What can international teams gain from Croatia’s first AI incubator? - Netokracija CEE

What can international teams gain from Croatia’s first AI incubator?

In February of this year, Croatia got its first incubator for ventures working with AI, machine learning and data analytics. Sixteen startups already joined!

BIRD Incubator started off as an idea at 2019’s AI4INDUSTRY conference after founders of Poslovna inteligencija and few experts from the industry decided it is time to unite the fast-growing AI community in Croatia and the region.

The story soon developed to be global. BIRD Incubator, more than half of the year already actively helps startups not just from Croatia but from various parts of the world.

It is necessary to mention that BIRD incubator is not your usual startup project. Teams do not go through formal education programs – the focus is on learning from mentors and other experts involved in the community. For the chosen teams, incubation spans over 6 months, during which they polish their ideas and prototypes to products ready for investment and/or market.

Mentors to wish for

With that in mind, as a successful Croatian BI company, Poslovna inteligencija brings the teams at BIRD great value. With more than 20 years of experience in data analytics and 140 experts to learn from, most importantly, Poslovna has a great network of contacts with offices in London, Vienna, Ljubljana, Beograd, Podgorica and Sarajevo.

However, when startups enter the BIRD Incubator, Željko Krizmanić BIRD’s coordinator explains, they benefit not only from the cooperation and experience of Poslovna but also from the entire tech community from Croatia and beyond.

BIRD’s mentors are experts in a variety of business areas, with tech, business development, digital marketing and law background. These are all people with extensive experience – most of them have built several businesses and are successful in international tech.

Through BIRD, teams have an opportunity to build long-term relationships with their mentors. This is enabled through in-person consultations or it is organized as free-style interactive workshops in which mentors transfer specific knowledge and their experiences to the teams.

Besides industry and VC contacts, there are other benefits and resources that Poslovna inteligencija makes available to the teams, Željko adds. The BIRD offers them a creative and new workspace (450 m2) and of course – free coffee! Most importantly, teams have free access to all leading tech vendors and their technologies such as Microsoft, IBM and Amazon’ web services. With that, the value of all the resources startups get through BIRD reaches up to 400.000 USD.

From health tracking suit to predicting consumer behavior

Today, BIRD supports 16 teams and Željko doesn’t hold back praise.

We have attracted some great teams to the Incubator so far. Maybe every Incubator will say the same thing, but we believe we choose the best ones. We can even say that some of the best ones have chosen us and every Incubator would be happy to have them because they are developing such high-quality projects.

One of them is Cidrani team, which received its first 300.000 euros investment just a couple of months ago. This smart-food startup came to BIRD intending to build the world’s most sophisticated platform for personalized functional organic plant-based beverages infused with nutraceuticals.

But there are many more worth mentioning and Željko gladly points out what the other teams are working on, such as AI-zyme, NeolightAI, Platepay and TriCor. In the meantime, many more Croatian teams joined and international are not missing out.

Like an exchange program for startups…

There are currently 6 international teams at BIRD. NaturalText and Marksmen Digi Technologie from India, ALAN Analytics from Slovakia, UX mining from Poland, Autonomous Knight from Belgium and Evocenta from Germany.

NaturalText has developed unsupervised AI that extracts actionable, explainable, and human-readable insights from structured and unstructured text data in many formats, making it an invaluable tool for organizations in all industries right out of the box and Marksmen is an AI Data Annotation Platform. They provide an end-to-end data management and annotation platform that enables companies to use human and machine intelligence to improve their data literacy.

UX mining is a remote usability testing platform that leverages AI and existing user hardware to find more insights. Autonomous Knight develops autonomous sensor for situational awareness – and cyber-physical systems that will fast-track vehicle autonomy levels.

ALAN Analytics is one of the most recent startups that joined BIRD and is using AI to make more accurate psychological profiles so companies can better understand their users. Evocenta team is building intelligent service center services based on its own proprietary AI platform which can be applied to all kinds of business problems.

And more will keep on coming Željko tells me, as they are extensively working on the international aspect of the incubator. With that in mind, he explains how they’ve gained the first teams outside Croatia.

The first international teams came in a joint effort with SpringUp Capital, a micro VC fund from India. They saw the advantage that some of the startups they invested in, have once they come to the EU and gain an international perspective.

We saw this approach as a good way to get in touch with promising startups. So we started talking with other Incubator partners, from Norway, the UK and Germany and discussed how could they connect BIRD with startups from their network so we can present to them the key benefits of joining our program.

They have also taken a proactive approach and connected with platforms, such as Vestbee which startups and investors use to connect and to grow their businesses.

Would you like to join Croatia’s “AI nest”?

There is one key condition for joining the BIRD: your business has to be related to the field of artificial intelligence and analytics. That shouldn’t be much of a problem if we consider that almost any innovative tech product nowadays has to use those means to some extent. Meanwhile, as Dražen Oreščanin, BIRD’s cofounder points out, there are two most crucial aspects they evaluate before accepting startups’ applications.

The first one is the team behind the idea, their enthusiasm and their energy. The second one is our assessment of whether the business idea is viable. If we were not sure about one of these two things, we usually give a team an additional task and arrange another round of talks. There were situations where at first the teams delighted us, both with pitch and energy, but in the end, they were not accepted. Namely, there were situations in which we included the mentors, experts in certain business areas, to help us validate the business behind the idea.

He also has a piece of advice to all those applying for BIRD:

Besides all the traits mentioned, we appreciate it when teams come well prepared and present things like market analysis, competition analysis and an action plan for 6 months of incubation. So, it is almost safe to say that if a team applies and shows up thoroughly prepared and ready to demonstrate their commitment, it will get admitted to Bird. … given that it is not full already, of course. 🙂

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