Monday, December 23, 2013

KSUP Road Trip Report: Budapest (Part 1) -

By: Paul Chen

I was invited to go to Budapest earlier this month to a live streaming of the Lean Startup Conference held in San Francisco. With the success of the Prague trip in mind, I did not hesitate to take them up on it. The live streaming was organized by It is a coworking space in the heart of Budapest just a block off the fabulous Andrassy Utca. The event took place at Muszi, another coworking space of sorts on the third floor of a shopping complex. It aims to be a low-key cultural and community center in the center of Budapest.
The main organizer of the event is Gabor Dehelan and David Trayford. I had met David earlier during the TedX weekend. Despite some technical problems, the event was rather nice. It was a good chance to network and there was even a panel discussion during the time that the people in SF were having lunch. We got to hear some of the most influential individuals from the global startup community share their wisdom.

(Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, author, lecturer at Stanford; Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup; Marc Andreessen, co-founder at Andreessen Horowitz; Reid Hoffman, co-founder at LinkedIn; Cindy Alvarez, UX design specialist at Microsoft)
Because of the big time difference (9 hours) between California and Hungary the event was held between 18:00 and 3:00. Overall the atmosphere was nice and friendly. I would recommend it to anyone. is located on Paulay Ede utca 65 in the center of Budapest. It has been in operation for a year. It has a multi-layered subscription plans for all needs, whether you are just a visitor or if you plan to take up residence for a year or so. In the summers, you have access to a large terrace on the roof to chill out. It has most of the standard infrastructure you would expect in a coworking space, internet, fully equipped kitchen, conference space, and even a shower.
I found the space to be very communal. It is mostly open to encourage collaboration between startups. There have been many instances where two or more startups have exchanged knowledge and experience, such as a couple of hours of me coding for your networking. Your inner-child will love their writing walls. More information can be found on their website.
While at theHub, I met Antal Karolyi, a local angel investor. We had a short conversation about the state of the startup community in Budapest:
Where do you think the Budapest Startup Community is at the moment?
There are hundreds of teams working very hard and developing products and services. The ecosystem is starting to become more visible through social media, blogs and Facebook. However, the community feels like being a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. Despite that, I believe that the future is bright. Due to the recent successes of companies like Prezi, Logmein, and Ustream, these young teams are starting to believe in the possibilities.
Are there some startups that you would like us to keep an eye on?

What would be on your wishlist to get the Budapest Startup Community to the next level?
I would like there to start a discussion between the government and the community to get some support in infrastructure and startup or entrepreneurship programs going with some tax incentives. I would like to get some business minded people come come into the community to help us market our products and services. Some growth hackers would be very welcome. At the moment we have plenty of technical talent. We just need to market it.
What would be the unique selling point of Budapest?

We have lots of culture like museums, galleries and theaters. We have nice weather. You can take a dip in our many thermal spas.  We offer you good value for your money. There are many talented people here ready to help you. Most importantly, things are still at the beginning of development where anything can happen.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Google for Entrepreneurs and Mentors Pitching for Startups with their "Pitch!" Program in Krakow

By: Paul Chen

Between November 14, 2013 and December 13, 2013 Google for Entrepreneurs along with in partnership with Flowbox conducted a series of sessions for their pilot program called "Pitch!"  The main goal of the program was to help startups with their pitch to investors through 5 training sessions and 5 workshops.  They covered a variety of topics: from an investor pitch to sales talk, to video presentation and body language.  The program was provided free to the startups but they must first apply for spots.

Poland has a lot of talent, but sometimes it takes a little more than technical skill to break through on the international stage. PITCH Program aims to prepare startups to go global and compete with those from the Silicon Valley in international contests and to help them getting accepted to international accelerators. 

Among the mentors of the program were:

Przemyslaw Stanisz and Harun Osmanovic - Founders of and NorthStar Consulting

Livia Handlovicova - Head of NorthStar Consulting Slovakia

Marcin Jaśkiewicz - CEO, Co-Founder of ISTV Services

Ken Globerman - Founder of Global Group Ventures

Czysta reForma - a theater troup

There was a Demo Day at the end of the program.  The winner of the demo day would be allowed to participate in the Mini-Seedcamp to be held at Google for Entrepreneurs on January 16, 2014.  And the winner of that event would be able to participate in the Seedcamp in London.  

Mr. Stanisz and Mr. Osmanovic were the main organizers of the program.  They were present at each session of the whole program mentoring and providing commentary with the mentors.  Ms. Handlovicova offer advice on sales metrics based on her experience as a sales director for Southwestern.  Mr. Jaskiewicz took the participants to a video production studio and provided a hands-on workshop on presenting their products and services on platforms like Youtube.   Recording videos about your startup is one of the main thing seed investors are looking for in application forms.   Czysta reForma conducted a workshop in an actual theater to help the participants with their body language because one’s body language can send very subtle messages to the investor and customers. 

Mr. Globerman provided a lecture and workshop to help the startups understand what is going through an investor’s mind when he/she is watching a pitch.  He also educated us about some of the behind the scenes operations of a VC.  He reaffirmed something that Richard Lucas, a local angel investor, said to me a while back.  One of the first things that he looks at when a startup pitches to him was to determine whether the team was someone that he can do business with or not.  We also learned about the state of the Polish investment environment.  It is still in the early stages of the development of a solid investment market.   Part of the reason is the lack of awareness of the type of investment instruments used in the market.  Another reason is that making investments in something intangible is not something that the Polish have a lot of experience with.  Most of the Polish startups are somewhere between the incubator and the early VC rounds. 

On Demo Day, we had the following mentors and experienced entrepreneurs as the judging panel:

PawelNowak: CEO of Presspad and an active investor in many local startups

Wojciech Wolny: Founder of LGBS Software

Mikolaj Olszanski: AceStream, an innovative multimedia platform of a new generation, which includes different products and solutions for ordinary Internet users as well as for professional members of the multimedia market.

Michal Mikulski: Egzotech a maker of robots for rehabilitation purposes.

The winners were Mofables(educational apps for kids) and Whenvisited(social responsible advertising).  Mavenpad(event participant registration platform) were given a chance to further develop their skills.    

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Newsflash: Open Coffee KRK #26

Hi everyone, thanks a lot for joining us at Open Coffee at Google for Entrepreneurs this morning. This was our last meetup this year, so huge kudos to all of you, who helped make it better with your presence at the meetings, feedback, sponsorship, or anything else. And if you want OCKRK to become even more awesome (we know how hard it is to imagine that, but you’re a group of creative folks, so you’ll manage), get engaged and ask Marta, Aliaksei, and Richard how you can help.
In a need of a logo or some help with graphic design? Be sure to take a look at the Corton design marketplace Bartosz Gryszko showed us. Those who find biology and medicine interesting should check outHackerspace KRK, where they are preparing for some DIY biohacking, or contact Stefan Buttigieg, who is developing software solutions for medical industry. When you find yourself in need for some coaching session, visit Patryk Lange’s websiteBipin Indurkhya might help you with software projects, and Katarzyna Wabik is the person you should talk to, if you want to promote your local business via Yelp. People caring about healthy lifestyle should definitely find out more about the Doowise initiative Phoebe Ryrko and Gosia Dzik-Holden told us about. And if what you need is a mobile app, Berrysoft is the place to go. Those of you who know their way around video games industry, be that kind and help Nick Holden with a list of Kraków-based gamedev companies: you can find it here. See if there’s anyone missing, and add them.
Also, as usually, there’s something cool upcoming from great people at Innovation Nest. They’re already accepting applications for the next edition of their Accelerate programme. If workshops, mentoring, $25k in funding, and a business trip to the Silicon Valley sound at least moderately interesting to an enterpreneur like you, head here for more info. Innovation Nest is also partnering with Google for Entrepreneurs and Seedcamp. Effect? Mini Seedcamp Kraków that will take place on january 16th. Great opportunity for startups to meet experts, VC’s, and angels. Local winners are going to Seedcamp Week London, with a chance to meet a ton of great mentors, so why are you still reading this instead of applying? The deadline is january 4th!
If you’re looking for something to do this evening, or if you have attended the #OMGKRK X-massive Party and just can’t stop thinking about partying, or quite the contrary, you haven’t, and now feel guilty and lonely (good, that’s how you should feel if you missed it), pay the guys at Materialination a visit. They’re throwing their own 3d-printing-themed party at 6.30 at BAL . Those of you who are into iOS programming should also definitely mark january 16th in their calendars. Untitled Kingdom is organizing a cool meetupabout iOS 7 )sadlz, zou will have to choose between that and Seedcamp).
That’s it, see you next time at Open Coffee KRK #27, the first one in 2014!
Wojtek Borowicz

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seedcamp comes to Krakow and They are Looking for You!

By: Paul Chen

As you know, the Krakow Startup Community is growing quite rapidly these days.  One of the leading drivers of that growth is Google.  Right next to the Main Market Square is their Google for Entrepreneurs work spaces.  Google has been offering their conference space to meet-ups like Open Coffee KRK, Webmuses, and many startup mentoring events such as Speed Mentoring and the Pitch Program.   

Seedcamp is widely recognised as one of Europe's best accelerators and early stage seed investors. Since launching in 2007 they have invested in 111 startups, who have collectively raised over $120m and created over 850 new jobs. 

Seedcamp in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs Krakow is hosting Mini Seedcamp Cracow on the 16th January and are keen to connect with and meet the region's hottest startups. This is also a great way to be shortlisted to Seedcamp Week London in early February where investment decisions are made. 

If you'd like to join us please register here on Eventbrite. If you know of any startups who should apply please direct them to AngelList prior to the 4th January.

This is a one day 6 hour event.  If you have good ideas, products, and/or services, take a chance and sign up!  We are waiting for you!

Friday, December 13, 2013



If you're young and poor in America, odds are you use a smartphone. Back in 2010, Nielsen found that the majority of Americans 34 and under who made less than $35,000 owned smartphones. These smartphones, it turns out, are also the main way many users access the Internet. But despite the fact that tens of millions of American Android and iPhone owners are struggling to make ends meet--and that there are even more who are senior citizens, who live in rural areas, lack college or high school degrees, or are financially excluded--startups disproportionately target the young, suburban/urban, and middle-to-upper-class. Because of that, the technology world is missing out on a lot of innovation--and, even more importantly to the companies behind technology, missing out on potential profits.
In May, George Packer wrote in The New Yorker about Silicon Valley's class dividesand the strange echo loops created by the young, driven, and geeky creating apps mostly for the young, driven, and geeky. As Packer put it, “It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech startups are solving all the problems of being 20 years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up.” Packer was onto something.
That “something” is the fact that startup founders are missing out on great ideas because they mainly create apps for people like themselves. That “something” is also the fact that startup culture lacks diversity in terms of economic background, race, gender, and age. The solution to this is simple: More techies and investors from different backgrounds are sorely needed. They aren't needed for the sake of P.C. inclusiveness; they're needed because the market demands their products.


Uber and Seamless are rightfully popular consumer-facing service firms (Disclosure: The author is a former employee of, which is now owned by Seamless). But both of these companies exist to take care of affluent (or on-their-way-to-being-affluent) people's needs. Want to hail a limo in the city? Want to order sushi instead of ordering Domino's? Those apps are there for you. Thousands upon thousands of other apps and startups, many of which have been written about by this very magazine, all exist to target that same demographic. While that's not necessarily a bad thing--you can't fault entrepreneurs for targeting an affluent audience, after all--it a surprise that, just like Packer said, the hottest startups all tackle only the problems of people the same age and class as startup founders.
Apparently, that's true even if startup founders don't necessarily happen to be young. Jeff Makowka, a senior strategic advisor for the AARP, told me that Silicon Valley has an insular investment culture where startup founders feel their products will only be funded if they're “young and cool," meaning both the product and its founders. Makowka also sees a divide between tech-sector startups: Big data and biotech firms' leadership tends to skew older, while consumer-facing tech firm leadership skews younger.
Mobile is the fastest-growing segment of the tech market, but mobile startups tend to avoid making products aimed at 65+ users. Makowka notes a solid financial reason for this: Seniors have low smartphone ownership rates compared to other demographics. In addition, many newly launched apps are buggy and need their kinks worked out. There's a conception, right or wrong, that older users who aren't longtime tech geeks may become more frustrated with apps that aren't ready for prime time and move on quickly.
With that said, there has been some success in creating explicitly senior-oriented products. Gerijoy is an iPad/Android tablet product produced by an MIT spin-off which provides a talking animal avatar companion for adults with mild dementia; the talking pet has Siri-like features (such as displaying pictures and sending emails) and also keeps loved ones apprised of their health. In the most interesting twist, Gerijoy's virtual pets are monitored in real time by company employees who help create appropriate responses in a bid to mimic a real robotic pet. Another firm working in this category is GreatCall, makers of the ubiquitous Jitterburg phone; the company created a series of HIPAA-compliant mobile apps aimed explicitly at seniors.
But, as Makowka notes, the apps he has seen seniors adopt the most have been Skype and FaceTime--produced by megacorporations Apple and Microsoft.


California's PayNearMe is the equivalent of a unicorn: A successful tech startup serving less-wealthy users. The company creates a technology backend for in-person cash payment for bills and expenses. Using PayNearMe's terminals and cards, users--who mostly lack bank accounts and credit cards--can pay their bills or purchase Greyhound bus tickets in cash at over 7,000 7-Eleven stores and 1,600 check cashing stores nationwide. Like most startups serving underbanked populations, PayNearMe comes from corporate training grounds. CEO Danny Shader led startups later acquired by Amazon and Motorola; the company's honorary chairman, Bill Campbell, is Intuit's chairman and former CEO.
Many new technological innovations targeting the unbanked, such as various debit cards and prepaid payment products, charge users steep fees that some might call exploitative. To give just one example, Walmart's popular prepaid MoneyCard is a new tech product that charges tens of thousands of unbanked users massive fees. Apart from monthly maintenance fees and fees for every single ATM transaction, customers are charged $3 every time they recharge their cards at Walmart. How many startups are missing out on the opportunity to create more financially competitive products for the unbanked?
In a phone conversation, Shader said there are opportunities for companies to serve that market, and that services which appeal to the underbanked can serve other demographics like teenagers and people trying to avoid the use of conventional credit or debit cards because of account limits or other restrictions.
It isn't only the unbanked or underbanked who are ignored by entrepreneurs as potential customers. Despite the fact that there are 94 million credit union members in the United States, web and mobile technology for credit unions lags far, far behind those for commercial banks. Even the most wired credit union is at least three years behind your average commercial bank in terms of customer-facing technology. Meanwhile, customers avoid credit unions--which offer far fewer fees than commercial banks--because credit unions are difficult to use. That vicious cycle repeats itself over and over again, and entrepreneurs miss out on a huge potential market.


The entrepreneurial class of startup creators is disproportionately male and white. Last month at the Personal Democracy Forum, a tech-and-government conference in New York, I had the pleasure of seeing Kimberly Bryant speak. Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code, an organization that provides STEM educational services to, yes, black girls aged 7-17. In her talk, Bryant discussed her organization's goal--to teach one million girls to code by 2040. By email, I asked her about one trend I've seen as a reporter for Fast Company; that there seemed to be more racial diversity among engineers, developers, and leadership at large corporations than at startups.

Bryant's response mirrored what I've heard before; that many of the past companies she worked for, primarily large biotech firms like Genentech and Merck “had extensive programs for diversity and inclusion initiatives. I believe most startup companies are just starting to focus on increasing their workforce diversity.”
There are structural and economic factors at work here too. Writing over at the New York Daily News last year, Anjali Mullany (now of Fast Company) noted that there are very few black VCs, for instance--which can cause obstacles in the clubby world of early-stage investment. There's also the fact that, due to these aforementioned inclusion programs, there are often simply more opportunities to earn more money and scale the hierarchy at large tech firms rather than small startups.
But Bryant thinks that's a loss for the startup world. “I do believe that most startups who develop applications and digital products design "towards the middle." By this, I mean they design their products to reach the broadest consumer base possible, which is a sound strategy in some respects. Yet from a strategic standpoint, I believe that to be truly competitive and industry leaders, tech companies need to design to reach consumers on the end of the bell curve as well. In many cases on the front end of this bell curve you may find a diversity of consumers since African-Americans, women, and people of color have been shown to be early adopters across multiple technology platforms and social media. If technology is designed mostly by white males, who make up roughly half our population, we’re missing out on the innovation, solutions, and creativity that a broader pool of talent can bring to the table.“
This is a repost of an article that appeared on on July 18, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Krakow's hub:raum getting ready to lift off in their new location with their Warp Accelerator Program

By: Paul Chen

This past weekend Krakow's hub:raum ended their Warp Accelerator program with a bang by holding a Demo Day that was streamed on the internet. 15 teams from Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Montenegro, Austria and Ukraine took part in the eight-day workshop organized by the hub: raum Krakow. Three startups, which CollarPocket of Poland, Omnipaste from Romania from Montenegro, were invited to the incubator. The projects chosen by a jury, which included mentors hub: raum Krakow and experts from Deutsche Telekom.  This program is the first in their new location in the Zablocie district of Krakow.

In addition, the accelerator program announced an investment of Krakow's center of innovation. Excalibur, a solution for user authentication using cells on various websites such as Facebook or self-service systems of telecommunications operators. Such an approach will also play a big role in the industry for internet-of-things. It is also this year's winner of the Telekom Innovation Contest in Berlin. It is the first startup in the portfolio of hub:raum Krakow.

"This project will revolutionize the perception of people and change their trust in the digital world. Excalibur has created a solution to make authentication a user in different sites online in a safe manner. This groundbreaking idea solves a big problem that we face now. That is why I am glad that Excalibur is with us - it's a good start in the future. " adds Mr. Probola.

During the eight days, the teams took part in free workshops and lectures by more than 50 experts from all over the world. As a result, they have gained a broad knowledge of the financing, development of customer base, project management and ability to present their ideas in front of an audience.

"Warp was a great success mainly because we could share the experience with young entrepreneurs. I hope that now the participants will share the acquired knowledge with local communities and be an example to them, how to be effective startups. Their passion and willingness to learn is proof that it is worth to organize these types of programs. I hope that all the teams develop their ideas into great businesses and enter foreign markets. Our doors are always for them wide open to help refine and develop the concept. As a hub: raum Krakow will do everything to help them succeed. "- Says Jakub Probola, the manager of hub: raum Krakow.

The main objective of the initiative was to establish lasting relationships with entrepreneurs from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. During an eight days of meetings, the participants had the opportunity to work with experienced people, including Professor Piotr Płoszajskim, Robert Luke, Michael Leopold Kuropatwiński and Andrew Popadiuk. The workshop focused on the idea of entrepreneurship, ways to gain investor, and business ethics. Anything to be able to develop ideas into a scalable business.

The accelerator program was also supported by mentors hub: raum Krakow, among others, Marvin Liao, Jaroslaw Sygitowicz, Ivana Brezak Brkana, Stefan Bielau, Agnieszka Angelic, Filip Drimalka, and Arthur Kurasiński. They conducted individual meetings and additional sessions AMA (Ask Me Anything ) about marketing, entrepreneurship, skills presenting the idea and story-telling, which were further injection of knowledge on product development. T-Mobile, Telekom Innovation Laboratories (abbreviated T-Labs), Mandarine Project Management, Innovatika and Pitch Doctors also took part in the program. Experts teach young entrepreneurs how to present their ideas, as well as to manage the project and to create the best product.

During the last day of the program, there was a Demo Day. The jury, consisting of mentors hub: raum Krakow and experts from Deutsche Telekom, chose three teams that were invited to the incubator program: Poland's CollarPocket, Omnipaste from Romania and of Montenegro. Collar Pocket allows you to take better care of the animals – a collar module collects data such as temperature, heart rate and location of the animal and send them to mobile applications.

Omnipaste terminal provides opportunities to integrate applications running on your phone, among others, copying and pasting text between devices, use the camera phone to Skype calls and gyroscope to control the computer. In turn, is an online store that sells aggregates and guided tours, and helps users to find, compare and book the best deals. Teams were invited to further discussions with the incubator of innovation.
Ecoisme (provides monitoring service for your home appliances to help you save on energy costs) from the Ukraine and (mobile app service connecting people based on business interests and location) from Croatia were invited for further talks.

The winner will receive up to 80,000 Euros in pre-seed funding, access to a modern coworking space, mentoring from experts of Deutsche Telekom, and possible access to the 200 million Deutsche Telekom users. All hub:raum asks for is between 10-30 % equity in the startup.