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Evala – a perfect startup to greet every visitor of Split!

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč



A greeting you might have heard walking through the weathered streets of the Diocletian’s Palace. A Dalmatian exclamation used as a greeting, but also as an expression of approval and praise.

Also – a startup in Split’s budding startup ecosystem!

After they caught our eye at this year’s STup! university startup competition, we finally managed to sit down for a chat with Nikolina Barada, Evala’s founder. Together with Nikolina in the role of the founder, the Evala team is currently composed of developers Dario and Ivan.

Aside from sharing that the team started to work more intensely on Evala’s development in 2021, let’s see what else Nikolina revealed to us about Evala and its startup journey.

What is Evala about?

“Evala is an innovative digital travel guide in the form of a mobile application for creating unique tourist tours based on the storytelling concept.

The application will offer different personalized routes to each user and interestingly and engagingly introduce them to the local community, history, and ways of life, while at the same time allowing the user to participate in the community and create content that will become a unique memory.”

How did the idea for Evala come about?

“The initial idea began to form as a result of many years of working in tourism and listening to the same questions from the visitors. And then, just like a well-trained parrot, you repeat everything people should see and do here and how to see and do it.

A panel discussion about students in entrepreneurship at this year’s Festival of Technology and Entrepreneurship

Inevitably, in the end, regardless of all the instructions and the effort you put in, the visitors still wouldn’t be able to do even half of the things on that expansive list.

And, while sometimes wondering where our tourism would be if “Game of Thrones” was filmed somewhere else, I must admit I was tired of answering questions about “Game of Thrones” filming locations. And I’m probably not the only one!

However, it was only in 2020, during the lockdown, when we all missed traveling and we lived to hear tales about them, that I started to think more intensively about this idea and put it together bit by bit.

And then when we were finally allowed to start traveling again, but only within our own borders, I found myself in the shoes of a tourist in Croatia. Which made me realize that, if you’re a tourist, it is actually quite difficult to quickly find interesting information or sometimes any information at all, especially during an off-season period.

So, a year later, I was ready to share the idea about Evala with the rest of the world and it all got much more serious when I filled out the Student Business Incubator application form and started gathering people to develop this idea together with me.”

Is there an obstacle the Evala team already had to deal with and how did you manage it?

“Well, because every team member also works, it took us a long time to find the right rhythm with our standard schedules and this project. We needed to learn how to balance our free time and various obligations on several sides. That was a bit interesting.

Nikolina presenting during the STup! competition (Photo credit: Student Business Incubator)

So, motivation was definitely a big problem in the beginning. Mostly because, as easily as we would fly high after some success, it was so easy to sink even faster when we hit an obstacle.

Therefore, even though it might sound overused, we were our own biggest obstacle.

As for the operational issues and obstacles, somehow we expect that there won’t be any real ones until the Evala application reaches the market. However, we’re staying positive because we believe that everything will be fine in the end due to our determination to overcome every obstacle.

Also, many mention bureaucracy as a big challenge, but that still awaits us, and, from this point of view, it almost seems like a sweet concern to have.”

And what about mistakes and lessons learned – any of those yet?

“The biggest mistake was to start this whole thing in the first place hahahahaha… 😀

Startup jokes aside, the biggest mistake was setting unrealistic expectations.

We are all new to this, and it took time to understand that this is not the same as a job where someone else tells you what to do and when.

Sometimes, with the best of intentions, we would set goals for which we had neither the knowledge nor the resources, and then of course we would not fulfill them, leading to great disappointment and the loss of even more time.

Therefore, we have learned the hard way that sometimes less is more!

Another mistake that comes to mind is definitely stubbornness and ignoring useful advice. Which led to the loss of time because, inevitably, after trying to find our way and walking in circles for months, we would realize we should have just listened right away to the advice given.

On the other hand, we also harbor some insecurities because we are beginners, so we would listen to others regarding the direction we should take our product. And instead of decisively choosing one, we would balance and go into three possible ones “just in case“.

That would, of course, lead to stagnation and not moving forward at all.

Nowadays, we listen a lot more to who and when we should, but we also know a lot more and can recognize a little better when not to listen to others and go our own way.

There were other mistakes, of course, but we have yet to see if they will turn out to be major ones.”

Nikolina competing at this year’s STup! competition (Photo credit: Student Business Incubator)
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about working in a startup?

“The fact that what you do is what you really love. I think it’s hard to put something on its feet if you don’t literally live, breathe, and believe in that idea 100% and give 100% of yourself.

In that case, all the problems that might cause you to lose motivation in another job give you additional motivation and determination to succeed.

Aside from that, another great thing is that you work in a friendly atmosphere and go at your own pace, rather than breaking through corporate structures or stagnating.”

Evala’s story initiated here in Split – what’s the startup experience like here?

“Although in bureaucratic terms, we haven’t officially started anything yet, the experience of a startup journey here in Split has, so far, actually been very positive.

Maybe we are still a relatively small startup ecosystem, but, what we might lack in size, we make up for with encouragement and enthusiasm.

At least, that’s how it turned out in our case because, from the very beginning, we had support from all sides – from the Faculty of Economics and the Student Business Incubator to our mentors, both from the Faculty and the broader startup community.”

In the end, please give a piece of advice to your past self at the beginning of Evala’s journey! 🙂

“You cannot change other people, as not everyone enters into a project with the same desires and motives. Just be patient, persistent, and without reservations – and things will easily fall into place when it’s the right time.”

We’d like to thank Nikolina for sharing Evala’s story with us and wish her and the rest of the Evala team a lot of success in the future, especially at the University Startup World Cup competition they’re attending!

Cover photo was taken by Split Tech City at the Festival of Technology and Entrepreneurship


About author:

Nikolina Kukoč

Researching is woven into my DNA, but I am a musician at heart. Interested in too many things and always curious. Forever in love with Split and enchanted by people who teach me new things. When I am not creating content about Split's tech community, you will find me in singing rehearsals, somewhere in nature, in the theater, or with my head stuck in a book. I do my best to live by the verse from the opera "Fedora" by Umberto Giordano: "Love forbids you not to love."

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