Geeks on a Plane Zagreb: Startups Charming Dave McClure - Netokracija CEE

Geeks on a Plane Zagreb: Startups Charming Dave McClure

The Croatian startup scene got a real treat — the world famous tour for startups organized by Dave McClure and 500startups, Geeks On A Plane, finished its Eastern Europe leg in Zagreb. Twenty startups and more than 300 geeks, investors and technological enthusiasts gathered around in the Green Gold centre to pitch their projects and talk about the way they’re doing business.

The initial talks were given by the organizers, including Ivo Špigel from ZIP (Zagreb Entrepreneurship Incubator), Marija Lugarić (deputy minister of science, education and sports) and Gordan Maras (minister of entrepreneurship). The underlying motive of all introductory talks was the positive trend of high-tech startups in Croatia. Minister Maras even announced a startup incubator backed by the government — we’ll definitely be writing more about that as it happens.

Gordan Maras, Minister of Entrepreneurship

Metrics for Pirates… Ummm, Startups

Dave McClure talked about Metrics for Pirates, a collection of tips and experience on running a tech startup. Based around the piratey acronym AARRR (acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue), Dave’s primary advice is to focus on a small, crucial set of metrics which should help the management make decisions on running the business. Dave also talked about the role of sales and marketing, especially targeted at the engineering and design part of the crowd which usually thinks these are evil.

The focus on data and quantitative methods resonated very well with the engineering-oriented visitors of the conference. McClure talks about common marketing and sales tasks like product/market fit, feature selection and product launch as tangible, measurable concepts, demystifying some common myths in the startup scene. With a disclaimer, of course – Dave mentioned he’s probably wrong about many of these, but hey – this isn’t an exact science.

After Dave, we’ve seen pitches of the 20 selected startups – but that’s a subject for a whole other article.

Dave McClure, 500startups

Starting a Startup

Three entrepreneurs and founders of successful startups shared their stories and advice in the panel called “Starting a Startup”. These were:

  • Jugoslav Petković, the founder of, one of  the most successful ecommerce startups in Slovenia;
  • Jürgen Furian from StartEurope, an organization focused on activating the European startup scene, based in Vienna;
  • Stevica Kuharski, founder of IT4U and the startup Habbits.

Stevica talked about his experience in building Habbits, from the initial idea to developing a business model and going through an investment phase. Jugoslav mentioned the startups here are great at building solutions, but they aren’t as good in business development and monetizing, mentioning the importance of networking and sharing experiences with more successful entrepreneurs. Panelists agreed startups shouldn’t be disheartened by stories from Silicon Valley and Techcrunch, advising teams to bring the product to the customers instead and learning from the process.

The discussion went on to include questions about licensing models and choosing an optimal strategy — freemium or trial-based, but also on the growing trend of hardware startups and differences between building a “physical” and a software product. Stevica mentioned their experience with Habbits — the cost of developing the app was approx. 5-10 thousand euro, while a batch of 10 000 stuffed toys went up to US$ 200 thousand.

The “Starting a Startup” Panel

The Term Sheet Battle

Dale Huxford and Dave McClure battled on stage, but not physically — they did a “term sheet battle” and tried to agree on terms of an early stage equity financing in a made-up startup. Huxford shortly went through the exact details of a term sheet, its types, and especially mentioned it’s actually not legally binding (but very psychologically binding!). The fictive startup Gangnam Stylagram has some traction and went through a very early financing stage, so it’s not completely broke.

Dave stressed the importance of communicating with other successful entrepreneurs due to the fact that investors usually have much more experience in the whole process than a startup founder does. He mentioned you’re probably getting screwed either way, but it’s quite important to be aware on the exact way you’re getting screwed so you can adequately prepare for the process.

The Term Sheet Battle

The Winners

After a day packed with exciting pitches and good atmosphere, the organizers announced the winners of the startup competition. These are:

  1. WhoAPI, who will get the chance to be a part of 500startups’ startup program
  2. SalesPod
  3. Rimac Automobili
The Winners of The Startup Competition

Congratulations to all startups for their successful presentations and pitches, and we’re looking forward to writing further reports on their success!


  1. Božidar Ševo

    Božidar Ševo

    28. 9. 2012. in 1:25 pm Reply

    This was a historic day for croatian startup scene! Thanks to all the organization and all people at #GOAPZagreb! It was awesome to pitch BackWay in front of all you awesome people

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