Events

As a speaker, moderator, workshop educator and judge, I’ve had the pleasure to take part in some really outstanding events from exclusive workshops to 1000+ conferences, as well as organize some of my own conferences and workshops.

It’s important to every business to contribute back to the community that helped foster it, which is why I’m so happy to be one of the judges of the 1st startup contest of Good Game, the largest B2B esports tournament in Europe. The prize? $15,000 with no strings attached.

I remember the first time Nikola, the founder of Good Game, asked me over pizza at Zero Zero, what I thought about the idea of an esports tournament for tech and digital companies. I loved it and encouraged Nikola to run with it.

He did and launched the tournament in 2016.

Now it’s 2018 and Good Game held its 3rd tournament in Zagreb – the largest yet – with 32 teams from international companies such as Uber and Deloitte, Croatian tech stars such as Rimac Automobili and Nanobit, as well as corporates such as Vipnet and HPB. The growing event moved from the Hub385 coworking space to Jadran Film studios:

The finale saw Valiance and Locastic, who companies who also have their own esports organizations, duke it out for first place with Valiance coming out on top.

Valiance osvojio Good Game, s trona skinuo Rimca

Good Game’s Powerup to a Worthy Startup

Past years saw Good Game buy consoles for children’s hospitals in Croatia, while this year’s donation will be about entrepreneurship in the same spirit of the project and its contestants. Part of the revenue, over $15,000, will be donated to a up-and-coming Croatian startup as a little… powerup. With a lack of no-string-attached seed capital and smart money in the region, there’s an obvious benefit to any startup that wins the pitching competition to be held on September 9th.

Good Gameov žiri odlučit će kojem hrvatskom startupu ide 100 tisuća kuna!

The 10 judges will be representatives of Good Game, its entrepreneurial contestants, corporate and media partners, including:

  • Rimac Automobili founder Mate Rimac;
  • STEM evangelist Nenad Bakić;
  • Vip head of PR Martina Rizman;
  • Vip CMO Lordan Kondić;
  • Algebra co-founder Hrvoje Balen;
  • Infinum co-founder Tomislav Car;
  • Telegram editor-in-chief Miran Pavić;
  • MSAN PR manager Sergej Ivasović;
  • Good Game founder and CEO Nikola Stolnik;
  • and little old me as the founder of Netokracija, the largest startup publication in Southeastern Europe.

If you have a startup that wants to not just win $15,000 in no-strings-attached funding, but also promote itself to the regional startup community, you can apply at GG.Me.

Let the best startup win! Cheers!

 

I always forget that I started Netokracija in the final years of high school. Thankfully my mom reminded me, commenting that I dabbled with projects instead of doing my homework. I wonder how many of the kids that pitched at Srednja.hr’s Ideja godine 2018. high school startup competition also skipped their homework to work on their idea?

A group photo of all the teams and the judges.

While we usually think of college as the ‘prime time’ for startups to blossom, it’s actually high school where we find the first sparks of an entrepreneurial spirit. While the US has a vision of ‘lemonade stand’ entrepreneurs and Steve Blank has written about how to foster lean startup thinking in high schoolers, the phenomenon seems far less common in Croatia and Eastern Europe.

Seems – because the 8 startups that presented their projects at Ideja Godine at the Effectus College for Finance and Law prove how many young entrepreneurs are already working on their projects. Most were from outside the capital of Zagreb, from far smaller communities across Slavonija and Dalmatia then you might be imagined. Supported by their teachers and parents, some of them like the smart board game Mundus spend their weekends working on their projects instead of partying.

The judges; founder of one of the largest technology companies in Croatia IN2 Ante Mandić, Technology Park Zagreb director Frane Šesnić, Effectus dean Jelena Uzelac and Srednja.hr founder and my dear friend Marko Matijević, were quite impressed by the level of preparation and passion some of these kids put into their projects.

Finally, when all was said and pitches, the drone companion app LiftOff founded by Roko Radanović, Toma Puljak i Dražen Barić, mentored Marija Rakić Mimica, won first place thanks to their overall excellence. They managed to do more customer and product development in four months than most “older” early startups in far longer.

As members of the Split-based DUMP association of tech enthusiasts, we’ll probably hear about these three even if they choose to do something else. Since the peak age for founders is close to 30 and 40, than high school, they have more than enough time to gain experience and learn from their peers (I actually asked Ante for some key advice for organizing Netokracija’s growing team) from an early start!

With a higher mobile then fixed internet penetration and the youngest population in Europe (19% of Albanians are between 15 and 24 years old), Albania has the potential of becoming a truly digital nation in the future – if it plays its cards right. Their aces will be the people that attended this year’s AllWeb in Tirana, which is why I was honored to be a speaker.

A key part of Albania’s journey will be building a local digital ecosystem, including events that will connect local digital enthusiasts and professionals with their colleagues around the region – and the world. AllWeb in Tirana is a spin-off of the original, now 6 years running, leading digital communication conference in neighboring Macedonia.

Where’s The Content?

Founded by Darko Buldioski and Gerti Boshnjaku, this is AllWeb’s second event in Albania’s capital which has already become a champion of digital transformation with the ambition of growing even more. While the content at AllWeb, with great speakers such as Bruketa&Žinić&Grey’s Robert Petković and Kraftwerk’s Heimo Hammer, made for an entertaining and useful event, content as a part of digital strategies hasn’t yet come into focus in the country.

Leading Austrial digital agency Kraftwerk founder Heimo Hammer sharing his experience.

The talk I gave centered exactly on the digital content opportunity both in the Albanian market, but also for companies that want to export products and services by leapfrogging competitors from the region.

There is no data such data for Albania. According to my sources, though – not many brands use native advertising or content marketing and those who do – aren’t doing it right.

Albanian stands alone as a language with no relatives (Source: StartupYard)

The only thing we can be sure when it comes to digital content in Albania is that the language is so unique that Google has failed them and now there is a venture-backed alternative, Gjiraffa, which raised $2 million from Rockaway Capital. They are building a search engine that understands Albanian for 12 million people that speak Albanian!

This is – ironically – not a bad thing, but an opportunity!

The Albanian Digital Content Opportunity

While blogs and social media are staples in more developed markets, a lot of companies aren’t moving beyond them so there’s a large opportunity for Albanian digital experts to become world experts in next-generation content: Video, VR, AR…

A similar thing happened in Croatia about 8 years ago with the sudden growth of Facebook and the new generation of social networks. While the US and other Western countries weren’t as excited about – for them – another generation of something they’ve seen, Facebook and Twitter were something completely new in Croatia. I remember organizing the first Twitter workshop in the region in 2009., a time when the closest other workshops for the real-time social network took place in – New York.

Young Croatian digital professionals recognized the opportunity faster than their Western counterparts and a slew of digital social media agencies was born, some of which – like Degordian – have become giants in their own right.

Explaining digital content opportunities with the Rimac Paradigm.

We’ll see if Albanian marketers and digital experts come out of AllWeb thinking about the content opportunities they might seize. I wouldn’t mind seeing some great content projects from Tirana at next year’s SOMO Borac digital awards, but that will happen only if local digital professionals actually ignore the regional digital industry and look beyond it – seizing the Albanian digital content opportunity.

Hopefully, my talk at AllWeb 2017, helps them along the way.

The continuing success of Netokracija, the platform I built with the best media team in the region, has always been based on the success of its community. Which is why it’s so fitting that I had the chance to talk about Netokracija at one of the most community-driven events in the region: WordCamp Zagreb 2017.

300 people participated in this year's conference!

300 people participated in this year’s conference! (Photo by Mauricio Gelves)

After my pitches for social media and startup topics started being declined (“pfff, who cares about Facebook?”)  by the old guard of tech magazines I was writing for, it was the new tech media publications like Techcrunch and Mashable that gave me a solution: WordPress, then in its 2.8 version and already powering over 35% of the world’s top blogs according to Technorati.

Drawing parallels between the evolution of WordPress and the growth of Netokracija in my talk, I tried to explain:

  • How the WordPress platform helps businesses like Netokracija iterate fast;
  • How the WordPress community ethics and principles are a great analogy to sound business strategy;
  • Why what you want in business might not actually be what you really want.

You can watch my 40-minute talk on YouTube at 2 hours, 7 minutes in of the complete WordCamp Zagreb video:

…while the slides are up on both Slideshare and Slidedeck:

I’m looking forward to taking this talk on the road to other WordCamps around the world. It’s not just a case study, but uses the elements of the WordPress community and ecosystem itself as an analogy of the success of a project based on the platform.  If you’re organizing a WordCamp and would like to have me talk about this topic, don’t hesitate to email me!

Zašto je osobni brending važan dizajnerima, freelancerima i – malim tvrtkama

Ivan Brezak Brkan is going to tell us a love story between WordPress and Netokracija – the leading Tech Blog in the Balkans

How to prepare for a talk at one of the world’s most enthusiastic user conferences – WordCamp? By understanding its community – and your audience! I’ll be speaking about how we used the popular WordPress open-source content management system to build the largest blog in the Balkans, Netokracija, at WordCamp Zagreb on September 2nd.

The speakers at a WordCamp in Croatia in a good mood (Photo: Neuralab)

Besides making your talk memorable, useful and all the other tips that apply to speaking at conferences, here are a few other insights I’d suggest:

  • Attend a local WordCamp Meetup: Before an organizer can start a WordCamp conference, they have to show that there’s a sizeable WordPress community in their city or country by organizing smaller community meetups called WordCamp Meetups. Since WordCamps are a community project as well, the organizers, attendees as well as some of the speakers will come from the ranks of meetup members, which is why you should definitely visit one prior to attending the WordCamp. Don’t be a stranger;
  • Don’t expect to be paid: Understand that WordCamps, as community events, don’t cover hotel or travel costs before you submit your talk;
  • Help promote the event: Since WordCamps don’t have a huge (if any) marketing budget, help promote the event by sharing it through social media or on your blog, even telling people you think might be interested;
  • Get a feel for the community: Become a member of the local or dedicated WordPress community group, on Facebook, Meetup.com or any other platform they might use. Follow their current and browse past discussions and topics of interest in order to get a feel for what’s relevant to the local WordPress Community, which will in most cases make up most of the audience at the WordCamp;

The audience encouraging the next speaker at a Wordcamp (Photo: Neuralab)

  • Stay up-to-date with local WordPress community news: In the same vein, visit some international and local sources of WordPress news, such as WPtavern, in order to be up-to-date with what’s happening related to WordPress. While there might not be a local WordPress news site, more general tech blogs usually cover news related to WordCamps and WordPress. An example is my own Netokracija where we cover the regional WordPress community in our WordPress section. Just search for the “wordpress” tag on most tech blogs and I’m sure you’ll find… something;
  • Brush up on your WordPress lingo and understand the platform at least on a basic level. There’s nothing worse than mixing up WordPress.org and WordPress.com to show how you aren’t really part of the community. Even if you’re new to WordPress, take a bit of time to learn about how WordPress is not just for blogging or why community members are so involved in it;
  • Don’t sell at WordCamps, just meet the community: Depending on the WordCamp, you’ll probably have more luck looking for partners than for leads! Chris Lema explained: “I make partners at WordCamps. Partners I can send work to. Partners that may route folks my way”.

Looking forward to seeing you at WordCamp Zagreb (keep in mind there are only 20 14 tickets left!)  In the meantime, share your WordCamp speaking tips and suggestions in the comments!

Ivan Brezak Brkan is going to tell us a love story between WordPress and Netokracija – the leading Tech Blog in the Balkans

This year, the BalCannes showcase will feature a jury of 25 members! These members are industry professionals: clients, agency members or journalists covering the marketing industry.

The BalCannes showcase is organized by the Croatian Association of Communications Agencies (HURA) and features the 25 best communication projects of the past years. It has been very successful over the years, with over 100 agencies participating with more than 555 different projects.

As Marketing magazin explains, among them will be Raiffeisen bank marketing director Belma Hadžiomerović, Triglav marketing director Tjaša Kolenc Filipčić, Atlantic Group director of marketing Jelena Milinković, Fullhouse Ogilvy creative director Miloš Đurđević and McCann Zagreb creative director Daniel Vuković.

The media part of the jury will feature Avaz editor Mladen Dakić, Marketing mreža editor Ivana Parčetić Mitić, Marketing magazin editor Marjan Novak, Marketing365 founder Boris Eftimovski as well as myself – as the editor-in-chief and founder of Netokracija. This will be my 3rd year jurying the BalCannes showcase.

Visit the BalCannes’ official website for more information, such as the list of the projects showcased in 2016.

While most tech and digital conferences might take place in spring and fall, I’m sure that you and I both love when they are organized in the summer. A great example is Changer Festival that took place in late July in the beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik, combining street art, food, music and – most importantly to our topic – a great tech event that took place in the evening over 3 days with topics from freelancing to the future of smart cities.

The beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik

The beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik (Photo: Solaris archive)

My mate Luka Sučić and I took over the moderation of 4 large panels with some of the brightest minds of the regional tech community, including companies such as electric car maker Rimac Automobili, fast growing transportation booking platform Vollo and vacation rental property manager Rentlio.

Why Summer Tech Events Are Better Than a Great Mojito

  • As in Changer’s case, the events can take place in an open, more relaxed setting. Taking place at Ivan Pavao II square in the very heart of Šibenik, the location was far more interesting than your average bland conference space;
  • Summer is the truly sunny part of the year, which is important because studies have shown that nicer weather increases our life satisfaction. More sun – happier attendees.

Another benefit of these events taking place in the summer is that attendees definitely take more time to enjoy their surrounding, including various attractions and restaurants, cafes etc.

The time before our panel we spent prepping at Vino&ino, the best wine bar in Šibenik, owned by former creative director Vedran Gulin. Vedran got smart and after an epic digital marketing career turned to creating one of the best places to sit and relax in his hometown.

In some cases, they might even bring their partners. Netgen’s Web Summer Camp conference offers a special package for companions of attendees, with a unique programme.

Summer Events Are Hot… And Hard

There are a number of reasons why organizers don’t like organizing conferences in the summer:

  • Summer as the tourist season means that coastal cities have less capacity and higher prices of accommodations, increasing expenses for both organizers and attendees. According to data provided by travel search engine Hipmunk, accommodations in the summer are 50% more expensive;
  • Attendees go on holiday in the summer so less of them are ready to go to a conference or professional event.

Changer’s Panels About The Digital Economy

The two talks I moderated lasted for 90 minutes each (we made it work, argh!):

Freelancing – Dalmatia style was interesting because two of my attendees gave a truly Dalmatian perspective on making it as a digital freelancer. UX designer Marina Matijača explained how she balanced working for a digital agency and freelance work, while noted designer Filip Peraić (author of the acclaimed art series James Harden Illustrated) made it clear that you should put the work that you would like to do in your portfolio. On the other hand, TopTal technical sourcer Ines Avdic explained how a platform like TopTal helped freelancers take the hassle out of finding new work.

The center of Šibenik in the evening

The center of Šibenik in the evening (Photo by Iva Soldo)

Future City was a more broad panel about the true future of smart cities and how can a city like Šibenik take advantage of the 4th industrial revolution. Aco Momčilović (Rimac Automobili), Marko Jukić (Vollo), Ante Matijača (Profico) and Marko Mišulić (Rentlio) had a lot to share about how important digitalization is for cities, especially when using data to manage them better.

MOP organizer and programme director for the conference part of Changer festival, Fran Mubrin, commented:

As a moderator Ivan recognizes opportunities in every topic and uses his experience to get the most interesting information from the panelists, making the topics interesting and useful to everyone in the audience.

I’m looking to next year’s Changer festival while wondering if we could have at least part of the panels in English. Who knows, maybe some of the tourists that stopped and wondered what we were talking about were digital nomads!

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