By @SimonCocking

Great interview with Ivo Spigel @ivospigel the energetic tech polymath and digital influencer, with fingers in many tech pies. Self described as  a technosceptic, cofounder of @PerpetuumZg , @ZIPZg (Zipzg Croatia’s leading startup accelerator), and @tech_eu columnist Mreza, Forbes Croatia.

Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?

Well… that depends on what part of my work you mean. My full time job is helping to manage (with my partner and CEO Blerim Sela) a Croatian software and services company called Perpetuum Mobile. We started this company a long time ago, back in 1989. It seemed like the thing to do 🙂

Another major area of interest are startups. I’ve been involved with startups for some time now, both as a mentor at Seedcamp and various tech conferences and events, as well as writing about them (more on that later). In the spring of 2012, three friends and I started the Zagreb Entrepreneurship Incubator – ZIP. We saw that there were more and better startups in our country but completely lacking any support infrastructure such as accelerators, coworking spaces, government support, financing etc. ZIP is today Croatia’s leading startup accelerator as well as a productive coworking environment. In the meantime we have been able to influence the government to more actively support startups and investors. Hopefully Croatia will soon get its first ever (!) VC fund.

Finally, I enjoy writing. I’ve been writing columns in the local tech magazine “Mreza” (“Network”) for many many years and in more recently also in the Croatian edition of Forbes magazine. Along with 5 friends from the European ecosystem I cofounded the tech blog Tech.eu in October of 2013. Tech.eu covers European tech quite comprehensively, not just the major cities, and also more from an analytical,  long form perspective rather than being “news” focused.

You’ve got a lot of interests! How do divide your time between them all?

It’s really hard prioritizing and juggling between the various interests. My company definitely comes first. I often say I’m doing too many things to do any of them properly. Realistically though, some of the projects suffer more than others. My book about European startup founders, “The European Startup Revolution” is the perfect example, I’ve been working on it for five years now.

ESRv1 cover page

How is the book coming along? How do you deal with the challenge of it being such a fast changing landscape in terms of innovation and new startups popping up?

The end is finally in sight! I’m on the Croatian coast, in a town called Jelsa on the island of Hvar these days finishing writing. It should be done by the end of this month (August) – then it’s time for copy editing, layout, production and printing. So readers should be getting it during September or early October.

We love travel, have you been to Ireland? Will we see you over at a Dublin Web Summit? What’s your impression of the Irish Tech scene from your perspective?

Actually no, I’ve never been to the Web Summit or Ireland for that matter. I tend to avoid most very large tech conferences, preferring smaller ones for better communication and networking with the participants. In European terms I see Ireland as something of a tech giant. With 4.5 million people it has exactly the same population as my native Croatia but unfortunately for us, the difference in tech could not be greater. So many of the large tech vendors have their European HQ there but of course many great startups coming out of Ireland as well.

When it comes to traveling, I actually don’t travel that much and when I do it’s almost always for business, meetings, tech conferences etc. Even then, I go to far fewer conferences than other tech writers and bloggers. One of the reasons is that writing is a hobby whereas most of them write for a living so conferences are part of their job. My family has a nice house on the beautiful Croatian island of Hvar so my wife and I take every opportunity to go there, not just for vacation but also working from the coast as well. Apart from our house on the coast, we also go sailing but again – in the Croatian Adriatic. We’re already gearing up for that sailing week this September.

Things are actually moving in a good direction in all my areas of work. My company, Perpetuum, is getting more and more requests from customers, as are software companies in most places. Finding enough good engineers to hire is one of the major challenges – as everywhere. ZIP has had our Demo Day for our 7th generation of startups on July 1 and we’re preparing to take in the new batch in September. Tech.eu is developing well and, as I mentioned, I’m excited to be finally finishing my book!

Anything you’d do differently?

Not much. Probably I’d think about more and more creative ways to attract more and better talent to Perpetuum Mobile, as well as more agressively extending our business outside of Croatia

Plans for rest of 2015 and the future?

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men … Lots of stuff to do!

You have a great following in twitter, how has it helped you?

When I finally figured out Twitter quite some time ago, I started following people all over the place like crazy, and they in turn followed me back. Also, for a while I was tweeting a lot. Yes, there were a few situations, particularly related to my writing, where Twitter contacts proved to be key. My first online article in English was on the Telegraph web site, about creating a truly European tech ecosystem. This was in April 2011 as part of a series edited by Milo Yiannopoulos @Nero we first got in touch over Twitter when he invited contributors for the series.

Tech.eu, how’s it going, what topics are your readers most passionate about / do you get the most engagement with?

Tech.eu is growing nicely. I wish I had time to contribute there more often but the reality is about once per month. We’ve had a really positive reaction, especially from many of the leading entrepreneurs and investors, about our comprehensive coverage of, as Stefan Glaenzer calls it, “our beautiful continent”. We get a lot of interest for our analytical work such as overviews of funding or M&A activity in Europe per each quarter.

Blogging, who do you follow?

I can’t say I follow anyone regularly. I use Twitter and Facebook as my “personal curators” to guide me to interesting topics. Aside from Tech.eu (of course) some of the writers I do read more than others are Om Malik, Fred Wilson, Martin Varsavsky and a few others.

Being a big user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?

I’m not on Twitter or Facebook nearly as much as I used to be before starting ZIP and Tech.eu. I love both of my main locations – Zagreb (capital of Croatia) and Jelsa on the coast (where my Mom’s side of my family is from). I think I’ve managed to “teach” my friends and business contacts as well that the days of instantly answering email are gone for good and there’s no need to apologize if you take a few days to respond, which is of course also true for my own expectations of others (depending on the urgency of the email of course). Some afternoons and evenings are spent writing and online and on social media while other times we go out to the town or to a movie or hang out with friends. Both can be fun!

Anything else to add / we should have asked you?

Europe is moving forward in tech and startups. We need to do so much more though: celebrate our successes, criticize the bullshit, push our political leaders to create an environment which embraces and supports risk and change instead of trying to stand in the way.

Cheers, Ivo! @ivospigel

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