The Croatian startup scene is going through a renaissance. Since Infobip became our first unicorn a year and a half ago, we keep getting amazing news from our startup world – about acquisitions, multimillion investments, new clients, or innovative projects. This momentum needs to be used so that those successes wouldn’t become exceptions that were made possible by individuals only, but a logical result of the fruitful and supportive ecosystem.
A newly formed association CRO STARTUP will work on creating such an ecosystem. Its Executive Board is comprised by Maja Brkljačić (AlgebraLAB), Mario Frančešević (CISEx/SeekandHit), Darko Jovišić (Robotiq.ai), Srđan Kovačević (Orqa), Nikola Pavešić (Infobip), Božidar Pavlović (Jackie agency), Marijana Šarolić Robić (Odvjetnički ured MSR) as the VP and Hajdi Ćenan (airt) as the President.
Not all startups are software or tech startups
The initiative to create the association largely came from startups that are part of CISEx, which is one of the cofounders of this new association.
This new organization is being founded because, as Hajdi Ćenan says, there isn’t an existing one that focuses solely on startups and their specific requirements, nor one that gathers startups from all sectors and industries. Many startups already are connected through associations such as CISEx or CroAI, but not all startups are necessarily tech startups:
Also, startups are not always software companies, and there is a number of companies and institutions that need to be involved, such as numerous incubators and accelerators, VC funds, and so on.
Startups are companies with innovative products and solutions that are often based on technology, and these companies often make revenue and profit only in the later stages. Such companies need to be provided with financing such as business angel and venture capital funds investments, so that they can place their solutions on the market and, after figuring out the right product-market fit, expand rapidly to other markets.
The association will focus on four key areas:
- Eliminating regulative issues and barriers – a long-term goal that relies on many broader reforms. They will work on facilitating the opening and closing of companies, advocating a stable tax system and lower contributions to salaries, but more specifically for startups – on defining and recognizing startups, easier division and transfer of shares in them, tax incentives for investors, easier distribution of shares to employees… They will rely on implementing the best practices that should enable Croatian startups not to have to move their headquarters to other countries.
- Pooling resources and knowledge – the exchange of knowledge and experience exists among startups but is fragmented. There is no a single platform that brings together the resources needed by startups in one place, such as document templates that everyone needs at some point. Or lectures and education related to various aspects of seeking investment – from how to find and select potential investors, to what to keep an eye on when negotiating terms.
- Strengthening the startup community – there are already a number of local and regional startup initiatives, but also associations at the level of individual technologies or industries, which need to be connected and enabled to communicate and cooperate. They will help existing startups in promoting themselves to the local and foreign audience, as well as in presenting to investors and potential buyers from all over the world. All this in order to socialize a lot more, make connections and acquaintances, exchange experiences – both good and bad.
- International positioning – Croatia is internationally better known as a tourist destination than as a country with two unicorns (Infobip and Rimac automobili) and a diverse and dynamic startup scene. Local startup scene has not been mapped, nor is it present in European or world startup reports. This needs to be fixed and shown to the world that we have startups that are well worth investing in.
Membership benefits: discounts, networking, education, partnerships…
Membership will, of course, be voluntary, and members will receive discounts at various companies whose services they usually need, such as lawyers who will have packages for startups and services they need most (templates for various contracts, such as articles of association, NDA, and so on).
The association is also working on corporate partnerships that would not only offer a declarative sponsorship budget, but also educate startups on how to approach the corporation to pilot and test potential collaborations or organize events where startups would directly offer their projects. Hajdi once again mentions socializing and connecting:
We already have a plan for regular gatherings so we can get together, network and share experiences on a wider scale, which is undeniably needed by startups at all stages of development. We’re also arranging for startup associations from other countries to participate, in order to hear the best practices and lessons learned from their startups.
One of the first concrete projects of CRO STARTUP is taking over and continuing to work on CISEX’s tax relief initiative for business angels investing in innovative companies. Such an approach, as experience from other countries has shown, reduces the risk of investment and creates more people who are willing to invest their own money in startups, and having more available investors directly leads to more startups.