I was at the Webstart conference in Zagreb last week. The whole Croatian web-scene had gathered there for 2 days of presentations and networking.
First of all, Croatia is a very beautiful country and Zagreb is really trendy. The economy is growing at a fast pace and in 2 years Croatia enters the EU. Even more important, there are loads and loads of developers here. Tomislav Car, a 22-year old entrepreneur told me last week that it is cool to study computer science there!
I code Ruby on Rails for food
As on almost all internet conferences there were a lot of startups. Most Croatian startups build services for the local (well, former Yugoslavia) market. Also a lot of companies do outsourced development for western European companies. I’ve met some cool startups and guess what, they are looking for money! Check it out:
Shout’em is a company that is building a mobile social network set for companies with a community. This sounds like a logical step. Companies like Ning and Broadband Mechanics build social networks on the web (with a total different business model) and as the mobile web is the ‘next big thing’ it makes sense to provide white label social networks for the mobile phone.
The user interface is pretty cool and location (of course) plays a big role in shout’em. Founder Viktor Marohnic told me that they are negotiating their first deal with a Croatian Telco (the only one I know is VIP -as I was on it during my trip-).
Ironhoop is a free online management game where you get to lead a virtual basketball team to glory, in competition with other participants. It has over 12.000 managers at the moment. Basketball is very popular in South East European countries. Lovro Banfić says they are working on new titles in the game network. They are looking for funding, but how much is not clear at this point.
I got this tip from Jim Mcgough, an American Angel investor who comes often in the Balkan and looks at new opportunities. Mobiexplore is build by Gideon Multi media which uses the revenue streams from doing client work to bootstrap the startup of the company. Mobiexplore is a travel guide system that was launched in Croatia in August 2007 and has generated more then 400.000 downloads. At the moment they are working on the launch of their Italian service and their UK service, which are planned to be released in Q4 of this year. They are looking for a capital injection of 1-5 million Euros (“depending on several things” according to founder Vedran Prazen).
From what I saw in Zagreb is that there are a lot of talented developers, eager to become successful entrepreneurs, but I have the idea that the business side is less developed. Altogether, South East Europe is an interesting market to keep an eye on.