You've already probably read about how the European tech success story and Croatia's first unicorn Infobip - acquired Netokracija, a media company I founded at age 22, and where we've been covering the Southeastern European startup scene for more than a decade with a particular focus on Croatia and Serbia.
I'm covering what this means for Netokracija and our audience - on Netokracija (and in Croatian), while this post is more about what the acquisition means for me personally.
Why Infobip Acquired Netokracija
While at first, it may seem odd, this acquisition is part of a growing trend of technology companies "starting to behave like media companies" as described by Techcrunch's Ron Miller.
Examples of this trend include Hubspot, which acquired The Hustle, and the fact that Salesforce+ wants to be the "Netflix of business content".
Why? As Scott Galloway notes:
Firms in every sector are realizing that the best way to reduce their CAC (customer acquisition cost) is to produce proprietary content that keeps customers engaged and increases word of mouth. Media companies cultivate engaged communities that take years, if not decades, to build. Hubspot acquired The Hustle… JPMorgan acquired The Infatuation. Robinhood acquired MarketSnacks… Many others are purchasing audiences and audience expertise instead of products.”
Thus, Infobip can use our team's expert knowledge to learn how to reach a developer audience, while Netokracija gets the support to cover the regional tech ecosystem even better.
That said, I did have reservations.
Would Infobip influence our editorial policies, and would our established team get lost in the hypergrowth of Croatia's first unicorn?
The short answer is: No, not at all!
While getting used to working in a large, global company will definitely have its challenges, an open conversation with Infobip's cofounders Silvio Kutić, Roberto Kutić, and Izabel Jelenić, as well as Chief Developer Experience Officer Ivan Burazin put my mind at ease:
- Netokracija would stay an editorially independent magazine;
- They didn't ask about all the ways Infobip could advertise on Netokracija, but what Netokracija's audience would be okay with and how they could support our publishing efforts;
- They understand how valuable Netokracija is to the community and how our coverage has helped it grow and thrive - and plan to support Netokracija support the community in the future;
- Like the Infobip Shift conference, Netokracija would have its own life and would continue to publish for its audience and work with partners such as Photomath and Nanobit as we've done so far.
Speaking of Infobip Shift, Ivan was key to making the deal work.
It's Ivan that I spoke to about Infobip acquiring Netokracija first, a few months after Shift got acquired. Talking about how developers don't like the traditional marketing approach, it became apparent that there was an opportunity to work together on developer content.
We had worked on various projects up until that point, knew each other, and we got along well! For example, Infobip's Director of Startups had been writing for Netokracija for years and my experience as Editor of Infobip's Engineering Handbook showed how our content expertise could help Infobip's Engineering department!
Why Not Sell To a Large Publisher
It might seem strange that we sold Netokracija to a tech company instead of a media company. If you work in media, however, you know exactly why. For independent vertical (specialized) publishers like Netokracija being acquired by a mainstream media company in most cases, means going in a direction that doesn't make sense for a community-driven media company like us.
Traditional publishers might start with implementing ad formats that wouldn't appeal to our tech audience and end with the brand being relegated to a topic category of a larger news site.
While we had gotten an offer or two from media companies, we never went any further than an initial email.
Was It The Pandemic?
While the initial blow to events hurt, we quickly moved even more to native advertising. We reevaluated our offering, and pivoted our content products - and it worked. Just weeks into the pandemic, we successfully signed dozens of new year-over-year contracts.
These included tech companies that were previously shy from long-term projects but now saw value in employer branding, such as Agrivi, Neuralab, Combis, Lemax, Leapbit, Seekandhit, Photomath, Solrise, Poslovna inteligencija, Optimoroute, Flow and Form, Gideon, Nanobit, Good Game, Q, Nets, Sofa Score - and yes, Infobip. They not only saved our asses at the time but showed the potential to focus on our content-first business model.
While other technology media companies focus a lot on events, Netokracija has become an example of the success of native advertising in the B2B media industry.
What It All Means For Me
As I said, Infobip's offer was different because instead of acquiring Netokracija for short-term gains and pageviews, they have a vested interest in the long term, in seeing Netokracija grow.
Personally, it's an opportunity I wasn't expecting:
- As Director of Developer Content, I'll be working directly with Ivan, Nikola, Julia and the rest of the DevRel department to help developers in the region grow their projects - as well as help developers globally use Infobip's technology;
- I'll be able to help not just grow Netokracija but create great developer content in formats beyond articles, podcasts and YouTube videos. As some of you might know, I really love #devrel as a topic which is why I've taught over 150 engineers how to write in my workshops;
- Infobip is Croatia's first unicorn, a growing profitable business that has a huge vision based on more than 14 years of bootstrapped success (I actually wrote about this);
- An international focus on getting back to my roots. Before focusing on Netokracija and the regional market, I wrote for Techcrunch and in English - time to see what I could do beyond our Balkan backyard.
- I'll be working with a lot of very smart, motivated people that I honestly like. I've worked with Ivan and the Shift team before and working with Engineering, People Operations and Employer Branding was really fun;
- For the first time in my life (I've been an entrepreneur since college), I won't worry about payroll and instead focus on "product" - in my case - great content.
Bonus: We're In It As A Team
Ok, so the last bullet might have been a lie.
I haven't had to worry about payroll for some time already and that's thanks to my business partners, who are also going to have to continue leading our developer content team:
- Mia Biberović
- Tena Šojer Keser
- Marko Mudrinić
- Marko Tadić
Thanks to them, especially Mia and Tena in Croatia, I could spend a couple of months last year on paternity leave with my son Adrian and my girlfriend Marta, who supported me through this entire acquisition process. You can't imagine how easier my life as an entrepreneur has been since they joined me. It's so hard being a solopreneur, and having a great partner makes all the difference.
If you're wondering about having a partner join you, I will encourage you to talk to other entrepreneurs about their experience inviting partners on board. For example, talking with Tomislav and Nikola of Infinum about the later joining as a business partner was quite valuable.
I'm thankful that my partners and our entire team will be joining Infobip. We've created everything so far as a team and we're ready to show what we can do both scaled locally and globally?
So... You Still Want That Exclusive?
With Infobip's support, Netokracija will focus even more on startups and the development community, and I personally will try to write even more about the startup community. You didn't think you'll get rid of me that easily right?
It takes more than a successful exit by a 3500+ person strong tech company to stop me from writing about your startup.