KEY DATES

The Story of Success Through Innovation, Against All Odds


When we hear the word innovation, most of us think of Elon Musk. There are, however, many other examples of innovative business people coming from all over the world. One of those people is Mate Rimac.

Who is Mate Rimac?

Mate Rimac, the 33-year-old Croatian innovator and entrepreneur, now owns 55% of Bugatti. He elaborated that he had always had a flaming passion for automobiles and electricity. In his high-school days, he would often read about Nikola Tesla, leading him to a "Eureka" moment - back then, there was no combination of cars and electrical energy, and he believed that needed to be changed.

When he was 19, with the help of his parents, he purchased an old 1984 BMW 3 series. He converted the 26-year-old car to an electric vehicle in his garage. The car gained five FIA approvals and was pronounced the fastest accelerating electric vehicle in the world in 2011. This record is still unscathed.

He had made a decision - he was going to make his car in Croatia. But it was not an easy task. He asked academics for help with his idea.

"I couldn't hire anyone who did anything with cars," he remembers. "I went to the University of Zagreb and told them I wanted to build a car. "They told me it wasn't possible to build a car in Croatia and said 'the sooner you give up, the fewer people will go under with you'."

His innovative mind

Tesla was blooming in the meantime. Still, despite electric cars now being out there, Rimac believed people perceive them as safe and boring. He wanted to prove they could be fun and fast. That's why he decided to make his own electric car from scratch. And he wanted to do it all in his home country, Croatia.

He was the only employee in his company Rimac Automobili for the first two years of its existence. He then teamed up with Adriano Mudri, a designer who he had met earlier. They started working on their first electric vehicle in the evenings and on weekends as Mudri had a full-time job at General Motors and Rimac was a university student at the time. Rimac was in charge of the technology, while Mudri worked on the design of the car.

They got to their first investor by chance, a fellow Croatian working for a middle-eastern royal family who wanted them to make an automobile for the family. Without any previous practical experience, Mate, in all honesty, said they didn't have sufficient funds for this task. However, the customers offered to invest in their efforts to enable him to build the car.

After receiving the first instalment of the investment, Rimac convinced a handful of people to join his company as the first employees. However, after some time, the investors made an ultimatum: to move the company to the Middle-East or they would stop the funding.

It was already tough for Rimac to pay salaries, rent and suppliers while trying to build the first prototype of the Concept One with an inexperienced team. With his back against the wall, desperately needing the investor’s money, Rimac still decided to refuse to move the company to the Middle East and as a result, lost his only investors.

He claims that this call was the best decision he had ever made, as this move allowed him to keep the company in Croatia. Left with no other choice, Rimac decided to find engineering work for the struggling young company as a revenue stream, while trying to keep the development of the car going.

So he shifted his organisation's main goals to developing batteries, electric systems for calls and other needed parts for other automobile companies in order to keep his company afloat. He used his earnings to build his supercars slowly.

Rimac began working for other automotive companies to develop batteries, electric powertrain systems or full vehicles as a means of survival, while, at the same time, building their own supercars and trying to find investors to fund bringing their own cars to the market.

His persistence and quick reaction to the crisis they were in lead to a full switch from a car manufacturer to a tech company.

Rimac Automobili managed to start producing Concept One, their first own-built vehicle in 2016, five years after they made the first one. They then moved on to produce new ultra fast car models, with Rimac Nevera being the latest one. With twice the power of a Formula 1 car, and a $2.4 million sticker price, the new Rimac Nevera should intimidate even an experienced hypercar owner. It's top speed is recorded to be 412 km/h!

What is Mate Rimac's latest move? He joined forces with Porsche and purchased Bugatti. As of July 5 2021, he owns 55% of Bugatti, with Porsche owning 45% of the shares.

When asked about his success, he calmly dismantled the claim that his company has gotten near its end goal. He does not deny that Rimac Automobili went a long way from just a self-employed garage company, but remains certain that there's a lot more that needs to be done in the future.

What got him in this position?

What separates this entrepreneur from many others is his persistence and firm belief in what he's doing. His vision might not have been understood by many, but his will kept him going. He developed great friendships in the meantime and realised that a compromise was needed to support his employees and maintain his original idea.

Having worked on his supercars in his "free" time and investing the money they had earned through production of parts for other car manufacturers allowed them to make exceptional cars through sheer passion.

From a child with plain curiosity regarding electricity and cars, he is now at a privileged position of a majority ownership of Bugatti. He managed to break through the hardships that could have broken his dream.

Did you know that our UKBIA awards have categories such as Best Product Development Innovation, Business Model Innovation, and Innovation Team of the Year. Rimac Automobili would most likely delight our independent judges.

But what about you? Would you like to get recognition for your efforts to innovate and introduce new successful business models? Applying for the UKBIA awards will help you get that recognition, so make a plan, form an initiative and win the awards to get that recognition!

Back