Recruitment for the autumn edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum CEE accelerator, addressed to young technology companies from Poland and Central and Eastern Europe is underway. Start-ups that qualify for the project will undergo a three-month acceleration process, receive co-financing for the development of activities in the amount of up to 50,000 Euros and have a chance to establish commercial cooperation with leading Polish and international enterprises. Companies from the CEE region will be assigned to a special team that will help them develop their business in Poland. We asked Jacek Bukowicki, Innovation & Business Developer, Corporate Trainer & Facilitator from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, which awarded a grant for the program of 3495000 million Euros, why it is worth doing.
- How does the current start-up ecosystem in Poland function and what is the potential for its further development?
The start-up ecosystem consists not only of start-ups, but also financing entities (e.g. business angels, investment funds, development agencies, innovation-oriented corporations, etc.), entrepreneurial academies, business environment institutions, research and development entities, universities, technical universities or all spaces, events and conferences giving an opportunity to network as well as integrate the start-up environment. Experts say that a properly functioning “ecosystem” of start-ups is a condition for the development of innovation.
According to the Deloitte report entitled “Diagnosis of the start-up ecosystem in Poland”, on the basis of the adopted definitions of a start-up and its ecosystem, five key areas have been distinguished to ensure the sustainable development of these thriving entities. These include: financing, legal regulations, human capital, social capital and the institutional environment. When it comes to legal regulations and the institutional environment in Poland, they work really well. Human capital is moderately developed, however, recent observations and feedback from the market seem to indicate that its level of development is getting higher and it is starting to strongly attract both foreign start-ups and foreign investors.
In recent years, we have noticed a very dynamic development of the Polish start-up ecosystem. What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that Poland is currently the largest pool of public funds available to finance start-ups, high-technology companies and high-risk companies compared to all of Europe, e.g. PFR Ventures – the fund of funds.
The largest fund of funds in Central and Eastern Europe (FoF) offers repayable funding through selected financial intermediaries, e.g. venture capital funds or business angels. Established as part of the Start In Poland program, the company has an investment budget of nearly PLN 3 billion. Its activities are focused on supporting innovative companies and enterprises at various stages of development: from the earliest phase, through the seed stage, first implementations and the growth and expansion phases..
- What can Poland offer to young companies from abroad?
This question is perfectly answered by the opinions heard during the last WolvesSummit conference in Warsaw on 19-20 March. In order to reach the largest number of key ecosystem entities (including representatives of corporations and investors), the participation of start-ups in WolvesSummit is free of charge. The conference, which is getting more and more popular every year, attracts lots of talented participants. The ninth edition of WolvesSummit has attracted: 450 Start-ups, 100 Scale-ups, 300 Investors, 450 Corporate Representatives, 2,500 Participants, 4,500 1:1 Meetings.
Both from appointed and accidental talks with representatives of start-ups and investors from abroad, it appears that Poland has become a very strong magnet not only for beginners, but also for more experienced entrepreneurs from other, often more economically developed markets. The most frequently mentioned reason for this positive phenomenon is human capital. Among Polish employees, it is not difficult to find not only highly qualified specialists and experts who know foreign languages, but above all, it is internal motivation, commitment, certain mindset and willingness to work that counts. Generalizing, it seems that Polish generations of millenials are not characterized by such negative qualities often referred to as a problem in the West. In addition, foreign guests indicate and confirm that the start-ups market in Poland is experiencing dynamic growth at the moment, while in many Western European markets (e.g. The Netherlands, Belgium) “there is stagnation and little is happening, even the most junior employees are very demanding, demotivated and little involved. ” The argument of low (relative to Western Europe) expectations – or perhaps more accurately: the prevailing standards as to the level of financial remuneration of employees in Poland – was not directly pointed out, but it certainly has a considerable significance.
- What are the benefits of registering a company in Poland?
At the WolvesSummit conference, there were many foreigners representing start-ups participating in the POLAND PRIZE program (Polish offer for foreign start-ups intending to move or open their business in Poland), who, with no exceptions, praised both the quality and range of services received and the entrepreneurial climate in Poland (the most frequently mentioned cities were Warsaw and Poznań).
Many other foreigners who attended the conference (e.g. experienced entrepreneurs, representatives of start-ups, investors) were moving or have already moved their operations to Poland, praising our country for a great start-up boom and huge resources of young talented people who are “eager to work.”
In a nutshell: the greatest benefit for entrepreneurs from across the eastern border is the opportunity to start operating in the EU and access to many EU markets simultaneously; for entrepreneurs from other, more economically advanced markets, Poland is still an attractive market with many little-developed and prospective niches.