What was your earliest childhood ambition?
At the age of 12, I was selling firecrackers to my school friends so I suppose it was to be an entrepreneur. That ambition grew even stronger once I moved to California as a high school student and learned about capitalism and the American entrepreneurial spirit.
What’s been the steepest learning curve of your career so far?
During my time at Harvard, I tried my luck with a start-up project building interactive tourist attractions on the coast of Croatia. I remember thinking, "How difficult can it really be to become an entrepreneur?" The answer is: really difficult. As a founder of a start-up you can’t pick and choose to do only the things you are good at. When you are building something you must deal with any problem big and small from strategy to the smallest detail of say building a product; you are wrestling with a constantly changing multi-dimensional challenge and feel ultimate responsibility for the well-being of everyone around you - your employees, your customers and your investors. I think entrepreneurs are the real heroes of our modern era, making something out of nothing is damn hard.
What current technology trend do you get most excited about and why?
It has to be the proliferation of mobile technologies – it feels like this is a once in a lifetime type of transformation. We are carrying in our pockets computers with more power than the super computers of a couple of decades ago. In 2015, the Apple app store’s revenue topped $20bn, and that’s only the beginning of the mobile revolution; mobile is going to impact every aspect of our lives, from voting, to banking, to communication. Imagine where we will be 10 years from now with all the sensors, automation and artificial intelligence?
How has the European ventures space changed in the past decade?
The European ventures landscape has changed fundamentally. There are a significant number of massive success stories – JustEat, Spotify, Zalando to name a few, and these drive a feeling of optimism about what can be achieved. That enthusiasm is infectious and means today’s young people are much more willing to take risks and go for it whether as an entrepreneur or by joining a start-up. I am excited about the prospects of the young people who choose the entrepreneurial route today.
If you could give one piece of advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be?
I think it would be to keep the faith with tech. It’s a sector which has a tendency to veer from massive belief to complete disbelief and there have been times in my career, particularly around 2001, when I doubted it. Today, I am more convinced than ever that tech will have an incredible impact on all our lives. I can’t think of a better job than backing the tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow.