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?
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!