By Paul Chen
New York City is the city that never sleeps. As startup founders know all too well, building a product then a company is something that never sleeps as well. Therefore, these two activities fit each other perfectly. As New York, or as they like to call themselves: Silicon Alley, is growing rapidly. It is starting to gain lots of interest from European startups. Next Wednesday, September 24, 2014 in AOL HQ on 770 Boradway, PolishTech Boom: The 1st Ever Polish Startup Demo Day in NYC will take place. Tickets sold out almost as soon as they were released, however you can still get waitlist tickets. I had a chance to chat with a couple of the organizers. Here is what they have to tell us:
Tytus Cytowski: I have been involved with Polish tech companies coming to the USA for several years and noticed that most startups forget to stop in New York City and miss out on funding and business development opportunities here. I told this to Daren and we decided to launch an event.
Daren McKelvey: I had actually worked with Beata Adamczyk from the Trade and Investment Section of the Embassy of Poland for the 2014 LAUNCH Festival in February, via Tytus's introduction. Things went really well and when Tytus told me about the idea, I jumped on board.
Who was involved in the organization of the event?
Tytus: Beata, Daren and myself. Also some of our good friends from the tech ecosystem in NYC helped with social media. PARP helped with promotion in Poland.
Daren: Yeah, lots of people helped us along the way to make this come to life and we're very thankful for the support.
With Silicon Valley on the other coast, why do you want to connect with the NYC startup community?
Daren: NYC has been always known for diversity and it has made NYC business and culture strong. We believe the event will bridge innovation from Poland to NYC. In terms of practical things we hope that it will create jobs, partnerships, investment opportunities and a unique exchange of ideas between attendees.
Tytus: The NYC tech ecosystem is focused on sectors that are mostly ignored in Silicon Valley. For example enterprise, finance, fashion, education and advertising are super hot in NYC. It is only natural for Polish companies to come to NYC to explore opportunities here and discover clients, partners and investors. The reality is that you can potentially get early stage funding in the valley, but the customers and later stage investors are on the east coast.
What do you hope to achieve from the event?
Daren: The thesis is that NYC is a natural hub for Polish tech startups to grow in a way that is mutually beneficial for the city and Poland. We want to put Polish tech companies on the map in Silicon Alley.
Tytus: Concretely, more and more top angel investors and funds are considering Polish startups as viable investments and we would love to translate leads into closed business after the event. As Daren said, it is about jobs, signed contracts and relationships being formed.
Who will be attending the event from the Polish side?
Tytus: We have been fortunate to have secured the Deputy Minister of Economics, Ms. Ilona Antoniszyn-Klik.
Daren: About 10 polish government officials from the Embassy in Washington, D.C and Poland.
How was the Polish Embassy involved with the organization?
Tytus: They were responsible for selecting the startups that will be presenting. They also assisted in securing finances to make the event a success.
Daren: the Embassy's trade mission in SF, led by Beata, runs the Polish Silicon Valley Acceleration Center (SVAC) and they run an acceleration program to select the startups who are ready for the spotlight.
What are the Poles bringing to the table?
Tytus: Passion, fresh ideas and out of the box thinking that New Yorkers love.
Daren: I've spoken with a bunch of the founders and really impressed with their business acumen, backgrounds, and drive to make it here in the US. They want to contribute to the Silicon Alley eco-system by creating jobs here and open doors to anyone wanting to do business in Poland.
Among those representatives, which ones would you like the attendees to watch out for?
Tytus: Social WiFi and Brand24. Excellent founders, good product, traction with clients globally and clear vision.
Daren: Definitely those two and also Momentum by Atsora, great founder and making solid revenue this year so far. One of the startups was invited by a prominent investor to pitch a week before the demo day in NYC.
I see that there will be 8 Polish startups making pitches, who will they be?
Tytus: Monster & Devices, Biotrustis, Momentum by Atsora, Evercode, Realdeal, Social WiFi and Brand24. One can't make it last minute. After we announced the event we were approached by more companies that wanted to demo, but unfortunately we could not accommodate; they will be participating in the second edition though!
I can see that the press release says that the guest list will be highly curated, why is that?
Daren: Anybody in NYC that goes to tech events knows there are dozen events to choose from each night. It can be confusing for a startup visiting to know which are the good events, so we want to make sure they are getting the most out of this. The type of people who are invited–and who we've attracted–are the ones that can open doors and accelerate community support and infrastructure for Polish startups in NYC. This is a huge opportunity for the companies to make a splash in front of key influencers, potential customers, partners, investors, and press.
Who are you looking for the startups to meet and connect with?
Daren: This goes back to curation, but the companies will connect with investors that are open to foreign startups who want to set up offices here, as well as potential customers and vendors in various different verticals. Outside of the demo day, we are organizing educational and informative workshops, co-working and accelerator space tours, and intimate networking opportunities for the startups throughout the week.
What would make the event a success?
Tytus: You can look at the success metrics two ways. First, you can look at the business relationships that will be formed for the years to come and the non-tangible benefits for the startups from Poland and NYC investors and the tech community. Second, you can look at closed business that we hope to facilitate through the event. Most New Yorkers want concrete things out of the event.
Daren: At the end of the day, it's about people meeting people that want to add value and make each other more successful. But taking action after the event, that's essential. Everyone's got to follow up! Things move so quickly in NYC, so face-time is great, we will urge them to manage their new relationships for the long-term. Success is relative to the feedback we get from the startups and the audience. Was it worth everyone's time? What was the vibe? Did everyone meet great people? Beata, Tytus and I really love to build community, match-make, add value and this is an experiment we're excited about undertaking.
What will make you want to make a second edition later on?
Tytus: We have been overwhelmed by the NYC community’s positive response and the feedback. The event got waitlisted in an hour after our initial email announcement went out. The second edition hopefully will be announced soon. We will be looking for hot startups and sponsors for the next one. Stay tuned.
Daren: Ha yeah! I wish we had more space! AOL has been gracious enough to sponsor and let use their space, but we can only fit so many people in one room. People with Polish roots are really coming out of the woodwork wanting to get into the event and it makes sense to do another one since there's already high demand.
Daren McKelvey runs his own consultancy that helps companies strategically partner with and market at top tier tech and innovation events. He also does Business Development for NYC-based mobile app design and dev agency Blue Label Labs. You can follow him at @darenmckelvey
Tytus Cytowski is an attorney and founding partner of Cytowski LLC a law firm specializing in representing startups, entrepreneurs and tech investors in the US and Poland. He is admitted to the New York State Bar and finished Harvard Law School. You can follow him at @tcytowski
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