Day Three: Poznan to Warsaw
Rise and shine! After a great couple of days checking out the startup scene in Poznan we hit the road to Warsaw. Personally, this would be the second time I had visited the Polish capital. Back in May 2013, my co-founder Mayel de Borniol and I spoke at an OpenReaktor event, so I was curious to see what had changed since.
Upon entering Warsaw there was certainly a change to the skyline with new buildings popping up, and the growing number of startups and the development of the entrepreneurial community is another sign of the increasing modernisation of this city.
Our first stop in Warsaw was to visit Showroom, an online marketplace for independent fashion designers. They had just moved into a renovated cheese factory in central Warsaw, where you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Berlin.
Fellow roadtripper Maciek Laskus, who is originally from Warsaw, shared a little bit about his experience of relocating to Berlin and organising Startup Safary, an open doors event that will be happening again later this year.
One of the things I have seen which really impacts and benefits an emerging ecosystem is the cross pollination of people, knowledge, ideas, culture and talent. This is the reason why I always encourage entrepreneurs to spend as much time as they can visiting other startup ecosystems around the world, and Maciek sharing his new life in Berlin is a way to bring a taste of this cross pollination back to his home town.
Day Four: Warsaw
We arrived at the Solec 44 cafe for presentations and a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs about startup funding. But the discussion branched out into a multitude of other topics, from when to take funding and finding a co-founder to dealing with failure, lack of trust and a number of issues that a developing country is facing when trying to change the current status-quo.
The discussion with local entrepreneurs was revealing. It is clear that there is a lack of knowledge sharing and role models in Poland, but the ambition and talent that is being displayed is a very good sign of things going in the right direction.
We have seen a lot of good startups, talented developers and inspiring people, but I think that there is something else that needs to happen in Warsaw in particular, and Poland in general, and that is for the community to find its own entrepreneurial identity.
My conclusion after taking part in the roundtable is that there is a conflict between what the community is being told that it “should be like” based on the example of Western Europe and elsewhere, and the mentality of the people surrounding the present entrepreneurs, which rubs on to them and is holding them back. The moment in which a balance between these two is established and negativity is set aside, will see the Polish startup identity at its strongest point, and then watch out, world.
In the evening we attended a group dinner with Michał Olszewski, the deputy mayor of Warsaw, along with other local entrepreneurs and investors. It was a pleasant surprise to see one of Warsaw’s most senior officials checking in on Foursquare’s Swarm, as there is something to be said about a city whose leaders are open to technology.
Day Five: Warsaw
On our last day in Warsaw we visited OpenReaktor, a huge house full of startups who use the space to host events where they invite international speakers, and it’s also where the deputy mayor visits once in a while to stay in touch with the local ecosystem.
This is what it’s all about, after all: connecting, sharing, and learning together that a small entrepreneurial community can make an impact, and have the ability to influence multiple structures of a city, be they political, economical or social. Even though there is a general tendency towards negativity, the potential that Poland has to offer is yet to be fully unraveled. Until then, as a fellow entrepreneur from Warsaw told me: “Have fun in Kracow and don’t get discouraged by our tendency to overcomplicate things!”
Josef Dunne, co-founder of Babelverse currently based in London. Babelverse’s vision is to bring seamless communication between all languages.