Bosnian fitness startup Rolla has raised a €6.3m seed round — a significant sum for a startup from a country with a nascent tech ecosystem and a population smaller than Berlin.
One of Rolla’s main investors is entrepreneur Mate Rimac, the Bosnian founder of the Porsche and SoftBank-backed electric car unicorn Rimac Automobili, based in Croatia. Rimac left Bosnia with his family when he was three.
There are “a few hundreds” of startups in the whole western Balkans — a group of countries in southeastern Europe yet to join the EU — most of them at pre-seed and seed stage, according to a report by GIZ, a foundation.
Despite a few exceptions, like Serbia’s Tenderly, which has raised from Accel and Point Nine, most startups in the region suffer from a lack of capital, the report says. In 2022, the region’s startups raised €58.7m, according to Dealroom.
Rolla’s round is the largest ever in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the biggest for any fitness app originating in central and eastern Europe.
What does Rolla do?
Rolla is a fitness, health and wellbeing app that uses gamification to help users with their workouts and healthy living. It operates across three segments: activity like daily steps and workouts (already rolled out), health and diet tracking (to be launched in 2024).
“It transformed from a side project into my life mission,” says founder Igor Krezic, who himself was fighting against burnout and obesity — he once weighed 136kg.
Krezic is a serial entrepreneur: he’s founded five companies that have collectively created over 400 jobs and more than €30m in annual revenue. He successfully exited one of them, NSoft, to Sportradar, a Nasdaq-listed sports data company.
Rolla is based in Mostar and currently employs 40 people.
What’s the market like?
The fitness app market is projected to have an annual growth rate of 14.3% over the next five years, according to Statista. But it’s also fairly saturated: there are many apps from both startups and big corporations focusing on exercise, health, wellbeing and nutrition.
Speaking about his competition, Krezic says that he prefers “to frame our challenge as one against unhealthy habits”.
“While there are many excellent fitness apps out there that excel in their niches, Rolla stands out as the sole app dedicated to enhancing users' health and fitness as a central mission,” he says.
What will Rolla do with the money?
The startup wants to use the fresh money to expand its customer base and grow its product and commercial teams. It’s also establishing a new regional development hub in Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with a European commercial hub to spearhead its expansion into western Europe. The new markets and locations are yet to be decided.
“Our current primary focus is twofold: expanding our team and delivering a top-notch product. We're in the process of establishing a new development office and attracting talent not only locally but also from around the world,” says Krezic.
Who has invested?
- Mate Rimac, the founder of the Croatian unicorn, electric cars maker Rimac Automobili and e-bike startup Greyp Bike; currently the CEO of Bugatti Rimac.
- Sacha Dragic, the founder of Superbet Group, together with his Bucharest-based family office Hellen's Rock.