All lit up: the future of finance

By Vanora Bennett

Ivan Mrvos, Croatian entrepreneur

Helping start-ups boost the wider economy

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How do you help young entrepreneurs to start making money and boost your country’s economy? The obvious answer is, lend them some start-up funds. But in the decade since the financial crisis of 2008, this hasn’t been so easy.

When post-crisis banks started lending less, the newest entrepreneurs, who didn’t have a long track record of borrowing, went to the back of the queue for finance from banks. Nor have they ever been easily able to get finance from the markets where more established companies raise funding.

Ivan Mrvos, a teenager from Croatia, fell into this finance trap when he started manufacturing light-up furniture in 2014. He lost the seed fund he’d borrowed from his granny and had to go back to college instead of running the company of his dreams.

Recently, however, new legislation in the United States and then Europe, coupled with tech advances making crowdfunding easy, have improved the prospect for young wizzkids with a money-making idea.

This new thinking is spreading into the central and eastern European heartland where the EBRD works – notably Croatia, where the EBRD and Zagreb Stock Exchange are cooperating to make market funding available to start-ups.

This is the story, told in video, images and text, of one young man’s rags-to-riches trajectory. In 2017, Ivan Mrvos’s bright idea for manufacturing solar-powered smart benches - which not only let users charge their phones and use free WiFi in public parks, but also gather information about air cleanliness for local authorities – finally benefited from some of the new funding.

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