Invited by Balkan Venture Forum, I was in Nova Gorica – a border city of Slovenia and 1 hour away from Venice, Italy – as the Vice President of EBAN on the 12th of November to give a keynote speech on converting public funds to smart funds. I was also invited to a high-level policy meeting on Promoting Equity Investment in South East Europe to explain the best practices in the angel investment ecosystem of Turkey.
I arrived in Slovenia one day before the forum because visiting Ljubljana was on my agenda. The name Ljubljana, meaning ‘beloved’, seems like one of the nicest city names in the world. It was really the best time of the year to discover this city. Leaves of all colours had fallen from the trees onto the road by the river that flows through the middle of the city. If you want to spend a few perfect hours in the autumn, fly to Ljubljana and make sure to sip an espresso on the riverside. Then go on your wayJ
By the way, this was the first time for me to spend a lot of time in a casinoJ. If you want to learn what happened in the casino, then go on reading.
Slovenia covers 20,273 square kilometers (7,827 sq. mi) and has a population of 2.05 million. It is a parliamentary republic and a member of the European Union and NATO. Its capital and largest city is Ljubljana.
Slovenia is among the European countries with the most pronounced population ageing, ascribable to a low birth rate and increasing life expectancy. Almost all Slovenian inhabitants older than 64 are retired, with no significant difference between the genders. The working-age group is diminishing in spite of immigration. The proposal to raise the retirement age from the current 57 for women and 58 for men was rejected in a referendum in 2011. In addition, the difference among the genders regarding life expectancy is still significant.The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2014 was estimated at 1.33 children born/woman, which is lower than the replacement rate of 2.1. The majority of children are born to unmarried women (in 2013, 58% of all births were outside marriage). In 2014, life expectancy was 77.83 years (74.21 years male, and 81.69 years female).
In 2009, the suicide rate in Slovenia was 22 per 100,000 persons per year, which places Slovenia among the highest ranked European countries in this regard. Nonetheless, from 2000 until 2010, the rate has decreased by about 30%. The differences between regions and the genders are pronounced.
Slovenia has a developed economy and is per capita the richest of the Slavic states. The country was in the beginning of 2007 the first new member to introduce the euro as its currency, replacing the tolar. Since 2010, it has been member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The linguist Silvo Torkar, who specializes in Slovene personal and place names, argued at the same place for the thesis that the name Ljubljana derives from Ljubija, the original name of the Ljubljanica River flowing through it, itself derived from the Old Slavic male name Ljubovid, “the one of a kind appearance”. The name Laibach, he claimed, was actually a hybrid of German and Slovene and derived from the same personal name.
The Ljubljana Stock Exchange (Ljubljanska borza), purchased in 2008 by the Vienna Stock Exchange, deals with large Slovenian companies. Some of these have their headquarters in the capital: for example, the retail chain Mercator, the oil company Petrol d.d. and the telecommunications concern Telekom Slovenije. Over 15,000 enterprises operate in the city, most of them in the tertiary sector.
Nova Gorica (); population: 13,852 (town); 21,082 (incl. suburbs); 31,000 (municipality)) is a town and a municipality in western Slovenia, on the border with Italy. Nova Gorica is a new town, built according to the principles of modernist architecture after 1948, when the Paris Peace Treaty established a new border between Yugoslavia and Italy, leaving nearby Gorizia outside the borders of Yugoslavia and thus cutting off the Soča Valley, the Vipava Valley, and the northwestern Karst Plateau from their traditional regional urban centre. Nova Gorica is the principal urban centre of the traditional region of Goriška in the Slovenian Littoral.
Balkan Venture Forum
The Balkan Venture Forum is the largest venture capital private equity and investment forum in the region, created to facilitate access to finance, to improve investor readiness, to catalyze innovation into global business and to foster development of entrepreneurship capability.
BkVF – COINVEST Edition is being implemented by Balkan Unlimited, COBIK, COINVEST, Europe Unlimited and the VIBE project.
Balkan Unlimited is a regional network of organizations led by Alexander Tasev dedicated to:
- Supporting innovation and entrepreneurship development in the Balkans
- Promoting economical and cultural connections, community and network building in Balkans and South East Europe
- Supporting social innovation
As a grass-roots initiative backed by entrepreneurs, investors, academics and policymakers from all Balkan countries, it is uniquely positioned as a truly open regional organizational framework for the integrated development of innovation and entrepreneurship cultures.
The organizer of 25+ pitching events in Europe per year and the European Venture Summit Finals in Germany; founder of the International Venture Club, a global collaborative network of independent, corporate and institutional investors; and founder of the TechTour, Europe’s leading platform for growth stage entrepreneurs and investors.
A privately funded research institution in bio-technology and open innovation systems; founder of the COINVEST -platform for connecting high-tech entrepreneurs and investors in New Europe; organizer of 30+ “investment readiness” workshops for entrepreneurs from South East Europe per year and annual COINVEST High-Tech Investment Conference in Slovenia; founder of specialized biotech incubator.
Balkan Venture Forum is one of the main objectives of the SEE Programme project VIBE (Venture Initiative in Balkan Europe) and is co-financed by the European Union. Venture Initiative in Balkan Europe (VIBE) is a regional eco-system accelerator, supported by the European Commission with a budget of ~€1.7 million. The goals of VIBE are to address the challenge of developing the innovation and entrepreneurship system in SEE through a high-impact action of enabling a key financing process for innovation and entrepreneurship, which is crucial to the development of a knowledge-based economy in the SEE region.
Wednesday 12 November 2014
9:00 Registration & Coffee
9:30 Welcoming Speeches
Janko Burgar – Ministry of Economic Development and Technology [Slovenia]
- Nataša Goršek Mencin – European Commission [Slovenia]
- Matjaž Peterka – Centre of Excellence COBIK [Slovenia]
- William Stevens – Europe Unlimited [Belgium]
- Aleksandar Tasev – Balkan Unlimited [Macedonia]
9:45 FOUNDERS STORIES – ON BEING ENGINEER BUILDING GLOBAL COMPANIES
- Rok Uršič – Instrumentation Technologies & Red Pitaya [Slovenia]
10:00 ATTRACTIVE AND COMPETITIVE IN NEW EUROPE
- Jean-Noel Durvy – EBAN [France]
10:15 IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EXIT – WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
- Peter Globokar – Mooreland Partners [UK]
10.30 HOW POLICY MAKERS CAN STIMULATE STARTUPS – UK EXPERIENCE
- Christopher Yvon – The British Embassy, Ljubljana [UK]
10:35 PITCHING SESSION 1
11:35 Networking Coffee Break
12:00 PITCHING SESSION 2
13:00 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES ON THE EUROPEAN VC MARKET
- Ulrich Grabenwarter – European Investment Fund [Luxembourg]
13:30 OPEN INNOVATION IN CORPORATIONS: INTERNAL & EXTERNAL STARTUPS
- Branislav Vujović – New Frontier Group [Austria] (Moderator)
- Jana Babnik Gomišček – ELES [Slovenia]
- Ksenija Škrlj – Cloud Competence Center, TAG [Austria]
- Urša Menih Dokl – Gorenje [Slovenia]
- Melita Balaš Rant – Faculty of Economics Ljubljana [Slovenia]
14:10 Lunch Break
15:00 PITCHING SESSION 3
15:00 – 17:30 High Level Policy Meeting :
PROMOTING EQUITY INVESTMENT IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE
- On invitation only
16:00 BUILDING STARTUPS’ BRAND
- Ralf-Bodo Kliem – Visual Evangelist [Austria]
16:15 SCALING STARTUPS
- Mark Turrell – THNK [Germany]
16:30 EAST COAST OR WEST COAST – WHERE IS IT EASIER TO FUNDRAISE SMART MONEY IN THE US?
- David Beatty – Entrepreneur, Angel Investor [USA]
16:45 VALIDATION CANVAS
- Yann Girard – Entrepreneur, writer [Germany]
17:00 Networking Coffee Break
17:30 ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE – PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR STARTUPS
- Marko Grobelnik – Cycorp Europe, Quintelligence, Institut Jožef Stefan; [Slovenia]
17:45 ELEVATOR PITCHES
18:30 CONVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO SMART MONEY FOR THE EARLY STAGE MARKETS IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE
- Baybars Altuntas – EBAN [Turkey]
20:00 Networking Party
Thursday 13 November 2014
9:00 WHAT CAN A STARTUPPER EXPECT FROM AN ACCELERATOR?
- Adriane Thrash – Innovation Farm [Greece] (Moderator)
- Jaka Lindič – Xooltime, resident of Skydeck Berkeley [Slovenia]
- Matic Bitenc – Toshl, resident of 500 Startups [Slovenia]
- Matevž Petek – Povio, resident of Y Combinator [Slovenia]
- Luka Pečavar – Sqwiz, resident of Wayra [Slovenia]
9:30 DISRUPTING DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
- Torby Jorgensen – Federation X and the Ten Legions [Sweden]
9:45 THE REALITY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP: LESSONS LEARNED FROM SCALING A COMPANY TO FOUR CONTINENTS
- Gary Whitehill – BURS & Entreprenuer Week [USA]
10:00 PITCHING SESSION 4
11:00 Networking Coffee Break
11:15 HOW TO FUNDRAISE IF YOU ARE VC?
- James Burnham – Former EVCA External Affairs Director [UK]
11:30 PITCHING SESSION 5
12:30 HOW TO SELL SOFTWARE TO SME’S (AND LITTLE ABOUT MY 3 EXITS)
- Nicholas Barlett – Internet Entrepreneur, Angel Investor [New Zealand]
12:45 “KIM” AS A GAME-CHANGING INVESTMENT METHOD IN VC INDUSTRY
- Moshe Sarfaty – Krypton VC [Israel]
13:00 BUILD AND DISTRIBUTE PRODUCTS FOR THE INTERNET OF THINGS
- Samo Omerzel – Lastinski [Slovenia]
13:15 Award Ceremony
Here is the winners list:
- Edgar [SI]
- Kanas [SI]
- ADORA-MED [SI]
- TM Vista [SI]
- Sensilab SA [LU]
- Kinestica [SI]
- Doctrina [SI]
- DiabetesLab [IT]
- HandInScan Ltd. [HU]
I arrived at the Ljubljana airport at 10:35 after a two-hour flight from Istanbul. The taxi I had ordered from the hotel was waiting for me. It cost 35 EUR from the airport to the downtown, taking half an hour to reach the hotel.
I stayed at the Grand Hotel Union: a five-star hotel with a 3-star investment indoors. But it was good. Its location and the services are perfect. The building of the hotel is very similar to the Pera Palace Hotel of Istanbul, an 18th-century building where Agatha Christie had stayed while she wrote one of her stories. So, the general atmosphere reminded me of Agatha Christie, almost all of whose stories I have read. I have even read some of them twice. While walking in the corridors of Grand Hotel Union, I wondered what would happen if the electricity went out and when it came back on there was a man lying dead on the floor J An inspector, a musician, a retired army officer and an angel investor were in the corridor. Which one had killed this man? And why? 🙂
After settling into my room, 524, I had a shower and went out. The hotel was right downtown, so everything was very closeby. I had a nice 1-hour walk and enjoyed a lunch at a street restaurant. Then I took a mini cab which was offering tours free of charge. I toured whole area and 30 minutes passed, and then I again toured the area for another 30 minutes. So, it was 4pm by the time I completed whole downtown. What a practical city! You don’t need more time to live if you are living in Ljubljana. I think 12 hours is enough for a day visit to this city, not 24 hoursJ
I had a pleasant coffee break by the river and by 5pm I was back at the hotel. Now it was time to check emails, do some social sharing and read the online news. I had reserved a massage for 6pm and I was on the 9th floor, where the spa center was. After a 1-hour massage (50 EURO, very reasonable), it was time to swim in the pool. By the way, the lady who made the massage was a living refrigerator but the massage was perfect. Highly recommended!
After swimming, I went back to the room and changed my clothes to go out for a walk under a soft rain. It was a lovely rainy evening.
I was back at the hotel by 10pm and fell asleep with my 3 pillows.
2nd day – 12 November, Wednesday
I got up at 6am and was in the breakfast room by 7. What a crowded breakfast room it was! It was difficult to find a free chair. Breakfast was good and as usual, I took a cup of coffee in a paper cup and went to the reception to check out. Alexander Tasev had recommended this hotel and it was indeed very nice. If I come to this lovely city again, I will stay again in this hotel.
The transfer service that Balkan Venture sent was waiting for me in front of the hotel. I received a message on my mobile that they would pick me up at 7:30am from the hotel. In the shuttle bus there were also 2 families who were going to Italy. One family was going to surprise their son on his birthday birthday. The son was studying in Scotland and he was going to celebrate his birthday with his girlfriend in Venice. His family agreed with hisgirl friend to make a surprise celebration for him and it was just 2.5 hours from Ljubljana to Venice. The other family, with two children, was going to Nova Gorica, like me.
After a lovely 90-minute drive, I was at the Perla Hotel at 9am. The timing was perfect because the Balkan Venture Forum was scheduled to start at 9.30.
The hotel was perfect, with a very big casino. The interesting side of this event was the forum was being held in the entertainment stage room of the casino. So, this became my first time to give a speech in a casino. My room number was 467.
Those who have read my life story from my book ‘Off the Bus! Into a Supercar’ will remember how I made 2,500 USD in ten minutes and how I lost it in 10 minutes at a casino-like event when I was 16 years old. Since then, I have never bought even a lottery ticket. So, it felt rather nostalgic for me to pass by casino machines to reach the conference venue.
After the opening speeches, I met with Michael Gold of Kosovo and Macedonia and chatted a bit about the up-coming December event in Istanbul. Then Alexander joined us until lunchtime.
William, David, Andreas, Max, and many friends were at the forum, and it was very nice to see them all together in a small border city of Slovenia.
Slovenia is a very green country — small, and very nice. The Turkish Airlines plane was the only one at the airport that morning, so I can’t claim there is a rush to the country, but this makes the country even more attractive for people who don’t enjoy crowds, like me.
After lunch. I went to the next building where the high-level policy meeting would be. There were about 15 speakers who would share their ideas about promoting equity investment in South East Europe. While this high level policy meeting was going on, I wanted to go out for a little bit refreshment. Guess who was in the lobby? One of the 10 most influential women of the world was in the lobby and I could find an opportunity to chat with her about the future of entrepreneurship and innovation. That was the most lovely moments of the Balkan Venture ForumJ
Here is the list of delegates of this high policy meeting
My speech was at 4.30 pm.
Angel Investment Systems – Case Study From Turkey
Short takeaways from my presentation:
- Start an accredited angel investor system in Slovenia in the way it was done in Turkey.
- Create some tax incentives for accredited angel investors.
- Create a co-investment structure for start-ups with angel investors and public money.
- Convert the stock exchange to a platform where accredited angel investors and accredited start-ups come together.
- Convert stock exchange market to a school for start-ups.
- Allow foreign investors with proved successful exits to benefit from the tax incentives and co-investment structures.
Then I immediately went to the casino-conference room for my speech.
Because the sound systems were not adequate, I showed the video without sound and everybody enjoyed reading the videoJ
I then gave my speech on converting public money to smart money.
You can watch it here.
Then we came together with friends at the coffee area of the hotel and moved on to the restaurant, where all participants were meeting up. After a chat with Michael, William and other friends at dinner, we went down to the first floor of the restaurant, where there was a DJ and music.
While the music was playing, I found an opportunity to confirm a claim of a scientist that I had watched on a National Geographic Society programme. The claim was that men act faster and automatically spend more energy when there is an attractive female around. To confirm this claim, the National Geographic Society filmed ski-boardin teenagers on the street. When girls were passing, all ski-boarders were acting faster and trying to make more action.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the telephone of the National Geographic Society. If I had, I would have immediately invited them to our dancing club. When the blonde lady went to the rest-room, all the men stopped dancing and rested. So, the lady’s visit to rest-room meant a ‘rest-now’ session for the men:) When men saw the head of the blonde lady (not the whole body), even at that second they immediately starting dancing. I think this would be a perfect re-confirmation of the claims of the scientists.
By the way, I won’t give the name of the blonde lady or the dancing men who unconsciously served scientific research J I hope they now understood why I insisted on going dancing so muchJ
I left the bar at 1am and was in bed fifteen minutes later. The hotel and restaurant were very close to each other. Guess what happened! No hard pillow at the hotel! Guess what happened! I couldn’t get to sleep until 5:30 and then I had to get up 6:30 because I had a meeting at 7 with the Super Founders team in the breakfast room.
3rd Day – 13 November, Thursday
At the breakfast meeting, we discussed the main structure of our 50 million EUR fund and outlined the main key points to be discussed with a Turkish bank who had committed to contribute 25 million EUR to our fund. We are going to market at the meeting in Istanbul on the 16th of December and all Super Founders Team will be in Istanbul for this important meeting.
The airport transfer service was ready at 8:30am and I was at the airport by 9.30 for my 11:30 flight to Istanbul. Just a quick note: Slovenia is a lovely place, but I can’t say the same for the CIP Lounge of the airport. It is one of the worst I have ever seen. It is designed like a train station waiting lounge in a third class village.
I’d like to congratulate Aleksander Tasev for his great work and effort. He is really fostering the South East Europe’s entrepreneurship ecosystem with all his effort.
Good news! The next Balkan Venture Forum will be in Pristina next May and I will give the opening speech of the second day of the Forum in Kosovo. Thanks Michael, and thanks William for your invitations. See you in Kosovo in May!
I landed in Istanbul at 2:45 and I was in the studio by 3.30 for my weekly TV show. The show was planned to be filmed between 3:30 and 6:00 but it didn’t happen like that and it was 9:20pm when I left the studio. Please don’t forget that I had been able to sleep only 1 hour in the past 24 hours, and after leaving the studio I took the 1:20am flight of Turkish Airlines to Adana, where I would go to my summer house to sleep for a few days – because 48 hours later I had to fly to Helsinki for the board meeting of EBAN and EBAN Winter University Conference.