The first startup conference in Split - investors, associations and institutions in one place!

The first startup conference in Split - investors, associations and institutions in one place!

"GrowIT conference - development of regional startup ecosystems" organized by Digital Dalmatia and Split-Dalmatia County was held on February 14 at the Briig Hotel. It is the conference that supports young entrepreneurs in the development of their business ideas and actively works on the development of the regional entrepreneurial, i.e. startup, ecosystem. The conference was officially opened by Damir Brčić, head of the center for digital transformation - Digital Dalmacija, who welcomed all present: startup entrepreneurs, businessmen, investors, representatives of numerous institutions and teams who were waiting for the results of the jury and the awarding of awards.

Digital Dalmacija noticed that Split lacks such events, so it has been working for six years to establish a startup ecosystem and position Split as the IT capital of these areas, and the GrowIT conference certainly confirmed the progress achieved.

Ante Janko Bobetko, deputy president of the HAMAG Bicro Management Board, greeted the crowd and was looking forward to meeting extremely talented young people eager for success with high-quality ideas.

The importance of cooperation between public administration, companies and educational institutions

In addition to the presentation of monetary incentives for entrepreneurship, the conference hosted panels as well as representatives of umbrella, national startup and entrepreneurial associations, an opportunity for networking, and an insight into the latest trends on the market.

Cooperation and joining forces are the key to digital transformation, and this happened this Tuesday, where for the first time representatives of different organizations gathered in one place to discuss the same topic, that is, their roles in creating a regional startup ecosystem. Vinko Muštra and Petar Šolić were on the side of educational institutions, Stipe Čogelja as deputy prefect presented the public administration and Dario Boras represented entrepreneurs, i.e. companies. When they join together, visible progress can be made, and one of them is building a local startup ecosystem. At the second panel discussion, the same topic was discussed by different actors, that is, representatives of associations, incubators and institutions. Frane Šesnić from ZICER, Diana Mudrinić from the TROKUT Šibenik incubator, Sven Gotovac from the SPINIT incubator and Lana Ugrčić from the Student Entrepreneurship Incubator gathered around the same table. New startups in the race for HRK 1 million and excellent lecturers and discussions marked this year's GrowIT conference. Split lacks such events, and this has been noticed by Digital Dalmacija, which has been working for 6 years on establishing a startup ecosystem and positioning Split as the IT capital of these areas.

Vedran Blagus, principal from the South Central Ventures fund worth €40 million, which invests in IT startups in the Western Balkans and a member of the GrowIT jury, shared his impressions:

"During GrowIT 2023, I spotted probably six or seven startups with whom I could work in the future and with whom I will stay in touch, hoping that some investment will arise from it.

Comparing my first arrival in Split in 2017 and the startups of that time that were in a very early stage, they did not know how to open a company and find the first customers and today, I can say that today it is at a much more professional and higher level than it was before. It is often said that the centralization of IT companies is in Zagreb, but in reality, Split and the Split-Dalmatia County, especially considering the fact that this development initiative came from the public sector, have significantly raised the level.''

The president of the umbrella CRO STARTUP association, Hajdi Ćenan, told about the action plan and news of CRO startups as part of her lecture on the national startup ecosystem.

A total of HRK 1 million for Split-Dalmatia entrepreneurs

Exactly 40 startups applied for the GrowIT competition. A jury composed of respectable invited experts selected 20 projects in the initial phase, which ultimately competed for 15 awards, from a fund of 1 million kn, which were ceremonially presented to them at the conference. The best startup won a prize in the amount of 26,544 euros, the second-placed 13,272 euros, the third-placed 11,945 euros, while the remaining 12 best-ranked received support of 6,636 euros.

Slaven Damjanović, together with his business partner Mislav Ivanda, is this year's best startup and deservedly won first place with his IoT Walk App. In addition, a part of the first prize was provided by the new partner of Digital Dalmacija Silicon Castles, whose founder Andreas Spechtler gave an inspiring lecture on the launch of the Startup Executive Academy accelerator program in Split.

The second place went to the e-Dozer project, which was worked on by a team led by Zlatko Kovačević, whose goal is to completely digitize the hospitality industry, while the project of scientist Ena Melvan and her startup Metabelly, which primarily deals with gut health by offering a personalized plan, finished in third place diet through stool analysis.

In addition to financial support, Digital Dalmatia through GrowIT enables newly founded startups to be actively included in the Dalmatia Startup Community, which works to connect the local startup scene and brings together current startups that work, grow, employ and break boundaries. In this way, young entrepreneurs are supported in the development of their innovative business ideas and the further development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem is facilitated.

Business results always come as a crown for dedicated work and effort, and Davor Runje, president of CISEX's Board of Directors and one of the founders of a large number of startups and this year's jury member, noted this: "This is one of the best events in a long time. Usually there are one, two or three projects that are very good, and here I could not bet on who will be in the top three the day before because there is too little difference between them and they are very good, quite mature and people have become much more confident in that what they are doing makes sense and they will succeed. With the growth of self-confidence, the quality has been increasing over the years."

A similar scene will gather again at the Startup Europe Regatta conference, which will be held from October 4 to 6 with stands on the Split Riva.