We believe that we best learn from experience, especially the one, that entrepreneurs we admire from Serbia and our region, are building and sharing. Every experience is both unique and relatable to ours – it requires us to see the similarities, differences and relevance.
Bojan is CEO, Fundraiser, Adviser, Strategic Business Developer; He has been working at the intersection of culture, technology, entrepreneurship and activism, bringing best practices to the local communities. He created platforms connecting international activist and problem-solvers to contribute to local urgent challenges. He is a serial entrepreneur, co-founder, executive board and co-owner of SHARE Conference and EXIT Association.
Bojan is a good friend and a mentor at the Impact Hub Belgrade. He has the mindset and the quality of a real leader who builds success relying on courage, trust, and collaboration. He likes to take on difficult tasks and find solutions. Most of all – he values sharing of know-how because he knows that this way learning and success multiply.
Some of the lessons that he learned and experiences while developing his businesses are shared in his very open answers to the first questions that we asked him. It’s about how to sell, how to build teams, how to build meaningful relationships and we are wondering how you fellow entrepreneurs, founders and mentors alike relate to these practices 🙂
First of all, thank you for your time. We know you’re one of the founders of Exit and former CEO. Tell us a little how Exit started.
From the end of the 90’s we searched for innovative forms of social activism against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Exit was created as a product of a youthful energy and a desire for a better future. When the regime fell, our mission was to make the best festival in Europe. Goal was to bring the most famous bands that have never before had the opportunity to play for our audience.We wanted to interest developed world for us, but not “us” as an esoteric, but “us” as a contemporary culture. I was at the CEO of the Exit from 1999 to January 2013.
What would you do differently today? Is it some area or focus that entrepreneurs should have in the initial phase?
I would not change much from my experience. Perhaps I would put some people in place earlier, communicate ideas better, and try to be less emotional. But I would say that focus should be on the formation of the market segment, at the initial stage.
How long lasted the period until your first paid user? What was the key growth hack?
One year, it was a switch from a free concept to a payment model in our case. The first Exit festival in 2000, lasted almost 100 days, it had various types of performances, film, theater events with over 20 000 visitors. Year after, Exit’s daily attendance was over 30,000 people. The festival was no longer free, and emphasis was placed on musical performances. Our success was recognized year after year, the highlight was 2013 when we received the award for the best big music festival in Europe.
Which way was the best way for you to learn? Have you had the opportunity to learn from experts 1 on 1, mentor or some events? Why are they important?
It’s crucially to have somebody who will help you to get over complications and navigate you. Those kind of connections are very difficult to find, but when the match is good, then it is going very fast. I had a crazy luck to pick up a lot of the best of the industry’s branches. 🙂 My best mentors were partners from the job. I learned a lot with them, became aware of my own shortcomings and limitations. I would recommend to young entrepreneurs to find people with whom they can learn and develop.
How important is to get connected with people of different expertise for development, and how to stay in touch?
It’s extremely important. I would say that it is essential to connect and balance diversity. Staying in touch is difficult. Each entrepreneur has his up and down stages. It’s difficult to stay in touch and communicate with potential associates when your entire world breaks. It is therefore important that you are always attractive, interesting and different. It is necessary to constantly work on yourself and to make others aware of how you are progressing.
How to attract effectively new customers and what does it mean to develop a relationship of trust?
It depends on the industry. Exit festival for example in 2013 held a free concert on the main square in Novi Sad in order to regain the confidence of visitors. In every industry, perhaps the most important thing is to give the right amount of added value
Do you notice the difference in gender-mixed teams?
The difference is obvious. Mixed teams are the best teams, and not only gender-mixed. We live in a world where PR is everything. People fail to see that a strong team is the best PR. A successful team is the one who succeeds in introducing the introvert team.
What would today’s Bojan give as a piece of advice to young startup teams?
- Be curious and positive! But do not worry, periods of boredom, nonsense and wandering are necessary, almost crucial – it’s important to self-question yourself!
- Every experience is valuable – bad are as important as good. When you fall – get up!
- Better pigeon on the branch
- Get out of the comfort zone! The risk is good – it makes you fast.
- .It’s OK to be a bit lazy. From the laziness comes the need to solve things quickly with good innovation.
- When you feel okay, put a pebble in your shoe.
- Be careful with who you partner up with. Trust is a rare commodity
- If you can delegate something of yourself, do it immediately.
- BUT never delegate key things to others
- The skill is 20%, and the network is 80%
If you recognized yourself or felt inspired by Bojan’s story, if you have faced similar challenges – subscribe for our newsletter. In the upcoming period, entrepreneurs, founders, mentors will answer questions important to young startup teams. Read more about their beginnings and what is their recipe for success!