The picturesque town of Zadar, Croatia, once again became home of one of the key tech conferences – Infobip Shift 2023. The local and global tech community gathered for two days of engaging discussions, insightful presentations, meaningful connections, and last but not least, vibrant fun on the shore of the Adriatic.
The event’s two days agenda welcomed more than 600 visiting companies, 90+ speakers, 7 stages, topics from DevEx to Startups, expo areas, an overflow of networking opportunities and parties.
In April 2021, Shift became a part of the first Croatian unicorn – the global cloud communications company Infobip. The company has been long set out on the path to develop the tech ecosystem in the Adriatic country and the rest of the region by investing in one of the main strengths of the Croatian IT sector in Croatia – strong software and engineering talent that can drive economic growth in the long run.
The Recursive went, listened, and left with numerous insights from the vibrant event. One of the people lining up for was the pioneer of the first-person shooter genre, the American game designer John Romero. Father of FPS games and designer of the legendary game Doom. The Recursive met with him earlier in 2023 for a peek into the mind of the game icon. Check it out here.
Read on for our key takeaways from the event and the Startup Stage where investors, startups, VCs and ecosystem supporters shared knowledge bits on innovation and the evolving state of the tech landscape.
Globalisation, localisation, and the evolving VC landscape
Over the past decade, the investment and venture capital landscape has been in a constant tug-of-war between globalisation and localisation trends. Globalisation, fueled by advancements in technology and communication, has made it easier for investors to identify and fund promising startups across borders, seeking higher returns and portfolio diversification. On the other hand, localisation – driven by regulatory changes, geopolitical tensions, and the inherent advantages of local knowledge – has led investors to focus more on domestic or regional opportunities.
In recent months, it seems that localisation is taking an edge, particularly in technology and AI sectors. Investors are becoming increasingly cautious about cross-border complexities such as legal compliance and data governance, while also recognizing the benefits of proximity to the startup ecosystem, which allows for closer involvement and risk mitigation.
“Global capitalism is backing off a little bit from emerging markets. We’ve seen a drastic change compared to previous years in regards to competing with global players. Institutional Investors are about 50/50 local and global so startups can still fundraise from local VCs but the global ones are a challenge now,” shared on stage Tunya Irkad, Associate Investor at 500 Emerging Europe.
Are unicorns dead?
It’s getting dimmer in the land of unicorn tech companies, i.e. those valued at over $1 billion. There is a noticeable shift in investor sentiment emphasising sustainable growth and operational excellence over mere valuation metrics. Inflated valuations without a solid financial footing or clear path to profitability are meeting increased scrutiny. As a result, companies are advised to focus more on delivering concrete results through revenue generation, customer retention, or technological innovation, rather than solely chasing high valuations as an end goal. This trend points to a more mature and perhaps more cautious investment environment where substance is valued over hype.
“You need to get shit done to tell the story. Otherwise you’ll have nothing to sell,” noted Vedran Blagus, Principal at South Central Ventures.
Giving back to the community
Successful founders and companies are increasingly becoming pillars of their local and regional communities by reinvesting expertise, capital, and time to foster growth for their countries’ economies. Engaging and helping to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs creates a cycle – new startups founded, contributing to economic growth, job creation, and technological advancement and enhancing the overall attractiveness of the region. This serves as a reminder that entrepreneurship is a viable and impactful career path, encouraging more individuals to venture into this domain.
“Competition is engraved in our culture, being neighbours I guess. Who is better, who has more unicorns. But life would be boring without competition. You know how the saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Collaborating and working together with other ecosystems is important so more diverse things can happen. If successful founders didn’t give back to the community, we wouldn’t have so many crazy and good startups,” outlined Liisi Org, CEO of Latitude59.