For anyone following the growing European startup scene these past few years, it’s been obvious that Eastern Europe has been a special surprise when it comes to specific kinds of startups. The creators of some of the world’s most popular online games such as Nordeus and Wargaming, as well as the creator of the world’s fastest electric car – call it home – or ‘doma’!

What to expect next? – You might ask…

The panel we had at Eastern Europe’s largest startup conference, How to Web in Bucharest, does have a few answers. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of not just startup experts, but experienced players in the regional ecosystem:

  • Rumen Iliev, Partner at the LaunchHub Ventures seed stage venture firm that invested over 9 million Euros in over 62 startups as part of its first fund founded in 2012;
  • Ondrej Bartos, Co-Founder and Partner of Credo Ventures, a VC fund specialized in Central European startups. Since 2009, he also stars in the investment TV show Den D on Czech TV;

  • Dan Lupu, Partner At the Earlybird Venture Capital fund that has invested in regional champions such as Socialbakers;
  • Lloyd Waldo, Community Manager at Prague-based Startup Yard, who has maintained and expanded their relationships with investors, mentors and partners.

Watch the video to learn what you can expect from  Eastern European startups – and comment what you truly expect to see…

A friend asked me recently why I love working on Netokracija. Financial security and writing about interesting startups aside, it’s the true impact you can have by helping others through writing and networking with the digital community.

But never has this rang true than when I saw the comment fellow media entrepreneur Marko Matijević, gave Croatian magazine Telegram in their wonderful write up of Marko’s vertical media platform for students – Srednja.hr:

Sljedeće jutro zvao ga je Ivan Brezak Brkan s portala Netokracija. Brkan ga je pitao je li istina da gasi portal i u čemu je zapravo problem. Marko mu se požalio na za njega katastrofalnu posjećenost od 50.000 klikova, na što ga je Brkan pitao je li zainteresiran za prodaju, jer on zna ljude koji bi bili zainteresirani za kupnju portala za mlade koji ima toliku posjećenost. Marko kaže da mu tada nije bilo jasno na što Brkan misli. Mislio je da portal nema nikakvu vrijednost i uopće mu ta mogućnost nije padala na pamet. Brkan ga je uspio uvjeriti da bi gašenje bila greška i dogovorio mu sastanak u Algebri, još jednim ključnim partnerom portala danas.

If you don’t know Croatian, let me translate:

Netokracija’s Ivan Brezak Brkan called me the next morning and asked had I really decided to shut down the site, as well as what the problem was. Marko told him that just 50.000 clicks were catastrophic, after which Ivan asked him is he interested in selling, since he knows people that would buy a website like Srednja.hr, aimed at students. Marko says that he wasn’t sure what Ivan ment at the time. He thought that Srednja.hr wasn’t worth anything and the idea of selling never occured to him. Brkan persuaded Marko that shutting down was a mistake and got him a meeting with Algebra, a key partner of Srednja.hr to this day.

Wow. I cried. Shup up.

http://www.telegram.hr/price/dosta-smo-sigurni-da-je-prica-o-marku-decku-koji-je-iz-dedine-stare-radione-pokrenuo-srednju-hr-najbolja-koju-smo-ovaj-tjedan-objavili/

Believe in Someone More Than They Do In Themselves

I’ll be honest: While I saw great potential in Marko and Srednja.hr because of how dedicated he was as well as knowing the media business, that call didn’t seem that crucial.

But to Marko, at his moment of entrepreneurial self-doubt it was.

It shows that a single positive action on part of any of us can greatly help if it happens at the right time. My call told Marko:

  • Someone who has experience in his industry believes in his project (enough to actively contact him);
  • They don’t just believe for the sake of being nice, but are willing to actively help (by connecting him with a business partner).

Marko thought twice and created what Srednja.hr has become – a leading vertical media business for its audience of Croatian students.

But even if he didn’t, let’s be honest: Every entrepreneur has doubts in their project at one time or another. Forbes has coined it ‘The Valley of Doubt’ that entrepreneurs need to escape from.

How To Reach Out

While doubting your project for not meeting yours or others expectations might be normal, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be left alone. As Marko’s example shows, if you see a situation where you doubt the doubter – contact them:

  • Don’t wait for them to ask. Instead, proactively contact them via email, messenger or just call them up. They might not be expecting it, but they need a kick in the butt! 
  • Listen to the reasons that are driving their self-doubt so you undestand where they are coming from;
  • Create a situation that shows them the other option! While Marko could have contemplated if other companies would be interesting in working with him, connecting them with Algebra made that option real. No longer was Marko thinking of it as mere theory: It was a real option.
  • Do the one thing I didn’t do: Follow up in a few days or a week.

Your counsel might be the one thing standing between an untimely ended ‘side project’ and a potentially successful startup.

Thanks to Marko for running with the comments he got not just from me, but others who believed in his vision, and creating one of the most promising vertical portals in Croatia. Read more about Srednja.hr in Telegram’s detailed article

When Tele2 and Google decided to announce they were rolling out carrier billing for the Google Play store in Croatia, the two successful brands decided that insights would work better than a standard press conference. Which is why I was so humbled when Tele2 asked me to create a talk about the best premium apps in the Google Play store for their announcement.

Remember You’re Talking To Journalists

Contrary to what you might have learnt from Apple announcements, journalists don’t clap at press conferences because it’s not considered professional. You could have the best gadget in the world, but the journalist’s job is to stay objective, even if they are the world’s biggest technology lover.

A tough audience.

How To Include Education in Your Press Conference

If you want to the educational part of your announcement work like it did for Tele2 and Google:

  • Understand your audience and their challenges: The challenge for most journalists is how to cover stories better and more effectively. Most of the apps and use cases were examples of writing or productivity apps that could make my fellow journalist’s lives easier. if you ever wondered why so many journalists cover Apple, a big part if definitely that they write on Macs, making the company a personal interest;
  • Help them write a better story: While most of the journalists in the audience covered technology, some of them were more interested in business or fashion. Parts of the presentation included raw data on the usage of premium apps, as well as examples of premium apps in a specific category, to give them material to think about when writing their stories;
  • Have a presented that’s part of your audience: While I might be the last person to say that Tele2 was right in choosing the speaker, having a journalists talk to his colleagues about the challenges they all fact just gives you as a company more credibility.
  • Include In-jokes for colleagues: To lighten the mood for the more experienced members of the audience who might be skeptical of the format, have the speaker include a few sarcastic jokes about himself and the industry. Again, having a speaker that is a member of the audience is key!

The presentation and announcement were a success, in the end, generating buzz for Tele2’s launch and showing just how good a job Marina Bolanča‘s team at Abeceda komunikacije, the agency responsible, did for the project.

You can read more about the announcement on Netokracija (in Croatian).

Za kupovinu u Google Play trgovini više ne trebate karticu, samo Tele2 broj!

Before founding the technology blog Netokracija, it was Bug magazine where I started my technology journalism career; writing about the best blog platforms in Croatia as well as why social networks would take over the world (wide web). Yes, it was that long ago, when MySpace wasn’t dead and Kevin Rose’s Digg was the darling of the tech world.

But why is all this important? Two reasons.

First of all, now you can understand why I was excited to judge the 3rd Idea Knockout startup competition in a row. As Bug’s executive editor and my friend Dragan Petric puts it: ‘Ivan is the one that asks the hard questions, which is why we have him in the judging panel! :)’

The second reason has to do with the competition, which sends the winner to CES in Las Vegas, one of the largest technology events in the world. As with journalism, you have to get breaks and support from your peers to succeed as a startup – and going to CES can be one of those breaks.

In the end, it was the STEM educational startup STEMI that came out on top, gathering the most points among all the teams.

 

Change konferencija u Zagrebu

With over 320 developers attending, the first Change conference to take place in Zagreb, was a huge success thanks to a focused technology agenda and interesting speakers such as Oracle’s Geertjan Wielenga and TVbeat’s Alan Pavičić.

Which is why I was more than happy to participate in the closing panel on how software is influencing society, alongside my friend, one of Croatia’s most  and Croatian Makers founder Nenad Bakić .

Joining us were KING ICT Java team lead and Rochester Institute of Technology professor Aleksander Radovan and Oracle’s developer advocate for open source projects Geertjan Wielenga.

Over 300 developer visited the Change conference!

Over 300 developer visited the Change conference!

Honestly, when I got the (high level) questions such as when super computers and big data will bring the 2nd cognitive revolution or a post-human era, I knew I had to do my research. Other topics that we tackled included:

  • What educational models can relate to the fast changing software landscape, a topic that Nenad started the conference in his opening talk;
  • What are the next industries that the business model shift that comes along with software will disrupt? Guess my pic – yep, it’s my own, beloved media industry that I believe will be completely reinvented in the next 5 years thanks to agile players such as Rafat Ali’s Skift as well as my own Netokracija, ‘The Techcrunch of the Balkans’.

Speaking of agile: Programme director and panel moderator Roko Roić wasn’t going to let us out easy and wanted us to dive deep into the central question in the panel’s title. Having in mind that Roko is the author of Croatia’s first book on the Agile methodology, moving fast and learning on our initial answers actually led to a pretty ‘agile’ discussion. Punny, I know! 😜

Nenad Bakić held the opening keynote.

Nenad Bakić held the opening keynote.

How Can We Get Encourage More Female Developers in Croatia

My personal favorite part of the discussion was about women in technology since Roko thought that recently celebrating Ada Lovelace Day was the perfect ’trigger’ to talk about the fact that women make up less than 30 percent of the technology industry! What we discussed was how we could attract more women into STEM and is positive discrimination the way.

Nenad took us back to middle school, arguing that based on both data as well as practical experience from Croatian Makers’ STEM education projects, girls were quite interested into learning about technology. At least a 3rd of all the kids attending Croatian Makers classes on building STEM robots were girls, proving that the problem doesn’t stem (ouch) from early childhood.

Aleksandar agreed, saying that the problem is more visible in university such as RIT, Algebra and the Polytechnic of Zagreb where he teaches Java. Women, unfortunately, didn’t make up nearly a 3rd or his students, showing that we need to encourage young girls that technology truly is an interesting and viable career choice.

change_panel_01

My own answer was preceded by a simple question: Why was a panel that tackled this topic as well as 100% of the speaker list made up entirely of men? Roko agreed, saying how difficult it was to find female speakers, which is why he wanted to include the question in the panel.

Netokracija's Ladies of New Business with more than 150 geekettes!

Netokracija’s Ladies of New Business with more than 150 geekettes! (Photo by Luka Travas)

Moving on, and based on comments and talks by the lovely ladies of Netokracija’s Ladies of New Business women in tech conference, I argued that a lot of women just weren’t sure of themselves to ask for a raise, or pitch to talk at a conference such as Change. It’s not that they weren’t truly ready, they just didn’t feel ‘100% sure’ that it was the right time or that they had enough experience. A comment from the audience, which Geertjan agree with, is that the technology industry and development aren’t the most friendly of environments for women.

While women are aware of all these issues, I argued (and will continue to do so) that it’s the job of us guys to also stand up, participate and encourage our female colleagues and friends in the industry to pounce on opportunities.

Just as Ada Lovelace did, as a mathematician and writer in the early 19th century, becoming the world’s first programmer.

P.S. I love the fact that alongside the custom craft edition of Zmajsko (that I ♥️) beer, Roko used a well known ‘agile’ technique to open them when we couldn’t find a bottle opener!

From being known as the “blogger without a blog” to founding and being the CEO of Southeastern Europe’s most proficient business-technology media brand, Netokracija, I’ve always loved how writing online lets me go back into the archive and see where my thoughts (as well as a lot of dreams) were in the past.

As Netokracija has grown, however, it’s become far more than a single person’s blog and requires me to write long-form, detailed articles that need to adhere to our very ambitious editorial plans and great audience.

I knew I missed having a place to just… make notes… on the web, to truly blog. Reading experienced investor and blogger Fred Wilson’s “A Public Record“, where he states how blogging for more than 14  years has helped him in a similar way – took me back a moment:

I tend to get obsessed about one thing and write a lot about it. Which creates a public record. You can’t hide from that, but then again blogging is the opposite of hiding.

My mate Nebojša Radović’s blog, that he has been writing since 2005., confirmed that it made sense. This little blog, little website, isn’t a content project, a fast-growing blog, a media company. It’s my little, personal corner of the web, a public record.

Thank you for visiting!

IBB

Being involved with both corporates and startups in Southeastern Europe, I had the pleasure of talking about how the two could work together as part of a panel at the SAP Forum 2016 in Zagreb, alongside experts from Podravka and Agrokor’s mStart.

What is the SAP Forum?

The SAP Forum which takes place annually in Zagreb and is one of the largest tech conferences in Croatia. For those not familiar with SAP, it’s a German multinational software company present in over 130 countries with almost 300,000 customers around the world.

You Need ‘Startup Types’

Along with Coworking Croatia’s founder Matija Raos, STEMI’s co-founder Pavao Pahljina, mStart’s innovation manager Marina Meštrović and Podravka’s Open Innovation manager Emir Džanić, I talked about how corporates such as the ones present at the SAP Forum could and should work with startups to improve the rate of innovation.

The conversation was moderated by my long-term colleague and friend Luka Sučić, currently manager of the Croatian coworking space Hub385 where our own Netokracija offices are headed. Luka’s experience with the question of startup-corporate cooperation stems from his work at Deutsche Telekom, including working as an investment manager at DT’s Hub:raum accelerator in Krakow.

 

Win For Netokracija: Mia Wins Journalistic Award

What made me smile most at SAP’s event was the moment we knew that Mia Biberović, Netokracija executive editor, won the yearly ‘Božo Težak’ award for journalistic excellence for her work on writing about technology in the previous year. Panel’s come and go, but having Mia’s work honored was truly the highlight of the SAP Forum 2016!

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Webiz is probably the most consistently well-attended event around internet business in Serbia and we’ve been supporting it at Netokracija for years now. Which is why when Webiz’s Vladimir Kovač asked me to moderate the Ecommerce track as well as do a talk on the topic, I couldn’t say no. After all, only weeks had passed since Netokracija’s own OMGcommerce conference and I had a lot to say about what needed to change about ecommerce in Southeastern Europe.

What Does E-commerce Have To Do With The Serbian ‘Alps’?

Webiz Edukacije or ‘Webiz Education’ series is a – you guessed it – series of educational presentations that took place in Zlatibor, an important tourist area of Serbia, honestly, I’ve not heard about before. Not well known in Croatia which was made obvious by our car’s plates being the only non-Serbian ones, Zlatibor is actually known for its hiking trails and has a cool alpine climate. If you like hills, you’ll love Zlatibor, although keep in mind that the town is a couple of hours drive from either the Croatian border or Belgrade.

The module on E-commerce featured three speakers: TakoLakoShop’s Marko Ilić, Planeta Sport’s Zoran Bošković and myself. While Zoran Bošković talked about his company’s experience in switching from a regular retail to a multichannel approach in selling sport’s gear, Ilić defined the landscape of e-commerce in Serbia based on his vast experience. Ilić, for all intens purposes, is one of Serbia’s e-commerce experts, having established Serbia’s first ‘click and mortar’ web shop E-Dućan, while later launching the NonStopShop e-commerce brand for publishing giant RingierAxelSpringer.

It was down to me to give a regional perspective on what has changed in the regional e-commerce scene. Thankfully, the great sessions of OMGcommerce gave me lots of material, including: the move from pure players to enter the ‘offline’ retail space, launch of Agrokor’s Abrakadabra brand as an Amazon-like regional webshop as well as using drones in the delivery of goods. In the end, it gave a good overview for participants before both Marko and Zoran’s detailed talks, as well as a discussion with participants on what was most important in their shift to selling online.

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Ida Pandur, Sven Marusic, Tomislav Tipurić and Nikola Dujmović comment Emily!

Ida Pandur, Sven Marusic, Tomislav Tipurić and Nikola Dujmović comment Emily!

Croatian technology and digital marketing companies ENTG, Span and Infocumulus today revealed their innovative IoT solution, Emily, a smart system for data collection and analysis. Emily is a system that uses advanced image analysis and synthesizes obtained data in specific conclusions which allows you to plan a successful campaign and increase sales.

The exclusive presentation took place in Zagreb’s Hub385 innovation center, with over 50 participants from Croatia’s largest companies – and Ivan as the moderator and MC. ENTG chose Ivan to moderate because of his expertise with the topic and familiarity with a large number of the targeted audience.

As Ida Pandur – CEO and founder of ENTG, points out:

Ivan is a person who makes your event not just a well hosted one, but no matter how many people you have, when he takes the stage, he makes everyone feel at home and relaxed. That way, he manages to set up a right mood for information sharing and participation. You get well contextual jokes as a bonus.

Emily analyzes, learns and recognizes patterns in pictures, recognizes a person’s gender, age and emotional state: Their happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, concempt, disgust or neutral state. Emily can be used inside stores, for shop windows as well as digital signage. Read more about Emily in Croatian at Netokracija or visit their website at Emily.zone!

Emily in Zagreb