Move over, Berlin: Poland is the new playground for tech startups

Apr 24, 2014
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You’re an entrepreneur, and you want to found a startup. You have an idea that’s sophisticated, adventurous, and could even develop a brand new business model for the tech world. If you could found your startup anywhere in the world, where would it be? San Francisco, Tel Aviv, New York, Berlin?

How about Poland?

Warsaw Stock Exchange
Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Beax

Last month, the Polish government committed $100 million (300 million Zloty) to supporting small Ukrainian companies – many of which are in the tech sector – and allowing more Ukrainian companies to participate in the Warsaw Stock Exchange. According to President Bronislaw Komorowski, the fund’s goal is to strengthen new business in order to fortify the middle class and help them regain some control of the economy from Ukrainian oligarchs. This is a continuation of an established trend by the Polish government of encouraging technological innovation and entrepreneurs.

Venture Village, a Berlin-based technology news outlet, has published many articles in the last two years detailing the different startup scenes in Krakow, Warsaw, Poznan, and Szczecin. Each city has its advantages for small, growing companies. Poznan and Szczecin can be 30-40 percent less expensive for hiring talent and renting office space. Warsaw, as the capital, offers better access to international capital. Krakow boasts a large pool of Western-minded programmers and developers, while some of the brightest new minds in business call Warsaw home. No matter the size and industry of a startup, there seems to be a place for it in Poland.

Screenshot from reaktorwarsaw.com

Many entrepreneurs have already taken advantage of these differing, but all favorable economic environments. Warsaw-based startup collective Reaktor hosts nine companies and allows them to network and cooperate by housing them all in a shared office space. The companies vary from FollowUs, a social media campaign design service, to Gametrade, an online marketplace for gamers to swap, buy and sell games and gear. Though the companies differ in trade, they all appreciate the creative, ambitious spirit that Reaktor fosters. Another startup incubator, Startup Hub Poland (SHP), welcomes businesses dealing with nanotechnology, biotechnology, new materials, Internet and mobile, among others. In addition to providing office space, SHP promises to help with visa facilitation, legal and patent documentation, and seed funding. Deutsche Telekom expanded its own incubator, hub:raum, to Krakow to aid Central and Southern European startups with mentoring and strategic partnerships.

Screenshot from centraleuropeanstartupawards.com

Now, with the introduction of the first Central European Startup Awards, the hard work of entrepreneurs, investors and developers might not go without a reward. Nominations for the awards closed yesterday, 23 April, and the final award ceremony is set to be held on 30 May in Budapest. Inspired by the Nordic Startup Awards, this series of events is meant to network and celebrate the region’s potential to be a leading center of technological innovation in the future.

Poland was one of the only countries in Europe to escape a decrease in GDP following the economic crisis, and other European countries are starting to take notice of its economic potential. It’s strategically located, with easy access to the eastern and western corners of the continent. As Poland’s economy grows, Central Europe comes closer to a technological ecosystem all their own, different from Silicon Valley or Silicon Allee, and uniquely shaped by the needs of the Central European market.

 

Front page image was published under a CC BY 3.0 license by Wikimedia Commons user Olek Remesz.


About the Author

Carolyn Boyce, Transitions

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