Speaking

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

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!

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!

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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