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Introduction to the Warsaw startup ecosystem
Warsaw is the capital of Poland and has slightly more than 1.7 mln residents. It’s also Poland’s biggest city and education levels are high, thanks to a huge number of colleges. People come to work here from many nearby and far-away cities and in the result, just in 2013 (Wikipedia) Warsaw created 13.2% of country’s GDP. It is home to many companies. In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Warsaw ranked 1st in Poland and 54th globally.
A number of companies decide to start and settle in Poland’s capital or at least have a representative resident branch. To give you a few examples: Google, Samsung, Goldman Sachs. Headquarters here has one in twelve companies in Poland (Wikipedia). It is caused by a few factors. One of them is the people. Warsaw is full of hard-working, educated and ambitious people, which are coming here from the whole country. Moreover, it’s a huge marketplace. Whatever you’re selling, that’s a place where to look for a buyer. That’s also a reason why most Polish startups decide to open their business here, according to Startup Poland report 28% of them are based in Warsaw. The organisation called Startup Poland is a voice of Polish startups. They are connecting this fresh environment with politicians and administration, trying to make changes in the law, so it will be more suitable for starting young companies.
These arguments are influencing start-ups. Warsaw startup ecosystem is quite fresh, but it develops exponentially fast. Reaching again to Startup Poland report, two-thirds of them are less than four years old. The biggest sector is producing software and SaaS model is more preferable. Quite a big share of the market is created by accommodating the needs of the SME. In the effect, the B2B model is more frequently chosen. Investing is still in the early stages as almost 60% of start-ups are self-financing. However more and more often we hear in the news about big investments being made.
Moreover, many organisations, VC’s, people experienced in the startup environment are serving as mentors. Those who succeed and make it big, make an effort to pay it forward. Most common way are mentoring hours and there are plenty of them organised in Warsaw. Start-ups are showed the right directions and get various kinds of advice. Lawyers help them with the legal framework, accountants provide them with appropriate services and trainers to help them with their pitches. At many contests, young entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to win mentoring, money, investments and recognizability.
Working from a co-working space is becoming more and more popular. The people inside a co-work create a community, which helps each other. Sometimes those spaces are gathering even more people. One of the oldest and coolest coworking spaces is Reaktor Warsaw. For the past 5 years, it has gathered the Warsaw startup community at OpenReaktor events to exchange experiences, advice and connect startups with the corporate ecosystem.
Now is the best time to launch a startup in Warsaw!
Successful startups in Warsaw
A few startups clearly stand out from the crowd. Let’s give them a high five by introducing them to you:
- Migam (@migam_org) – Online translator for deaf people. They disrupt social entrepreneurship and change the community view of hearing impaired people. Won best mobile app contest in Mobile Trends Awards and from Applications without barriers. Won the polish edition of Chivas The Venture 2016.
- Advanced Cinema Robotic Systems (@acrsys) – Design, evaluate and put into practice the modern stabilization technologies for filmmakers. Raised $300k+ on Kickstarter, backed by Experior Venture Fund.
- Brainly (@brainly) – Social learning platform (raised 9m USD from Point Nine Capital, Runa Capital) (source).
- Booksy (@BooksyApp) – Book appointments online. For now, the worth of booked appointments reaches 4 mln dollars. Raisen 3 mln dollars. Invested in by polish Inovo, german Muller Mieden, and English Piton Capital.
- Brand24 (@brand24) – Social media monitoring tool with valuation at 28 mln. Used even by the First Lady from the USA.
- SalesManago (@SALESmanago) – Marketing automation. Invested 25 mln PLN by 3TS Capital Partners with valuation more than 100 mln PLN.
- Azimo (@Azimo)- International money transfers. Invested by MCI.TechVentures, eVentures, Greycroft, Accion, Frog Capital, and Rakuten.
Advantages of starting in Warsaw
In Poland, Warsaw is the best place to create a company. Mostly it’s because it is the biggest one. But this leads to all kinds of different people living here and coming to live here. What is also awesome about living here is the number of events, courses, mentoring options, incubators, accelerators, and VCs. However, everything comes with a cost and here you pay for location and talent. Polish people consider living in the capital quite expensive, but when you look outside the borders, you will learn that generally life in Poland is much cheaper than its western neighbors.
Disadvantages of starting in Warsaw
Even though Warsaw is a fantastic place to grow companies, it has its flaws. Definitely, not enough startups are working together with scientists. There are still a few strict laws which make it hard to bring scientific achievements into the business. There is a huge room for improvement in this area.
Young companies should think about where they manufacture their products. The ones who manufacture in Poland are creating more workplaces.
Startup Resources to keep a tab on Warsaw startup ecosystem
Here are the most popular blogs and newsletters covering the local start-up ecosystem.
- pl – full with fresh articles start-up related
- 150sec – business & tech news
- ITKeyMedia – IT & tech news
- Startup Digest Warsaw – calendar with start-up events happening in Warsaw
- Artur Kurasiński’s newsletter – greatly put a collection of interesting articles
Biggest players in Warsaw startup ecosystem
- Startup Poland – the voice of startups in Poland. Their aim is for politicians, decision-makers and local government officials to understand the great potential startups represent.
- ReaktorWarsaw – created by startups for startups, one of the oldest co-working spaces in Warsaw. Created so that they can work, collaborate and network. At monthly OpenReaktor events, interesting speakers are invited and Warsaw startup scene gathers in one place to network.
- Campus Google – co-work and event space opened by Google. As they started as a startup, they want to cultivate entrepreneurship and help startups by creating a connecting space, to work and network at many events they are hosting.
- Startup Grind Warsaw – global startup community designed to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs
- Startup Hub Warsaw – NGO which helps inventors – scientist and entrepreneurs – to come to Poland and start up their own company here
- Inovo VC – invests in Polish companies of the small and medium-sized enterprises sector
- MCI Ventures – implements early stage, growth stage and expansion/buy-out stage investments
- Experior Venture Fund – Half of the capital has been contributed by the KFK (the National Capital Fund), while the other half by private investors.
- Protos – VC fund consisted of internet entrepreneurs and fund managers
- Giza Polish Ventures – Warsaw-based and Israeli-sponsored Venture Capital
Warsaw Startup Events
I recommend following the Startup Digest Warsaw. Startup Digest is a personalized insider newsletter. It is a global thing. It gives you the opportunity to follow what’s happening in your city in the startup area.
- OpenReaktor – One of the best startup events in Warsaw. It’s monthly meetup where Warsaw startup community gathers and while drinking beer and eating pizza, listens to interesting speakers and integrate.
- Aula Polska – meetup where young entrepreneurs, but also directors and specialists are invited to give a talk
- Startup Grind Warsaw – startup community designed to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs, organising regular events with panels, attended by experienced in start-up world people
Warsaw startup ecosystem is booming with opportunities for entrepreneurs. What it is lacking at the moment is a favorable legislative framework as well as the cooperation of business and research and development sectors.