Landing in Croatia a few days ago I knew it was going to be an experience akin to entering into the grounds of political clutter that leave one standing in disbelief at crossroads where the past is clear but the future not. So much to fix and so many voices pulling in same and desired direction of how the future could be and yet these voices unable to join forces into a joint effort that would see Croatia rid of corruption, nepotism, clientelism … driven by the remnants of the former communist regime’s mindset that has no room for progress that consumer-oriented developed democracies grace their people with.
Visiting the Tree of Knowledge (Stablo Znanja) base in Zagreb was a real treat for me as it demonstrated to me that among all the political clutter that stifles progress, in particular economic one that paves the way to new job prospects and business entrepreneurship, there are people who actively seek progress despite the hardships the system may present them with.
There are bright spots that keep Croatia as a land of opportunities towards prosperity and innovation. And that is so very inviting.
A couple of days ago I decided to visit one of Croatia’s bright spots. I met up with Marko Komericki, the founder of the Tree of Knowledge (Stablo Znanja), and Mate Paskanovic Pavkovic, accounts manager and a recent returnee to Croatia from Canada.
Stablo Znanja mission is “to provide students a place where they can learn, do group work, attend different seminars that we organize, and to chill out and socialise, free of charge.”
People at Stablo Znanja say that students, the youth, are the ones to change the society. And I, for one, couldn’t agree more.
Stablo Znanja” (The Tree of Knowledge) is a project geared toward students and youth. It was started with the idea in mind to encourage excellence in all areas of study, entrepreneurial ventures and the exchange of ideas and knowledge.
It was created to offer students and youth modern tools and a place to help develop individually as well as develop their soft skills. This would in turn allow many to realise their ideas in the beginning stages of their projects.
This vision led them to renovate the 1st floor of the student center in Zagreb and Stablo Znanja has in its relatively short existence become a central meeting place for students to go to daily from 9am to 5pm, cost-free, where they can access mentoring, coaching, on new technologies such as Block Chain, skills in all areas of business development and implementation relevant for projects geared for Startups. Outside of normal working hours, Stablo Znanja transforms into a place where students and other organisations hold workshops, lectures and seminars. Stablo Znanja enables students to gather and work through its modern amenities including: internet, a mini studio with a green screen for filming, individual and group work areas, charging stations for cell phones, 10 high performing computers that are ideal for programming and editing videos and photos, and a modern space that has been completely renovated for working and socialising. All of the amenities at Stablo Znanja are free of charge for all students.
Stablo Znanja is the social capital, social enterprise, Croatia needs desperately and the people who founded it and work in it have invested their own savings to contribute in this very important way to the development and expansion of Croatia’s economy. Stablo Znanja is a very important establishment as it provides a professional guidance and knowledge development to all young students seeking assistance with putting their business ideas into practice. The facility attracts between 200 and 400 students per day and that is no small matter. A worrying flaw of Croatia’s system and administration is that setting up a business there is filled with bureaucratic hurdles and lack of clear pathways for an ordinary person to get ahead and Stablo Znanja seeks to make such administrative and practical nightmares disappear for those who seek assistance.
The mentoring, coaching, assistance offered and facilitated by Stablo Znanja is nothing short of amazing. It can cover areas such as learning new technologies, developing an idea into a real business proposition, legal topics, market development, marketing, web development, preparing for job interviews, motivational topics … simply all aspects of business development and operations can be covered via coaching and mentoring.
Currently Stablo Znanja is working on assisting 20 Startup businesses to get off the ground and that is a significant contribution to helping Croatia’s economy.
“Start-ups play a key role in developing the economy, especially those that are started by students. We believe that we can influence students, educate them about their options and put them in the right direction. We want to work with students to create and initialize business plans so they can market success and contribute to a better economic climate in Croatia,” says on Stablo Znanja website stabloznanja.com
At Stablo Znanja they are particularly keen on focusing on connecting with the Croatian diaspora, building the trust between the homeland and the diaspora that would be a prerequisite in engaging the diaspora more with Croatian business and economic trends. For any young person, especially, living in the Croatian diaspora, I take this opportunity to encourage them to make contact with Stablo Znanja and explore the great links and opportunities for Startups that Croatia can provide.