How the PISMO gaming incubator put the obscure town of Novska on Croatia’s tech map

(Editor’s note: This post on the PISMO Incubator is part of our Tech Tuesdays series. Dispatches covers tech because so many of our highly skilled internationals are developers and entrepreneurs.)

While thoughts of Croatia likely conjure up gorgeous islands, imposing mountains and one of the world’s most beautiful seas – you’d still only be thinking of the coast. Outside of the likes of Istria and Dalmatia, many people fall short when attempting to name anywhere except Zagreb.

Novska? Never heard of it.

Overlooked by the world

Continental Croatia, where the town of Novska is situated, has been overlooked by not only foreign investors but by the government for a long time. With many parts unceremoniously left grappling with the leftovers of political fallout and recovering from the long-term consequences of the Croatian War of Independence, tech startups and incubators don’t typically come to the forefront of most peoples’ minds when thinking of the endless fields and gradually emptying towns of this region.

It’s precisely because of Novska’s reputation (or should I say lack of), that the PISMO Incubator comes as such a surprise to people when first learning about it. This incubator isn’t just any startup or entrepreneurial incubator – it is the very first Croatian gaming incubator, located in the western part of Croatia’s most dismissed region, and it’s almost 60 miles from the capital city.

Why bother pouring money into creating a gaming incubator in Novska of all places? Well, while unrelated, the metal industry has always been important to this particular area of the country, and this incubator deals in that too – successfully combining the ultra modern and the traditional.

The primary goal of establishing this incubator in Novska was the same as it is anywhere else – to make it easier for would-be entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into something tangible while creating new jobs.

And let’s just say it … Novska wants to become the Silicon Valley of Europe’s gaming industry. And to some extent it has with serious funding – 3.36 million euros – for PISMO, mostly from the European Union.

By providing fertile ground for startups, the PISMO Incubator is providing an economically and demographically damaged area of Croatia with a desperately needed boost. Novska is located in the western part of Slavonia, but is administratively situated within the borders of Sisak-Moslavina County.

Metallurgy has an extremely long tradition here. It is considered to be the county’s priority economic sector, with insurmountable untapped potential still to be exploited. That said, we can’t ignore the fact that we live in the 21st century, and the modern gaming and tech industries are where the attention of even the most ambiguous places in Europe must be focused.

Joining the 21st century

With unemployment plaguing this region for reasons which stem from both politics and economics, it has been haemorrhaging talent for decades now. Establishing the proper infrastructure to boost the economy and boast all of the necessary equipment has enabled an increase in entrepreneurial activity in a region that would otherwise be in danger of being left behind by the rapidly evolving world of tech.

Novska’s PISMO Incubator has stated publicly that it wants to become the leading seat of the gaming industry, not only in Croatia, but in the wider region. It makes a strong case, with 67 startups working in 2,000 square meters (20,000 square feet) of facilities.

The incubator is primarily aimed at existing SMEs and the local population, who would otherwise be left for dust in the modern world. Those companies and people can enjoy access to an incredibly well equipped business incubator offering a wide array of services for the establishment and development of startups. The incubator offers help with an array of things, from design and technical documentation processes to concept creation, project management, promotion and marketing.

PISMO provides full access to equipment (music studio equipment, video recording equipment, a CNC
machine, a 3D printer and so on), software and VR equipment. It enables all users to come and business at a reduced cost, creating a business environment where entrepreneurs can cooperate, engage in networking, exchange experiences and develop their respective ideas.

On top of that, training sessions are provided with the use of state of the art development tools from the world of graphics and video game creation and programming.

Moving on from its tumultuous past of political tensions and the horrors of war, Novska is a leader in the transformation of an entire region. A region which would have otherwise been left to the mercy of the cruel hands of time is slowly evolving into a blossoming tech and entrepreneurial centre of a country working its way out of its “tourism only” shackles.

You can apply here.


You can see more about Croatia here in Dispatches’ archives.

Lauren Simmonds
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Lauren Simmonds is the editor of Total Croatia News, the largest English language portal in Croatia. She lives in Zagreb, Croatia, and is a translator, content writer, interpreter and the co-author of "Croatia - A Survival Kit for Foreigners," which was published in 2022.

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