is a question I am beginning to ask myself more and more.
Mate Rimac and his one-man car industry conquering the world is the obvious shining example of change, and if we could replicate that in every other sector, what a country Croatia would be.
But while there are few examples to match Rimac, there is plenty happening, with positive change and innovation a small but increasing factor in the Croatia I am surrounding myself with.
I spent the last two days in Zagreb, attending the presidential inauguration, as well as a couple of very cool events. Soon after the inauguration, I popped into see Hajdi Cenan, CEO of airt, Davor Runje, CTO of airt, and Bozidar Pavlovic, CTO of Oradian give a presentation on AI applications in the banking industry. Almost all of the clever people I know in Zagreb were there, and a glimpse into our imminent future was as fascinating as it was scary. the next morning, young Bakic and his IRIM team presented their successful first year results from their partnership with Google.org, as well as announcing more Google financing for the coming year. We have two great video interviews with Rujana Bakic from IRIM and Lisa Belozerova from Google. Another thought-provoking experience, and this tired 50-year-old brain needed some light entertainment and a rest from all this brilliance.
I was due for a catch-up drink with one of my heroes (please don’t tell him), Feliks Lukas, the man who thought it would be fun to bring a women’s WTA tennis tournament to a Dalmatian island out of the peak season, just for fun. The Bol Open is now extremely well established and an outstanding event, both in terms of the players (13 out of the world’s top 100 ranked players last year) and the social side.
I thought we were just going to have a chat about Bol and a laugh about tourism incompetence in general, but Feliks had a twinkle in his eye. For he wanted to talk about something completely different.
For Feliks had a plan to help his native Kastela, seven historic settlements located on the water between Split and its airport and oozing in that cursed Croatian potential (to learn why the ‘P’ word is one of Croatia’s biggest problems, click here).
Somehow he had managed to persuade four very bright minds on the Cambridge University MBA programme to offer their time and expertise for free to come up with a plan for the economic development of Kastela, as part of their official Cambridge University MBA programme. The project is fully backed by the university, and the MBA students arrive in less than a month, on March 16.
So how did this all come about, and how did Feliks manage to get such clever people to come and help make Kastela great again?
Including one lady, who so inspired Melinda Gates that she shared the story of Melony Mahaarachchi on Facebook. Six years with Elon Musk on SpaceX and leading the team at NASA on Mars Rover 2020… to Kastela.
Just how did Feliks do it?
“A friend of mine, Marino Franinovic, who was at that time advisor of Vice President of EIB, Mr. Vazil Hudak somehow knew or met Melony’s husband and he invited me for a drink. I dont know how they met. They were here just for a couple of days in Croatia on a family vacation. She was with her two kids and her husband and I spoke about issues I have as an entrepreneur and the lack of entrepeneurial spirit in Croatia and how young, talented people were leaving the country. They were surprised as they thought it was paradise.
“We kept in touch, and then Melony contacted me out of the blue and told me about the MBA programme in Cambridge. One of the projects that could look into was regenerating a Mediterranean town. She thought of me and beautiful Croatia with the young people leaving and asked if I could suggest a town which could use such expertise. As a proud native of Kastela, it was the obvious place. It will be a great experience for all.”
I love it, and I look forward to meeting our guests down in Kastela next month and covering this story in some depth for TCN.
We wish our smart guests the very best in their mission to Make Kastela Great Again. In order to get them started, here are 25 things to know about Kastela.