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Silvio Kutić, CEO of Infobip: Quality transfer of knowledge is key for progress

Infobip's CEO Silvio Kutić talks about the Croatian unicorn's future plans for growth and expansion.
Image credit: Infobip
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In an exclusive interview for The Recursive, Infobip’s CEO Silvio Kutić talks about the Croatian unicorn company’s latest funding round, its investments, and future plans for growth and expansion.

At the beginning of the month, Infobip announced that it raised a direct loan placement worth $500M, which the company used to acquire the Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider Peerless Network. The acquistion, Infobip’s fourth one, will allow the Croatian company to expand more rapidly into the US market

As the founder and CEO of the company with a background in electrical engineering and computing, Kutić has been the driving force behind Infobip’s rise.

In the interview, he also reflects on how the first Croatian unicorn looks to give back to the tech community in Croatia and the rest of the SEE region.

The Recursive: How will the latest direct loan placement worth $500M reflect in the company’s growth strategy. Can you share some specific plans and projects where the funding will be used?

Silvio Kutić: The direct loan placement puts our company alongside an exclusive group of high growth, high value technology companies, which utilized the same structure.

This is Infobip’s second funding round, following One Equity Partner’s €300M investment in H2 2020, after bootstrapping and self-financing since being founded in 2006.

$500M funding was used to purchase Peerless, but there is still enough left for other needs, further acquisitions, and organic growth.

Are there also developments regarding the announcement of the IPO?

Our goal is to build toward a liquidity event, most like through an IPO, when the necessary elements are in place.

Regarding the latest acquisition of Peerless Network, what’s the strategy behind it and how does this fit into Infobip’s future vision?

This announcement accelerates our international growth strategy by several years. Financially, strategically, and operationally, this is very positive. This acquisition allows us to expand more rapidly into the US market and grow our business there while also presenting a larger distribution network for Peerless’ products and services across the world.

Our current and future customers will benefit from access to the most comprehensive suite of SaaS-enabled CPaaS software available in the market on one single platform for an end-to-end customer experience. Further, Peerless will substantially strengthen the voice proposition for the Infobip CPaaS offering.

Together we will offer a truly global network with local teams to serve businesses, and people worldwide focused on delivering unbeatable customer experiences at scale.

Furthermore, the cultures and histories of Infobip and Peerless have many similarities. Both companies have experienced high growth and are truly innovative in their respective approaches to the market. The two companies have also been in existence about the same amount of time: Peerless was founded in 2008 and Infobip in 2006.

Which markets is the company looking to expand to in the next period?

The most recent acquisition enables our company to rapidly grow business more aggressively in the US.

The Peerless acquisition builds on Infobip’s ongoing investments and earlier acquisition of Seattle-based company OpenMarket, a leading US provider of mobile messaging solutions, which closed in December 2020.

We are focused on the US market and our strategy is working very well, but we are also looking at the rest of the world.

As the first Croatian unicorn, Infobip has invested in the Croatian tech ecosystem. How important is this for Croatia as a country, and also for the company itself?

We are always looking how to give back to our community. To ensure long-term progress – on business, tech and social level – the key link is a quality transfer of knowledge to those who will tomorrow be the bearers of general progress – to the youngest generations.

The STEMI educational platform is going in exactly that direction. With our investment in STEMI, we want to expand such an educational AI project and spread it outside Croatia. Moreover, in May of this year, we launched the Infobip Startup Tribe program, a bespoke program aimed at finding and bringing together the world’s most innovative startups to help fast-track their growth and development.

With this valuable program, Infobip shows it is ready to invest in the community through capital and all other resources at our disposal, the Infobip global presence and network.

We already have more than 70 startups from almost 40 countries worldwide in our Startup Tribe program, many of them from Croatia. Such activities are very important to the Croatian tech ecosystem, growing rapidly in recent times. We are pleased to be an active part of it.

Regarding the SEE region and the country, where do you see the biggest potential for development?

We believe that conversational user interfaces are transforming the way we interact with digital services, which will forever change the way we interact with the world around us.

We’re headed towards a new era – which we call ‘interaction 4.0’ – replacing the need to browse the web or download an app with conversational interaction as the heart of communication.

We can see that the whole industry is progressing toward a conversational user interface where people can instruct bots using natural language.

This type of voice proxy authentication is not far from becoming standard. It is done with artificial intelligence, which, together with advances afforded via machine and deep learning, represents a massive area of growth and value to companies.

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Bojan Stojkovski is a journalist based in Skopje, North Macedonia. He has been covering foreign affairs and technology in the Balkans region for over a decade.