Thursday, November 7, 2013

American Consulate in Krakow and AGH University of Science and Technology Inspiring Innovation and Bridge Building in Krakow

By Paul Chen

I've failed over and over and over again in my life...That is why I succeed.
                                                        Michael Jordan

That is one of the themes of the Inaugural edition of Polish-American Innovation Bridge.(PAMI)  It took place last Monday 11/28/13 and Tuesday 11/29/13 on the campus of AGH University of Science and Technology.  The goal of this conference was to highlight the recent cooperation between Polish students and their American counterparts, build a bridge between Krakow and Silicon Valley, and encourage the students of various Krakovian universities to take a chance and initiate a startup.  It can be done while they are studying such as those under GSEA or after their studies.  The conference was a collaborative effort of the AGH University of Science and Technology and the American Consulate in Krakow.  

During the conference there were opportunities for attendees to network with the honored guests and speakers, panel discussions, highlights to success stories, educational speeches (funding, marketing, customer development, and product development), and workshops.  The conference was open to the general public and free of charge.  

Startup methodologies such as Lean as well as project management models like Agile and Scrum were discussed.  We were very fortunate to have entrepreneurship experts from Stanford and UC Berkley as well as executives from Google, Cisco, and Akamai come and give very insightful speeches and hold workshops.  There was even a startup contest open to students from universities all over Poland.  

A list of speakers can be found here.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2-day Conference.

Dr. Clark Kellogg from UC Berkeley encouraged more design thinking and needs oriented product development.  We need more right-brain, creative, and non-linear thinking in business these days because we are living in a very different world today. 

During a panel discussion someone encouraged the students to take risks while they are studying.  They were told to try to get involved with different projects and internships because after they graduate, mistakes would become more expensive and damaging.

Another panelist said, " If you see a problem, build something......Sometimes it is OKAY to say NO to offers."

Jeff Colvin from Stanford told us the following," Innovation is necessary for success....Innovate or Die!.....Past success doesn't predict the future....Everyone should be responsible in the process."

Mr. Colvin also advised us to start innovating on our existing products and services while we are on the vertical part of the "S" curve.  

In a panel about taking risks and celebrating failure, the panelists agreed that failure is a necessary part of every success story.  In Poland, failure is seen as a stigma so one would rather suffer than try.  In the US, failure is seen as a part of life, so surviving such setbacks don't hurt as much.  Not only is failure humbling, but it teaches us what isn't working, prevents future failures, shows the innovation imperative, defines how good we really are, and improves strategy. 

The five finalists of the Student Contest are with the (*) indicating the winner.

1. Using the collective bargaining power of customers to get a lower prices for merchandise.
2. Electronic receipt tracking system
3. (*) Smart trash bins that sort paper, cans, glass and organic using sensors or touch buttons.
4. Custom built speaker systems for the middle class
5. Filming studio that makes low budget advert films for youtube. 

The executives from the major IT companies and the entrepreneurship experts were very impressed at the caliber of talent that is present in Krakow.  They encourage future cooperation.    I hope that this conference will become an annual tradition here in Krakow.  It has been very educational and more people in the US should be aware of what is happening here in Krakow and vice versa.

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