Outgoing President of the Board at Startup Poland
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Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
The Polish startup ecosystem, with its 3000+ startups, 300+ coworking spaces, 130+ VC’s, plenty of acceleration programs and tech conferences, is the most developed in the CEE region. It is a great place to start the business with the plan to expand in the other EU markets. Polish corporations have learned to understand startups and generally are keen on cooperation, as are the many international players active in this market. Many of them run their own accelerators and some have set up Corporate Venture Capital funds.
The Polish VC market is just a decade old, but the heavy lifting has been done. Among 130 VC firms, half are currently raising their second or third funds. State funding is finally no longer the only source available to startups in the region. Promising startups searching for up to EUR1 million can easily find experienced investors in the Polish market. However, they still need to look abroad for rounds above EUR1 million.
Looking at top Polish startups such as Booksy, Brainly or DocPlanner, it is highly possible that in the near future Poland will finally see its first unicorns. In the annual research conducted by Startup Poland, we clearly see the increase of startups with AI components on board. Therefore, it is highly plausible that this branch is going to develop faster than the others. On the other hand, we see many new businesses focused on FoodTech or green solutions and after FinTech and Big Data, this might be the next wave.
One of the Polish main weaknesses has always been the lack of private capital pumped into the system by investors. This year shows however that Polish VCs are starting to raise bigger amounts of private capital and are able to co-invest at higher rounds. This trend also seems to evolve in the right direction, so that in 5+ years we can expect a group of self-contained funds able to deliver investments at the average level of French or German funds.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning
Nutrition, Big Data
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
In 2018, Poland was listed as the 8th ranked EU market and 23rd ranked global market (with a GDP of US$549.478 billion). Since its entry into the European Union in 2004, the country has been continuously growing, and today is one of the most Euro-enthusiastic countries in the whole Union. Poland has benefited from EUR750 million in EU funds pumped directly into its startup ecosystem.
Due to the role Poland played in initiating the collapse of the iron curtain back in 1989, the Poles today are very proud of their independence and the free market economy that has been in place for the past 30 years. Since the Crimea Crisis in 2014, Poland is one of the main destinations of the Ukrainian emigration (40% of the total), and has become home to over one million Ukrainians. Many of these younger immigrants have founded or co-funded startups in Poland.
Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.
AIP Seed Capital (Warsaw): Seed capital fund investing in the best startups from their Academic Business Incubators network. Their interest revolves around biotechnology, chemistry, electronics, IT, pharmaceuticals and services with electronic sales channel. AIP Seed Capital has a simple investment model where they offer around US$25,000 for 15% equity. All startups have access to AIP’s network, including coworking spaces available across the country, legal advisors, social insurance institution, accountancy, mentors etc. (Source: Pilot)
Black Pearls (Gdansk): A Gdansk-based VC focusing on close relationship between science and business, and working closely with academic institutions. They invest in innovative projects that improve the quality of life, space industry, agriculture and food production. Black Pearls provides mentoring and coaching programs with experienced entrepreneurs. (Source: Pilot)
Experior Venture Fund (Warsaw): A Warsaw-based early and growth stage venture fund focusing on software & tech-enabled businesses. The fund provides a combination of both financing and expertise for their portfolio companies, which include Cosmose, Fuero Games, iTaxi, Joymile, Algolytics and more. (Source: EU-Startups)
Fidiasz EVC (Wroclaw): This seed/Series A-B fund specializes in the following industries: fintech, technologies related to industry, IoT, food and agrotech. The fund focuses on investing in projects and companies that have the potential to expand at least within Europe. (Source: Startup Poland)
Giza Polish Ventures (Warsaw): A venture capital fund backed by one of Isreal’s biggest VC group, Giza Venture Capital. They invest in companies across all stages, from the startup, seed, development to expansion. Offering funding up to US$4M for a minority stake, they focus on projects from the following fields: IT, telecommunication, new media, e-commerce, cleantech and nanotechnologies. (Source: Pilot)
IdeaBox Capital (Warsaw): A private equity investment firm investing up to €14 million in a single project. It looks for high-margin, profitable businesses operating in stable sectors of the economy. Being part of one of the strongest financial groups in Poland, Idea Bank provides selected companies unlimited access to resources and expertise. (Source: EU-Startups)
Innovation Nest (Krakow): One of the most active VCs on the VC map in Poland. Innovation Nest helps startups with their path to Silicon Valley. They have special focus on startups with global aspirations and plans. They invest in startups from early stage to Series A from US$25,000 up to US$1 million. Behind the Innovation Nest stands Piotr William, an experienced IT entrepreneur, who recently invested in 500 Startups. (Source: Pilot)
INNOventure (Krakow): Helps scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs to develop business projects based on the results of research and development. (Source: INNOventure)
Inovo VC (Warsaw): A fund participating in Series A rounds or later, with an emphasis on SaaS companies (in particular for SMEs) and marketplaces. (Source: Startup Poland)
KPT Seed Fund (Krakow): A joint venture of the Krakow Technology Park and SATUS Venture. Its portfolio consists of over 20 companies. Since 2015, the Fund makes capital engagements from own resources acquired from the sales of shares in companies it previously invested in. The special areas of interest of the KPT Seed Fund include engineering, technology, and ICT projects. (Source: KPT Seed Fund)
Market One Capital (Warsaw): An early stage venture capital fund focused on Marketplaces and SaaS, investing mainly in seed and Series A rounds. Their motto: “Invest in people”. Selected companies should expect close cooperation and valuable support from their side. Notable investments include Callpage, Packhelp, and Nautal. (Source: EU-Startups)
MCI Capital (Warsaw): One of the biggest and oldest private equity funds in the country, listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. In its 15-year history, MCI has closed over 60 investments and exited 30 of them. They have 4 types of funds: MCI.EuroVentures, MCI.TechVentures, Helix Ventures Partners and Internet Ventures, investing in a wide range of industries and segments from TMT, e-commerce, BPO, digital media, IoT and FinTech, to cloud computing and wireless technologies. MCI invests in early stage startups, as well as established companies with stable market position from Poland, CEE and Turkey. Depending on the type of the fund, they invest up to €35 million. (Source: Pilot)
Netrix Ventures (Lublin): The General Partner (“GP”) of several Venture Capital funds focusing on investing in leading technologies in IT, Energy, Medicine and Biotechnology. (Source: Netrix Ventures)
PFR Ventures (Warsaw): The largest fund of funds in Central and Eastern Europe. PFR Ventures operates in the fund of funds formula, offering financing for innovative SMEs via selected financial intermediaries, e.g. venture capital or business angels. (Source: PFR)
Protos (Warsaw): Warsaw-based VC fund with a focus on software services, marketplaces, lead generators and e-commerce. In exchange for a minority stake, they invest in companies on seed, startup or expansion stages. Protos cooperates closely with Point Nine Capital, a leading VC in Germany. (Source: Pilot)
RST Ventures for Earth (Wroclaw): A seed/Series A fund that focuses on B2B companies related to software/hardware solutions in the field of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). (Source: Startup Poland)
Satus Ventures (Krakow): Focused on innovative biotechnology- and engineering-related IT projects, the investor helps companies from incubation to the closure of investment. SV owns 2 funds. (Source: Pilot)
SpeedUp Venture Capital Group (Poznan): One of the leading VCs in Poland investing in early stage startups, usually from the areas of consumer internet, financial technology, internet of things, and hardware. They have several funds like Speedup Bridge Alpha focusing on scientific projects, SpeedUp Innovation supporting early stage projects or SpeedUp Investments interested in early stage ventures. SUV invests from US$30,000 up to US$2 million. (Source: Pilot)
Starfinder Seed Capital Fund (Warsaw): Invests in early-stage projects with global potential in three major areas: life, science, ICT engineering. Formed in 2014 through a strategic partnership with Giza Venture Capital, a Israeli-Polish investment fund to explore investment opportunities across CEE and Baltic Sea region. (Source: Starfinder)
Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder (Warsaw): Pre-seed through Series A group of funds that create, develop, and support promising technological projects in the fields of e-sports, IoT, big data, cloud computing, SaaS, data mining, AI, and marketplace. (Source: Startup Poland)
TDJ Pitango Ventures (Warsaw): Fund investing in startups operating primarily in the fields of big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning, enterprise software & SaaS, mobile technologies and digital media, medical devices, and digital health. (Source: Startup Poland)
Xevin VC (Warsaw): Pre-seed and seed fund focused on investments in the SaaS, marketplace, martech, fntech, AI, machine learning, adtech, and edtech spaces. (Source: Startup Poland)
Academic Business Incubators (AIP) (Country-wide): The biggest network of incubators in Poland: over 60 incubators located in 24 cities, most of them involved in a partnership with universities (however not limited to students). Anybody can join the incubator and get access to AIP mentoring, the network and workshops. For $65/month, entrepreneurs can start a company under AIP and get help with accounting, legal regulations, including the exemption from social security fees and income tax. (Source: Pilot)
Hub:raum Incubator (Krakow): Powered by Deutsche Telekom Group, the institution supports innovative startups from Southern and Central Europe. The incubator program offers mentoring, coworking space, access to Deutsche Telekom assets and both pre-seed and seed funding up to €80k for 10–30% equity. There’s also a free accelerator program, WARP, covering 5 days of pre-acceleration training and a 5-week long acceleration program. It’s dedicated to B2C communication, e-commerce, smart home solutions and similar. It’s doesn’t involve co-ownership. (Source: Pilot)
Huge Thing (Poznan): A pre-acceleration program from SpeedUp Venture Capital Group, dedicated for pre-seed startups with just an MVP or a prototype. Taking place in Poznan, the 3-week program is designed to prepare startups for their first funding and help them apply to the most successful accelerators like Y Combinator or 500 Startups. (Source: Pilot)
OrangeFab Poland (Warsaw): OrangeFab is a 12-week program run by the telecom company Orange, aimed at building innovative products or services from which Orange customers will benefit. Focus is placed on customer experience, AI, IoT, big data, e-commerce, VR and cybersecurity. Acceptance into the program guarantees access to the Orange brand, a wide range of customers, knowledge of experts, channels of promotion and distribution network. (Source: EU-Startups)
ReaktorX (Warsaw): Known as a pre-acceleration programme for first-time founders, this program is specifically targeted at industry experts, programmers and ambitious students with an entrepreneurial mindset, who need to develop core skills necessary for success on the market. Each accepted startup is assigned a mentor and has to follow a series of events, mentoring sessions and workshops, followed by a pitch presentation at ReaktorX Demo Night. (Source: EU-Startups)
AINOT (Warsaw): Supports innovative projects by offering wide access to technical research, expertise and market analysis. AINOT invests up to EUR200,000 for select business ideas. (Source: AINOT)
Poland Prize (Warsaw): Poland Prize is a program encouraging foreign start-ups to start operating in Poland. The initiative combines the idea of acceleration and soft landing for start-ups and emphasizes the preparation of foreign start-ups to start operations and further development in Poland. It offers equity-free grants ranging up to PLN200,000 and up to PLN50,000 for legal, accounting and consulting services. Start-ups can apply to the Poland Prize through 6 experienced operators specialized in various industries. (Source: PFR)
Rebels Valley (Warsaw): Develops corporate innovation accelerator programs matching corporations and technology companies. In this model, corporations benefit not only from the transfer of knowledge, but most importantly from the innovative approach to solving problems they encounter in their daily operations. (Source: Rebels Valley)
ScaleUp by Brinc (Poznan): A 3 month Industrial IoT accelerator program offering up to US$66,000. (Source: ScaleUp by Brinc)
Space3ac (Gdańsk): Space3ac is a unique acceleration program bringing together corporates and technology startups that provide them with innovative solutions. A couple of years ago, we started activities supporting entrepreneurs on various stages of development and sharing our knowledge. That was the foundation for one of the most active acceleration programs in our region. Today we’re an international platform that provides high-quality services for startups and corporations. Seven editions of the accelerator have already been carried out in the last four years, with 95 startups finishing the program. (Source: Space3ac)
Art Cluster (Warsaw): Art cluster brings together creative teams of freelancers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads in one place. You can choose from single desk, micro office, separate office, or virtual office. Depending on your needs, Art Cluster will even create a tailor made offer to suit your needs. Beautifully furnished, with modern, yet comfortable furniture, Art cluster is Warsaw’s melting pot and the mix of people is truly enriching. There is a lounge/chill-out room, a fully functional kitchen, and a bathroom with shower for your additional comfort. (Source: EU-Startups)
Biurco (Warsaw): Nearly 500m² of creative office space in Buirco is allocated to creating a coworking community. Different membership packages are offered based on your needs. (Source: EU-Startups)
Business Link (Country-wide): The biggest chain of coworking spaces in Poland: 11 offices in 10 cities around Poland, along with the biggest coworking space that spans 5000 m² inside the National Stadium in Warsaw. Other locations include: Wroclaw, Krakow, Lublin, Tricity, Poznan, Szczecin, Lodz, Torun and Katowice. (Source: Pilot)
Clockwork (Warsaw): Oriented to startups and freelancers. Clockwork hosts startups and tech events like Founders Institute or Geek Girls Carrots. (Source: Pilot)
CO12 (Wroclaw): A coworking space for freelancers, IT specialists, architects, designers and all sorts of creatives. CO12 organizes free training for women, including Business Woman and Success on Heels. (Source: Pilot)
Creative Hub Targowa (Warsaw): Located in a historic building in the artistic district in Warsaw, this space is the first coworking space in Poland dedicated to creative industries. It serves as a modern coworking space freely shared to artists, architects, photographers, digital experts, and designers. At Creative Hub you can choose from private desks, mini-offices, private offices and even meeting rooms, in addition to the super fast internet, chill-out zone and friendly, welcoming team at your service. Known to connect the talents of the creative communities with leading brands. (Source: EU-Startups)
Google Campus Warsaw (Warsaw): Google’s flagship startup space opened up in Warsaw. It’s a community hub for entrepreneurs and engineers that involve mentoring, training, networking and events. It’s Europe’s third Google Campus operated by Google for Entrepreneurs. Their activity history gives a lot of hope for meeting the next milestone in Polish startup development. (Source: Pilot)
Hub:raum (Krakow): Offers the entire startup package: seed-funding, accelerator program, mentoring, and the place to work. They also host events and coding workshops like Rails Girls. (Source: Pilot)
Idea Place (Wroclaw): A coworking space for entrepreneurs and freelancers in the heart of Wroclaw. They host various activities: from couching events to UX workshops. By also hosting art exhibitions, Idea Place connects business with artistry. (Source: Pilot)
Mindspace Poland (Warsaw): The global provider of coworking space, Mindspace with its offices and services is a true inspiration in the industry. The Polish branch in Warsaw is filled with stylish furniture, beautifully designed meeting rooms and lounge areas, a fully stocked coffee bar, and all the amenities needed for entrepreneurs to do their job. The vibrant work atmosphere is complemented by top-notch event calendar. (Source: EU-Startups)
Noa Cowork (Warsaw): Offering a modern, contemporary working space in the city centre, they have a variety of workspace options, ranging from dedicated desks, private offices to virtual office. In addition, tenants have access to all-in-one office printer, fully equipped office kitchen and chill-out space and business advice. Thursdays are reserved for morning breakfast with the community and the rest of the week is full with networking events. (Source: EU-Startups)
Reaktor (Warsaw): One of the most important coworking spaces in Poland. It has shaped and connected the startup community in Warsaw. Reaktor hosts one of the most famous startup events, OpenReaktor (Source: Pilot)
Starter (Gdansk): Coworking space that’s a part of Gdansk Business Incubator. Starter has a big community and organizes a lot of business, networking and educational events for entrepreneurs, startups, women, kids —most notably TEDxKids and Global Entrepreneurship Week. (Source: Pilot)
Aula Polska (Country-wide): A series of meetings all over Poland, held since 2007. Aula promotes the culture of technological entrepreneurship. The main theme is aimed at young internet ventures, new technologies and interesting projects. (Source: Pilot)
Bitspiration (Krakow): Recommended by TechCrunch, it’s a conference dedicated to the tech industry in Central-East Europe. With each year, the program of the event puts focus on innovation in a different sector. (Source: Pilot)
Confitura (Warsaw): Confitura is Poland’s largest Java conference. Totally free of charge, the event has been an international platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience among Polish Java community since 2007. The one-day event is rather busy: presentations, workshops, panel discussions and relevant speakers all in one place. (Source: EU-Startups)
Impact CEE (Krakow, Katowice): Impact brings leaders at the forefront of innovation from many sectors together to explore the opportunities for creating global digital future. A variety of tracks is available, including industry 4.0, 5G, IoE, fintech, biotechnology & digital health, transportation, energy & environment, science to business, investments and entrepreneurship. (Source: Impact CEE)
InfoShare (Gdansk): Focuses on tech, new media, and entrepreneurship. Startups can compete to get €20k in cash for the project or up to €1M in investments pooled by investors. (Source: Pilot)
InternetBeta (Rzeszow): A 6-year old conference addressed to present or future Internet affiliates. It features a very broad program and connects people from different markets and industries. (Source: Pilot)
Wolves Summit (Warsaw): A conference that connects startups with the world of large tech companies and investors. The best appearance at the pitch contest is awarded US$100,000 (US$25,000 in cash and US$75,000 in investment). In 2014, 24,000 startups applied to the contest. (Source: Pilot)
Geek Girls Carrots (Warsaw): An international community of (mostly) women who are passionate about technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. GGC focus on connecting, learning and inspiring women in IT. They organize monthly meetups, workshops and networking events. (Source: Pilot)
Hive 53 (Krakow): Monthly events focused on startups and entrepreneurship. The number in Hive’s name denotes the area code of the city. (Source: Pilot)
Hive 61 (Poznan): Monthly events focused on startups and entrepreneurship. The number in Hive’s name denotes the area code of the city. (Source: Pilot)
OpenReaktor (Warsaw): A series of popular events organized by the Warsaw coworking space Reaktor in order to build and maintain strong startup community in the city. Each meetup features 3 speeches by influencers from Poland, US and other parts of the world. (Source: Pilot)
Startup Grind Warsaw (Warsaw): The local division of the largest independent startup community, actively educating, inspiring, and connecting 215,000 founders in 185 cities. Chapter directors nurture startup ecosystems in 70 countries through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Entrepreneurs. Founded in Silicon Valley, Startup Grind has helped millions of entrepreneurs find mentorship, connect to partners and hires, pursue funding, and reach new users. (Source: Pilot)
Start in Poland (Warsaw): The program is to strengthen and boost the Polish ecosystem of startups through creating favorable conditions for young, innovative companies, encouraging foreign entities to start up and develop their businesses in Poland, and facilitating access to capital and internationalization to the most promising entrepreneurs. (Source: Ministry of Economic Development)
The National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR): A government agency created to support the development of innovations in Poland. NCBR offers assistance at all stages of a project, providing its resources to entrepreneurs, originators, universities or investors. NCBR created such funds as BRIdge Alfa, BRIdge Classic, BRIdge Mentor, BRIdge VC, NCBR CVC, as well as TDJ Pitango Ventures fund. (Source: Ministry of Economic Development)
Startup Hub Poland: A non-profit organization whose mission is to create an innovation hub by bringing together prominent Polish and foreign inventors, entrepreneurs and scientists from all over the world. (Source: Startup Hub Poland)
Startup Poland: One of the largest and most important technology think tanks in Central Europe. Formed in 2014 by a group of young Polish entrepreneurs and startup founders, it represents Polish startups in a dialogue with the government, parliament, the European Commission and self-governing unitary authorities. (Source: Startup Poland)