From “One Man Band” to the Slovenian Start: Up of the Year

Day 25. March 2021

Anyone embarking on an entrepreneurial journey quickly realizes that overnight success isn't really a thing. It requires years of hard work, full of sacrifice, and sharp focus. Every start is modest in terms of the goals (and often also the finances), but the perseverance, stubbornness and strong vision of the founders in the end usually tip the scales of success in favor of the company. All this also applies to startup companies, recipients of the Slovenian Start: Up of the Year award, which is awarded every year in cooperation with the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. Get to know the stories of the last three winners.


In 6 years from a duo to a team of 120 people


In 2015, long-time acquaintances David Mohar and Jan Dobrilovič decided to join forces and move cleaning services from the black market to a fully regulated market, once and for all. They have developed the Beeping platform, which is serves as a bridge between households and cleaners. With its help, you can quickly, safely and efficiently hire approved cleaners for your home.



Beeping, which initially provided cleaning only for natural persons, and last autumn expanded its services to the business premises segment, has become a recognizable brand in Slovenia and Croatia after three years of existence. In the same year, they received the flattering title of Slovenian Start: Up of the Year in 2018.


David and Jan are entrepreneurs who always rely on numbers rather than emotions in their work. Their systematic and structured work is inspiring and can be role models in the startup ecosystem. Jan's following statement is proof of this: "Among our colleagues, there are mostly women between the ages of 30 and 45 who already have experience and really enjoy their work. There is a lot of interest in working for us, but of all the applicants we only accept around 7% of candidates into our network, as we have fairly high and very clear criteria. "


It was the data-driven business that convinced the jury the most, describing it as exemplary, textbook-like and as a model for the generations to come. Such operations help them maintain a sustainable business model and around 20% business growth. "I'm glad that the jury recognized the importance of orderliness, which is extremely important for business and is usually overlooked in startups," said Jan, whose business and football represent his greatest passions in life.


He recently said at one of our events that his team currently has 120+ members, and after laying solid foundations in the Slovenian and Croatian markets, they have been preparing to enter the Western European market. Due to the pandemic in 2020, they had to postpone it, but they are not staying still, which is evidenced by their constant growth. After last year’s first wave of the pandemic, they have grown 2.5 times.


From packaging books in the parking lot to Khloé Kardashian's excitement


"We never imagined that a million books would be sold. In September 2013, we bet on how many books we would sell in the first year. He said 500 and I said 700. Luckily I won, but somehow modestly the projections rose. We really had no idea how big a story could come out of this. We only recently got a reality check of what all this means now, " said the co-founder of Hooray Heroes (Mali junaki), Slovenian Start: Up of the Year in 2019, at one of the events.


The duo, Rado Daradan and Mic Melanšek, are the main "culprits" for one of the most resounding business stories not only in Slovenia, but also globally. Little Heroes, who create personalized books for children and families, have grown 82 times in two years. In October 2019, they published a million books and ended the year with more than 27 million euros in revenue. In 2020, they reached a new milestone - 2 million books.


At the time, when they stuck their heads together, enjoying some beer and got a remarkable entrepreneurial idea, they were co-workers in a corporation. This kind of work was was unfamiliar to them. They wanted to do something to spread positive energy. There were some ideas in the running, but in the end, personalized children’s books were the clear winner. They thought a lot about the idea and designed their concept more and more concretely.



"We started on our own and at that time we didn't even have an office. We lived in different parts of the world, me abroad, Rado in Slovenia. We didn't go for all or nothing at first, because we were doing other things at the time. After the company was founded, we didn't have salaries. At first we didn't see this as a job, but as a good idea, " said Mic.


They started on their own, without much capital and also without knowledge of how children’s books are made. They connected with well-known authors and illustrators, first with Feri Lainšek, and after 6 years, fifteen new books and six markets, they learned how to develop the product in their own way. Their work became more conceptual, they thought more and more about the feelings that leafing through and reading a book would trigger. They started to focus on themes and special occasions: birthday, Christmas, mother's and father's day etc.


The team with big dreams consists over 100 members, selling the most books in the U.S. market today. They also work with more than 50 outworkers, such as writers, illustrators, translators and printers. While Mic is considered a visionary who, as a marketing and creative director, takes care of the marketing and the image of all their products, along with the development of new ones, Rado is considered a realist, who as director of the company takes care of all background processes - from production, printing and customer support to finance management.


Their advertising deviates from the classic one, which, according to Mic, was triggered by the following event: "The turning point happened when a lady sent us a photo that should be considered ugly by all aesthetic rules. One that you don't post on Facebook or Instagram. But the lady attached a nice text next to it and we said, let's try it. The post garnered an amazing response like never before. And we found that our social networks are not a platform for us to brag and praise our products there, but a platform where we can allow users to tell us how they feel about our books. "


One of their new marketing approaches, in particular, was a huge success. The personalized book was also sent to True Thompson, the daughter of Khloé Kardashian and American basketball player Tristan Thompson. Khloé was so excited about the book that she shared it with her followers on Instagram. Along with the photo, she stated she found the gift cute, which was a big confirmation for Hooray Heroes.


The development of the right idea and team also took its time for InstaText, the current Start: Up of the Year


Do you know who the current Slovenian Start: Up of the Year is? It's InstaText, which launched its product at Product Hunt, a community of the most ardent "hunters" for the freshest and best technological products. Matej Guid, co-founder of the company, said the following after being announced as the winner: "I was already surprised by the nomination, because during those times we didn't have time to focus on anything other than project development."



InstaText, an online tool based on artificial intelligence generates recommendations and ideas on how to improve the content immediately, making it more readable and understandable. The product is the result of the work of three experts, researchers in the field of artificial intelligence, who were forced to write scientific articles and other demanding texts in English. Proofreaders and translators were out of the question, as they needed improvements immediately. “Even in the business world, a well-written email can mean either success and failure,” says Matej.


The idea has evolved over the years, but key breakthroughs enabling the development of text enhancement technology occured between 2015 and 2018. At first, there was the realization that their technology has matured and truly offers users added value in writing and improving English texts. What followed was a moment of truth when they allowed the initial version of the web application to be tested by a bigger number of test users.


InstaText is Matej's second successful entrepreneurial venture, the first being Avior. A confirmation of his work was a nomination for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of artificial intelligence 2010 in Europe. "Fifteen years of acquiring additional knowledge is the reason we found the right idea, developed it and put together an effective team that successfully made it a reality and markets it today," said Matej.


The team is ambitious. In the first year, it achieved over 140 thousand euros in revenue, now their goal is to double that.





Content support for recipients of P2, SK75 or SI-SK financial products under the "de minimis" scheme is co-financed from the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund. This is implemented on the basis of the Content Support for Funds Recipients (SMEs) Programme in the 2018-2023 period, under the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the European Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.





Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.