After 10 years during which we simultaneously developed our own digital products (such as Mediatoolkit which spun off into a standalone company back in 2016, and is now a $2 million ARR business) and worked as a design and development agency which built solutions for clients such as Lufthansa, Infobip, Photomath and Rimac Automobili, we are embracing a new business model called Venture Building – also known as Startup Studio or Startup Factory.
With this change, we will focus on turning early stage companies into successful, rapidly-scaling ones by providing them with experienced product development teams, funding and business expertise.
In building and scaling these new companies and business ideas, we will focus on Croatia and Scandinavia – because our current startups are all based on local ideas, talents and investments, and also because of the strong partnerships we established within the startup and investment communities in the Nordics.
We are now in a phase where we’re open to co-founding new companies in partnership with experts who have strong domain knowledge. Because of this, we are looking for co-founders who have an idea on how to digitalize their own domain or have identified a specific problem within their industry that can be solved with a digital product – and they need a team that can help them with business and technical development, operational leadership and investments.
What is Venture Building?
The Venture Building model is easiest to describe as the process of systematically founding and scaling new businesses — from the idea stage to market success.
There are five key activities that Venture Builders are involved in:
- identifying business ideas
- building the core team
- finding capital
- helping in company management
- providing supporting services
Unlike accelerators, incubators and venture capital funds that only help startup founders with one or two of the aspects mentioned above, Venture Building companies cover all aspects of company development and function as real co-founders. And for that, they take a certain percentage of ownership in the company itself.
Co-founders, investors and operational team in one… and all have stakes in companies
So why did we decide to change the business model? Well… Tomislav Grubišić and Ivor Bihar, our CEO and COO, are the best ones to answer that question.
TG: Over the last 15 years during which we developed digital products and founded our own companies, every evolution of our business somehow guided us towards the venture building model. And now we have just made it official. We have gathered an experienced team of experts that are skilled in both technological and business development of digital products and companies, and we have reached the level where we can build several startup companies at the same time without major challenges. All our people are focused on one of the 4 products we are currently developing, and we have built a number of high quality partnerships that will allow us to properly support these new companies in each stage of growth. When we worked as an agency, we sold our knowledge to others, but now we will use that knowledge to start and grow new companies – which will be entirely ours or built in partnership with other co-founders.
If we look at Bornfight’s growth in the last few years, we can notice several key events that have further accelerated this orientation towards the venture building model. In 2019, we started strengthening the company’s portfolio by launching Maboo, continued it in 2020 by launching Elevien and entering into a partnership with Estrid, and brought it to the current level this year when we officially launched TABU. Now we’re planning a new expansion – by the end of the year our goal is to launch another product and attract additional investments for the companies that are currently in our portfolio.
Together with the launch of new companies, we will continue to strongly expand our own team, which currently includes more than 80 specialists focused on business and technological development of companies and digital products. In 2022, we will further expand our core team to include experts in business development and validation of business ideas, while companies within our portfolio will be strengthened by experienced developers, designers and product managers.
IB: When I look at Bornfight through the prism of the Venture Building model, I see how we can take the best out of each approach. Venture Building is like an agency and a product and an accelerator and an incubator and a fund in one – with the strengths of each, but without their weaknesses. Today, top talents want to work on products and be focused in the long run – agencies usually can’t offer that. On the other hand, they can sometimes feel limited in the product. What we have now at Bornfight is an ideal combination because everyone can focus on long-term product development, but they also have the option of choosing between multiple products that are in different stages of development. And when I look at the business aspect, I don’t think there is a model that is better than this in the long run – because on the one hand we have access to a lot of top business ideas, and on the other hand, as co-founders we can ensure that the whole process follows the steps we have already tested and perfected on other companies that we have in the portfolio.
Also, this focus on venture building and the development of new companies has enabled us to offer our employees a new set of benefits – the most attractive of which is certainly the ESOP, the Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
Bornfight’s startups – from a gymnastics app to a salary platform
There are currently 4 ventures in our portfolio.
- SWEN is a booking and property management platform for campsites, which is currently in the MVP phase of development. Over 1.6 million euros have been invested in SWEN in the last 2 years, and it is currently being implemented in the first camps.
- Elevien is a mobile and web platform for gymnasts, trainers and judges that enables the organization and participation in gymnastics competitions via mobile devices. This platform, in which Marko Pipunić and Ante Mandić invested in the seed round, greatly reduces the complexity and cost of organizing and participating in competitions – it allows gymnasts to compete from their own gyms and record their exercises, while removing huge organizational costs and logistics.
- TABU is the latest in a series of Bornfight products. This salary comparison platform in the IT industry was officially launched 2 months ago and, so far more than 35% of local IT professionals have entered their salary data into it. We are currently working on a new version of the platform that will bring a number of upgrades, and also enable companies to use it.
In addition to SWEN, Elevien and TABU, which are being built as standalone companies, we also have another venture – Bornfight Studio, which has recently split into a separate unit within Bornfight. Bornfight Studio is our website design and development team, which will continue to operate as an agency and will now be led by Zoran Završki. In the last few years, this team has developed many advanced websites, such as those for Infobip, Rimac Automobili, Photomath, Ljubicic Tennis Academy and Gideon, and for their work they have been awarded numerous recognitions – from the Agency of the Year Award given to them by the Awwwards collective in 2018, to the best website award they won at this year’s Dani Komunikacija for the Vrti Svoj Film website.
How will Bornfight approach the development of new companies?
Although the Venture Building model has undergone various transformations in the last 20 years, we have decided to focus on the most comprehensive model that covers these aspects:
- validation of a business idea
- team recruitment
- providing in-house mentors for product development, sales, marketing…
- securing investments and attracting investors
- legal and financial advice
- support in operational management of the company
- providing access to our business network
If you’d ask Tomislav and Ivor about this, they’d tell you that Bornfight aims to develop companies that will be fully owned by Bornfight, but also those that will be built in collaboration with co-founders who have strong domain knowledge and deep understanding of the issues behind their business ideas – but need experience in developing digital product from both the business and the technical side. We will assist them in this with our technical and business expertise, years of experience in developing digital businesses and teams, and a strong partner network of investors.
The main advantage of founding a company in cooperation with a venture builder lies in startup statistics – while a classic approach to building startups results in only 1 out of 10 succeeding on the market, co-founding with a venture builder bumps that up to 1 in 3 and even 1 in 2. All of the experience, expertise and services that venture builders bring into a partnership greatly increase the chances of startup success!