On 12 October 2016 I was fortunate enough to be invited to a roundtable discussion with the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. The President had just concluded her meetings with Theresa May and the Queen, and the President attended the roundtable discussion before appearing on a televised interview.
This event was hosted at Bloomberg's offices in London at Finsbury Square and the topic was tech start-ups and innovation in Croatia.
The discussion offered a unique perspective on how Croatia's growing technology scene is attracting the talents of young entrepreneurs. The topics discussed covered a diverse range of areas including public policy, education, legal and economic issues. Present at the meeting were international entrepreneurs, investors, capital management companies, company advisers and senior Croatian government policy makers.
The discussion was surprisingly open and transparent. Many of the issues were brought to the table through the government representatives and the President of Croatia.
There is an appetite for new businesses in Croatia but complex business laws and unappealing tax rates can deter many start-ups from setting up in Croatia. However there are many positives to setting up a business in Croatia including geographical benefits and access to hugely talented individuals.
One of the fundamentals that Croatia is fighting hard to improve is its education system. Croatia declared its independence in 1991, and before that it was under communist rule. They produce very talented individuals however many of them move to other European countries to further their education due to the issues with the education system. Many do not return and one of Croatia's aims is to make the country more tempting for young entrepreneurs and talented individuals to remain in Croatia.
One of the trends of Tech start-ups is that whilst they may begin life in Croatia, as they grow they move their business to Berlin and London and some eventually end up in Silicon Valley. This is a natural progression and many agree that this could not and, indeed, should not be stopped. However, Croatia would like to try to encourage more companies to start-ups there.
It was agreed by all that all governments need to realise the importance of start-ups. Many start-ups begin life at the lowest level however they can develop into multi-billion pound industries and this can contribute to a significant increase in a countries economic growth. Therefore it is essential that Start-ups are encouraged by governments all over the world.