It’s no news that Croatian start-up scene has had big victories during the last few years. In fact, the last one to confirm that was Peekator – ad hoc research platform who recently announced they ensured seed funding in total of 300.000 euros. To find out more about the investment, new growth, challenges faced during the pandemic and what is his point of view on his ongrowing LinkedIn fame, we spoke with Marin Mrša – the founder and CEO of Peekator and last year’s LEAP Summit speaker.
Before we set off with our interview, we want to congratulate you once again! You negotiated with more than 30 investors and ensured the desired seed funding. How did you, as a team, approach the search for investors? What were your terms?
We spoke with more than 30 different potential investors, from VCs to business angels. Our goal was always not only to get finances but to get “smart money”. We wanted to get investors aboard who understood our vision of where we want to go with Peekator and who shared our passion about hard work and becoming competitive in the global market. We were lucky that Zagrebačka burza introduced us to Omnia ulaganja. The team from Omnia was just amazing from the initial meeting. They were asking all the right questions and jumping in with very constructive input and we just “clicked” from the start.
Your sales’ focus is in Croatia, but you are present in whole region. Despite the hardships that occured in the last two years, your team grew. Who are they – by profession and skills? Is it necessary, from your perspective, to have all the possible analitic knowledge before joining Peekator?
We used the local region to find a product-market fit and to learn as much about the industry as possible. While working with some of the top companies in the region such as dm, Zagrebačka banka (Unicredit group), Kaufland, Coca Cola HBC, etc. we helped their businesses by providing valuable insights and they helped us with valuable feedback and support. So the presence in the regional market was extremely important to us to build strong foundations for both an amazing team and an amazing product.
In Peekator we do have a great research team with a sociological background. But we have also expanded other teams such as the development team and, most recently, the sales team, as our preparation to tackle the UK market.
Big plans ahead for expanding your business in Great Britain. Honestly, are you scared?
Honestly – no! I was thinking about this moment for the last 4 years and it has happened so many times in my mind.
I feel ready and can’t wait for it. We’ve done serious preparation and we know that we have gathered a team of amazing people and that, if we just keep working hard and doing our best, success is going to come eventually.
Tell us more about your business angels – what is the main difference between them and other investors you’ve met?
We have had good and bad meetings. We had meetings where potential investors would come totally unprepared, without even looking at our website or pitch deck we sent in advance, already “knowing” that we are doing things wrong and that we should be doing things their way, even without actually understanding what we do at all. We had meetings that were great and where we already saw it being an offer on the table, but then had some bureaucratic issues or legal issues. We had meetings in which the investors would tell us we were too ambitious…
The team from Omnia really prepared for our meetings and really tried to dive in as much as possible into what we do, despite it not being an area of expertise they are good at. But they kept coming in with creative input and relevant questions and were really enthusiastic and positive when they heard our plans. And as we were discussing with them they already were going through their network thinking of relevant people that can provide aid in different ways. We just clicked from the start.
What’s the biggest struggle you and your team have encountered during the pandemic?
The pandemic was a challenge for everyone. A lot of our clients faced different challenges that forced them to push some of the already scheduled research projects back for some months, even a year. This was a challenge because our plans were a bit yanked under our feet.
But a very good thing about being a small startup is that you’re flexible! We immediately saw this as an opportunity to switch focus to improving our platform instead.
What’s your biggest victory – business and personal wise?
Personally – I am lucky and grateful to be able to do what I love with some of the most amazing people I know. I love my work and I love the fact that I have support in it both from my family and my friends.
Business wise? My biggest victory is yet to come 😉.
You are somewhat famous on LinkedIn. When so many people approach you there, do you feel responsibility when someone asks you for an advice, or do you find yourself humbled and wonder “Why would you ask ME that?” ?
A little bit of both.
I try to answer everyone who comes in with a question and I try to help in any way I can, either by connecting them to someone in my network, by sharing some of my experience or knowledge, or by sharing some resources, links, etc. There is a lot of this and sometimes I am a bit slower than I’d like to be, but I do make it my goal to answer everyone.
But the feeling when you get feedback that your advice or connection or whatever helped someone is amazing. Giving back to the community in any way is really rewarding and that is what I enjoy the most.