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Split’s Startup Renaissance: From Ancient Ruins to Innovation Hubs

The birth of Split's startup ecosystem began in the 2000s, when a handful of passionate entrepreneurs started its tech community.
Image credit: Unsplash
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The coastline city of Split in Croatia has long captivated the hearts of travelers with its ancient ruins, stunning landscapes, and vibrant Mediterranean charm. While known primarily as a tourist destination, Croatia’s second biggest city with a population of around 170K people has also been quietly cultivating a tech community that is transforming this tourist hotspot into an innovation hub.

Over the years, this community has been driving a spirit of collaboration and innovation through various initiatives, while also hosting a number of digital nomads that are flocking to the city especially during the summer.

One of those initiatives is Split Tech City – established as the first formal association which includes companies, tech associations, institutions, and individuals.

Split’s Startup Renaissance: From Ancient Ruins to Innovation Hubs, TheRecursive.com
Meetup organized by Split Tech City/ Source: Bojan Stojkovski

The birth of Split’s tech scene can be traced back to when Split Tech City began its initiative – in 2010, with a handful of passionate entrepreneurs laying the foundation for what is now becoming a thriving startup ecosystem. Today, the city is home to a number of tech startups, incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces.

The city on the Adriatic is also home to several renowned universities and educational institutions that have been producing highly skilled graduates in fields such as computer science, engineering, and design.

In this series of articles focusing on hidden CEE gems, we explore the heart of Split’s bustling tech community and get to know its key players, success stories, challenges, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for its community.

Startups to watch

GammaChef is a foodtech startup whose main product is a robotic chef that is capable of preparing any pot meal. Founded in 2016 by entrepreneurs Drazen Drnas and Juliano Nola, the startup now also has its own franchise called Bots&Pots robotic restaurants, where robots cook many of the recipes that are on the restaurant’s menu.

Include is a startup that is focused on the development and production of hardware and software smart city solutions. Founded in 2014, the company’s main focus is on solar-powered street benches, with the main product being the Steora smart bench which provides device charging, Wi-Fi, sensors, and a Dashboard for data gathering and analysis. The startup has raised a total of €2M in funding over four funding rounds.

Parklio is a startup that provides smart parking solutions. Founded by four friends Dario Boras, Karlo Gašpar, Josip Labrović, and Marko Smoljo in 2017, Parklio’s main product is called Smart Parking Barrier, which is a parking barrier controlled with a mobile app. The company has now grown to a team of 16 employees and offers a wide range of smart parking solutions used across Europe, South America, North Africa, and the Middle East in all types of parking, private and public alike, across different industries. Parklio has raised a total investment of €1M over two funding rounds so far.

Ecosystem Builders and Communities

ICT Županija is a project started by the regional government (Splitsko-dalmatinska županija) as a union of a variety of measures taken by authorities to improve the tech sector in Split and surrounding areas. Measures include possibilities of financial support and organization of various events.

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The Center of Excellence promotes the education of potentially gifted students in Split-Dalmatia County, with the aim of creating a framework for working with talented and gifted students in the country.

The Digital Nomad Association (DNA) Croatia is a non-profit organization that develops and promotes Croatia as a digital nomad destination. They support all digital nomads already in or planning to come to Croatia, especially looking to apply for the digital nomad visa.

The DUMP Association of Young Programmers was formally founded in 2010 by young and ambitious students who wanted to learn and to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their local community. The association is recognized in the community mostly for their popular sets of lectures, like School of Programming Basics.

FESB Hydro is a group of young and ambitious students of Naval Architecture at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Naval Architecture in Split, active since 2018. The group is developing small efficient vessels and has participated in many projects and competitions.

FESB Racing is a community of young people dedicated to student knowledge enrichment through teamwork, professional work, practice, and self-improvement. Founded in 2010, the group is focused primarily on automotive developments.

Info Zona is an association that features an online news portal, a calendar of upcoming events, a podcast focused on positive changes in the city, as well as offline events: talks, meet-ups, and workshops.

Split’s Startup Renaissance: From Ancient Ruins to Innovation Hubs, TheRecursive.com
Source: Bojan Stojkovski

Notable tech companies

Agilno is an agile software development company that specializes in the development of data-driven software solutions.

Agilo is a design and technology studio with an end–to–end design and a number of global clients.

Bitcoin Store was founded in 2013 in Split as one of the first companies in this part of Europe to become part of the financial crypto revolution, offering their customers to invest and trade cryptocurrencies.

Blazorise is a company specializing in creating Blazor UI components for .NetCore and WebAssembly and platform and for creating custom and specialized web applications as well as templates for websites.

Caelor is a global software development company specializing in the development of Atlassian apps, with the goal of bridging the gap between Atlassian Data Center and Cloud applications.

CodeMage is a software development company from Split, founded to develop quality and long-lasting digital products. Their largest client is Bitcoin Store for whom they develop various systems for buying, selling, and trading cryptocurrency.

Dobartek.hr is the largest national food ordering platform founded in 2013 in Split, starting out as a student project which developed into a sales channel that connects restaurants in Croatia with more than 80,000 platform users.

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Evolutio is a company that specializes in merging different technologies and platforms. With offices in Zagreb, Split, and Zadar, Evolutio has a team of more than 30 tech enthusiasts and creatives, focusing on creating native iOS, Android, and Web applications.

Profico is a Split-based digital product agency focused on the development of mobile, web, and, as they like to say, Internet of Things solutions. The company has a team of over 30 professionals in the field of software design and development, UI/UX design, digital marketing, and project management is oriented to the global market.

Funding opportunities 

CRANE is a non-profit association that brings together private investors interested in investing in innovative companies in their early stages of development. Founded in 2008 as a joint initiative of partner institutions and successful entrepreneurs, it is also the main organization of business angels in Croatia.

Enterprise Europe Network provides internationalization and innovation services to small and medium-sized companies. The network is a project co-financed by the European Commission and is being implemented as part of the Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. The service provided in Croatia is part of a European-wide network consisting of 3,500 experts in 45 countries and reaching almost 23 million SMEs.

Fil Rouge Capital is a VC investment fund whose primary goal is to invest in entrepreneurs, start-up, and scale-up companies. The fund is focused on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem and making the Croatian startup scene the next leader in the CEE region.

HAMAG-BICRO is the Croatian agency for SMEs, innovations, and investments, founded to support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises by improving the innovation process and encouraging investment.

Incubators and accelerators

The Poduzetnički inkubator Klis offers a variety of services ranging from creating business plans and marketing promotions to writing project documentation and applications for various programs created by the EU. The incubator organizes various seminars and supports entrepreneurship in all forms.

The Student Business Incubator is based at the Split Faculty of Economics and was created to encourage youth entrepreneurship and increase the success of their ideas. The incubator organizes a variety of activities, from educational workshops to competitions.

SPINIT is a project of the City of Split which has been active since 2020 as an incubator for young companies oriented towards new technologies.

StechAccelerator is a brand developed by UHY Consulting, a successful company specialized in business consulting and EU funds. Since 2013, UHY Consulting has successfully prepared over 70 EU-funded projects, more than 50% of them being led by SMEs, and can additionally strengthen all services offered to SMEs through additional consultations and added value.

NetHub is a Croatian business accelerator focused on healthcare technology development, whose program is currently being implemented by an interdisciplinary team of young experts. NetHub’s objective is to link the healthcare system needs with digital technology potential, which facilitates long-term sustainable and creative cooperation between the two sectors.

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Split’s Startup Renaissance: From Ancient Ruins to Innovation Hubs, TheRecursive.com
Source: Bojan Stojkovski

Competitions and hackathons

GetInTheRing Split is a competition that is one of the projects of SPI (Student Business Incubator). As a competition, it offers an opportunity for local startups to pitch to prospective investors, partners, and mentors. The best startups who apply are selected to pitch their project to a special jury in front of a large audience by actually getting in the ring to deliver their pitch.

Hack4Split is a two-day hackathon competition aimed at solving social problems and designing social innovations. It brings together individuals with specific knowledge who find solutions to problems in their local community, all while being aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

SmartCityChallenge is a hackathon for students, developers, entrepreneurs, and designers interested in making their city a better place. During the hackathon, participants can come together in multidisciplinary teams to jointly build innovative solutions for smarter cities.

StartIT@PICS – is an eight-week entrepreneurship education program designed for individuals and teams planning to develop their tech product or service. As part of the ICT Županija project, this professional training is intended for individuals and teams who are in the initial phase of developing innovative tech products or services, and who want to acquire new knowledge and skills related to developing a business idea and starting a business.

STup! is Split’s international competition for university startups. The initial idea behind the competition is to provide support for student startups and enable young entrepreneurs to present their projects on an international scene.

Co-working spaces

Split’s Startup Renaissance: From Ancient Ruins to Innovation Hubs, TheRecursive.com
Source: Bojan Stojkovski

AmoSfera is a coworking space for both foreign and local remote workers, as well as non-profit organizations.

CoCreative is an architectural firm that is also a coworking place for workers of different backgrounds. Architects work on the first floor, leaving the ground floor available to remote workers. It is ideal for startups, entrepreneurs, journalists, designers, digital nomads, writers, photographers, and other creative professionals.

Located in Split’s city center, Smartspace is a workspace for designers, programmers, and entrepreneurs.

scaleupOffice Split is a spacious coworking combined with modern business offices. The space also hosts events and provides various other services for their clients under their “Office-as-aService” system.

Saltwater is a community-focused workspace for local and remote workers.

Influential voices in the Split tech community

Ivan Burazin is Infobip’s Chief Developer Experience Officer. A serial entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in and around startups, he has a track record in creating developer ecosystems. Alongside Shift Conference, which was originally held in the Split, he also co-founded Codeanywhere in 2013.

Marijan Čipčić is Infobip’s community manager leading developer initiatives in Africa. Also, as a part of the Developer Relations team, he is in charge of the organization of Infobip developer meetups globally.

 

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https://therecursive.com/author/bojanstojkovski/

Bojan is The Recursive’s Western Balkans Editor, covering tech, innovation, and business for more than a decade. He’s currently exploring blockchain, Industry 4.0, AI, and is always open to covering diverse and exciting topics in the Western Balkans countries. His work has been featured in global media outlets such as Foreign Policy, WSJ, ZDNet, and Balkan Insight.