Over the past century, the countries of Southeast Europe have been labeled using a plethora of shady and mysterious terms. Everyone seemed to have their definition of what were most often called “the Balkans” – mostly negative, sometimes even frightening. All that and more is a part of this region’s history and always will be, but a new age has long since dawned in Southeast Europe and much of the world has failed to notice this. Yet, new labels now adorn this strange and exciting region. “Innovation,” “conversation” and “investments.” All in all, the word of the day seems to be “entrepreneurship.”
The new unity of the region began through the people. Even in the late 90s, armed with computers and 56K dial-up Internet connections, some entrepreneurs, researchers, reporters and writers began the first regional collaborations, long before any long-term diplomatic treaties and economic agreements were signed. With Web 2.0, the common cultures, common languages and, often, common problems of the citizens of the region quickly surfaced among users of various popular social networks.
Recently, an unrelated project was devised by 500 Startups, an international group of IT seed investors. The project, dubbed Geeks On A Plane (GOAP), aims to travel the world to look for start-ups and interesting start-up regions to invest in. As Southeast Europe is one of the most active populations on social media today, users here quickly took to networks in the past days to discuss this region’s potential in relation to GOAP and soon enough Twitter saw a large number of regional users calling on one of the founding partners of the project, Dave McClure, to bring GOAP to Southeast Europe.
No surprise there, right? In fact, this is a very typical activity on Twitter. But what happened next is not only atypical for the politicians of this region, but of governments globally. It would seem someone from the Croatian President’s office picked up on this buzz and on Saturday morning Croatian President Ivo Josipovic made an official statement on the topic addressing Dave McClure and GOAP – on his official Facebook fan page. Really. Here it is, Ivo Josipovic’s status update on Facebook:
Dear Dave McClure,
New Europe (or, as some call it, “Eastern Europe”) has been a hotbed of startup innovation over the past few years. Southeast Europe, in particular, (or, as some call it, “Balkans”) has attracted investor interest, both from international funds such as Seedcamp but also from local angel groups. Now, with Croatia next in line to join the EU in July of next year, there has never been a better time for GOAP to come calling. A thriving startup community and the perspective of EU membership will turn the attention of many investors to the region – there's no reason why GOAP should not be in the vanguard of this trend!
I would like to personally invite you and the GOAP crew to Zagreb on your Eastern Europe tour this Autumn. Here you will find a dynamic startup community, a political administration that is increasing its support for entrpreneurship and a warm welcome not only from Croatians but also from our friends in the region – Slovenians, Serbs, Bosnians and others.
Looking forward to greeting you in Zagreb soon, I send you my kind regards.
President of Croatia
Needless to say, the statement went viral throughout the regional online world within an hour and Dave McClure soon responded with a comment on the status update to say: “Wow… I’m honored, and speechless”. Mr. McClure, a highly successful serial angel investor with extensive global experience in the IT and ICT industries, was a little more candid in his Twitter comment on the statement:
Holy crap: President of Croatia just invited me 2 hang in Zagreb, via Facebook: http://on.fb.me/Mut9sV #MindBlown #GOAP
But the story only begins there. Notice President Josipovic’s powerful diplomatic message at the end of the statement – “a warm welcome not only from Croatians but also from our friends in the region – Slovenians, Serbs, Bosnians and others” – clearly speaking in the name of regional entrepreneurship and collaboration. Fans from across the region went wild. Literally. Entrepreneurs from Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other countries shared the status update on Twitter and Facebook, applauding the Croatian President’s fresh Facebook move. It’s safe to suppose that Mr. McClure and his GOAP colleagues will be making a stop in the region and paying attention. After all, what better way of showing that a region is ready for innovation and development than by having a president send out an invite to investors on the Web?
FYI – GeeksonAPlane was not recently devised. The group has been traveling around the world to startup hotspots since 2009. They’ve visited the White House in support of Startup Visa, met Secretary Clinton in Shanghai, the President of Peru during the South America tour and connected thousands of tech entrepreneurs and investors around the world with each other. http://www.geeksonaplane.com/press