November 17-18, 2012 was exiting weekend for Startups in Croatia, as for the second year the country hosted a Startup Weekend – an event with already global presence and ambition to become the biggest entrepreneurship program ever launched.

Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Startup Weekends (supported by Kauffman foundation) around the world are held in pretty similar format. The participants have 54 hours to form teams, come up with ideas, go through pre-selection and then work the idea out putting together a business plan, a pitch deck, and sometimes even building prototypes.
The actual aim is to build the MVP (minimum viable product). To achieve the target the project teams are given access to infrastructure, local and international mentors and ‘all the coffee they can drink’. The winners of the event are invited on global twitter pitch. Statistics from the global start-up program show that after the weekend 80% of the participants plan to continue with the project, and after three months 36% continue to carry the project on.
The teams differ in age and experience – some work together since years, others meet on the spot, some bring products already in phase for market launch, other just make up the idea. Half of the participants is usually with business background the other half are designers, developers engineers, or visionalists – but in one world ENTERPRENURS. I loved a quote of start-up weekend alumni, saying “Everybody has ideas, everybody is innovator till certain degree but the entrepreneur is the person who acts upon those ideas”.

Startup Weekend in action

Startup Weekend in action

The Startup Weekend in Croatia was held in Zagreb School of Economic and Management, which by itself generates value, as the school was nominated Number One Business School in Croatia for fifth year in a roll, where Croatia ministers and prominent personalities and recognized professors (Prof. Kotler for example) are regular speakers.
One of the Zargeb event’s jury members Prof. Tina Lee Odinsky-Zec, also Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center of ZSEM, claims that education is key factor to boost creativity and entrepreneurship in any country. Entrepreneurship projects should be encouraged as much as possible, as even failure is part of the learning experience and bring value to society. Prof. Odinsky-Zec believe in this idea till such extent that her 9 years daughter was the youngest participant last year at Startup Weekend Zagreb, who also developed a project (currently sold in from of a book) and made a pitch.

This year the following 10 projects showed what they could achieve during a weekend:

  • Kaizen – mistery shopping & customer satisfaction research toolkit
  • Joy Factory for Kids – transforms domestic and commercial interiors into playgrounds
  • Pure Nature – turns your vacation into a scientific expedition
  • Math for Life – learning app children with learning difficulties
  • H&B – intelligent wireless heating control system hooked into the cloud
  • Kuponceki – personalized coupon aggregator service for supermarkets
  • Pharmabox – 24/7 pharma vending machine
  • Tko nas hrani? – crowdsourced food delivery powered by grannies’ veg gardens
  • Torbak – 100% recycled bags hand made by local communities (social entrepreneurship project)
  • Croworking.com – relocate your co-working desk to the Croatian seashore
  • OrderUp / Masinerija – waiter caller app and more to boost resto efficiency

And the winners were…

Masinerija @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Masinerija @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Surprisingly or not two of the three projects nominated were social-entrepreneurship ones.
On third place finished an excellent team, presenting a restaurant ordering mobile application, under the name of Masinerja. The team is working together since years and came to the start-up weekend, as they wanted to start a new project. The years of working together helped them to accomplish in 54 hours more tasks than any other project managed. Masinerija had their prototypes – both on mobile emulator and website. They did their task on customer validation interviewing restaurants in Zagreb, completed detailed market research, presented well built business model. In my personal view Machinerija truly deserved their nomination.

 

Math for Life @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Math for Life @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Second place nomination was given to Math for Life, a socially valuable project targeting the Croatian education system. “Racunam Svaki Dan”, meaning “I calculate every day” is an application supporting children with learning difficulties to learn and understand maths. The application in form of a game is visually appealing for children and it helps them to place mathematics problem in their understanding of life, turning it from abstract to practical subject. Although there are many similar projects around the world, few of them target children with learning difficulties. Also in order to be applicable to the Croatian educational system the application must be original development according to law. The biggest value added of the project still is the passion and devotion to the goal of project leader Zrinka Dumancic.

 

Torbak @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

Torbak @ Startup Weekend Zagreb 2012

The first price was given to a recycling project – Torbak. It is already an operating venture, however so far it was working as non profit organization and the aim of the team was to prepare their solution for a market launch. Torbak, creative name coming from the Croatian words of bag and plastic bag in fact uses plastic bags gathered from schools as source to produce fiber out of which handmade design bags are made. Currently 8 women are employed by the project and they sell their products at souvenir shops on the Croatian Riviera and bazaars around the country. The idea is promoted by large network of green not-for-profit organizations, and according to the jury it must be and it has the potential to be scaled globally. To do this, however, beside their good idea the team will need their own Tom Szaky to build an international brand.

 

What makes start-up events so unique and attractive for me is the spirit. Regardless the background, the culture, the socialization, the language knowledge and presentation skills of the participants they are always brave people, daring to live their dreams. It was not any different at the Satrtup Weekend in Zagreb 2012.

Hand-made deck from Zagreb

Hand-made deck from Zagreb

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