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Expat Living In Croatia: Be The Change You Want To See (G2 Conference + More)
When I moved to Croatia 5 years ago, I arrived so full of enthusiasm, so full of hope and what I now realize was that I also had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into.
Foolishly, in my first weeks of settling into life in Croatia, I began telling Croats – real Croatians living life here, how different things would become in Croatia. *slaps forehead*. I recall naive conversations about how I was sure that just as soon as Croatia joined the EU (it was due to happen the following year) that things would “have to change’.
Oh, my, gosh, the shame I feel now as I told a war veteran (a man, who had hurt himself fighting for the freedom of Croatia – the freedom that allowed me, as an Australian expat, to make Croatia my home), that he was wrong about how corrupt Croatia was, and I was sure that he must be wrong when he said that it was ‘impossible for Croatia to change for at least 20 years”.
Do you ever look back at how stupid you sounded in your late teens, early 20’s when you spoke about life – you know with all of your ‘life experience’? I mean, at the time you REALLY think what you are saying is true – after all, you have no basis to know just how stupid you sound.
Well, that’s how I feel about these conversations I had with this War Veteran and other Croats who have lived in Croatia their whole lives – the ones who did not leave for a ‘better life’ abroad.
If any of you are reading this post. I humbly eat my words publicly. I was wrong! I have said it to your faces already, but here forever more you can see in black and white, my admission of stupidity, and naivety*
*Please do read to the end though, as I’d like to say you too are partially wrong.
I hate bad mouthing my beautiful homeland – after all, if am not 100% thrilled with how it runs and operates, I should leave it, right?
No. Nope. I refuse to leave. (pending my visa renewal, which is still with MUP for processing, and now almost 3 months expired) So, so long as the police do not come to my door tomorrow and tell me they refuse to extend my visa, and that I must leave Croatia. I am staying. I love Croatia way to too much. She is special to me. I have made this gorgeous place home with my boys.
So, what is a little Australian girl, now living in the village supposed to do about the political and economic mess this country is in?
Nothing. That is what. Nadda, zip, ništa.
Really, I can’t do anything about this countries biggest fuck-ups… I mean, I already admitted it can’t change in the foreseeable future, so I need to quit whinging about it.
Ahhhhhh, but that said, let’s take inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi who famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Yes, I accept that I cannot change the current politics or economy of the country – but that does not stop me from being a part of a wider group of people who want to see change and each take action to be a part of that long-term change.
A few weeks ago I attended the Days of Croatian Tourism, where more than 1000 tourism experts, managers, and professionals gathered in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Croatian National Tourist Board. It was two days of awards ceremonies, lectures and panel discussions. I met my friend and fellow blogger Paul from TCN, for a drink (or 3) and it as there he introduced me to Ognjen Bagatin from Poliklinika Bagatin, who happens to be one of the most positive (and hardworking) Croats I had ever met.
After speaking with Ognjen about Croatia and how he planned to be a part of positive change, he encouraged me to attend the G2 Conference, which was to be held in a few weeks time. I wasn’t convinced, I mean what is the point of going to an event to listen to people speak about problems – would anything really change? He persuaded me that it was more than that, and promised I’d see and meet people who also want to make a change – and that together – we could all be a part of the much-needed shift in Croatia.
I was almost convinced, as I left Hvar and headed to Zagreb to meet with Australia’s Ambassador to Croatia – Elizabeth Petrovic. Then over a coffee with Elizabeth, it was there she convinced me even further it was a good idea for me to attend. So I made plans for the kids and off we went.
Arriving at the G2 Conference with my fresh hairdo bouncing along, I was blown away by how many people were there. The event was much bigger than I thought, and it was not much after arriving that I began seeing some familiar faces, and was already being introduced to some very change-making-type-of-people.
I met a lady in the first 20 minutes of arriving who has made a job out of helping people navigate the complicated process required to access funding from the European Union. I was shocked to learn that we have only accessed a measly 7% of the €10 billion allocated to Croatia. Changemaker indeed.
Following a set of opening speeches – which I was 100% able to understand, thanks to the translations available via headset – I was introduced to Ante Lucic, founder of Cronnect.me – a platform which matches interested investors with innovative start-ups in Croatia. Changemaker indeed.
Ante had 10 Croatian start-ups present – each had five minutes to convey their brand, product and of course how much start-up capital they needed. I was impressed, to say the least by the ideas and innovation on the stage.
I was a bit underwhelmed if I am totally honest by some of the bland presentations by a few of the start-up presenters. I do wonder though if that part of arrogance was just lost in translation – as they were all presenting in English – instead of Croatian – in hopes of landing a big fat cheque from the English speaking diaspora in the room – or around the globe.
You may not already know this, but it is reported that more Croats live abroad, in parts of Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of South Africa – than those who live in Croatia. Amazing huh? And, many of the diaspora are now looking to invest in Croatia – and be a part of that positive change we need. Changemakers in the making.
The startups were also vying for a prize – and 15,000kn worth of consulting services from Ernst & Young. Let the games begin.
Many of the start-ups were of interest, and shockingly only two of the 10 were related to tourism. The two in the tourism sector struck a chord with me. After all, that is where I feel I personally have the most influence on Croatia and it’s growth.
I have no hard way to measure how many people have traveled to Croatia thanks to my travel blog – but I know it’s a lot. I say that from the 9 million page views that have been read and services booked through us! Wanna-be Changemaker.
Changemaker Croatian Start-Ups
Authland is a travel platform focusing on what the creator believes is the future of tourism: rural, authentic and community-driven.
They plan to take the greatest and most original foods/drinks/experiences that Croatia (and then expand to other countries) have to offer and serve it up in a booking site. This start-up isn’t interested in the ‘horrors of mass tourism’ and want to help small rural businesses and individuals promote and sell their products to tourists – only authentic local offers will be accepted.
Not having done any market research, I have no idea how big this market might be, but I know I struggle to find a lot of choice un the rural/agro tourism sector in Croatia. We recently did a food and wine tour in Zadar, and I never came across it – they found me. So yes, I am all for Authland to find an investor.
These guys are the Airbnb for religious pilgrim or tourists who want to experience a different kind of vacation. The type of vacation that is void of partying and noise. MONAstays is a site that will allow you to book accommodation at one of 300 monasteries in Croatia and enjoy the peace, prayer, serenity and history, while simultaneously helping monasteries and church communities to be more financially sustainable.
I would never have thought that there were 300 monasteries in Croatia, that you could sleep at! I have a post on weird and wonderful accommodation, and I never found anywhere near that many to add to that post! Religious investors get in touch.
One major take away for me at the G2 Conference was that Croatia has a killer IT startup scene. The award for the Best Startup at the G2 was won by RioBot CEO Belma Gutlić – who gave a solid performance on stage – and showcased a Facebook Messenger chatbot aimed at small businesses who need a bot to take care of appointments 24/7 through Facebook Messenger.
Congrats to the RioBot team (who have other ideas in the pipeline), I hope your pilot goes well, and your investor is soon to be found.
Many people – myself included – have no idea how many economic opportunities are on offer in Croatia, so long as you know where to look, and who to trust.
If you are a changemaker looking for an investment in Croatia, you can find more Croatian startups here. Ante is so positive, and a genuinely nice bloke. Contact him, and tell him Chasing the Donkey says hi!
Chambers Of Commerce
I just mentioned trust. That’s a tricky thing here in Croatia. Sorry, but it is hard to know who to trust and who not to, and for the diaspora, I believe that the best way to cut through the bullshitters and the scammers, is to connect with your local Chamber of Commerce in your country and state.
I believe in that so much, that at the meeting I attendted with the Australiam Chamber heads, I offered all of the Australian chapters a section on my blog – where they can have links to various ways to connect with them and for you – the diaspora or Croat to be connected with like-minded businesses and individuals. Stay tuned.
Oh, and if you know someone at the American, Candian or other Chamber heads – let them know we can do the same for them!
More About The G2 Conference
I quickly mentioned the G2 above, but if you’re keen to know more then this next section is for you!
The annual Meeting G2 took Zagreb, spanning over two days, with 200 people from almost 20 countries. During this time businessmen and women from all over Croatia, including those based overseas, joined together to discuss and celebrate Croatian contributions to business, whilst providing a quality networking opportunity.
We were all welcomed in Zagreb, and the group was a mix of professionals from all industries, including food and catering, agriculture, tourism, and technology, in order to discuss and promote ways to further enhance investment in Croatia as a whole. The organizers of the G2 believe that Croatia has an untapped wealth of potential, and the key to unlocking that lies with collaboration and idea sharing.
The G2 Meeting is an annual conference, and this year was the fourth year it was held – and Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović attended (lady in the front row in red above). Many of these professionals live and work in Croatia, whilst others are based overseas.
The idea is to celebrate the diversity and success of Croatian business, but also to discuss and find solutions for further investment between the diaspora and Croatian businesses – and that it’s these developments would push Croatia towards economic success in the future.
The G2 format is set up so that there is time for sharing opportunities, collaboration, and networking, and this year’s G2 meeting saw discussions on the following areas:
- ‘Croatian tourism out of the box’ or non-non-traditional forms of tourism – Croatia is in the midst of a huge tourism boom, and pushing forth different methods of attracting more visitors year upon year could bring a major economic boost to the country
- ‘Success goes through the stomach’ or the production of delicacies and beverages in Croatia – Croatia is home to some outstanding food products, such as native truffles to name just one. Pushing forth the various delicacies which are known brings a new era of food and wine tourism for the future
- Blockchain and Croatia – A discussion was held around the future of technology and new startup opportunities for businesses, as well as new initiatives on the horizon
- Forest and wood industry in Croatia – This discussion centered around how to utilize these to bring new revenue to Croatia, whilst also discussing stability and ecology. A similar discussion took place around the construction industry, in terms of how to bring extra opportunities
- Real Estate in 5 steps – Foreign and home investment in the real estate industry could be a huge investment and economic growth area for the future
Are You Also A Want-To-Be Changemaker? Is The G2 Meeting in 2019 For You?
If you are a business person, in Croatia or if you live abroad and would like to tap into the Croatian market – then yes!
The G2 is the ideal place to be if you are interested in being a part of future economic development, growth, and productivity in Croatia. The networking opportunities at the G2 conference allow professionals from all walks of life to cooperate (even great for this stay at home mama blogger!) The G2 really was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge.
Next years event looks set to be even bigger than this years. I’ll be sure to let you know when you registrations open for 2019.
More On Cronnect.me
Founded and owned by Ante Lucic, Cronnect.me is an online platform which is membership based and helps to match up business entrepreneurs with a bright idea, with those who may be willing to invest, in order to get the new business startups off the ground.
An easy to use platform, Cronnect.me is a networking tool, helping investors and entrepreneurs connect and grow together. New startup ideas are passed to investors on a regular basis, matched according to specific requirements and the area which that particular investor would like to invest in. New entrepreneurial projects are listed regularly on the platform and works as a matching service between two parties which would otherwise probably have never crossed paths.
What is the overall aim?
The ability to match investors with new startups means that new businesses will flourish and have a much better chance at stability and success as a result. This is an ideal way to help youngsters from Croatia realize their business dreams, but also supports the economy and helps it grow for the future.
Investments are not huge and are relatively low, which gives the new startup just enough of a cash injection to get things off the ground. From there, the continuation of the arrangement works between the investor and the entrepreneur themselves. Cronnect.me do not interfere with any decisions related to the business or the investment arrangement itself.
In the recent past, Israel used this very method to increase their business start-up numbers, and as a result, they have a strong and growing economy. The hope is that with the help of Cronnect.me’s services, the same can happen here in Croatia.
Tree Of Knowledge
And one last thing that excited me while I was in Zagreb was Stablo Znanja – or the Tree of Knowledge in English. This innovative space was launched in Zagreb a year ago, with great potential to expand across the country in the future.
Mate offered to take us to the space, where, he introduced us to Leon Grdić, an IT whizz who helps manage the student area. Together with the founder of Marko Komericki, they have created a multifunctional space in Zagreb that attracts between 200 and 400 university students per day.
The goal of the Tree of Knowledge aims to create a new generation of Croatian entrepreneurs and they are looking for more mentors – particularly those from abroad who (like David Jakic from the NSW Australian Croatian Chamber of Commerce who has recently agreed to become a mentor) can share international business knowledge – so if that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of – contact the team at http://www.stabloznanja.com