Mladen Simic, raised in post-war Croatia where everyone who got rich – got rich in a dirty way. Studied social sciences but always knew I’ll become an entrepreneur – but I’ll try to get rich an honest way. Built his first startup, used the money and experience to build the second one – Cinnamon – with two of his best colleague buddies. Now this startup is an agency of 120 people with a 100% YoY growth – 5 years in a row!
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I spent my childhood in war-torn Croatia. I remember we were collecting shells as a hobby and enjoyed a weird combination of slumber parties in bomb shelters during air raids. Now this sounds crazy, but at the time that was normal and as a kid who has a support of his loving and caring family, you’ll always find ways to have fun and enjoy your childhood. As soon as the war ended my mom died, but my father did all in his powers to make sure me and my sisters were taken care of every way possible. Despite all these things, I have great memories of my childhood and it truly helped me to always try to do good things, because shitty things happen by themselves.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I was riding my bike back from work one day and I was trying to put my earphones on to listen to some music. The new album from Black Keys was just released. Of course, my earphones were tangled. And as I was riding bike, handsfree, trying to untangle the earphones I got the idea for an invention that keeps earphones untangled at all times. I successfully patented it and sold over 200 000 pieces. I used that money and experience to co-found Cinnamon with two of my colleague friend – Ivan and Mateja. We truly started from scratch – we all had zero social capital and almost no business experience. But, we got along well, we knew what our goal is and we steadily pushed toward that goal. Year over year we were growing until we reached our current position as a leading European design and development agency.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Do not overestimate what you can do in 1 year and do not underestimate what you can do in 10. It takes some time to get the ball rolling, but it’s worth it.