The SMEs of the Future conference, blissfully organized on Wednesday, March 20th by the UKTI Croatia and the British Embassy in Zagreb, was definitely the highlight of this week, as much for all of us here at ZIP as for the Croatian startup scene as a whole. The conference was opened by His Excellency Mr David Slinn, CMG, OBE, who is serving as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, and Gordan Maras, the Croatian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Trade.

The SMEs of the Future discussion panel on best practices

The discussion panels were abundant with serious topics, mainly the examples of sound innovation principles from both the UK and Croatia: London Tech City, the UK government’s growth-promoting measures and policies for SMEs such as improved access to capital and simplified taxation procedures, and on Croatia’s part the ZIP Incubator, Osijek Software City, the Croatian government’s SME funding program Poduzetnički Impuls and more. The proposed steps forward for the Croatian innovation ecosystem were to further strengthen the ties between the state, the academia and the startup community, and to continue working on establishing a local startup accelerator program. At the very end an interesting debate developed around the question of whether ICT can be a sector around which a nation can build its competitiveness, with software having had to withstand a comparison with “real” production

The pitching session review panel (from left to right): Inmaculada Martinez Rubio, Tom Samodol, Dale Huxford and Nenad Marovac

The emphasis of this recollection, however, is on the last part of the conference - the pitches by the Croatian startups that were invited to present! The pitching wasn’t pressure free, as there were some very well-known people on the review panel: Inmaculada Martinez Rubio, Tom Samodol, Dale Huxford and Nenad Marovac.

Sandra Benčić from Publiconn had the honor of the first pitch

Being familiar with most of the projects from before, it was really exciting for us to see how the pitches have evolved over time - they were all fun, energetic and never lost our attention. The questions by the review panel and their input in general proved very useful to our startup founders, who later talked business with Inmaculada, Tom, Dale and Nenad and ended up very pleased with the impressive connections and meeting opportunities that our guests from London were able to offer them. Later that evening a lavish celebration of good taste ensued on the drinkabout party at the club Ritam Grada, which was magnificent!

You can check out more photos here!

Tom Samodol and Dale Huxford @ ZIP.Factory

We would also like to mention that on Monday evening Tom and Dale, who came to Zagreb a few days before the conference, visited us at ZIP.Factory, met our startup teams and listened to their pitches together with our mentors Mladen Vukmir, Dalibor Marijanović and Mario Brkić, and our founders Ivo, Saša, Mihovil and Damir.

Ivo, Tom and Mihovil discussing startups

Tom Samodol mentoring Marin Glibić from Fieldpod

Tom and Dale came over again on Tuesday morning and continued mentoring our teams 1-on-1, sharing valuable insights and advice. It was a busy morning as Luka Abrus paid us a visit too, and during an interesting conversation gave us some excellent ideas for the ZIP program. We are thankful for this great mentoring session and hope to repeat it very soon!

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