the clash of generations

November 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

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i work with a lot of startups and startup organizations in slovenia and abroad. not long ago, a group of entrepreneurs even visited the president, who wants to help.
we were a diverse group, and first surprise was, that each of us had completelly different set of operational challenges that made it hard for him to develop their startup in slovenia and thus create more jobs.

  • some were having hard time raising funding from foreign investors because our legislation is exotic, continental, written in slovene, not simple for business and because not a single global law firm has presence in slovenia.
  • some where having hard time getting bank loans, not because their business plan would be shady, but for procedural reasons like not having 3 or 5 years of balance sheets to provide – because the startup is younger than that of course
  • some weren’t receiving responses from government institutions responsible for their fields when they asked for clarifications on legislation, increasing the risks of operating the business
  • most are having problems employing foreign high-skilled workers, because getting the visa is lengthy, because immigration office doesn’t speak anything but slovene, and because work taxes are so high, that workers receive less net salary than anywhere else in europe
  • some struggle because they want to issue stock options to employees, a concept that doesn’t exist in our system and thus requires a lot of improvisation, and where tax implications are not clear at all
  • some serial entrepreneurs complain that the capital they made in the past and paid capital gains tax for, should they reinvest it into new business, that will create new jobs, will get taxed again. and again. and again.

this is an example list of ‘small’ issues that we identified, and while it looks huge and diverse set of problems, everything boils down to two fundamental facts:

  1. previous generation and it’s institutions, that are currently leading the society, do not understand specifics and differences of our generation’s institutions. all those problems are essentially simple misunderstandings, that would improve if we talked more about them.
  2. but we don’t need them to understand, it’s easier to just move away. young ambitious person in a globalized world can choose from hundreds of work environments with different characteristics, and all these ecosystems are essentially on the market for talented entrepreneurs to come and make societies better. Slovenia doesn’t act as if it’s in the market for young people.

these two facts combined result in unprecedented void between the leading and the coming, which has no rational reason to cure. it’s unprecedented, because only now the borders are gone and people and businesses are more free to move around then every. young people have no rational reason to stick around in an environment that calls them “the lost generation”, their energy is more efficiently spent elsewhere.

new york is a fabulous example of government that extended their hand and proactively works with new generations to form policies to make new york better for them. and when i say proactively, i mean all the f**ing time. one month after i moved to new york five years ago, i received a call from the NYCEDC, asking when could their head visit me for a chat on my experience with establishing the business there and how they can help. i told him many things, including that for a european the streets feel dirty. the director of a public agency was performing a on-the-site customer interview, not because i am so important, but because that’s what he does – he knows the people who will shape the future of the city better than anyone else.

in slovenia however, we have 200k public servants who can’t be bothered to think about such everyday details. and we have 20k people who left because they weren’t heard when it was time.

welcome health tech community of slovenia

November 7th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

wednesday was a particularly heart-warming day for me – healthday.si happened, an event in ljubljana that got 180 local participants together to talk about what they are doing to change health industry for the better. startups, enterprises, doctors, beaurocrats. the organizers even published a ‘health book’ – showcase of the the community that was officially born there.

but really it all started in july already. gaja and I had some friends from NY visiting ljubljana. by coincidence two of the four worked in health-tech in the big apple, and we decided to drum up a themed tech meet up.

the email blast went out in the morning, 40 people and 12 startups showed up in the evening. after few hours everyone was excited to have met a number of likeminds they didn’t know existed in our town.

this turn up was an indicator that there is a community waiting to happen, all it needed was a catalyst. the organizers and key sponsor of the later healthday.si were there as well, saw it and started planning next steps.

i hope the community will continue, through such events, meetups, or simply direct contacts, but most importantly, by helping eachother at marketing the next revolution.

This Friday: Startup Crawl – Book Your Schedule, Reserve Your Tickets

March 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

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#190: Twenity – lansiranje - NOVOLETKA, 21. De...

#190: Twenity – lansiranje – NOVOLETKA, 21. Dec 2011 (Photo credit: Kiberpipa)

Slovenia has incredibly healthy startup community, with probably largest amount of global startups per capita. Most of the public is still unaware of how different (and healthy) work environments these young and fast-growing companies are.

After super successful first startup crawl amongst Ljubljana startups (last October), when literally hundreds of people came to visit some of us, the InternetWeek.si team is rallying us together again, in an even more awesome all-day startup festival.

As of today we have 24 super interesting startups opening doors for visitors, ranging from global super stars like Outfit7 and Celtra, to most ambitious newcomers like Sqwiz, Dietpoint and Oculus.

Let me rephrase this – this Friday you have an unique opportunity to see how Outfit7 and Celtra look like from within and talk to them in person!

A totally unique chance if you are looking for a better job (in various roles, not just engineering), if you are a journalist, consultant, or just a worried parent of a high-schooler that likes internet a lot.

This year we are also not only limited to Ljubljana anymore – we have startups from Ptuj, and Kranj participating as well.

So, here’s a recipe for you for this week:

  1. TODAY: go to internetweek.si and checkout the list of participating startups
  2. TODAY: BOOK A TICKET with the ones that you are interested in – the quantities are limited, with some of them very limited
  3. FRIDAY: go have a chat with some of the only creators of jobs in Slovenia
  4. FRIDAY EVENING: after party in LP in the center of Ljubljana

If you are a startup as well, and are wondering why you are not on the list, all you have to do is send an email to the internetweek team!

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we need a new profession: startup engineer

August 19th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Startup screen
Startup screen

Startup screen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Economic crisis is still the dominant topic in Slovenia, with worrying news and indicators popping up daily. At the same time, Zemanta has never been better, and is actually growing fast. Of course, because we are active on global market, rather than dependent on local economy. Except in one aspect – hiring.

We are looking for several new exceptional colleagues in our Ljubljana office. brilliant, smart, ambitious software developers. It’s not surprising that a lot of people are applying for the position, and I’m very happy to see that many of them actually fit the profile we are looking for.

I’m starting to call it startup engineer, to differentiate it from other software development jobs, like traditional IT, systems integrations or website development. many students coming from the universities here are not aware of the difference, and I think we, the startups, have to be very loud about how differently we work. here is a short list of the type of differences, would love to compile a longer one with your help:

  1. problem-solving: we are a product company, building a product of our own. there is no external client inventing and changing the specs all the time. there is no map of where we are going. we are learning with every step what the next step will be. thus there are not many repetitive tasks. every day actually brings new challenges. some people don’t handle such uncertainties well. startup engineers thrive in the challenge.
  2. freedom and flexibility: to a large extend we don’t care when and how you work. we expect you to do what it takes to understand the challenge well enough, to tell the other how you will solve it. hours, days, languages, locations are up to your judgment. some people cant handle this freedom. startup engineers love the freedom and grow with the responsibility.
  3. curiosity: the world is changing with incredible and accelerating speed, and we need to stay a step ahead of it. we need to understand the emerging technologies before they become standards. it takes extra time and energy, that doesn’t necessarily pay off always. startup engineers experiment and learn, because they cannot not to. sometimes that’s called being brave.
  4. global view: even when working on local problems, startup engineers have to understand the world at large, keep in touch with global trends, and think how the flap of the butterfly in silicon valley will affect us here and now.

there are several practical challenges that we are facing when trying to communicate why working in a startup should be attractive option:

  • I wish in the future, people looking to work as developers, would be aware of this difference well in advance. ideally even before high school, so that they can optimize their learning for the style of work that suits them best. we see a lot of very compelling candidates, that unfortunately end up working for banks and IT companies, simply because they don’t know that being a developer can mean very different things.
  • there is a prejudice that startup jobs are not stable enough, so specially young candidates are discouraged from applying for them. I find this mentality particularly cynical and obsolete. not only have I met a lot of very stable and healthy startups over the years, also the ‘stable’ companies are laying off incredible amounts of people these days, and government jobs are less and less secure as well.
  • some candidates, if they happen to know about startups, are convinced that they are not good enough to qualify. they don’t realize that what we need is first and foremost smarts and curiosity, and not PhD quality of theoretical puzzle-solving. at Zemanta, cultural fit is much more important than skills and experience. don’t negotiate with yourself.

I wish we could make this, ‘startup engineer’ a formal post-graduate university program. there are practical skills they could learn, to accelerate their growth, but these will change from year to year. more importantly, by having it as an option within formal educational system, we would be raising the awareness and actually giving some of the students a fair chance to realize their potential. creating it in collaboration with the actual companies would make sure the students end up with a bit more practically useful knowledge built on top of computer science fundamentals, and give them direct access to a pool of employers, that have been doubling every year.

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slovenian talent: look around before you look around

August 12th, 2013 § 11 comments § permalink

Slovenia
Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

Statistical office of Republic of Slovenia has announced that we had a terrible brain drain in 2012. Surprise surprise, who would have known.

We have been seeing signs of it for the past 18 months. First by people temporarily living abroad, deciding they are not coming back. Later people living in Slovenia, who started seriously thinking about leaving. And finally, when we started hiring a lot of engineers, and a lot of people ‘just started’ working abroad.

Of course, a year from now, Statistical office will report that the brain drain was even higher in 2013, all the media will write about it then, and the country will have lost another 12 months when it could have done something.

I have several issues with this situation, which worries and saddens me a lot. But I want to write about just one today – opportunism vs rational thinking.

Yes, the crisis is annoying, yes the economy is still winding down, yes you lost ton of job last year or the clients you’ve been calling on for the past decade have stopped ordering or paying. All very true and solid reasons for looking to change something, in order to defend the quality of life you got used to. And I understand completely that working abroad is a rational option in this decision-making process. I’ve done that, and the decision isn’t easy.

After all, constructing a nice way of life took you a couple of decades, right?

Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

But moving or working abroad shouldn’t be your default answer. It doesn’t have to be. I humbly call on you to try hard to find options to work for globally focused companies in Slovenia. By relocating yourself and your family you are risking as much as you are hoping to gain, but only the ‘gain’ is visible in the offer you have on your desk.

This is one of rare situations in which I’m arguing that it’s smart to be a bit more conservative. But fact is, that if you are deciding between bad past in Slovenia and shiny one offer from somewhere else, you are comparing human fish to dolphins. Try harder to add the lynx and the salmon to the table, and then evaluate you options.

In other words, companies like Zemanta, Celtra, 3FS and similar, are amazing, global, product companies. We are unlike anything you have worked for before in Slovenia. We are all looking to hire a lot of talent. We are all paying well above average and we are all growing. Consider applying for jobs with Slovenian startups, before you decide to change everything in your life.

And dear readers, please tell your friends that as well. I know 20% of them are thinking about moving right now.

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are slovenia and US failed states?

June 28th, 2013 § 6 comments § permalink

Slovenia
Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

I bet you’re instinctive answer was yes. how cynical of you. it seems everyone’s favorite sport last two years in Slovenia has been complaining about life and politics, without having any broad perspective on the state of the world.

Slovenians seem to live in a mental bubble, where they compare their own poor fates and lives with the imaginary paradise.

Foreign Policy actually does a proper analysis of all countries in the world every year, and ranks them from most failing to least. they even create a color-coded interactive map of failing states for all the cynics and others, who like to complain a lot.

Short answer to the question from the headline is no, Slovenia is 16th least failing in the world, based on indicators like quality of living and such. read the methodology if you care.

I love datasets like this one, if you assemble them with care and if you actually make them complete, they have the power to perform reality-check.

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Help us create the first museum of new technologies in Slovenia

May 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Children playing Paperboy on an Amstrad CPC 46...
Children playing Paperboy on an Amstrad CPC 46...

Children playing Paperboy on an Amstrad CPC 464 in the 1980s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I am proud to be part of a group of enthusiasts, who have 10 years ago started systematically collecting and exhibiting computer history in Slovenia. the pinnacle of this first decade was the recent exhibition Goto1982, prepared in collaboration with MNZS, that covered the cambrian explosion of home computers extensively.

 

Today, we are hosting a closing event for this exhibition, which is moving on to be hosted by Technical Museum of Slovenia for the next 12 months. We are extremely proud to be recognized and trusted by both institutions, and by thousands of visitors who left very optimistic comments, like “omg, this was my first one!“, and “this is confusing, i feel young and old at the same time“. thank you all!

 

We are more sure than ever, that technology is not just part of everyone’s lives today, but essential ingredient in everyone’s personal story. Each and every one I talk to these days doesn’t feel intimidated or bored by the idea of this Museum, quite the contrary – with glitter in the eyes, everyone starts listing objects from their past that they have been safely storing until now.

 

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 1.04.42 PM

We are opening a new chapter today – we will be announcing the founding of Computer Museum Society, and inviting new members and supporters to join. Our plan is to build a different museum – one that will not only educate about the past, but also think ahead, educating the youth and bringing together professional communities.

 

To do this next step, we first need your help. We need you to raise your hand in support and basically say: “yes, computers and other contemporary technologies have made me what I am today, I don’t want this to pass by unexplored.”

 

You can support our efforts by:

 

  • showing up tonight, at 6pm in MNZS
  • becoming ‘supportive member’ with a donation, which gets you the right to wear exclusive t-shirt, learn about our next steps in real time and your place on our wall of fame
  • thinking of 10 friends who might support our cause and telling them about it

 

Thanks!

 

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How many people work in slovenia (and on what)

April 30th, 2013 § 12 comments § permalink

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bakery

bakery (Photo credit: Sachiho)

Slovenia is a small country. it’s a fact, but unfortunately this realization is too often used as an excuse to not do something right. In my opinion, this means two other things:

  1. because it’s a small country, we can have much better overview of activities, if only we choose so. our national statistics centre is able to produce monthly insights into many aspects of the society without much effort, so we actually have data available that could be used to empower better decisions easily.
  2. because we don’t have infinite pool of human resources, we have to be more careful on where we employ them.

I don’t see enough efforts on either part, and I’m pretty sure very few people in slovenia are actually aware of the actual distribution of human potential of the country, which results in lots of ungrounded frustrations and much ranting about “too big government sector” or “too little economic growth“, without data to back it up.

So i wanted to get better sense of what our high level structure is. here is first draft of a breakdown of slovenian population:

… every slovenian resident can find herself in exactly one of the squares. now we can observe some interesting facts, some that we have known before, and some that might be a surprise:

  •  government is not so big. 40.000 people work across the administration. the same for public sector – all our education and health is run by only 5% of the population
  • i ventured into separating private sector into two halves – the pseudo-private sector are people employed in companies that are funded mainly from public sources. i’ll get more accurate data, but i believe this distinction is important, because those companies are not actually creating value on the market, but rather live off national budget.
  • so my theory is, that until we get more people from all other buckets into the real private sector, there is little hope of solving the economic crisis. if all our growth is dependent on government projects, and only 16% of people daily work on and think about adding value to the

complete data table is:

sector group headcount percent
slovenija 2,050,000 100.00%
pre-active slovenija 430,000 20.98%
active slovenija 940,000 45.85%
inactive slovenija 680,000 33.17%
kids under 15 pre-active 250,000 12.20%
young students pre-active 90,000 4.39%
student pre-active 90,000 4.39%
government active 40,000 1.95%
public sector active 110,000 5.37%
pseudo-private active 330,000 16.10%
real private active 340,000 16.59%
unemployed active 120,000 5.85%
other inactive 110,000 5.37%
retired inactive 570,000 27.80%

i’m imagining next steps for this visualization will be:

  1. make it update itself from monthly data
  2. add more complexity, adding ability to drill into individual sectors
  3. create a comparable breakdown of added-value, or contribution to GDP, or something similar, to back my thesis that we need more people in the real private sector.

thoughts? what else do you see in the chart?

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my comments on “Slovenia cuts growth forecast as bail-out fears grow”

April 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

300px-Zemljovid_Slovenske_dezele_in_pokrajin

 

A map of the Slovene Land and Provinces, autho...

A map of the Slovene Land and Provinces, author Peter Kozler Hrvatski: Zemljovid slovenskih zemalja i pokrajina, autor Peter Kozler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

every western media seems to be talking about slovenia these days…

Slovenia cuts growth forecast as bail-out fears grow

Fears that Slovenia will become the next eurozone nation to need a bail-out have been fuelled by a sharp cut to the country’s growth forecasts by the government’s economic institute. Slovenia has become the first victim of contagion from Cyprus as its borrowing costs rocketed last week in the wake of a punishing bail-out deal.

via: www.telegraph.co.uk

as an ‘insider’ I feel obliged to comment:

  1. to all westerns: slovenia is going to be just fine. the current state of public finance is a residue of a couple of years of poor governments, that resulted in couple of months of public uprisings and a new government that feels promising. so stop panicking and pay attention to details. every crisis in EU zone in the last three years was handled completely differently, there are no patterns.
  2. to slovenian politicians: this is actually awesome public PR opportunity – the world is looking at us closely now, let’s keep the limelight on us as long as possible and make sure the ‘crisis’ resolves while they are paying attention. now is the time to invest in all kinds of projects :)
  3. to slovenian public: go vote next time around. and pay more attention next time. the rest of the world cares more about slovenia than you do.
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slovenia’s national budget and open data

January 21st, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

English: Detail from Government. Mural by Elih...

first, a disclaimer. in light of recent political events and unrests in slovenia, i’d like to stress that this post is not meant to take any sides. i’ll merely try to point out to a project that might otherwise go unnoticed.

English: Detail from Government. Mural by Elih...

English: Detail from Government. Mural by Elihu Vedder. Lobby to Main Reading Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

last year, i’ve spend a couple of days reading our national budget. the purpose of the exercise was to find ways to create something not unlike the famous ‘death and taxes’ infographic. i was pleasantly surprised with the fact, that our budget is actually very well designed, with fascinating inherent structure of programs and spenders, but unpleasantly not-surprised, that it was published as PDF.

to create an infographic with such complex data, that should be rebuilt every year, one needs programmatic ways to process it. so i ended up parsing the pdf, with many silly problems on the way. but it worked, and i’ve published the broken-down version for the years 2010-2012.

that was in spring, and ever since i’ve been waiting for the new government to finally publish the budget that was supposed to govern us this year, so i could compare it with the old ones. i really resent the fact that the budget was kept unpublished all throughout the legislative process. i really feel it’s an insult to the citizens.

but, they finally published it last week, and to my great surprise, they’ve really made an effort – they published detailed explanations of each section, and, ta-da-da-da, we have machine-parsable CSV files as well!

i realize it’s not perfect, but it’s light years ahead of what we used to have to deal with. so, who’s up for some info-charting now? ;)

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