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Eastist: Startups in Central & Eastern Europe

Throwback Thursday? We’ll spare you childhood pics. Here’s an interview with Naval Ravikant we did 2.5 years ago I just came across. Lots has changed. For example, AngelList has shot up to fame and prominence, seriously challenging the status quo in Silicon Valley and beyond. And the idea of a startup in Central and Eastern Europe doesn’t sound crazy anymore. Yet, I found a lot of the advice doled out in the interview still relevant today and thought many of our newer readers would enjoy it, too.

 

Read the full original interview here.

Hey there Central Europe, looks like we’re having a good month!

The winner of this year’s TC Disrupt in San Francisco was Layer (@LayerSDK), a cross-platform user communication SDK founded by Ron Palmeri (@ronp) and Tomaž Štolfa (@tomazstolfa), who is Slovenian and formerly known to this audience as co-founder of vox.io, which ceased operation earlier this year.

And the winner of the Best Hardware Startup portion of the event is Polish Estimote (@estimote), founded in Krakow by Jakub Krzych (@jimiasty) and Łukasz Kostka (@ljdk). Estimote produces a small device that can be used to broadcast venue-specific or object-specific information to smartphone users within 50 meters, targeting retailers as its main customers.

These are not only exciting wins, but also pretty impressive and innovative technology initiatives. Congrats! We can’t wait to see how TC Disrupt Berlin goes in October!

Andraz Tori (@andraz), co-founder and CTO of Zemanta, did something awesome. He requested data on female and male enrollment in Computer Science the University of Ljubljana, something they’ve apparently never assembled before, and analyzed that data to see what kind of trends emerge.

The main take-away so far is that the trend is unclear, but something interesting seems to have happened in 2009 when U of L implemented the Bologna reforms. It seems that the changed curriculum and grading resulted in increased percentages of women progressing through to the second year. (From my own experience with various education systems I’d take an un-educated guess that 1-1 oral examinations were reduced and contributed to the change.) However, the data needs more mining and Tori posted it on Google docs for anyone to take a look.

It would be AMAZING to understand developments in the participation of women in computer science in other central and eastern European countries. Do you have a contact at your local computer science department/faculty/university? Can you get some data and send it to us? We will publish all data we collect, and recruit help in analyzing it. 

While we’re at it, this kind of analysis would also help us understand trends in CS enrollment in the region in general. Let’s DO THIS!

Head over to Andraz Tori’s blog for a great read and inspiration. 

WhoAPI at GOAP Zagreb. Photo credit: fotografije Marka Ranđelovića za Startit

The Rijeka-based startup WhoAPI has just been offered to join 500 Startups, a seed fund and accelerator founded by Dave McClure (@davemcclure).

The magic happened during McClure’s “Geeks on a Plane“ (#goap) visit to Zagreb last week. When he heard the WhoAPI pitch, he described it as “twilio for whois data”, which must have been a good sign, since Twilio is a successful 500 Startups company. Later, McClure tweeted the actual funding announcement, also sharing his excitement about meeting the Croatian president in the same tweet. This man is an efficient tweeter.

I asked Goran Duškić (@duskic), WhoAPI co-founder, what he was most excited about before going to Silicon Valley for the 500 Startups program. Here is what he had to say:

“It’s really difficult to single out one thing! We are looking forward to absolutely everything, and we are all really excited! I mean, take 500 startups mentoring for example — they have over 100 mentors from Google, Youtube, Zynga, not to mention we plan to visit those companies! Their knowledge, experience and contacts will be priceless!”

Congratulations and we look forward to hearing stories. For earlier Eastist coverage of WhoAPI click here.

Codeanywhere, a popular cloud-based code editor out of Croatia, has just announced 100,000 users today as well as a launch of various new features. The press release from Codeanywhere provides details behind this announcement:

Codeanywhere is a cloud-based code editor that enables you not only to code in the cloud, but to connect to your files via (S)FTP server, Dropbox or even GitHub. Also, as the only multiplatform cloud editor (supporting iOS and Android as well), Codeanywhere allows you to really code on the go – anytime and anywhere.

„What we are doing is taking the way people develop in the desktop editor and mirroring that experience to the cloud. This enables users to seamlessly migrate to Codeanywhere. Only when we recreated the desktop experience did we start introducing features that only a cloud based system can offer, and with this milestone I believe we are on the right track.“ says Ivan Burazin (@ivanburazin), Co-founder.

Codeanywhere already has many features you would expect from a desktop editor, but the ones that are missing are coming by years end. A list of new features includes a fully customizable editor, terminal support and support for even more third party services, like Google Drive, Amazon AWS, and others. With the number of mobile app downloads now almost matching the number of new user signups, Codeanywhere will soon be releasing new mobile apps that will have all of the features that the web based version of Codeanywhere has to offer.

Startup Challenge 2011 - Startup Spotlight's predecessor.

A lucky group of 32 early-stage startups from Central and Eastern Europe will participate in How to Web Startup Spotlight, a three-day program that is part of the How to Web conference in Bucharest. The program is dedicated to web and mobile startups with less than 2 years of activity and funding no larger than €100K.

The Startup Spotlight sounds like a great comprehensive opportunity, starting with a day of practical workshops as well as pitching training, followed by the opportunity to pitch at the How to Web conference. The best 8 teams will get to pitch at the keynote sessions, while the rest will be pitching at a dedicated startup stage. The winners will receive a total of  €20K in cash prizes and various in-kind gifts.

Everyone will receive mentoring as well as opportunity to meet investors and accelerator representatives from established European programs such as Seedcamp, HackFwd, Rockstart, international programs like Mozilla WebFWD, blackbox, or GrowLab, as well as CEE institutions like GammaRebels, Startup Wise Guys, LaunchHUB and many more.

In summary, this sounds like an excellent opportunity for your early-stage startup. The deadline to apply is October 13th.

 

Goran Duškić, the co-founder of Croatian company WhoAPI and avid domainer.

Saša Šarunić, co-founder of ShoutEm, proudly sporting a mustache for charity.

Goran Duškić, the co-founder of WhoAPI, interviewed Saša Šarunić, the co-founder and CTO of ShoutEm, among many other ventures. I love the idea of entrepreneurs interviewing each other, and with Goran’s permission, I’m re-posting this great post in its entirety from his blog.

There’s something about serial entrepreneurs… Take cliff diving for example. You are standing on top of a cliff, let’s say 10m high. It doesn’t matter if your plan is to jump on a head, or legs. You are scared as hell! Some of your friends, and “friends” are teasing you, saying you don’t have the guts to jump. You know that the chances of something bad happening are minimal, but there’s this loud voice inside your head yelling you could break your back, neck, embarrass yourself.

And than finally, finally you beat the coward in your self. You take the jump! Just do it, as the commercial said so. The rush goes through your body, as you hit the water you are relived. You are victorious as your friends are chearing, not tesing you. Entrepreneurs, you know what I am talking about.

Than a funny thing occurs. Along comes winter, and the next summer. You are up on that big rock again. Guess what, your legs are shaking of fear. Once again you have to beat the devil, the diablo. What in the world led you to that silly rock again? What in the world were you thinking?! Why, why, why do you persist? Maybe because you choose to. Maybe because you are foolish enough to think you can change the world. Maybe because you want to help people. Or maybe you just have that drive within you, and you are like a rocket prepared to do what it takes to reach Mars.

This is why I interview entrepreneurs. In our country, entrepreneurs like Saša don’t get (wrongfully) much media attention, because all the bad entrepreneurs get it. This leads the public oppinion in the wrong dirrection, so the public turns into a crowd that laughs at you, points fingers for no apparent reason, and throws accusations, because they are used of entrepreneur wrong doing. I choose to believe differently, I see entrepreneurs as saviours of the society. Paying way more taxes that drives country budget, and drive the ecnonomy by spending more, hiring people that were unemployed, and inventing new services (or bringing old ones to mass market) so they solve problems. Basically entrepreneurs are problem solvers, they are the solution!

I am sure there are some people in your country as well that call themselves entrepreneurs, when they are not. Know thy true entrepreneur, the force is strong within him.

Why Saša Šarunić? Oh well, no particular reason… He founded a succesfull mobile and software development company (5minutes) and got an $1.7 million for a third (ShoutEm) (The Next Web50 cent use it and even Eric Ries with Lean Startup to name a few), that’s innovation and high tech wrapped into one. You could say cliff diving is second nature to him, if you know what I mean. They were the first Croatian startup to get VC funding, went to Seedcamp, and the whole shebang.

Goran: Saša, how do you measure your success with your projects/startups/companies? You co-founded Pticica and Trosjed (which was sold to Net.hr), then 5 minutes, and then ShoutEm, in your eyes how do you measure success in them?

Saša: I measure success in work by two parameters – fun that you have by doing a work, and money as a compensation for your effort. I started all four projects with Viktor Marohnic who proved to be a great partner, full of energy and good ideas. Working with him was already guarantee enough that we were looking at fun times :)
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This is a guest post by Cristobal Alonso, an international entrepreneur, executive, advisor and mentor, among many other things. He wrote this post about his experience mentoring and doing business in Lithuania for Startup Highway, a European startup accelerator in Vilnius. Did you know you shouldn’t swear in business meetings in Lithuania?  

 

During my visit at StartupHighway (SH) I’ve been on a mission to fire up their brain, you can call it mentoring, and to put a foot on Vilnius ground once again. Must say it felt good. Anyhow, after mentoring sessions my job wasn’t done as I was asked to write a guest post comparing Western Europe/ Anglo-Saxon with Lithuania in relation to business culture, negotiation skills or even what was strange for me once I started working with Lithuanians.

I would like to stress that my disclaimer is based on personal experience thus others may have a different one because of two reasons: different background and different people they’ve been dealing with. Last but not least I don’t speak the language and I conduct all my business in English. Certainly the language has an impact on how people conduct business therefore it may be different once you communicate in Lithuanian. Anyhow after 3 years in Baltics (mainly Lithuania and Latvia) I believe I could share a couple of worth-knowing things.

Usually when making comparisons people tend to focus on the negative side of it. So I have tried to break my comparison into three sections: the good, the different and the areas for improvement .
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News

Media Love

  • My French is only good enough to tell that this article is about CEE startups. Hopefully they said nice things. Read on Le Journal du Net
  • Venture Village put together a little hall of f(sh)ame of Russian websites flattering German startups with imitation. Read on Venture Village
Beach Reading

Piano Media, the paywall solution company from Slovakia, has added a third country to its portfolio. After building nation-wide one-payment one-login paywalls in Slovakia and Slovenia, it launched in Poland today.

The paywall will include content from 42 different newspaper and magazine websites owned by seven major Polish media companies –  Agora, Murator, Ringier Axel Springer, Media Regionalne, Polskapresse, Edytor, and Polskie Radio. Several of these groups are foreign-owned or own properties abroad, which means we should watch the results of the Polish launch very closely. While some have attributed Piano’s success in Slovakia and Slovenia to the small size of those markets, a success in Poland would be much more meaningful.

As of today, Piano’s login icon will appear at the top of each media’s page. Starting in August, a free trial will be offered, followed by the start of the full Piano subscription system in September. Subscription prices will be  9.90 PLN per week (€2.37); 19.90 PLN per Month (€4.70); and 199 PLN (€47) annually.

For more in-depth coverage of Piano Media and this industry in general I recommend heading over to Paid Content.

 

Piano’s CEO Tomas Bella addresses the Guardian’s Changing Media Conference on March 21, 2012