Three people surrounding laptop computer (Shutterstock)

Ivan Jelusic is a successful, 26-year-old business owner. His firm sells products  around the world.

But only a few years ago, Jelusic had very little business experience. It is 2014 — the year he signed up for “Startup Camp Rijeka,” a five-day mentoring program in Croatia — that he points to as one important turning point. The camp helps turn startup proposals into viable businesses.

“I came there to learn something new and network with seasoned U.S. and Croatian entrepreneurs,” Jelusic said. The camp is sponsored by STEP RI, Science and Technology Park of the University of Rijeka, and the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb.

Four young men posing for camera (Courtesy of Ivan Jelusic)
This winning team created u:Plug. From left: Boris Golob, Ivan Jelusic, Daniel Rupic and Mitko Cabevski. (Courtesy photo)

The idea that Jelusic pitched in 2014 earned him a second-place prize and led to the creation of u:Plug, a power socket made for people who charge multiple devices daily. The company now has four employees and sells products in 15 countries.

Jelusic says the camp “made me a better product developer, a better manager.”

Previous Startup Camp Rijeka winners include:

  • Juvo-Home Friend, a device that notifies parents about their children’s activities while they are away, described as a “smart alarm system for sneaky toddlers.”
  • Dermatrack, a tool to alert people of abnormal skin lesions.

One of the tips Jelusic learned at the camp is to “never build product around ourselves, but to test it and create it around other people.”

Jelusic’s team that built u:Plug also created Meshpoint, a WiFi host spot for crisis situations that in 2016 was named the “Best Humanitarian Technology of the Year” at the Europas Awards.  The technology gives internet access to people in need, including refugees. “This award was one of the greatest personal accomplishments,” he said.

This year’s Startup Camp Rijeka takes place September 13–17. Applications are due June 18. The camp is in Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city. Past camps have drawn applicants from more than two dozen European countries.

“Apply for Startup Camp Rijeka and take your startup idea to the next level,” Jelusic said.