Some businesses solve mundane problems. Some businesses are there to make money. Inspiring ones change lives forever.
Polish startups like Intelclinic are here to do the latter and are making Poland one of the world’s most exciting startup destinations today. Chronic sleeplessness, tiredness and jet lag are problems we all face (in fact before writing this article I had to fuel up with a strong coffee) so Polish students Kamil and Jacek took on the challenge of how to solve the world’s sleep problem and founded Polish start up Intelclinic in 2013. Having raised $500,000 on Kickstarter they created Neuro:on, a sleep mask that enables users to improve sleep by measuring brainwaves, muscle tension and eye movements.
Unique, wearable technology, changing the way you live and experience the world - made and created in Poland.
Companies like Estimote are combining Poland’s great developer and programmer community with that inbuilt Polish entrepreneurial spirit and creating innovative products and technologies and in the process making Poland one of the hottest start up locations.
In fact the Polish startup scene very much mirrors Poland’s overall economic story.
This is the Eagle Economy, experiencing uninterrupted growth since the early ‘90s. When the rest of Europe was struck in the grip of the global crisis Poland’s economy kept on growing, driven by its strong internal market, low debt, EU funding and above all, its incredible people. It’s the most exciting business opportunity in Europe, the EU’s fastest growing economy and an increasingly important global business destination.
Which is why when Get Inspired Fest asked me to write about why European and global entrepreneurs should look at the Polish market, it was a no-brainer.
Let’s get the big-ticket data out of the way: Poland’s huge, 38 million people, the largest country in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It’s the eighth largest economy in Europe already and set to over-take one or two countries (no mean feat) in the coming decades.
Poland’s the largest receiver of EU funding in Europe with well over 80 billion EUR up until 2020 driving scientific research, R&D, infrastructure, Government and local government digitilisation, green and renewable energy changes and a better society from employment skills to building the third sector. That means big business opportunities.
Poland’s the CEE big beast, the regional headquarters for Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, HP, IBM and Google among many others. Which is why foreign companies continue to invest in Poland in their droves pushing Poland into global Top 10 developed investment locations in 2015’s World Investment Report.
Small wonder, then, that countries from across Africa and as far as South Korea, Japan and China are queuing up to do business with Polish companies, indeed Poland will be one of the destination countries for the new Chinese rail ‘Silk Road’ developing significant trade links and relationships from the Far East into Europe.
But that’s the big-ticket stuff. For great people with great ideas building from the bottom up, Poland’s a great place to look at.
Poland has one of the biggest and fastest growing micro and small business environments and the latest Poland Start Up report shows that there over 2,500 start-ups in Poland
Take the work of Polish company Migam, founded by Przemek Kuśmierek. Inspired by the difficulties a deaf friend faced in communicating with the world around him, Przemek and his team of young developers are using artificial intelligence and neurological programmes to build an automated sign language translation technology called KinecTranslator, technology that will in time transform the lives of the world’s 70 million deaf people.
I spoke to Przemek about what makes Poland such an exciting place to do business and he told me that, ‘Poland’s a relatively fresh market for start ups but is ideally located, just one and a half hours from most European capitals. We have excellent technical people and access to startup capital is growing every day.’
But Przemek agrees that what makes Poland stand out is its people, ‘Poland is a genuine start up nation and Polish entrepreneurs are hungry for success. Polish characteristics like hard work and tenacity are just the kind that startups need to survive and grow.’
And like Intelclinic and Migam, Polish startup Wandlee is aiming at changing the world. Wandlee are creators of wearable technology providing parents with real-time location alerts as well as giving children incentives to keep fit and live healthy lives. ‘25,000 children each year are reporting missing in Europe and what motivates us is solving a serious problem that we know worries parents everywhere’ Igor Sawczuk, founder of Wandlee, told me.
‘Poles are fantastic at technology’ said Marcin Kozlowski, Global Manager for AIP Business Link, Europe’s largest network of innovative business accelerators growing Polish startups in 6 business centres across Poland. ‘We have superb development skills delivered at great value for business, which is just the sort of fuel every effective start up engine needs.’
Polish companies are increasingly internationalising, with over half aiming their products at global or foreign markets. Britain, Germany and the US - launch pads to grow more quickly and access bigger numbers of investors – are core markets but programmes like AIP Business Link’s Go Global are taking Polish start ups to markets all around the world and ensuring entrepreneurs from across Europe are looking to find Polish talent or locate and do business in the country.
Whether it’s consumer hardware, healthy living, wellness, 3D printing, design and fashion, financial technologies, marketing tools, B2B products and services, gaming or IoT/beacon relating technologies, Poland’s starts ups are slowly but surely set to conquer the world, a world which is waking up to the Polish potential.
And, Przemek says, big international brands are getting more interested in Polish companies, ‘for example Base CRM and UXPin are conquering the US market, Estimote’s beacons are being implemented by Barsa and Growbots is being supported by Pay Pal.’
Perhaps the latest sign of the increasing internationalisation of Polish start ups comes this week at the opening of the new Google Campus Warsaw, part of Google’s Entrepreneur’s Programme, connecting Polish start ups with Google centres in London, Tel Aviv, Seoul and Madrid and globally.
‘Poland’s got this ideal mix of talent, aspirations and funding’ said new Campus Warsaw CEO Rafal Plutecki, ‘Livechat, Brainly, Estimote, and City Interactive are already going global and we want to create a community that builds more of these companies.’
Five years ago the Polish start up eco-system was in its infancy, today it’s changing the world. For businesses interested in finding out how, see you at Get Inspired Fest 2016.
- Patrick Ney is a management consultant helping British business break the Polish market. He is the Director of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce Trade team (watch this killer 2 minute animation to find out more https://youtu.be/2AavQn5njck) or contact @Paddyney). Patrick also blogs in Polish on life in Poland here.