Investing in startups, hiring entrepreneurs, spin-offs, hackathons…it seems like corporations are finally waking up to embrace the world is changing. Surprisingly, some of them are navigating pretty well and starting to look at the Balkan tech scene as a potential source of innovation. Where once was an outsourcing destination, now tech developers and entrepreneurs have gained expertise and confidence to help big companies solve their problems and challenges. Latest Porsche investment in the Croatian Rimac Automobili is an evidence enough.  

1. Croatian electro Porsche?

German Porsche is obviously planning to compete against Tesla. The company has just announced a deal for 10% of Rimac Automobili, the Croatian hypercar and electric vehicle components company behind the world’s fastest electric car. Rimac Introduced it’s latest  model C Two in Geneva this Spring and it seems to be unbeatable by current prototypes – C Two reaches a top speed of 256 miles per hour and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds and gets 400 miles to a single charge. It’s still not clear what Porsche is planning to do with it’s new asset, as the German automaker is launching its own e-sports car in November 2019. However, one thing is clear- this corporation knows where to keep its friends and enemies.


2. Mastercard’s digital wallet from Bulgarian Paynetics

MasterCard and the Bulgarian fintech company Paynetics has just introduced Phyre – a product of their recent collaboration. Phyre is a digital wallet -mobile app that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) and allows customers to easily digitalise and use through smartphone all their credit, debit and loyalty cards. And the best part is – it doesn’t matter which institution the card comes from. Of course, customers can also make transactions. It all runs on the Mastercard Digital Enablement Service and the data is therefore securely stored. The next steps for Phyre are to add fingerprint authorization and be launched on more market after the test in Bulgaria.


AI-powered conversational marketing, from Leanplum (PRNewsfoto/Leanplum)

3. Bulgarian-American scale-up buys Bulgarian startup

Now that’s a story. One of the total mobile marketing successes of Silicon Valley – Leanplum, co-founded by the Bulgrinan entrepreneur Momchil Kyurkchiev and inspired by his Mom’s apparel shop, has just acquired the AI-driven conversational marketing company Connecto. The investment is part of Leanplum’s strategy to change the way brands engage their customers in real-time across a wide range of connected experiences. Conversational systems allow customers to literally talk to their brands through smartphones – the system then captures customer signals in real-time, analyzes inputs, and responds to the user as part of a personalized, contextual, one-to-one engagement strategy.



4. The traditional and the online insurer

Last year Euroins, one of the leading insurance groups in Eastern Europe, also decided to go down the road of being more customer friendly, especially to the millennium clients. Collaborating with an external entrepreneurial team in several months Euroins managed to prototype, test and launch a fully digital service. Oli allows customers to calculate and choose life insurance program to their mortgages and had over 5K sign-ups in only a month. Now Euroins is planning to expand the service on the Romanian market.


5. The food producer and his cooking robot

Food producers are not famous for technological innovation. But one of Croatia’s biggest companies in the sector – Podravka, decided to be different and partnered with two entrepreneurs and their cooking robot. The robot, according to reviews, is not only a great cook, but also received voice orders via Amazon Echo. Gammachef is a Croatian startup that plans to automate cooking and it targets very busy people, founders say. The robot could be set to have a selected (btw among hundreds receipts) meal prepared at specific time. Ok, but what’s the deal for Podravka?  The partners have the idea to launch hubs in big cities through which GammaChef owners could order their cartridges and have them delivered to their doorstep.

Despite those cool examples, the Balkans are still an emerging innovation ecosystems that needs to mature before it gets to the next level of corporate participation. But as the first successful partnerships have been already out there, we expect more stories to appear.

Help us put together the whole picture and make great Balkan companies visible. If you have another interesting examples in mind, share them with us on Cheers!


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