Friday, October 10, 2014

Why Poland needs to bet on young Entrepreneurs

By Paul Chen

In 1961, during a speech John F. Kennedy proclaimed that by the decade’s end, the United States will land a man on the moon.  And sure enough it happened on July 20, 1969.  In his inaugural speech he said, ”Let’s….seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”

With the current situation in the Middle East and around the world, such ideas are more important than ever.   Before working on destructive nuclear weapons, Robert Oppenheimer was an astrophysicist.     The great Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, said that we stopped dreaming for greater achievements in science because we have no drive and no enemy to compete with.  However, he may be wrong.   Our biggest enemy, at the moment is ourselves with the problems of global warming, lack of food, over population and etc.  There is a way out, it is with science and research.  It was the vehicle that got Europe out of the dark ages, drove the industrial revolution and fueled the rise of Silicon Valley. 

Earlier today, President Obama wrote an article in the Medium explaining why he is betting on America's entrepreneurs to fuel the new American economy.  I am doing the same.  As an American, I am quite certain that had President Obama bet $20 on this, he would be $20 richer in the future because entrepreneurship is in the American DNA.  

However, in Poland it is another situation.  As a teacher in a major Polish university, I get a first hand view of the future of Poland.  There are somethings that gives me hope, however, sometimes I feel a bit scared of what is to come.  

The background

It has been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down along with all of the former Warsaw Pact Communist governments.  However, despite the current state of the Polish economy, the Stalin brain wash persist.  Many articles state that Poland was the only nation in Europe to escape the recession with positive numbers.  Technically, it is true.  However, globalization means that no country lives in an economic bubble.  the export and import market was still affected by the recession that was killing the rest of Europe.  In Poland, many businesses made major cutbacks because of the "crisis".   

The positive economic numbers are the result of many different factors that happen to play in Poland's favor.  Poland wasn't on the hook for the financial problems of the Club Med countries who were using the Euro because Poland used their own independent currency, the Zloty.  Strict banking regulations meant that Polish people and businesses couldn't borrow unless they had sufficient collateral.  Because Poland were to host Euro 2012, a large amount of capital were made available to help them build major highways and stadiums.  Because a large amount of the Polish economy is connected to construction, there were gains. 

Envy of the West

Whenever I tell people that I live in Poland, people young and old would ask me, "Why Poland?"  This meant that they still look down on their own country.  Many Poles are still quite envious about the lifestyles of those in the West.  Little do they realize that they are living just as well if not better than the traditional Western European nations.  Beaches in Sopot is cleaner and nicer than beaches near Naples.  Polish people play around with the latest smartphones and tablets.  They drive BMWs and Mercedes.  In their homes, they are watching "Games of Thrones" on big screen LCD Smart TVs.  When I look on my Facebook timeline, I see my Polish friends on holidays in exotic locations like Thailand and Rio.  

In the United States, the Millennials by the look of things are quite patriotic.  Many of them profess the desire to start their own business.  Many kids are entering school studying STEM and high tech subjects.  Even the trust fund kids, based on a recent Morgan Stanley survey profess the desire to use thier inheritance in a socially acceptable manner.  They would like to use their funds to help solve the big problems.  

After communism fell and the country opened up.  A flood of multinational corporations came into the country because of favorable tax conditions, brand new offices, and cheap labor.   In the short term, this is good as it lowers the unemployment numbers and makes the politicians look good.  However, in the long run, it is not so good.  Just ask the people who live in Detroit.  Countries like Romania and Bulgaria are becoming quite competitive.  
The "ME" generation

As many young Poles entered the corporate work force, their economic stiuation got better.  As a result, as they became parents, they wanted their kids to have better lives so they bought their kids toys, believing that material good would substitute time spent with their kids.  Consequently, in Poland, they are going through a "ME" generation.   This is leading to a number of social problems.   These kids who are becoming young adults are at a loss.  They are more materialistic and many lack ambition and direction. 
Having experienced campus life in Harvard and Stanford as well as my own alma mater, I can say that during weekday nights, students are in the library and in their own dorm studying trying to keep up with the readings and homework assignments.  The exterior of the quads are usually empty.  However, as I walked through the dormitory yards of my Polish university, it is filled with students drinking beer and just hanging out.   I have said this in another post, this just didn't feel right.  

My proposal

There is still hope.  There has never been a better time to be a Polish university student.  You have so many advantages given to you.  You can study abroad under the Erasmus programs.  in the US, studying abroad are only available to those who can afford it.  However, the EU subsidizes much of the cost for their European students.  Due to the lower ZUS payments, Polish companies are able to hire students to work part time.  In this, the students are able to gain valuable on the job experience.  

Unlike their American counterparts, Polish Universities are free, so they will not graduate with the burden of paying off a hefty student debt.  However, I believe that Polish Universities should not be free. A nominal fee should be administered so the parents would put more pressure on their children to do well in school.  Other remedies were proposed in another post.   Polish students can travel virtually free and pay a massive reduced rate at many of the finest cultural institutions in Europe.   The Polish economy is doing relatively well.    

Polish startups like Estimote,, UXPin, and Misbehave are gaing global recognition.  VCs in Silicon Valley are starting to invest in Polish startups.   Jakub Krzych, founder of Estimote, told me that Polish talent is pretty much on par with those of Silicon Valley.   Many startups went abroad to get funded but are returning to Poland.  Google is opening up another Campus in Warsaw, one of three in the whole world.  Estimote just opened up a new place in Krakow.  Intelclinic has a whole house in Warsaw.  And if fashion is your thing, Showroom in Warsaw will help you get noticed.  Gain your experience as a student and start your own company after leaving school.  Multinational corporations will come and go but startups will truly help the local economy in the long run.  

Poland cannot stay part of someone's supply chain, they need to be at either the beginning or the end of it.  Other nations have globally recognized brands, Poland doesn't.  We need one.  As JFK said at the end of his inauguation speech," Ask not, what your country can do for you, but ask, what you can do for your country." 

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TechCrunch Comes to Wroclaw, Poland

By Paul Chen

Later this month, TechCrunch will hold the European version of their famous startup festival Disrupt.  It will be in London on October 20-21, 2014.  The lineup of speakers is quite impressive.  However, before the festivities begin in the English capital, TechCrunch will make a stop in Wroclaw, Poland for a one day conference.  The event is organized by the guys who brought you TechSaturdays, TechSorted.  Speakers will include John Biggs (TechCrunch East Coast Editor), Maciej Jarzebowski (Founder of LiveChat), Michal Sadowski (CEO Brand24), Richard Lucas (Angel Investor), Giancarlo Maniaci (Co-founder of Tapit), Rafal StyczeĹ„ (Co-founder Comarch), and Gabe Gotthard (Serial Entrepreneur). 

The event will take place on October 18, 2014 from 10:00 am.  Tickets are available on the event website.  It will be hel dat the Eter Club in the city center of Wroclaw.  There will be keynote speeches.  There will be a pitch-off competition as well as a demo alley.  And attendees will party the night away at the afterparty.   With 11 hours packed with the best that IT has to offer, it will be legen…wait for it….dary!  If you can’t make it to London for TechCrunch Disrupt, WroCrunch is a awesome alternative.

The event website:

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Krakow Incubator revolutionizing Startup Meetups

By Paul Chen

In many incubator and accelerator programs and some VC's, once a startup gets up to a certain level where they have raised millions of dollars in funding and/ or have acquired a large amount of customers and are earning revenue, the incubator and accelerator starts to phase out their involvement. Once in a while, it is encouraging to see a VC continue to develop their startups professionally even after that point. Piotr Wilam, the founder of Innovation Nest said that this meetup was organized to give startups a chance to connect with each other. They don't usually have a chance to talk and exchange ideas.

He would like to keep it as an invite only meetup inorder to connect the right type of people and to make the time spent more effective. Ideally, Mr. Wilam would like to hold a meet up every other month. And in the next meetups, he would like to invite startups and mentors for other parts of Poland as well as Europe.

On Friday October 3, 2014 Innovation Nest decided to take a startup meetup to the next level. They organized a whole day event where there were mentoring sessions, keynote speeches and a series of mini-conferences. Innovation Nest invited just about all their portfolio startups to this meetup.

The main topic of the Meetup was „How to get your first 1000 paying customers”. Unless you are a social startup, your main goal is to make money. It is obvious that getting paying customers is a lot more difficult than getting customers when you have a freemium product. Answering this question is essential to the survival of every startup.

The day started with a intense session of speed mentoring. The mentoring staff included senior members of Goldenline (Polish version of Linkedin), Grzegorz Blazewicz (CEO of SalesMango), Giancarlo Maniaci (co-founder of Tapit), Zack Onisko (Chief Growth Officer at Creative Market), Ela Madej (founder of Applicake), Monika Chodakowska (Head of Sales at Codility), and Dimitar Stanimiroff (EMEA Managing Director of Stack Overflow). All of the partners of Innovation Nest were also on deck as mentors. Each startup were given chances to talk with multiple mentors about sales and growth.

Zack Onisko then gave a keynote on growth hacking. He gave the startups insights on how to engage customers and build a following. He advised that SEO's are important and providing engaging content can help you connect with your customers. Monika Chodakowska talked about how Codility became the first platform where employers can test how good a candidate can code with a test. She said to nail your product, meaning know what you are selling inside and out. She also advocates for a constant stream of communication with your customers. Last Dimitar Stanimiroff talked about Proving product value, understanding your pitch, and scaling the organization. He also suggested that you should run your sales process by using Scrum.

One of the most interesting parts of the day was the Open SpaceTechnology sessions. It was as the organizer called it, a longer coffee break. The cool thing is that there were topics like Content Marketing, Freemiums, using Social Media, and how to keep your costomer coming back for more. The positive points of this approach is that you can join the discussion that interest you and that you can switch discussions when you want. Sometimes, the best way for a startup to solve a problem is to consult other startups. This was a wonderful opportunity to do so and to share some ideas and to understand that there are other startups that are going through the same growing pains as you.

When asked about their feeling about the day's event, they were generally quite positive in their feedback. They would be eager to do it again in the future. Zack and Dimitar were both very surprised by the talent and the maturity of the startup community here in Krakow. Zack observes that the startups are trying to solve the same problems that his colleagues are trying to solve in Silicon Valley.

The participating startups were:

UXPin – UX software design
Enteye – Connecting you to the cloud
Children's University – Educational ogranization aimed at kids
Sigmapoint – Backend for mobile
POSbistro – Point of sales software
Rublon – 2 factor authentication for web apps
Clime – Sensors for homes
Notatek – Notes for university courses
Landingi – Landing page design – Micro-cloud service
TurboTlumaczenia – Fast translation service
Triangly – Personal branding platform
Gardenmate – Creating your dream garden
PressPad – Online access to periodicals
Trawell – Management of travel groups for travel agents
Pirx3D – 3d Printing
Edrone – Social CRM for e-commerce

If you are interested in joining future meetups you can contact Chris at Innovation Nest here.

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!