Croatian WhoAPI is building a large API for all sorts of domain-related needs, such as whois lookups, domain availability or spam blacklist checks, server uptime data, and much more. This week, they announced exciting news about getting a 40,000 EUR investment from angel investor Mihovil Barancic. Barancic is the president of CRANE, the Croatian angel investor’s association.
The two men behind WhoAPI are Goran Duškić (@duskic) and Edi Budimilić (@edibudimilic). This is actually their third company together. They got their start 15 years ago with a computer game development company, producing fun titles like this one. After that, they founded a hosting company GEM Studio, which they recently sold in order to help fund WhoAPI. The hosting business is where the idea for WhoAPI was born.
The experience with founding GEM Studio was also an intense startup training ground for Duškić and Budimilić. The first few years were difficult – they had no money, equipment, or experience. Just as business was starting to go well, the global recession hit. And it hit particularly hard in Croatia. Duškić described how difficult it was: “Unemployment was exploding, the news talked about thousands of companies closing, it was really depressing. But you have to keep going.” This is his advice to all the entrepreneurs out there bombarded with depressing economic news. “You have to look around for strength and motivation in books, speakers, or Youtube videos. Find inspiration to help you go to work tomorrow morning and change the world.” (Did we inspire you just now?)
The tough times taught them to cherish even small successes. When WhoAPI first started, googling it would result in a “Did you mean?” suggestion for “whoopi” (as in Goldberg). That’s pretty funny, but the day Google stopped doing that was an exciting baby milestone for Duškić and Budimilić.
WhoAPI is based in Rijeka, a scenic town on the Adriatic coast. The office is inside the Rijeka Science and Technology Park, which Duškić has a lot of praise for. It provides government-subsidized office rent, great amenities, inspiring tenants, and fast internet, which is otherwise a bit difficult to come by in Rijeka.
I had previously heard that starting a business in Croatia is needlessly cumbersome, so I was curious to learn more about the process since WhoAPI just completed it last week. Duškić confirmed that most people in Croatia complain about how long it takes to register a company and admitted he used to be one of them. However, it turns out it’s quite simple and the whole process took WhoAPI only 4 work days. The only glitch for WhoAPI was finding a name for the business. It turns out Croatian business names have to be either in Croatian, Latin or ancient Greek. Who knew.
However, there are still many things missing in Croatia that could boost startups. Duškić described an inspiring example he saw in Prague while attending Mini Seedcamp: “On the same floor, you have Startup Yard, an incubator, and Credo Ventures, a VC firm. That’s an awesome blend that would be very helpful in Croatia.” Another helpful element, according to Duškić, would be a blog about Croatian startups in English, which would cover new startups and make them discoverable by foreign investors and the wider startup community. This would indeed be great and hopefully one emerges soon.
It seems that being further from a bustling startup hub hasn’t hurt WhoAPI so far, and it might have even helped. Working hard to find opportunities and traveling around Europe to meet mentors and take part in events like Seedcamp or HackFwd made them more worldy, resilient, and showed their dedication. Investors like that.