The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) hosted their third annual conference in Silicon Valley this week. The four-day event brought together more than 300 professionals, academics, students, and community organizers from across the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Scotland, Australia and Croatia. With support from the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in Los Angeles and the ACAP Silicon Valley chapter, the gathering included multiple panel discussions and themed breakout sessions aimed to inspire engagement and action amongst the organization’s members.
Since last year’s ACAP annual conference in Chicago, the organization tripled its membership to over 1,000.
- This annual event is geared to infuse knowledge by our all-star cast of speakers and spark a call to action, community-building, overall goodwill and impactful networking - said Marko Zoretic, president ACAP. - Bringing together Croatian-American leaders in this type of in-person forum, helps us define the next generation of global Croatian success and prosperity - he added.
The conference kicked off with a welcome reception on Thursday October 18th at the Croatian-owned venue Monte Carlo. Attendees were greeted by ACAP executive board members and the Silicon Valley chapter hosts along with prominent dignitaries from Croatia and the United States including Dr. Dragan Schwarz, envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia; Zvonko Milas, State Secretary from the Government Office for Croats Abroad for the Republic of Croatia; Pjer Šimunović, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the United States; Ivan Penava, Mayor of the city of Vukovar; Siniša Grgić, Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in Los Angeles; Sanja Laković, Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in Chicago and Berislav Vujeva, Consul General of the Republic of Bosnia Hercegovina in Chicago. Guests were also introduced to the wonderful sounds by acclaimed virtuosos Tihomir Hojsak and Filip Novosel.
On Education, Entrepreneurship and Technology
On Friday, over 34 experts participated in 10 panel discussions ranging from education, entrepreneurship, technology, medical tourism, biotech, arts & entertainment, stem and cancer research and special interest “task force” topics. Members of the Croatian government and leading experts engaged with the attendees to spark insightful debate and calls to action.
- We are proud to again be part of the energy created here. This event serves as a rare opportunity for diaspora from all corners of the United States to meet and network and create direct dialogue with government officials and representatives for issues that matter to them - said Sinisa Grgic, Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in Los Angeles.
Influential business leader Jeff Blackard addressed the attendees in a special morning keynote, where he talked about his Supetar-inspired “Adriatica Village” real-estate development in Texas and the reasons behind his village-inspired designs. He also shared his experiences on some of the challenges he and other investors have encountered in trying to invest in Croatia and urged ACAP to help ease the paperwork process as a first step. Despite the continuous bureaucratic bumps, he insisted there is so much untapped talent and potential in Croatia and admitted that the hidden secret about Croatians is - you are one of the smartest people in the world.
Renowned cancer scientist Dr. Ivan Dikic spoke during the afternoon session in a captivating presentation about innovation in his field and current trends in the field of cancer research. He also touched upon the challenges to retain talent in Croatia, especially in the field of science, medicine and other innovative industries.
This year’s gathering also included a second Croatian-led startup showcase that helped highlight creative entrepreneurs. Innovators from Croatian-based companies Smart Parking Solution, BAGGIZMO and VYOOCAM shared their product ideas and business strategies and engaged in thoughtful Q &A with attendees.
Luka Misetic, winner of the 2017 ACAP Professional Excellence Award and influential Croatian-American attorney, closed out the day with a special presentation on how bilateral investment can protect investments in emerging markets, in particular in Croatia.
Gala Award Dinner
Later, an evening gala award dinner featured keynote speaker Ivan Grbesic, president for the advisory council for Croats Abroad for the Republic of Croatia. Grbesic serves as a liaison on behalf of the Croatian government to help bridge communication and close the gaps on issues crucial to the diaspora. He also shared his personal story as a Canadian Croatian who, like many in the audience, grew up balancing a dual life committed to promoting Croatian identity while assimilating as a Canadian.
In a special pre-recorded message, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic offered congratulatory remarks praising the organization for their commitment to unite Croatian professionals not only in the United States, but as a catalyst to implement similar networking around the world. Ambassador Simunovic and Consul General Grgic also endorsed their support for ACAP’s mission and how proud they were to witness the new level of engagement amongst Croatian-American professionals.
Ivan Penava, mayor of Vukovar also addressed the guests with a special message of hope and resiliency, which was followed by a moment of silence where each attendee stood holding a lit candle to show their support for the people of Vukovar.
Guests were entertained by the Zagreb-based duo Hojsak & Novosel, including a creative rendition of Moja Domovina on tambura and bass.
The gala gathering also served as an opportunity for ACAP to publicly recognize influential professionals who have demonstrated excellence in their field and leadership in the Croatian community. - These awards are meant to highlight influencers in our community and in turn, hope they serve as role models and mentors to our members and their communities - said Maria Sentic, ACAP treasurer and 2018 Award chair.
This is the second year ACAP has awarded individuals for their achievements. The award recipients were:
Jeffrey Treichel, Friend of Croatia
Tomaz Berisa, PhD., Rising Star
John Kosir, Rising Star
Višnja Brdar, Professional Excellence
Maria Dugandzic-Pasic, Professional Excellence
Dr. Steven Pavletic, ACAP Member Achievement
Dorothy Vinski, ACAP Member Achievement
Branko Barbir, Honorary Award
Dr. Frank Brozovich, Honorary Award
A third day of networking kicked off on Saturday, with special workshops focused on expanding discussion and strategy on key initiatives of ACAP task forces such as medical tourism, real estate, double taxation, issues related to the Domovina and a tech strategy. These workshops are unique opportunities for long-form discussion on advancing the needs of Croatian-American constituents.
On Saturday evening, conference attendees were invited to the Vidovich family residence to join in a fundraising dinner for the Croatian Scholarship Fund (CSF), followed later by an after-party in downtown San Jose. CSF provides scholarships to financially-deserving students of Croatian descent studying in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The occasion was also marked to award reknown winemaker Mr. Miljenko Grgich with a lifetime achievement award, which was accepted on behalf of his daughter Violetta Grgich.
On Sunday, conference attendees had the option to join the Croatian community in celebrating the annual parish picnic at Assumption of Mary in San Jose.
For select speeches and highlights of 2018 ACAP conference, please visit ACAP Facebook page.
Next year’s conference will be held in Cleveland, Ohio. For inquiries on how to be involved next year or to suggest a topic for discussion in 2019, reach out to us on www.croampro.com.
The Association of Croatian American Professionals brings together professionals, business leaders, academics, students and community organizers. Our mission is to foster leadership, collaboration and to promote the advancement of issues relevant to the Croatian-American community. ACAP is a non-profit 501c (6).