Concept One is Just Our Flagship Product, Technology is Our Forte
Full transcript of my interview with Mate Rimac for N1 Television
While the young and educated are leaving Croatia, politicians only seem to be talking about partisans and the ustashe, one young man is not only refusing to leave, even when sheiks are throwing millions at him, he is stubborn in his intention to stay in Croatia and by bringing in investments worth millions, he employs the very best of the best in the outskirts of Zagreb. Mate Rimac, the 28-year-old innovator, stunned the world with his Concept One, first Croatian electric car. The first car was delivered in January 2013, and since then, it’s been collecting awards on the best and most renowned expos and fairs across the globe.
Bloomberg raved about the car describing it as an electric beast with 1000 Hp that is shaking the auto industry and because of its predispositions; Concept One became FIA Formula E Championship’s official car. But Rimac didn’t stop there; his factory also produces one of the world’s most contemporary bicycles – Greyp so it is no wonder Politico named Mate Rimac one of 28 most influential people in the EU.
Since Mate Rimac doesn’t give interviews for Croatian media very often, and his appearance on my show Pressing on N1 Television was one of the most commented subjects of the week, we bring you the entire transcript of the show.
1. When we first met you were 24 years old and a few days ago you celebrated your 28th birthday. How much has changed in the last 4 years?
– A lot has changed. Back then my company employed 4 or 5 people and now we have 150 people. Every new day creates a difference for us. Whenever visitors come to our factory and I know they’ll be back in a few months I tell them to prepare because they probably won’t recognise the place. We are a very dynamic company and changes occur each week.
2. Some don’t recognize you anymore, you’ve been sporting a beard for the last year
When you’re a young entrepreneur you face some difficulty when it comes to your age, especially in such a serious industry like the auto industry where big projects are in question and people’s lives depend on the quality of your work. Being young is not an advantage here, hence the beard. It makes me appear older.
3. As an investor, I must admit that one of the main reasons why I missed out on the opportunity to invest in your company in 2012 is the fact that I just didn’t believe that someone who is just 24 can deliver what you were promising back then. Another reason was that I had a bad experience investing in some other tech companies. When we talked in 2012, and I know you were in financial trouble at the time, I believe you were offering me 5% of your company. What would have been the price?
– When I was in trouble (I believe we were talking about 100 000) oh, I would have said yes for less than that, and I ended up accepting less from another investor. It was a time when we were late in meeting our daily obligations, we were late in paying our utilities, suppliers, wages, people kept calling us every day and it was a really difficult period. That was mid-2012 when we refused to move the company to Abu Dhabi and everything went downhill. It’s a miracle we survived that period.
4. How much would 5% of your company be worth today?
-According to our investor’s estimates,, the ones who joined us in the first round in the beginning of 2014, the company is worth 70 million Euros, Chinese investor China Dynamics paid 7 million for their 10% share and those records are public, so had you invested back then, your 5% would now be worth 3,5 million euros.
5. So, from 50 000 to 3,5 mil, that’s what angel investors are looking for and you delivered in your first try. You mentioned some of your investors, Chinese company as well as a man from South America of Croatian descent. Now you’re about to go into the second round, which phase are you currently in?
– We are growing exponentially and have a long-term vision if you remember our first financial plan from 2012. we are more or less on track and all the things that seemed impossible to achieve a few years back, we’ve achieved. Things we are planning now may once again seem impossible to someone from the outside and it is a huge task but in order to keep up and to keep this exponential growth, we have to invest a lot. No company can do that from its own resources and that is why we are now in this second investment round and we are negotiating our recapitalisation with several international investors, mostly from Europe and Asia.
6. What amounts of money are we talking about, what is your new estimated company worth considering that it was worth 70 million euros in the first round?
-We have changed a lot since then, we have significant orders, we have completed several large projects since then and we are full for the next year in terms of orders, so my estimate is that the company is now worth a lot more. (100 million?) I’d rather not throw any big numbers out there, but I can say it is worth significantly more than in the first round.
7. Will the new funds be sufficient for the next 12 months?
-Even longer than that. We are planning on building a new factory, introducing new models on the market, and starting a mass production of our technologies and components. So we are not only planning on producing more cars, our primary business is producing our technology for other companies. We are planning on producing thousands of units of our batteries, engines etc.
8. People are always asking so it is time to break this misconception, how many units of Concept One have you sold? Because from your first presentation in 2012 I remember you stated that Concept One is a flagship product that will bring in the interest while technology is your main product. So, how many units have you sold and what are your main products?
– It’s an interesting story. When I started, I was driven by passion. If you remember by beginnings, I was working on the electric car for street races, I broke several world records with it and then I started my business in order to develop a real electric sports car. And then I realized that, in order to do that, I have to have a team to create the know-how, because Croatia never had this kind of an industry so we had to create the know-how from scratch.
Why didn’t you just buy it?
– Three main reasons: first – in the car industry there are no producers instead they have suppliers like Bosch and Continental that produce the technology and components for all manufacturers. Those suppliers don’t want to talk to companies like mine, they never send us a reply and laugh at us because they have special divisions that deal with smaller projects. I talked to them and they gave me a list of parts that are irrelevant in the car’s entirety and then I realized that if I go down the same road as classical car manufacturers, I will need billions of euros, and, of course, we had nothing and the only way to move forward was to try and make our own components. And that is the only reason why we’re still alive, we had the courage to develop our own technologies and we created the value for our company. You have other examples, like Fisker in the US which rose over a billion USD to start producing a luxury car, Carma. They employed people who didn’t know any better and went to the previously mentioned supplier, didn’t produce anything by themselves; they didn’t have their own development and even outsourced their manufacturing. They went bankrupted with a debt of over 1 billion USD along with the 1 billion which was invested in the company and never created any know-how. We did the opposite. We started from a garage, from nothing, without any capital in order to develop our own technologies and create our value in-house. My philosophy is to create great jobs and knowledge within the company and to create the value of our company from the beginning to the end. I believe we are the only place in the world where you can come with a blank sheet of paper and blocks of material and you can produce a complex product from the initial design to final product without leaving the premises. We produce almost every part of the car (at least the ones that make sense for us to make) from the chassis, suspension, carbon components – we produce over 300 of them, all electronic equipment, batteries, software…
10. And that became your product, that’s what kept you alive
– At a certain point we had to stop our own car development project because we didn’t have enough money to continue and we started offering engineering services for other companies and that enabled us to survive this turbulent period and it also brought us the much-needed know-how because we were able to implement some examples of best practice and project management from other automotive companies It was very useful because it allowed us to think through things and finance the project we intended to do anyway.
11. So what would be the three main products made by Rimac Automobili? Which technologies were generating the most profit in 2015?
-We developed and produced battery systems for some large companies but there is a whole range of projects we cannot talk about. I can say that for the last year (and the project will go on for another two years) we have been working with an Asian company on developing the first 15 prototypes of a complete electric car here in Croatia and then we will help them start mass production in Asia. we will keep supplying them with components – batteries, engines etc and they will assemble the cars in Asia.
12. How many cars were produced in your plant until now?
– In two weeks in Geneva, we will present the production version of our Concept One and the first cars for the end user. That doesn’t mean we were not producing cars until now, we were mostly working on prototypes and some special projects for other manufacturers. We delivered the first car in January 2013, and that’s the first car Croatia ever exported as a country, and so far we had 5 of those projects. This year we are planning on delivering 5 Concept Ones to end users and we are working on a model that will be produced in larger quantities but once again I must note that even though are supercars are very important both to the company and me personally, they only showcase what our technology can achieve and what we can do as a company while our real work lies in all the other things we do, and we do a very wide spectrum of things from infotainment systems for both electric and standard cars, battery and electronic systems and we even develop entire electric car projects for companies from feasibility studies and design to the finished product.
13. You are one of the very few electronics producers that developed an OEM for the Chinese. Usually, it’s the other way around, the Chinese are the ones who develop it and we stamp our brand on it. How did that happen?
– Well, now that I think of it, China is our biggest market, I never thought of it that way until now. Last year over 80% of our export products went to China.
14. So they basically slap their logo on your product?
– That’s how this industry works. In some cases, like with Koenigsegg, they allow us to tell the world what we do for them, but in most cases one must ever divulge who you’ve worked for. Everybody works like that. One curiosity, last year we worked for a legendary Japanese car legend Nobuhiro Tajima, so yes, Croats are producing car parts for the Japanese, Germans and Chinese.
15. Since you mentioned Nobuhiro Tajima, the event in question was the Pike’s Peak Race. If I’m not mistaking, he came second in that race and that is the best result ever achieved by an electric car.
– This race has a 99-year-old tradition; this year’s edition will be the 100th jubilee. The first time Tajira raced in the Pike ’s Peak Race was the year I was born, in 1988. We developed the most powerful e-car ever; Tajima E-runner, 1,3MW power and we managed to construct the car in only 4 months. Out of all factory manufactured cars that participated, and we are talking about Mercedes, Jaguar, Honda and all other esteemed companies, we came overall second, another electric car came in first but we had a problem with the brakes. But it is interesting to note that all petrol fueled cars were behind us, it was the first time in history that 2 electric cars were faster than 100s of petrol-fueled cars.
16. You mentioned that the malfunction appeared in the system that isn’t yours, brake system. What I do know is that your system, torque vectoring which is unique in the world, saved the life of the driver. What is that system and what happened?
– The driver lost his front brakes doing 80 km/h at an elevation of 4000 m above sea level next to a huge abyss. Since the system controls each wheel separately 100 times per second in order to stabilize the car, it can react to these problems a lot faster than the driver and I believe that our engineers that wrote the algorithms for the system saved the driver’s life. The system helped the driver regain control of the car and it is interesting to note that he finished the race without his mechanical brakes.
17. You mentioned Koenigsegg. How does it feel to have someone who was your idol when you were growing up call and ask you to help develop the fastest hybrid car in the world and selects you as a subcontractor?
– That was a huge honour. Christian von Koenigsegg and Horacio Pagani were always my role models, along with Nikola Tesla, I read everything I could find on Christian and I never even imagined that one day I would work with him. And now we talk every week and work very closely, we are developing and producing the most complex part of his car and we moved all the barriers with that one, battery with the highest energy density in the world, with the highest amount of kW per Kg, 500 kW in less than 100 kg which is unbelievable and we are pushing the envelope together. That car will be the most powerful car ever made and we are developing its most complex component. It is a great honour and we are learning a lot from him since he’s been in this industry for 20 years, but he is also learning a lot from us. It is a great cooperation between two open companies with a similar mindset. His company’s been around for 20 years and has 80 employees while we’ve been around for 5 years and employ 150 people. Here you can see the difference in our approach because we don’t just produce cars, but also produce all the components behind it. It allows us to expand at a faster rate.
18. You mentioned expansion and the construction of a new production plant. Your current location is in preparation for mass production if we can call it mass production considering it will be producing a dozen or so cars a year. How long can this location meet your needs and where will you be going next?
– That’s a problem we deal with on a daily basis. Space is our big problem. When we first arrived, everything seemed huge, now we have three production halls with 100 parking spaces and people no longer have a place to park, so it is becoming a problem. We currently do have a mass production, for instance, we are planning on producing 300 – 600 Greyp bikes, 100 batteries for Koenigsegg etc. We are already producing series of products. I am very specific when it comes to details and I am drawing up a plan for the new facility. I am looking into every single detail. I want it to be located somewhere where it is surrounded by nature so that my people can work outside; we can have our own farm, grow our own organic vegetables. It has to be a lot more than just a production facility; it must reflect our mindset and all the values of our team and our company.
19. Will you build it in Croatia? On your Facebook wall, you recently posted a speech given by Barak Obama in which he says “Rather than subsidise the past, we should invest in the future. That’s why the budget I will send to Congress will double funding for clean energy, research and development by 2020. This will include new investments to help the private sector, create more jobs faster, lower the cost of clean energy faster and help clean, renewable power outcompete dirty fuels in every state”: You commented by saying you hope to set up a facility in the US sooner rather than later. What does moving to the US mean to you? Companies most often set up a part of their marketing and sales departments in the States while the development department remains Croatia. What is your plan?
– We’ve been a global company from day one, I don’t think we ever sold anything in Croatia, everything is exported. That’s how we were set up from the beginning but we always did everything from Croatia. Now we are approaching a phase when we will have to expand globally and have our development and sales offices abroad including the Silicon valley and across Europe, some clients demand we open offices in their countries so we are close to them, and we will expand to Asia also. My plan is to keep the headquarters, production, development and 90% of the important departments in Croatia. Whether one of the investors will demand our holding company to be somewhere else, that’s something I cannot answer right now.
20. You are the only company am aware of that attracted serious investments and managed to keep its headquarters in Croatia. All other companies that received investments, and we are talking more or less about tech companies that grew stronger in the last five years, were in some way forced to move their business operations abroad. People are still wondering why you are so stubbornly insisting on staying here considering there are so many problems?
– It’s very difficult for me to say why. It is a question I am asked very often. We had the opportunity or were almost blackmailed into moving to some other countries, Emirates in one case, and I was very close to moving the company to Germany in 2013 because we ran out of money and Germany was offering significant funds for us to move there, but I believe this can be done here, a point we are proving, we are doing well and I am happy with the way the company is progressing. If we were in Germany, maybe things would be 10 times better and maybe we would not exist anymore. I think it’s possible; I want to prove that it is possible to create a technological leader in one of the most competitive industries in just 5 years from your garage. If you can do that, you can do anything.
21. US? In what capacity will you be moving to the States?
– We will have our branch office. In terms of sales of our components we have clients there so both B2B and B2C, industrial buyers and car buyers, and we will have development departments in order to access the talent we cannot find here. And now, back to what you’re referring to Mr. Cvetojević. Five years ago the United States already had an 8 billion dollar fund for investments in the development of advanced technologies, for instance, 500 mil went to Fisker and 500 mil to Tesla with a handsome return on investment. Few weeks ago the UK announced that they are founding a new 80 million dollar fund for development of tech projects. Few days ago I read that Morgen Cars, producers of those old-fashioned cars with wooden chassis intend to produce electric three wheelers and the country gave them 8 million pounds to do it. For us, that is an enormous amount of money and we are competing in the same market with all these companies that are receiving huge incentives from the State. We are not asking for incentives but we find ourselves in an unfair position. We have industrial clients in the UK and when they came to our facility they said if only we were doing this in the UK we would have a much easier time. Those sort of things we will have to do abroad because financing here is impossible and apart from the aspect of our own State, investors don’t want to invest in Croatia.
22. That seems to be the biggest problem. Investors are scared of Croatia as an investment destination, it’s not clear enough, our legal system is unclear…
– I wouldn’t say that. Investors don’t know Croatia, Slovenia or Hungary. They know the US, UK and whether it is Albania or Croatia it is all the same to them. They really don’t know the difference. 95% of all US investors will tell you, right from the start – Croatian company? No, thank you. If you’re not in the States, they won’t even talk to you. If I was ever faced with a challenge from the very beginning it was to ensure financing for this project in Croatia.
23.You also mentioned another challenge which is becoming more and more apparent – talent. There are many talented people in Croatia, we’ve seen many foreigners in your company. Considering your fast expansion and growth, how difficult is it to find employees in Croatia?
– First of all, our philosophy is to employ people instead of experience, in other words, enthusiastic people who are willing to learn, because we are aware we are producing things no one’s ever worked on before no only in Croatia but on a global scale. We have mostly a young team with a great mindset but they never worked on this before and I am really happy with our team because we managed to gather an incredible group of people. But it seems more and more that we have drained the available pool so we already have foreigners from Germany, Spain and Austria working for us and this will become an increasing problem. I am just sorry our education system is what it is. All the people that work in our company, most of them worked on their own projects at home, they did not obtain their knowledge through formal education. Engineering work in our company is not necessarily done by engineers with a diploma but people who really want to do the job and who are self-taught. All the knowledge of the world is now just a few mouse clicks away so there are no excuses if you really want to learn something.
24. So a formal diploma is not crucial to work on the development of electric components or torque vectoring, what is crucial?
– It’s not a determining factor. We really don’t care about diplomas or school grades. I’ve employed 150 people and I never looked at a single diploma and they are all great employees.
25. You have an enormous wall covered with awards and accolades, you even took some of them down. Which one is your favourite?
– My favourite is “Employer of the Year” because it is given as a result of an anonymous survey conducted among employees so this award was given to us by our own employees and their ratings. I also like Guinness Records.
26. What about all the awards you’ve received in various innovation championships and competitions, how much are they worth?
– What’s the worth of a piece of paper? It’s a nice experience but one must concentrate on entrepreneurship. Here people have this illusion that an idea is worth a lot, that it’s a big deal and someone will swoop in with a big bag of money and make it all worthwhile. It’s worthless and these competitions usually push this notion that an investor will come, buy your idea and the innovator will book the first plane to the Bahamas. 99,9% of the entire job is turning this idea into reality. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s important to sit down and develop, from the beginning to the end, your project, business, and the product.
27. When we talk about innovations, you’re not a big fan of patenting, torque vectoring sounds very interesting, the car remains on the road, all four wheels with autonomous drive, it checks each tire 100 times per second, it’s something that, in my opinion, no one else has. Did you patent it?
– I wrote my first patent claim when I was 17, I was the County and State champion in electrical engineering so they kept sending me all over the world to compete, before I started the company. To be perfectly clear, that was a great start and I learned a lot through these competitions and I am grateful to all my professors and mentors but I believe some other path is the right one. As far as patents go, I started the patenting process for some of our solutions when we started the company, batteries for instance, and then I realized we are pushing forward so rapidly that we were on our third generation battery before the first patent decision arrived. You have to pay a fee to get expert opinions, lawyers before you even start the process and you invest so much of your time to write the patent, and in most cases I was the one who had to write it, it’s just a terrible waste of time and resources and I believe they are not necessary.
28. Maybe not now, but in the future?
– One of the first questions investors ask is how many patents do you have., but only because they don’t understand the subject. This is one of those limiting factors that make me think about changing my approach but it if were up to me, I would never patent anything. Electric cars make up for just 1% of the global market. 99% will have to switch to electric. As a company, we are here to help the 99% make the switch and not only in the automotive industry, nautical sector, planes, wheelchairs, electric bicycles etc. Anyone can come and visit our facilities, pay a symbolic entrance fee and see what we are working on, we are very open and we give our technologies to other companies and our competitors.
29. So how do you protect yourself?
– With the rapid speed of our development and know-how.
30.So you think that is much better than patenting which you then have to keep defending? They say Chinese will make something regardless of whether it is patented or not, and not just the Chinese.
– In some way you actually show all your cards when you file for a patent, you basically give them written instructions on how to copy something. When we look at the patent portfolio of some other companies, most of them are quite worthless and serve only to drive up the number of patents. I think that makes no sense and that is why I am not a part of that race.
31. You have one very interesting approach which seems to be present with other very successful high-level entrepreneurs in the world today. You’re vegetarian, you’re concerned about the environment, you want to build a factory surrounded by nature, Is this just a fad or were you always like this?
– I think that comes with curiosity and reading. When you soak in all this information (which is readily available if you’re interested and compassionate), and if you’re not only thinking of yourself, then I believe this is the only correct way to do things. If you know that cattle breeding in the US uses more than 50% of fresh water resources and that their CO2 emissions are 5 times higher than all forms of transport combined, than anyone with some common sense would do the same. For me, giving up hamburgers and steaks was not a problem if it meant I was reducing the destruction of our planet. One of the things I would really like to do and I have been thinking about it for a long time but I have always had other financial priorities, is my own farm and restaurant where I would subsidize vegetarian food for my employees. Of course, the restaurant will offer meat but they will have to pay for it.
32. Care for our planet is not the only thing that sets you apart. Not long ago, the press reported on the fact that you employed the first deaf person in Croatia that finished the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing.
-Yes. Josip started working with us a few weeks ago. The fact that he finished University without being able to hear the lectures, and he told me 90% of information gets lost that way because he can only follow it visually, shows his incredible determination. I don’t think the fact we’ve employed him is worth mentioning, instead, his achievement is worth all the attention. We got a great employee and he has shown what he is capable of.
33. What is he currently working on?
– He’s an embedded engineer, in other words, he is developing the electronic components for the stop light on the next car we will present in Geneva.
34.You will present the sales version of Concept One in Geneva. Am I right?
– We will present two models in Geneva. First one will be the final car that will go into production, exhibited car will be delivered to its buyer after the expo, and the second model is something new, it’s a surprise. It’s not a completely new concept from scratch, but we will present two novelties in Geneva.
35. So, enough about you, let’s talk about your car. The current situation with Concept One, you already have orders, few versions are completed. What is your plan this year when it comes to this car and the bikes?
– When it comes to the bicycles, our plan is to produce 300 to 600 pieces, depending on orders. It is currently being tested by the police departments and armies all over the world from Abu Dhabi, Columbia, Geneva, Monaco, and Germany. Those orders are large and our current capacity is 300 – 400 pieces per year. The guys will have to work hard to get the 600 but we’re expanding the plant so fingers crossed for the Greyp team to achieve this. As far as the cars go, we want to make 5 Concept Ones but we believe most of our income will be generated by the Business to Business part of our operations.
36. What is the price of Concept One?
-Starting price is 850 000 Eur.
37. What does starting price mean?
– Basically, it includes everything but we include some other special packages such as safe driving training and some additional experiences but in terms of equipment we do not charge extra for it, it is all included.
38. So you will start with 5 pieces, starting price 850 000 euros, and up to 1 million with some extra perks.
– Yes, but I have to say we are planning on going into a larger production but we will never mass produce our cars.
39. People are often asking why you are manufacturing these expensive cars, why doesn’t Rimac make something for us ordinary Croatians?
–I don’t even know how to answer that. First of all, Croatia is such a small market, even if you were producing a simple product like glasses, there’s no point in making them just for a specific market. What is more important is the value we are creating in Croatia. People here can’t afford power transformers produced by Končar and yet this facility feeds hundreds of people in Croatia and they make a very nice living.
But why don’t you enter this segment, cheaper cars I mean. Would that be the death of a company of your size?
–That’s just impossible. For instance, Tesla swallowed 5-10 billion dollars in cash for less than 100 000 cars that are on the road which is still very expensive and considered a luxury item. They are now working on a cheaper car which will be available this year, but that car will still cost like a BMW 3. So that particular company, which was at the right place at the right time, with billions in Government subventions and private investments and thousands of the very best engineers from around the globe still hasn’t reached that point and it a question whether they will be profitable. This company still hasn’t achieved any profit, not even for a single quarter. As far as I know, we are the only profitable company producing electric cars, but only because we could not have survived any other way; we didn’t have money to burn. We make the best electric car, that’s our forte. There are better companies out there with ambitions to mass produce electric cars. When it comes to Croatia, what’s important for the country is that we are creating great jobs; we are exporting our know-how and high-value products and that’s what matters. Whether Croatians will buy a Hyundai or a Croatian car, that’s not as important as what we are exporting. We have created our niche
40. When we talk about Greyp, there really isn’t a term that completely defines it. Some say it’s an e-bike, and when they imagine an electric bike they picture a Chinese person with a bike that has a battery fitted on it, but Greyp is something else, it’s a complete niche. Is it selling well?
– Greyp is a very interesting story. Our very first employee, Zvonimir, was working on it as a hobby so I tried it and thought it was cool but it was very rudimentary. So I suggested we use the technology we are developing for the car to try and develop a better bike. So we produced it and when we did our market research we figured that the market is very old-fashioned, using old technology which was not at all sexy. Then we decided to develop it as a product and created a special team, separate company and launched a product that we would want to buy, that we liked and as it turned out, many other people liked it too. Now we have a team that only deals with this product and since it is more commercial, we are developing new models that are more mainstream while the GS 12 is a wild product (costs €8 5000 ). New mainstream models will fall into two categories, one that goes up to 25 km/h which sets it under electric bicycles and the other which can go up to 45 km/h and falls into a different category. We are working on a different technology where connectivity will provide a completely different user experience. That will be the value of Greyp, and we are planning on creating a completely new category in which an electric bike will not just be a vessel that enables easier use because of the presence of an electric engine, but a product that will, through deep integration of technology and user experience, allow many things that are currently not possible.
41. So there’s a good chance that one day Greyp will become a synonym for an electric bike like Hoover is for vacuum cleaners or Head and Shoulders for shampoos?
– Our goal is to become the leader in the industry, some, like Gizmodo or Wired already believe we leaders in high-performance electric bikes. It is a market without a real leader right now. When we talk about sports cars everyone will think of Ferrari, when it comes to electric bikes, no one really comes to mind. Our aim is not to produce the highest number of electric bikes in the world; we want to be the best.
42. You mentioned army and police force usage, you started tapping into that domain recently. What’s the response you’re getting? What are the characteristics of your bike that make it suitable for army use? It’s an interesting and lucrative market.
– It happened perchance. We never planned to enter that market but once members of the police try it they cannot believe its performance. It’s perfect for city use, light, speedy, it’s faster than a scooter. There are clips on YouTube where it accelerates with Ferraris and Lamborghinis and up to 50 km/h it’s actually faster which is unbelievable. It’s impossible to achieve that with a scooter and there are no harmful emissions. It’s unique. It’s not your standard electric bicycle and that’s why we say we have taken the best of both worlds a bicycle and a motorbike, that’s why the army finds it attractive, along with the fact that it is very modular. For instance, the army in Abu Dhabi tested it and one day they said it’s great and very stable but we don’t think 70 km an hour is enough, we think this bike can handle a lot more. We went back, developed a new software, upgraded it and the very next day that same bike was going 100 km/h in the middle of the desert. The fact that it can be upgraded remotely from Croatia is what impressed them.
43. There were days when you would wake up in the morning thinking it’s all over. What kept you going? For instance, Elon Musk said that if Space X did not take off when it did he would have probably gone bankrupt.
– Yes, there were moments when I thought I can’t keep going anymore, but how do you go about telling everyone that they no longer have a job? Somehow, I always managed to wiggle my way out, but that’s the hardest part of any business, to force yourself to keep going. It’s like a gambler who’s all in and there’s no way back.
44. How much are you obstructed by Croatian bureaucracy? On one hand, you’re lucky because you export all your products but you manufacture them in Croatia. I remember during one of our first encounters you showed me the documentation which was required to register your very first street race e-car. That was later followed by problems with export licenses because it took a while to convince the authorities that Croatia does have a car company. What are the main problems you are currently encountering?
– As far as the State is concerned, we really don’t have many common points, we fulfill all our obligations on time and no one really bothers us, but the whole environment should be more business oriented. We don’t have to invent hot water; we just have to implement one of the successful models used in other countries like Slovakia for instance. 20 years ago it had almost no car industry and now this industry makes up for 22% of their GDP and they have the highest car production rate per capita in the world. We are the only country in the EU without a car industry, which is unbelievable. Even Slovenia, Bosnia, and Serbia, have it.
45. Well, we have some, AD Plastik is producing parts for some companies but that’s not enough.
Ok, let’s rephrase the question. If you were our Minister of Economy, and you had to do something to improve our business environment, what would it be?
– I really don’t like to meddle with politics, that’s not my area, but I think we have to start focusing on economy, when people have a job and they are creating high-quality products then all other subjects like the constant partisans and ustashe debates or Cyrillic signs are no longer the main topics of conversation. We have to simply focus on economic growth and on creating values. There’s no need to invent new approaches, there are plenty of great examples out there. We have to simplify our bureaucracy and do everything to bring in those investors.
Since our company cooperates with car manufacturers, we now have the opportunity to compete with other countries to bring a serious car manufacturing plant to Croatia. I sent a memo to our Government a few weeks back, I think this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss but I am yet to receive an answer to my memo and I honestly don’t stand to make anything from this possible deal. (note: Prime minister Orešković and Minister of economy Panenić both contacted Mate Rimac after this interview was aired) . I believe that, when opportunities like this one appear, we should do everything and anything to make them happen instead of saying that’s someone else’s job. We have to remove the barriers; make investments like this one happen and create a business environment for entrepreneurs.
You can watch the entire 1-hour interview here.