Stevica Kuharski is CEO of IT4U Ltd., a Croatia based company for (mostly) mobile development. Stevica is has been a developer of mobile applications and web applications for custom mobile devices for some time now and is among those who are extremely well acquainted with the regional startup environment. He prefers Java and has developed a number of mobile games and useful applications such as Near me. Stevica was kind enough to give us an interview and begin leading us into what we will be talking about more at the Balkan Venture Forum in Belgrade in November, where he will be participating in our programme. We’re also very proud that Stevica’s startup received the investment to develop further at BkVF in Skopje at the beginning of this year and we hope his experience will benefit others at BkVF in Belgrade on various levels.
Balkan Venture Forum: Please let us know where you are coming from and what has your
entrepreneurial path been like so far?
Stevica Kuharski: I’m coming from Zagreb, Croatia. In 2003. I’ve opened my first company
and bootstrapped it with software called OPS, an ERP solution. It was
very hard to find clients, I was 24 years old and startup perspective
was not so bright in Croatia. But, I’ve managed to pivot and develop
more complex product to satisfy the needs of the market. A year later
I’ve started a development of mobile applications and games. During the
next several years focus was divided between OPS clients and mobile
development. In the late 2010. we’ve started an IT4U that is focused on
development of mobile apps.
BkVF: Why did you decide to launch a startup?
S.K.: In the beginning of 2012. we’ve started a new project which purpose was
to track New Year’s resolutions. After 30 minutes of brainstorming,
the Habbits were born. Initial tests showed us that market is interested
in this kind of project and we’ve decided to focus more on it. Of
course, it’s business model was not defined, market size was unknown and
go to market strategy was non existent. But, we were persistent in
development and I was stubborn enough to attend conferences, pitch and
pivot accordingly. And, in the end, in July 2012. we’ve secured the
accelerator investment from the Bulgarian LAUNCHub.
BkVF: Since you are now part of LAUNCHub, why should startups enter an
accelerator, apart from the money?
S.K.: At first glance, you might think that the money is the most important
thing that startup needs, but it’s the least important thing. Money is
here just to postpone the startup’s bankruptcy. Mentoring sessions,
guidance from the LAUNCHub team and socializing with the rest of the
investees are extremely important. There is no mentor that could tell
you what to do with your idea, project and startup. You have to find out
by yourself. The knowledge that I’m getting from LAUNCHub and passing it
to my team could not be bought for any kind of money. Therefor I am very
happy to be part of the LAUNCHubs first group of investees.
BkVF: How is your progress with Habbits so far and what are your goals?
S.K.: Our goal is to establish a well known brand for child education. We’re
planning additional products and services under Habbits name that
include real-life products as well. At the moment we have a small but
steady growth of daily active users in the both Android and iPhone
BkVF: As a Croat developing a startup in a Bulgarian
accelerator, what do you think about the regional startup eco-system in
S.K.: The region is waking up, that’s for sure. I’m seeing lots of startup
movements in all countries, from Slovenia to Bulgaria. It’s great to see
that startups are helping each other to achieve their goals. But, we
still have problems in legislation and we have to teach politicians
about the startup way. We are not old-school entrepreneurs and we will
not be able to employ 1,000 employees after the first year of doing
business. But there are lots of us and 100 of us will employ 2,000
employees after few years. Some of these employees will become
entrepreneurs as well and that’s what this startup movement and
ecosystem is all about.