BIRD, the First Croatian AI Startup Incubator with International Reach
Foto: Dražen Tomić / Tomich Productions
BIRD Incubator, the first Croatian incubator for teams and projects related to artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, officially opened its doors on February 9, 2021, and the first startup teams began incubation in late 2020. As of today, the Croatian technology scene is richer for a new startup incubator that specializes in projects based on the development of artificial intelligence.
The BIRD Incubator was started by the company Poslovna inteligencija at Petračićeva 4 in Zagreb, where a visually impressive new space of 450 square meters is located. The official opening was organized online due to the coronavirus pandemic and due to the participation of a large number of interantional partners, some of whom even come from India.
"We are very happy that we have officially launched the BIRD Incubator. Since the initial idea in April last year, there has been a lot of preparation, especially around arranging the new space. Now that everything is in place and the teams are selected, we can’t wait to see the first results. We believe we launched the Incubator at the right time. The community gathered around the association CroAI - Croatian Association for Artificial Intelligence, initiated a large number of activities which resulted in greater interest of the wider community in the field of artificial intelligence. Thus was born the idea of starting an incubator that would receive not only Croatian, but also regional, European and world startups that have artificial intelligence at the core of development. We see this as our contribution to the movement that will place Croatia on the European map of artificial intelligence,” said Dražen Oreščanin, President of the Management Board of Business Intelligence and one of the initiators of the BIRD Incubator.
At the official opening, the first seven startup teams were presented. Those teams were admitted to the Incubator after going to through the application process and the interviews with the board members of the Incubator, composed of key people from Business Intelligence and mentors. The teams, most of which started the incubation process at the end of 2020, come from Croatia, while the international note is given by an experienced team from India, Marksman digital, which is developing a platform for selling and annotating large data sets such as images that will train algorithms and models of artificial intelligence.
Teams from Croatia are: AI-zyme who, with the help of artificial intelligence, are looking for new sequences of proteins and enzymes for use in medicine and industry; Merity, which automates employee data collection and satisfaction measurement, and provides advanced analytics with recommendations for improving business processes; NeolightAI which creates a system for managing guest satisfaction in tourism and communication with a virtual agent; Platepay which allows payment by car license plates and geolocation marketing based on analytics; SciBiz, which is building an advanced platform for the sale of innovative materials and connecting scientific institutions and businesses, and TriCor, whose product uses technology and sensors from clothing to prevent cardiovascular disease.
“We filled the capacity of the BIRD incubator very quickly. Startup teams that recognize the great value of what we offer and that create products related to artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, regardless of the business area, are free to contact us via the website https://bird-incubator.com/apply/. The incubator works on the principle of hop-on / hop-off system. When a team worth entering the Incubator appears and if there is room, we accept it for six months for the duration of the program in which the team creates a product from the initial idea or prototype ready to receive investment and / or enter the market,” said Incubator Manager Željko Krizmanić.
Startup teams will achieve the greatest value through a relationship and work with the incubator's mentors, from whom they will be able to "pick up" a large number of tips on their entrepreneurial journey. These mentors include pioneers of the technology and startup scene from Croatia and the world, as well as people with extensive experience in the fields of marketing, law, investment and finance. Through the opening program, certain groups of partners were presented as they have been key to this success and achievement of goals. These are corporate partners, Atlantic Group and United Group, for which BIRD will be an "external" center for generating innovative ideas.
There are also partners from the scientific community, FER, FOI and FSB, faculties of technology whose students will work on project assignments of corporate partners, and this cooperation will be evaluated as a diploma thesis. Other important partners include two IT communities, CroAI and CISEx, with which the BIRD incubator plans community events, and "friend incubators", Algebra LAB and the Krapina-Zagorje County Entrepreneurship Center, with which startup teams and educational programs are "shared". The technology is taken care of by two technology vendors, IBM and Vertica, and there is a principled cooperation with Microsoft and Google.
As it is important for all startups to be recognized by investors, and at the same time the ultimate goal of incubation is the willingness of investors to invest in a particular project, the Incubator has signed cooperation with WC funds from Croatia, Europe and the world. Investors who will monitor the development of the teams are: Phil Rouge Capital, Feelsgood Captial, South Central Ventures (Croatia), Day One Capital, Eleven Ventures, LAUNCHub Ventures, Next Road Ventures (Europe), Hitchikers Ventures (Canada), Batalla Family Office (US)) and Spring Up Capital (India).
The founders additionally point out that social responsibility has been built into the philosophy of Business Intelligence from the beginning. Business success is viewed through contribution to the community. The incubator is the latest in a series of projects by which Poslovna inteligencija wants to help the technology community grow. By doing so, they want to influence the environment in Croatia in which young people can see the future.