Google Campus hosts startup competitions
Campus Warsaw, a Google space for entrepreneurs, has established itself as the heart of the Warsaw start up scheme beyond initial expectations.
Located on the eastern edge of the soon-to-be-opened Koneser urban renewal scheme in Praga, Campus Warsaw recently hosted three major startup events. Poland Today was delighted to support all three – but first a quick Q&A with Rafał Plutecki, Head of Campus Warsaw and tech entrepreneur.
Why is it important for Warsaw to have a space like Campus Warsaw?
For every city it is critical to support startups, founded by visionary entrepreneurs – their successes will be key to the success of the city in the coming decades. And it is exactly Campus Warsaw’s mission as well: to identify the potential for development and support entrepreneurs at these moments of growth. Similarly, it’s the reason why we decided to locate this investment here – because of Warsaw’s enormous potential as the startup hub for Central and Eastern Europe. Campus Warsaw was the 2nd Campus to open in Europe, after London, out of the network of six Google Campuses across the globe.
How does Campus Warsaw support startups and entrepreneurs?
We invite all globally-minded entrepreneurs from across Central and Eastern Europe that can join any of the multiple startup programs we run. We support founders at different stages and the first thing we do is to match an entrepreneur or a startup with one of our programs such as Startup Weekend, Launchpad Start and Campus Residency. Last year at Campus Warsaw we hosted 20,000 attendees at 400 education events, workshops and mentoring sessions. We hope our efforts will translate into many success stories over the coming years.
What are the benefits of hosting startup events at Campus Warsaw?
Our space is free and open to anyone that plans to host an event that serves the startup ecosystem. Our growing community is very active and hosting events here gives anyone fast access to the vibrant and inclusive group of entrepreneurs.
What are your thoughts on the startup community in Poland and CEE as a whole?
For several years now I observe rapid growth of the startup community, quality and quantity of events, growth of amazing coworking spaces, increased access to funding and mentorship. What is the most important, however, is the growth of successful, global tech companies. In Poland companies such as CD Projekt and Livechat are examples of multi-billion success stories, and there is an increasing number of startups such as Docplanner, Brainly, Estimote and G2A that are rapidly expanding worldwide. Hundreds of smaller startups compete on the global stage from all of the CEE region – every country in the CEE has its own rising star and a local legend.
Startup Programmes at Campus Warsaw
Powered by Kulczyk Investments: InCredibles Programme
Initiated by Sebastian Kulczyk, InCredibles is an acceleration programme in Poland that provides startups with financial support and opportunities for global development. Partners of the first edition of the initiative included IBMN, Startup Poland Foundation and Campus Warsaw. Over 400 submissions were received, from which 10 finalists were chosen and these startups presented their solutions to the executive judges. The panel included Sebastian Kulczyk, CEO of Kulczyk Investments, Rafał Plutecki, CEO of Campus Warsaw, Piotr Pietrzak, CTO of IBM Polska, Julia Szopa, CEO of Startup Poland, and Lawrence Barclay, Head of Venture Capital Kulczyk Investments. Five startups were chosen for the acceleration programme and will receive $100,000. “We focused on medium-sized enterprises, founded on good team work with great ideas and significant growth potential,” said Sebastian Kulczyk. “Poland has almost everything that is needed for the creation of a company that could be recognised all over the world. That’s why I would like to significantly support the development of a Polish startup ecosystem.”
Special guest Kees De Jong, founder of BBI Group Holding, welcomed the winners to start their journey. During the 12 week programme, the startups learned about B2B SaaS sales strategy, participated in the Wolves Summit to expand their network, attended workshops with legal experts in the tech industry, and worked on marketing and PR strategies. In addition, teams met with investors, heads of Campus London and Campus Warsaw, prominent UK venture capitals as well as several high-profile mentors. Kulczyk said, “Thanks to the unique formula of the InCredibles programme, we started with an optimal ‘tailor-made’ acceleration for our companies.” InCredibles participants also had the opportunity to meet Henry H. Wong, founder of Diamond TechVentures and former venture partner at Crystal Ventures, where he was actively involved with companies including SMIC, LGC Wireless, Infinera, and Exavio. The successful executive and venture investor in Silicon Valley was also a finalist for the EY “Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”
IBM partnered with InCredibles to find tech companies that could offer solutions to clients on a rapidly changing market. Piotr Pietrzak, CTO of IBM Poland & Baltics, said; “We reviewed applications submitted to the programme and actively, for example, suggested where the solutions could be adapted in one of the portfolio companies of Kulczyk Investment. We can very quickly and easily evaluate this solution technologically – whether it is unique, whether it gives investment potential, or if we see a potential customer.”
The winning startups included Archdesk, which created a method to connect a construction site with the office, Hotailors, developer of a smart travel technology to book rooms faster, Radio Net Media, which made an app that replaces broadcasted ads into online ads, Tidio — communication service for businesses and UserEngage, which is a tool for sending automated messages in all communication channels.
Lech Gorlewicz, CEO of UserEngage said, “There is huge enthusiasm for startups from both government agencies and corporations, but the most promising shift is the increased influence of experienced entrepreneurs who help fast-growing startups with their advice, goodwill and close relationships with the members of the international startup ecosystem. Building a densely connected environment driven by a pay-it-forward approach will be crucial for the long-term future of European startup community and this is exactly what we’ve experienced during the inCredibles programme.”
With support from the programme, startup Radio Net Media can now focus on growth and expand its audio-to-online advertising solution. Founder Michal Marcinik said “We underestimate ourselves a little. We, entrepreneurs from CEE, have the great passion to achieve goals and positive stubbornness not to give up early. What we need is to believe in ourselves more, that our ideas will prove their value not only on the home market but are also scalable to become international success stories.”
“We are happy to start our business here in Poland,” said Marta Skrzypiec from Hotailors. “Our country has amazing technology specialists, and now it’s our time to show the world that in the nearest future, the second Silicon Valley will be here in CEE.”
InCredibles was the only acceleration programme UK-based startup Archdesk participated in so far, and CEO Michal Mojzesz said it was tailored to their needs and met with well-connected mentors as well as other innovators. “I was not aware of how many VCs are in Poland. After the programme, we networked with local startups and we were amazed at how many successful startups there are in this part of Europe.”
Powered by Enterprise Forum Poland: MITEF Poland Acceleration Programme
Synonymous with the world’s most cutting-edge technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the inspiration for technology accelerators organised by local chapters of MIT Enterprise Forum. To help startups take their ventures to the next level, MITEF Poland provides access to mentors and resources, connects Polish tech experts and entrepreneurs and support through MIT Enterprise Forum Global.
In the 3rd edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum Poland Acceleration Programme, 117 technology startups from all over Poland registered, from which 23 were accepted. These Polish companies presented their solutions to over 150 investors and representatives of corporations and public institutions throughout the three-month programme. On the final day of the forum, teams showed off their public speaking skills and networked with potential partners. The five winners of DemoDay were: Silencions, which combats noise pollution, BanqUp, is an open banking service, Lerta, which supports energy sellers, LGM, which created an electronic controller for electric generators, and DEBN – inventors of a safer prostate biopsy needle. The teams will present their technologies during the bootcamp in Boston in October 2018.
With the goal to help companies advance the commercialisation of their solutions, the project gives startups an opportunity to work with top organisations in various fields such as finance, energy and health. The 3rd edition of the programme was supported with the ScaleUp grant, which provided startups with up to 200,000 zł. Participants attended six 2-day workshops based on the 24 Steps of Discipline Enterprise created by Bill Aulet of MIT and the Pitch Academy. Partners of the programme included PGNiG Group, KGHM CUPRUM – Research and Development Centre, Adamed Group, Intel, Visa and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Polska
“We are still looking for Polish unicorns,” said Magdalena Jabłońska, COO of MITEF Poland. “For the 3rd edition of the programme, we accepted startups that have developed technologies with a chance for commercialisation not only in this country, but also abroad. These are innovative solutions, some of which are unique on a global scale. Together with our partners, we enable startups to gather business knowledge and teach them how to present a technology company and innovative solutions in an efficient and understandable way for clients, partners and investors around the world,” said Jabłońska. “The acceleration programme also enables testing and validation of a business idea thanks to the involvement of experts and technical resources made available by partners in industry paths.”
Among the participants were creators of an intracranial implant for the treatment of brain tumors, anti-wrinkle cosmetics with bee venom, a mobile application dedicated to oncology patients, open banking service that integrates banking products and fintech services and many more. Michał Krużycki, COO of DEBN said, “We are working on a new medical device – a prostate biopsy needle – and we were looking for support in some fields in R&D development. It’s very difficult or even impossible to get experts from the market to cooperate with a startup like ours so we got access to fantastic specialists that helped us a lot.” Inviting corporate partners to the programme allowed teams to verify their startup readiness to move onto commercialisation, said Pawel Wiktor from LGM, developer of an electronic device and software for electricity generators. We had an opportunity to turn this experience into a prospective real business opportunity,” he said. “We are now running a pilot project with our corporate partner and we are really optimistic and enthusiastic about the outcome!” Michał Sosiński from Soma Healthcare, which developed a tool to improve work in the field of imaging diagnostics using artificial intelligence, said the programme gave them a chance to build a valuable network. “Cooperation with mentors and industry partners provided us with a great amount of knowledge — we genuinely felt like we were standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Kacper Budnik, CEO and co-founder of the startup BZB UAS, which develops unmanned aerial systems, said the programme’s valuable workshops helped his team realise how to implement their solutions on the market and acquire customers. Thanks to the acceleration, the startup presented its unmanned system for Polish Gas Company (PGNiG). Connecting with a global network of talented people is the most valuable outcome, according to CTO and co-founder of Elastic Cloud Solutions, creator of an internal communication platform. “We had multiple opportunities to pitch, present and get feedback. We are also happy to be chosen by the largest Polish bank – PKO BP – to deploy and test our innovations in their environment, as a part of the acceleration programme.”
Powered by MassChallenge: Bridge to MassChallenge Warsaw
With the aim of accelerating top startups in Central and Eastern Europe, Bridge to MassChallenge Warsaw is a startup competition that supports entrepreneurs and connects innovators to the international MassChallenge network. Nearly 300 startups from CEE applied to the acceleration programme but only 23 moved on to the next stage of the competition. These finalists traveled from 12 countries to participate in the four-day bootcamp during which they met with international experts and representatives from top VC funds and corporations. After intensive training, collaborating and attending workshops, startups faced-off on Demo Day at Campus Warsaw for the ultimate opportunity to participate in MassChallenge in Boston.
To kick off Demo Day,US Ambassador to Poland, Paul W. Jones, said a few words about Polish-American cooperation and upcoming events. He concluded by saying, “Over the last two and a half years, I have visited Polish startups in Warsaw and in cities across Poland and I am so impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit, with the successful commercialisation in areas that I would have never thought of or imagined were possible and I’m sure it holds the same for the other countries here today so we want to continue this enthusiasm.”
Newly appointed Jadwiga Emilewicz, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology, was also an honorable guest and said, “There are startups here operating on the financial or real estate markets, as well as startups who want to help solve the problem of air pollution, to name but a few. We want to cooperate with those who provide new, breakthrough technologies.”
After the introductions and well-wishes, representatives of each startup were given only a few minutes to present their solutions to a panel of expert judges and the audience. At the end of the presentations, 10 startups received a ticket to Boston: bNesis (Poland/Ukraine), CertChain (Belarus), DrOmnibus (Poland), Funtronic (Poland), KLEAR Lending (Bulgaria), ShelfWise (Poland), Skriware (Poland), Smart Technology Group (Poland), Spaceflow (Czech Republic), and Talk-A-Bot (Hungary).
Upon receiving the prized ticket, Petr Bořuta of the Czech startup Spaceflow, said, “We are looking forward to going to Boston, so we can find prospective investors and scale up our business. Being here in Warsaw means a lot to us, because we partnered up with some of the biggest players, such as PKO Bank Polski, PGE Nowa Energia or VISA. These companies can help us to get in touch with people with whom otherwise it would be difficult to connect.” Spaceflow created an app that connects key people in buildings such as landlords, tenants and visitors to enhance the environment and improve functionality.
Another winner, Polish/Ukrainian startup bNesis is a platform that combines scoring engines, social media, payments, banking and eCommerce services. CEO Dmitriy Norenko said, “The competition was great because we discussed our ideas with American experts on how to introduce our idea on US markets. Bridge to MassChallenge was an extensive program and we met with top mentors, executives, lawyers and professionals. Anyone who wants to go global should participate.”
Although CEE is full of innovative startups, CEO of the Polish-Swedish company Skriware Karol Górnowicz said, the region still needs help developing. “The industry is moving in the right direction, however, a recent Deloitte’s study shows that among the 40 most economically developed countries, the maturity of the startup environment in Poland is still below the moderate level (2.1 on a four-level scale),” said Górnowicz. “We can change that by joining partnerships and programs – such as B2MCWarsaw – led by people who understand the fears and feel the exhilaration of the entrepreneurial journey.”