Catapult is a startup accelerator from Trbovlje, but they prefer to say, they are an innovative environment for like-minded people, which offers support to companies of all stages of growth.
They help ambitious entrepreneurs in various areas and try to make it as easy as possible for them to realize their visions.
In this comprehensive interview, we spoke to the Catapult team, who shared with us a tremendous amount of interesting useful insights.
For readers who haven’t heard of Katapult before – what’s one thing they need to know?
Katapult was born out of a simple desire to give back to our environment. We believe in the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, so we started Katapult.
What do your programs offer startups? What are some main advantages of working with Katapult?
Urša Poznič Goršek, director of Katapult
Urša Poznič Goršek: “We support entrepreneurs with our infrastructure (offices, meeting rooms, conference rooms, relaxation corners, accommodation facilities), knowledge (DEWESoft mentors, internationally renowned speakers, educational programs), services (accounting, administration, auditing, law) and product testing equipment (temperature chamber, vibrating table, etc.).
This is the main advantage – with the help of all these machines from Dewesoft and Kooperativa 103 and the knowledge of their experts, we provide very concrete help in the production of the first series of prototypes.
Perhaps most importantly, we let everyone know that it can be done. We encourage entrepreneurship and spread positivity. Young people should embrace opportunities and create what makes them truly happy. We will support them in doing so as best we can.”
What advice would you give to startups looking to become Katapult members? What should they do to be selected?
Dr. Jure Knez: “You have to convince our mentoring council that the idea is really worthy of our support. The industry doesn’t matter and neither does the resume. What matters is the passion that comes from within, and those sparks in the eyes. Plus, a little craziness never hurts. If you have that, you’re invited to Katapult. ”
You have been working with a large number of startups on a daily basis for years now. What is the most remarkable and memorable moment you have experienced?
Andrej Orožen: “I was mainly involved with an idea that was presented to me one day in my office by a surgeon, Dr. Preveden. He introduced me to the idea of a modern trash can. When I heard the whole story, I was dumbfounded. I connected the necessary people for the implementation, Klemen helped with our purchasing channels in Dewesoft procurement, L-TEK helped with electronics, Zavod – 404, Ljubljana with construction, … and an electronic basket was created, which counts discarded gauze during the operation.
Colleague Mišo also established contact with a seller of medical equipment in the eastern half of the world. The first products are already in Spain, England, Switzerland, Slovenia (Maribor) and talks about sales representation are in progress.
Andrej Orožen, co-owner of the partner company DEWESoft, a great supporter and mentor at Katapult.
Of course, there is still a long way to go to become a global company and offer first-class products, but this, for example, was an idea that surprised me.
In general, I believe in the person who has something to show. For example, a (bad) prototype in the case of Kresnička from Andrei Morozov. At our first meeting, their products were already selling. We helped them to get into mass production. The best part was that we designed another related product that we also believe has potential.
I also believe in someone who shows progress from one meeting to the next. One who gets the job done and gives as much as they can, who doesn’t ask for help where perseverance and diligence are required. ”
I’m sure you truly understand startups because you’ve been down this road yourself. What advice would you give yourself now, after all that experience, when you started the company 21 years ago?
Dr. Jure Knez, owner of Katapult and co-owner of the partner company DEWESoft.
Dr. Jure Knez: “Once you find your passion, something that you really want to do, don’t wait another minute. Embark on that journey, even if you know it’s uncertain and full of obstacles. Looking back after so many years, a smile creeps onto my face. ”
Did you have any support, mentors, incubators then in 2000 to take you in and help you take your first steps?
Dr. Jure Knez: “At that time, there were no business incubators and various mentoring projects. Andrej and I founded Dewesoft together with two Austrian partners, who I could say were also our mentors. In the beginning, you often don’t even need much – just some real advice at the right time. Well, now we want to share it through Katapult… ”
You run the hardwareSTART program, which aims to increase the number and growth of startup companies operating in the field of hardware. What support do you offer to hardware startups?
Urša Poznič Goršek: “We run the hardwareSTART program together with Dewesoft and the Mladi podjetnik (young entrepreneur) from Ljubljana. Dewesoft has set up logistics and production for its products, from which the members and users of Katapult can also benefit. So we can help you with their equipment and measurement technology (and of course with knowledge and experience) to produce a prototype and the first product series.
By the way, we recently connected with Kooperativa 103, where they have about 30 different food industry machines, so now we can also help startups with food products. ”
What do you think of the situation in Slovenia vs. the situation in the world in the field of hardware startups?
Dr. Jure Knez: “The world knows how to raise a lot more money for great ideas. We’re just starting to understand that, and the culture of capital is just coming to us. Funds like Silicon Gardens are going down the right path – not just giving money to companies, but helping them with experience. ”
Hardware, software, both or one or the other? What do you think is the winning combination?
Dr. Jure Knez: “This is the wrong question for me, considering what industry I come from. For me, stability and high added value is a combination of state-of-the-art technologies. The more there are, the more stable the business is in the long run. Cutting edge technology makes it harder to copy solutions and thus maintain a competitive advantage. ”
Have you noticed any major changes in the regional startup ecosystem in recent years? If so, how do they reflect on startups in your programs?
Dr. Jure Knez: “Of course, regional support centers have started to cooperate in an exemplary way, supporting each other and implementing joint programs. We have already seen some successful examples of how we have been able to better support our startups in this way, giving them greater opportunities. In the future, Katapult will focus even more on expanding the range of machinery and equipment we offer so we can help businesses even more. ”
Have you recently opened Katapult premises in Ljubljana? What does this mean for Katapult and the Slovenian startup community?
Dr. Jure Knez: “Katapult was built primarily to support our valley. But the word spread quickly as we get startups from all over Slovenia. So we decided to open a few offices in the capital, as it makes logistics easier for many startups. Otherwise, the heart of Katapult will always remain in Trbovlje.
This year, the finals for Startup of the Year were traditionally held at PODIM. What is your general impression of the selected startups?
Dr. Jure Knez: “This year’s startups at Podim came up with a number of exceptional ideas. You can clearly see that many years of hard work have been put into supporting entrepreneurship, and Podim is certainly one of the most important events in Slovenia and beyond. ”
Did anything positively surprise you?
Dr. Jure Knez: “I was surprised how professionally organized some teams were. When I look at our beginnings, these teams have a much better starting position and they are taking advantage of it. I’m really looking forward to watching them develop. ”
Mihael Mišo Gornik, quality manager at DEWESoft, mentor at Katapult
Finally: What is your most common advice for startups? And what would you say to all those who are postponing stepping into the business world because they are afraid of mistakes and defeat?
Andrej Orožen: “Make up your mind – whether you want to live for it or not. If not, don’t expect great success. I see a lot of young people who would like to keep a regular job and be an entrepreneur in the afternoon. It’s not that easy, though. You have to live for the idea! It’s all or nothing,” says Andrej resolutely. He is also one of the most important mentors at Katapult, as he helps young people with his experience and knowledge.”
Dr. Jure Knez: “Create with passion, think about strategy, build a strong team… and have a lot of fun creating.
One more thing: Don’t wait. If you have a good idea, make sure it is noticed by as many partners and customers from all over the world as possible. A great product and the right time are key. ”
Mišo Gornik: “Don’t forget the three magic words: HELLO, THANK YOU, PLEASE.”
TO SUM IT ALL UP:
Andrej Orožen: “With the knowledge of technology, we can change the world. To begin with, we can change our environment and our life. Create something new, interesting and leave a trail that can lead us or others to great deeds.
For those of us who offer support to young startups: Let’s help them and thus change stereotypes about the cruel business world. Business etiquette is changing. We CAN reduce generational differences and pass on knowledge and information to young people. ”