Business Lives: Marko Mišulić

marko-lr-edited-2

© Rentlio

From time to time I’ll be running interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs and up-and-coming business leaders from around the world. Marko Mišulić (pictured) is the founder of Rentlio, an online property management platform aimed at rental owners. He lives and works in Zadar, Croatia.

Please introduce yourself and your business

I am the founder and CEO of Rentlio. I am 30 years old and I was born and raised in Zadar. I studied at the faculty of economics and business in Zagreb. I got my first job in the finance industry whilst being in the second year of faculty.

Rentlio was founded in 2014 in Zadar after I worked almost eight years in asset management industry, where I was a head of a team responsible for development of complex portfolio optimization models.

In April 2014 I quit my job as I didn’t enjoy it any more. I completely focused on Rentlio and prepared the stage for global exposure after successful launch of the product on the Croatian market in March 2015. Rentlio is a software service product that automates vacation rental management. Our typical users are small hotels, self-serviced apartments, hostels and other similar properties.

Explain the concept of Rentlio

I like to call Rentlio the ‘autopilot for vacation rentals’. Rentlio is property management and central reservation system that helps you manage bookings you receive over online channels you advertise your rental on.

When you receive a booking from, for example, Booking.com it automatically shows up in Rentlio and adjusts the availability on Expedia, AirBnB and other connected online travel agencies.

Besides that, Rentlio is a guest relationship management tool that helps you remember details about your guests so you can make their stay more personal in your property while giving you opportunity to boost your direct sales. Many vacation rental owners still rely on pen & paper management of their properties so we can call Rentlio a pen & paper killer as well. By automating all the boring and administrative things you need to do while managing your vacation rental we save a lot of time for our users.

What are the opportunities and challenges of starting a business in Zadar?

Well, I would say the challenges of starting business in Zadar are the same as the challenges of starting business in any other place in Croatia. I would even say that starting a business is not such a painful process, compared to the bureaucracy and administration you will face after you start to operate. You need to think about too many papers and rules which takes away precious focus and energy in running your business.

I see many opportunities in Zadar primarily connected with its unbelievable location. In less than two and a half hours you are in Zagreb, whilst in less than an hour and a half hour you are in Split. It is October, the sun is shining above 20 Celsius, and I am working while sitting on a terrace overlooking the sea. For me, this is most inspiring workspace you can imagine.

Being small and big enough both at the same time, I think Zadar can be attractive for many independent professionals and companies, especially in the IT industry. So, further development of IT companies is a main challenge. More companies working on advanced technologies for clients all over the world will be the reason to stay and move to Zadar.

In your opinion how can government contribute to the success of small business in Croatia?

Government should contribute to the success of small business in Croatia by making administration smaller and much more effective, by lowering the tax burden that is among the highest in Europe, and by giving you the opportunity to stay focused on your business not on the paperwork.

What would be your advice to young entrepreneurs in general and especially in Croatia?

I am sure this is something said a trillion times, but saying it again can’t hurt: enjoy what you are doing but love the problem, not the solution. For Croatian young entrepreneurs additional advice would be: don’t let overall negativism bother your vision. Don’t be afraid.

Good advice. And your thoughts about the COIN co-working space?

COIN co-working space is an example of good practice in Zadar. By giving young entrepreneurs a place to gather, network and help each other, COIN is promoting an entrepreneurial mindset while connecting local people with people from all around the world.

For more information about Rentlio please visit:

https://rentl.io/en

 

COIN, the co-working hub in Zadar

team-coin

COIN is the go-to coworking space in Zadar for freelancers, entrepreneurs and professionals working remotely. It is home to Zadar residents, but is beginning to attract international attention. Digital nomads like Zadar’s European location, cheap Ryanair flights, its temperate climate, coffee culture, picturesque scenery with the Adriatic Sea as the star backdrop and now, dedicated and quality working facilities in the shape of COIN.

COIN offers modern designed open work spaces, fast and secure internet access, a meeting room, lockers, comfortable break out area, kitchen facilities and workspace areas that can be hired for greater privacy.

“COIN users are engaged in graphic design, web design, electrical engineering projects, accounting, programming, business consulting, translating, etc” points out Jasminka Smokrovic, secretary and legal advisor to the Association of Trades and Crafts, one of the founding partners of COIN. “Most of them use the facilities every day, and we have noticed this trend in mutual co-operation between them. There have already been several cases of two or more people doing jobs for each other. We feel happy, proud and satisfied with such an outcome.”

coin-sign

What separates COIN from the rest is that it wasn’t set up privately through entrepreneurial individuals. Instead, it was formed three years ago under the auspices of the European Union through five public partner organisations. The cost of using the space facilities “is one of the cheapest in the co-working market’ says Jasminka. Potentially, for a city with a high youth unemployment rate of around 50 per cent, affordable pricing and the opportunity to network with others could create an ideal hub for the more entrepreneurially minded young professional in Zadar.

COIN has only been up and running for a year, but it’s hoped it will become a platform and incubator for entrepreneurs and the start-up scene. In December this year, COIN will host a digital career information day when budding Croatian entrepreneurs can find out more about remote working. “The community is growing, and in a few years it will become a great place to share ideas, ” says Sime Erlic, head of Administration of EU Funds at the city of Zadar, another of the COIN partners. “For example, we plan to set up a mentoring network of local professional experts who will advise young people. The EU has been pretty supportive of the (COIN) initiative. Croatia has a weak economy, and so this kind of innovation is a positive thing.”

COIN partners are: City of Zadar, Association of Trades and Crafts Zadar, Croatia Chamber of Commerce (Zadar chamber) and the Public Agency for Development of Zadar Country (ZADRA NOVA).

For more information about COIN including contact details, pricing and opening hours please visit the COIN website

https://www.facebook.com/coinZD/

https://www.instagram.com/coinzadar/

Photo (from back left to right): Šime Erlić, Head of Administration of EU Funds at the City of Zadar; Tina Marin, Senior Associate for EU Funds at the City of Zadar; Slavica Kosović, Senior Associate for EU Funds at the City of Zadar; Jasminka Smokrović, Secretary and legal adviser to the Association of Trades and Crafts Zadar; Ana-Marija Tahija, Senior Associate for EU Funds at the City of Zadar; Antonia Brkljača, Senior Associate for EU Funds at Zadar County Development Agency (ZADRA nova)

Seven work spots in Zadar for digital nomads

library
Public library, Zadar
  1. COIN

For consistently high-speed wi-fi access, for those times when you just want to be around other professionals, for printers, lockers and for general modern suite working facilities, it has to be the co-working space COIN. Most if not all digital nomads will find themselves here as it’s the only co-working space in town (at the moment). It’s growing in reputation in Zadar and abroad. It also periodically hosts talks, workshops and social events such as a recent jazz evening. Because it is publically run, and especially targeted at the local community, prices are kept at reasonable rates.

COIN Coworking

Put Murvice, 16, Zadar, Croatia

Open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Contact: info@coinzadar.hr

https://www.facebook.com/coinZD/

https://www.instagram.com/coinzadar/

  1. Public library

For a quiet work space why not pop into the local public library. It seems well run, with toilets, wi-fi, plug points and numerous work spaces. And when you tire of the near-monastic type silence, check out the adjacent café (just walk past the giant chess board) with both interior and exterior tables. Best Moroccan mint tea I’ve had in ages.

Gradska Knjiznica 

  1. Coffee & Cake

This was one of the first places recommended to me by a Zadarian as a desirable place for work and coffee. It doesn’t disappoint as long as you are aware of your own work habits.

Personally, I prefer to do lighter reading and planning in cafes and those places where music plays overhead. I don’t always find that ambiance conducive to focused concentration, and headphones may not always be the solution. In addition, I do carry around my portable charger for those times when phone and iPad batteries are low and I just can’t get to a plug point.

But Coffee & Cake has plug points, delicious cakes, good drinks including coffee, tea and alcohol. And wi-fi of course. The cosy contemporary feel and look pulls it all together as a light airy hangout that’s open from 7am until 11 pm.

Coffee & Cake (Facebook page – no website yet)

Ulica Brace Vranjanina, 14 Zadar, Croatia

coffee-cake

  1. Zara Beach Lounge

Maraschino sundowners, sea waves lashing against the shore as you breathe in the fresh air from comfortable seats on the deck, macchiato also to hand. Work if you want, but you may just want to save this location for a Sunday afternoon unwind. Call it preparing for the week ahead. The only negative is that the food could be better.

zara-beach-lounge
Zara Beach Lounge
  1. Hotel Bastion

Despite its popularity with tourists, Zadar isn’t yet a top destination for major business and international conferences, and the lack of big name five-star hotels perhaps reflects this. Zadar mainly relies on smaller hotels, guesthouses and private houses (see the FT special report on Croatia: ‘Boost for Croatia’s tourism as visitors seek strife-free holidays’ Oct 17th, 2016).

There are times when the calm ambiance of a luxury hotel lounge fits the working bill, despite the sometimes overpriced beverages. Four-starred Hotel Bastion somewhat fills the gap on a smaller, more boutique scale, with the added bonus of a spa and outside seating. Shout out also to Art Hotel Kalelarga and its adjoining café-restaurant. Pricey but nice. Both these hotels are in the Old Town where I spent most of my time.

SONY DSC
Natalie Cole and Jose Carreras were Bastion guests
  1. Your local hideaway down the road

You’ll find that free wi-fi is readily accessible in nearly all parts of Zadar. It did drop off in one particular café but on the whole, I’ve been able to log in online at most places I’ve stopped for a drink. This includes just down the road from my Zadar apartment.

One such place is Bistro Still down my road which, along with wi-fi availability, served up the most delicious fish and chips – succulently fresh wholesome tuna in this case, complete with tartar sauce, sea-view and more reasonable prices than some other restaurants.  So, don’t necessarily dismiss that humble looking café or restaurant round your corner.

  1. Home

There are days when I just want to roll out of bed, go out for a jog nearby, then hide myself away to work and drink my own coffee, jazz or classical music playing (very) gently in the background, or take breaks to listen to BBC Radio 3 or 4. I can get my head down and work with nothing to distract me.

To be honest, there’s always something to distract, but that can be managed. And having a home or even just a room of one’s own with reliable wi-fi is a necessity for most working writers and other independent professionals. My current lovely space was found through Airbnb.

These are just snapshots of what’s available in Zadar, and you will find your own sweet work spot, of course.

Zadar as a destination for digital nomads

zadar-yacht

Each time I selected my most important must haves for potential city work locations in NomadList, Zadar kept coming up as the answer to my top three. These were 1. fast internet. 2. affordability and 3. beaches. Further research gave me a strong enough push to give Zadar a go.

I’m looking at what makes this quiet under the radar city a great destination for digital nomads and other location independent workers. For those of you looking for a quieter spot to do some thinking, writing, planning and working, but at a reasonable price, I encourage you to consider Zadar as a surprisingly good and appealing work hotspot.

Now, Croatia isn’t a hot (literally) south-east Asian destination such as Thailand, Malaysia or Bali in Indonesia. But it does have a more temperate climate than some other European cities, it is relatively cheaper than living in London or Berlin yet still boasts good restaurants, food and hotels, decent wi-fi hotspots and, now, in Zadar, a central co-working space in the shape of COIN. A downside is that it does go very quiet outside the holiday season, with Ryanair flights to/from Zadar paused between November and March.

While there are interesting and fun things to do in the city, it’s not known for its hard partying scene. But all the better. For any freelancer, entrepreneur or remote worker serious about his or her work, Zadar deserves strong consideration at least as a temporary base.

Truffles

istria-truffles

I’ve been meaning to try cooking with truffles for a while. As Istria is known for its truffles, and I’m not sure that I can justify hot-footing it down there simply to indulgence my extravagance, I decided to seize the opportunity and buy the subtle black type here in Zadar. It’s sliced and preserved in virgin olive oil and salt, and I’m hoping I can inch it past its seven-day use-by date (once opened). Because, next weekend, I want to see how it fares with the Croatian pinot noir I’ve bought. Or, I may just step up to an unpreserved whole black or even braver (because of the apparent strength of its flavour), white truffle instead. Apparently, there are wild truffles here in Zadar too, though they are not as abundant as in Istria. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.

Anyway, here’s my dish.

Cook the spaghetti in a cube of good chicken stock, about half a teaspoon of the truffle with its preserved olive oil, or virgin olive oil separately; a little butter, some red chilli powder (I haven’t been able to find fresh chilli here in Zadar – yet). I’ve also added some dried basil and towards the end of cooking, a green vegetable called Blitva, which tastes somewhere between greens and spinach.

Towards the end of cooking the pasta, in a separate pan I’ve tossed some pine nuts, thinly sliced garlic (according to taste), a small amount of the truffle and olive oil, a little butter, dash of white wine (I’ve used a delicious local version today), a sprinkle of water (to mop up the juices), and gently pan fry all together for a couple of minutes or until the pine nuts are just golden.

Then, I’ve drained the pasta leaving some of its water/sauce, and turned it into the pan with the pine nuts and other ingredients. Turn off the heat and stir fry for a few seconds. Serve up with some parmesan cheese and black pepper et voila, it’s good to go (although I probably overdid it with the parmesan as photo suggests!).

finished-pasta

I can’t imagine that foodies will be disappointed with what Croatia has to offer. For more information about Istrian truffles check out this website – Prodan Tartufi

 

Croatia’s fruit

clementines-hanging

I love the way one can find fruit growing in people’s gardens here in Zadar. Mediterranean climate of course. But it’s a joy to see not only clementines/mandarins, but grapes, olives and even kiwis peering through leaves and branches or dangling over arched frames. I’m enjoying the clementines my Airbnb hostess, Renata, picked from her own garden and gave me as a gift. They’re fresh, juicy and not a seed in sight – perfect.

better-kiwis

clementines
Clementines from the garden of my Airbnb hostess, Renata

Croatia

jogging-ground
My new jogging patch

While most of Europe starts to bed down for cold autumnal and winter days, Zadar sheds its summer clothes with greater leisure. You’ve most likely heard of Dubrovnik and Zagreb, but how about Zadar, Croatia’s fifth largest city? This unassuming under-the-radar summer destination lies north of Split on the Adriatic Sea.

But why visit Zadar? In mid-October? For two big reasons: while most of Europe prepares for cold autumnal and winter days, Zadar is still sauntering along in delightfully warm sunshine. And it is now off season which means there are bargains to be found. For example, my two hour Ryanair flight cost an affordable £23 (USD$28) one way from London. Only spring to early autumn though. Outside those times prices increase, and it seems to me that Ryanair stops flying to Zadar outside the ‘holiday’ season.

Nonetheless, Zadar truly is photogenic. Along with the delightfully warm air is the nearby stretch of coastline that frames the Adriatic Sea. Shades of blue waters, sharp as gems, pile jagged layer by layer lapping onto pebble-sand beaches. Yachts sail across slowly and elegantly. The wind whips fresh sea air into my lungs as I jog along the stretch, or as I sip maraschino (a delicious cherry liqueur born in Zadar) or cappuccino right on the sea edge at the Zara Beach restaurant, watching as the white foams lash and then recede from the water’s edge.

Zadar will be quiet enough to deflect distractions, another reason why I have chosen this town: a peaceful but scenic destination to write and plan, complete with an eager coffee culture that offers wi-fi and sometimes a breathless sea-view, such as at Zara Beach with its chilled out lounge music playing in the background. It may not be a blazing hot south-east Asian sea island, but neither is it a frenetic urban metropolis.

I’ve still got much to explore in Zadar, and will hopefully broaden my itinerary to other parts of Croatia, such as Split and Zagreb. Yes, there will be downsides: the weather will turn: it will rain, perhaps a lot. And mosquitos like my blood, a lot. But I’ve been assured that the winter chill doesn’t kick in until the end of December, and I’m reinforcing the anti-mosquito armour, just as I would in any other sun and sea soaked location.

From what I’ve seen of Zadar so far, I look forward to a pleasurable stay. This trip has already been a series of firsts for me: first Airbnb, first Ryanair, first Uber ride, first visit to Zadar and to Croatia. And just who would have thought I would find a quietly idyllic spot in mid-October right on my European doorstep?