• Brandminds 2019

Meet Vladimir Vulic | Behind the Suit

Vladimir Vulic is a strategist from Montenegro who is in constant pursuit of challenging the status quo. He’s a management, innovation, and social media consultant who has done work for clients such as The Coca-Cola Company (Serbian Operations), Trebjesa Brewery Nikšić (a Molson Coors Company), Crnogorski Telekom (a part of Deutsche Telekom group), Government of Montenegro, UNDP Montenegro, British Embassy Belgrade (Serbia), British Council Montenegro and more others.

Vladimir is the co-founder of NGO Digitalizuj.me, a digital community helping citizens and organisations in Montenegro to understand and realize exciting new opportunities for social change and business in the digital environment.

For 12 years, Vladimir has been teaching Strategic Management at the University of Montenegro, the leading economics and management education institution in Montenegro with 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. He was a keynote speaker in 15 countries across 3 continents.

He is a TEDx speaker, including a talk at TEDxZagreb in front of 1,000+ attendees. His talks explore the intersection of technology, strategy, leadership, innovation, and change.

 

MEET THE CO-FOUNDER OF DIGITALIZUJ.ME

1. How you came up with the business idea for me?

It was a meeting of people with similar interests and a strong internal drive. I met my first co-founder, Predrag Lesic, in 1997, in the early days of my first online entrepreneurial venture – he was the first person ever to support my business idea. I met my second co-founder, Natasa Djukanovic, in 2010 at LeWeb conference in Paris.

The three of us strongly believe the Internet is a magic technology which allows people to reach their full potential. We started meeting regularly, and we felt we could make a positive change in the digital community in Montenegro. So, in the autumn of 2011, Digitalizuj.me was born!

 

2. Tell us the first three things you’ve done to turn the idea into reality.

1) Registered a domain name, and set up a website at www.digitalizuj.me;

2) Published the first blog post;

3) Organised the first digital community meetup.

Your Brand Minds 2018 speaker, Seth Godin, likes to say that “real artists ship”. What he means is that entrepreneurs don’t wait – they get it out the door and they make things happen. It was important for us to ship Digitalizuj.me as fast as possible.

 

3. Name one situation that made you want to quit.

I never really thought of quitting. My team likes to say that my superpowers are boundless energy and enthusiasm. They have an internal joke that my life motto is “Never give up!”, even though I never actually said that.

However, every business has its ups and downs and every person, myself included, has its bad days.

Failing at a project, not getting the results I expect, or failing to get support from key stakeholders can sometimes make me feel under the weather. But seeing my team’s passion and hustle and the growth of Montenegro digital community, always reminds me why we started doing this in the first place.

 

4. Tell us the best experience you had while working to build NGO Digitalizuj.me.

Digitalizuj.me started small but in time we successfully implemented many exciting and innovative projects in collaboration with some big partners, including UNDP Montenegro, Crnogorski Telekom (a part of Deutsche Telekom group), Coca-Cola Hellenic, Telenor Montenegro, Trebjesa Brewery Nikšić (a Molson Coors Company), and Eleven Ventures.

The defining moment for Digitalizuj.me as an organisation was in December 2015 when we became the implementing partner of Youth Innovation Lab in Montenegro, called „Kreaktivator“, a UNICEF initiative funded by ING, and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Sports. The Lab was the sixth of its kind in the world at the time of its founding.

The Lab represents a collaborative incubation accelerator that connects young people with government institutions, universities, private sector, NGOs and civil society to create sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges facing youth.

It offers space, tools, opportunities and programmes which will enable young people to develop and implement solutions to the challenges they face, gain support for realisation of their aspirations, gain social and emotional skills, as well as use participation tools to influence decision-making processes.

It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to know we were a part of that.

 

5. What do you think are the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs have to face on Montenegro market nowadays?

When you’re living in a very small country like Montenegro, the world can start to look a bit one-sided after a while. You get cocooned and accustomed to one way of living and thinking.

 

That is why it is important to “move” often, both physically and mentally – and you can do that either by travelling and/or by reading. I think our entrepreneurs could do a better job on both fronts.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, and a former trader and risk analyst said that “the three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary”.

I believe that our addiction to a monthly salary is a significant challenge to a more dynamic and growth-oriented entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s not easy getting people to believe in your vision, but that is even more challenging when you are part of a system that appreciates job security and stability first, even if they are only illusory.

We need more people that are willing to take risks and bet on themselves.

 

7. Investment matters. If you would invest in something else but your actual business, what would that be?

I don’t consider myself to be an investor. Apart from investing in stock markets, I haven’t done any investing in ventures I was not personally involved in. If I was to invest in a business, it would have to be something that has a positive impact on the community.

 

8. If you could change something about Montenegros entrepreneurs community to improve it in any way what would that be?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic wand I could use to improve the situation in an instant. It’s a process, but one that can give great results if we start now. I’ve spent 12 years teaching at the University of Montenegro, and Digitalizuj.me has an extensive experience in planning, organising, and delivering educational programs.

I really believe in the transformative power of education. My idea would entail a change in the education system – teaching curiosity and restlessness, accompanied with grit and resilience, to the new generation of entrepreneurs.

We should be teaching “less economizing and Excel, and more exploration and experimentation”, as Alf Rehn, business thinker and my dear friend, likes to say. We need to encourage entrepreneurship, and help people make things change for the better. What’s the scarce resource today? “The ability to ship”, as your Brand Minds 2018 speaker Seth Godin points out.

 

MEET THE MAN #BEHINDTHESUIT

1. Name one good habit that helps you deal with your active life.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a superhuman healing factor like Wolverine, so, I try to get enough sleep, which helps me deal with everyday stress. And it certainly helps that I instantly pass out in a car, plane or train.

 

2. Name one bad habit you can’t quit.

I eat too much sweets (cakes, crêpes, chocolate, candy and so on), and I drink too much soft drinks.

 

3. If you could be anything else but an entrepreneur what would you be?

This is an easy one. As a lifelong Partizan Belgrade supporter, I would be an executive at my Club. The hard part would be deciding between the football and the basketball club.

 

4. What is your favourite movie?

I’m an avid movie watcher and I have a lot of favourite movies. But, there’s only one that has a special place in my heart – Star Wars, an epic space opera about the eternal struggle of Good versus Evil. As a kid, it helped me learn the difference between Light and Dark, right and wrong.

 

5. Tell us your favourite book. What’s the best thing you learned from it?

When I was a kid, my favourite book was “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Reading a story about pirates and buried gold helped fuel my entrepreneurial spirit. It was much later on that I found out what Steve Jobs said at a retreat with his original Macintosh team: “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.” The Mac team proudly waved their pirate flag over Bandley 3 building.

I was a first year Economics student when I read “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” by Mark H. McCormack, the founder of International Management Group (now IMG) and the man who is widely credited as the founder of the modern-day sports marketing industry.

McCormack provides a mix of “street smart” pearls of wisdom and business anecdotes. This was the first book that really got me interested in business. Even though it was written in 1984, it remains an absolute gem that every entrepreneur and manager needs to read.

 

6. Name the most important value that you believe in.

Curiosity leads us down new paths. Even if you don’t have the skills needed, you can learn anything if you’re curious enough.

In the ever-changing business environment it is important to be curious, and never to stop questioning things. You need to challenge the status quo.

 

7. If you could compare your journey as an entrepreneur with a song what song would you choose?

My favourite is “Remember the Name”, by Fort Minor, because of these lyrics:

“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill;
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will;
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain;
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name.”

 

8. If you would give our readers one piece of advice from your entrepreneurial experience, what would that advice be?

In my first entrepreneurial venture, as a first year student, I made a rookie mistake of not documenting anything. I have just one photo with my team from the early days, and just two screenshots of the fourth and fifth version of our product.

So, I’ll skip any words of wisdom, and go with a simple advice – take photos, and take them often.

On your entrepreneurial journey don’t forget to take photos of you, your co-founders, your team, your early days in the office, your lunch breaks, your parties, your sketches and prototypes, screenshots of beta versions of your products… Later on, you will appreciate having these memories – no matter what happens to your venture.

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