High Tech Entrepreneur; Digital Media, Mobile & Web Apps Development, Marketing Wizard
The Polish tech industry has become more and more recognized worldwide and has finally attracted the most appreciated market value these days: lots of attention! Here is a list of the hottest Polish tech startups of the recent decade.
Poland’s specialties include gaming, hardware such as beacons (a technology for communicating with nearby enabled devices), health devices, and 3D printing. 10% of 3D printers used worldwide are designed and manufactured in central Europe, with Poland the market leader in that category. The leading printer is Zortrax, which boasts well known clients such as Dell and HP.
There are plenty of tech hubs in Poland, especially in Cracow, Poznan, Wroclaw, Warsaw, and, thanks to large Polish immigration worldwide, some are created by Poles abroad. For instance, there are a few Polish immigrants, who work very hard to create fruitful collaboration between Poland and London, the European capital of startups. One prominent example of such efforts is the company Amuse.rocks, founded by female high-tech entrepreneur Kamila Hankiewicz. Even the company’s web domain name is creative and sounds fun.
IamIN.io (I am in, I owe) is the latest startup created by Amuse.rocks. It is a collaborative economy platform that enables individuals to create or join private or public events, where cost can be split and deposits secured, which works to both the organizer’s and participant’s benefit. It is a Kickstarter for small-scale, location-based, bespoke events and experiences. Users can split costs of events with friends through an easy to use and secure platform. They can also discover local, bespoke initiatives while travelling and easily secure a spot with one click, sharing travel, thrills and the joy of the previously undiscovered. Are you in?
IamIN can be used to lock down the budget for almost any kind of group event, such as organizing and paying for a bachelor party, splitting the bills of the night-out, hiring a yacht for a dream summer holidays with the mates, and so on.
Having fun with friends can be great, but sleep is important, too! There is a very inspiring device invented by Poles called Neuro:on, which is produced by startup called Intelclinic. The NeuroOn is a sleep mask that monitors users’ biological feedback to help people sleep better and feel more rested in less time. It creates an entire framework for reclaiming sleep. I had the opportunity to take part in the presentation of the device in Poland during the event organized each year by Pangea Network, which is a business network for Polish professionals worldwide.
Polish tech companies have also made important contributions in the field of online communication and data management. People or companies who transfer or share large files over the internet (up to 20GB in size) have probably come across Sher.ly file sharing service, which is a private cloud solution for sensitive data sharing with secure access control.
Film-makers might be familiar with Be Steady (currently known as Advanced Cinema Robotic Systems). The main company’s product, The Beast, is a camera stabilizer based on the operation of brushless motors, several precise sensors, and sophisticated control firmware. Complex and difficult shots and takes often require huge efforts, including the usage of advanced CGI or custom, expensive, built-from-scratch rigs; with The Beast, these shots and takes become child’s play. The device was crowd-funded and with $300k raised on Kickstarter. Now the company produces the whole set of tools for film industry.
Another Kickstarter success story is Woolet, advertised as “the slimmest smart wallet for the modern man”. What is so special about it? Thanks to Bluetooth it alerts users when they’re out of range, a perfect gadget for forgetful people like me! Hang on, where is my pen?!
I am personally very interested in Cloud Your Car, which is a very affordable tool for vehicle tracking. This is especially useful for business, which might need to monitor their employees or costs of business trips. It collects data about position, mileage, speed and style of driving using just the car lighter socket. All information is transmitted from the vehicle to the cloud. This will be useful for some of my clients (I am the founder of accounting company Renaissance — renesans.co.uk and plenty of my clients are drivers, who need to keep a track of all their business trips for the tax purposes).
Speaking of my experience in the financial industry gained through working in the company Renaissance (renesans.co.uk), it is worth talking about why London is the hottest European capital of startups, and discussing why United Kingdom is ranked so high comparing for example to Poland, where the raw number of talent is similar. According to EuroStat, the United Kingdom hosts the largest group (approximately 3 million) of scientists and engineers; UK is followed by Germany, France, Spain and Poland. This may be because of the UK’s business–friendly climate and lack of bureaucratic red tape. Starting a business in the UK is simple and straightforward. New business owners can register their businesses within the first three months of trading. The compulsory national insurance contribution for self–employed entrepreneurs is less than a few pounds per week, and personal allowance (the amount of money one can make without paying any tax) is more than 10 000 pounds. Tax returns are filed just once a year, and taxes are paid on the profit from the business. If the business doesn’t make enough profit and the business owner is more than 25 years old, that person can also apply for tax credits, the money from which can then be used to support the business (the amount of credit one is eligible for depends on personal circumstances, but ranges from the amount of few hundred to a few thousands pounds).
In Poland, the whole process looks much different, and costs money before an entrepreneur stands a chance at earning a penny. Tax credits as they exist in the UK do not exist in Poland. Before a business owner can trade, the business needs to be registered, and the owner needs to start paying national contributions. The business owner may end up paying 180 pounds per month, all of which is compulsory! It is very, very difficult to start to innovate if a business owner has to start saving money for taxes before starting to trade! Additionally, the amount of national contributions a person has to pay is based on the average profit of companies which employ more than 9 employees. This hamstrings small business owners who might run a company either by themselves or with a friend. Worst of all is the fact that, even with paying high national contributions, individuals still do not know how their pension will be calculated and what amount of money they can expect when they reach the pension age. This is why many Polish startups are set up abroad and why Poland will not be a leader in innovation anytime soon: it is the system, not the lack of talent.
Let’s go back to innovative businesses. Earlier, I introduced the app for car tracking, but what happens if a person’s only means of transport is a bike? Polish Startup Jivr has the solution. The Jivr bike is a smart, electric, chainless bike, accompanied with a smartphone app. The company’s story began in 2012, during the company founder’s Masters studies at University College London, while researching the perfect urban commuting vehicle. Shipping of the vehicle begins at the end of 2015.
For people with children, there is a startup called Dice Plus, which makes a universal board game controller. It’s a great modern toy for kids. I’m just getting one for my daughter. It was the first Polish product in the American Apple Stores.
People who don’t have kids can get themselves a robot! RoboCore is a cloud-powered device and development platform that is the heart of new DIY robots for professional or hobby use. People can now build personal robots from scratch without high-level programming skills and at an affordable price. RoboCORE gives people the hardware and software to build almost any robot imaginable. What’s more, it is not dependent on any particular mechanics system, so people can use simple metal constructions, as well as LEGO bricks.
Another amazing product is the Leia Display System. It’s a patented screen enabling air image projection. It gives amazing results indoors. It’s like watching David Copperfield’s tricks — it brings the user into the magic.
Some startups have been given awards by European institutions or noticed by foreign investors. Jillion and The Social Good Vending Machine are two Polish startups chosen by The European Commission to participate in Social Innovation Competition in 2015, which was closed on 8 May. A total of 1 408 ideas were received. 30 semi-finalists have been selected. They will compete for the three prizes of €50,000 that will be awarded in November 2015. This year, 20% of applications came from Italy, 9% from Spain, 8% from Romania, and 7% each from the UK and Poland. Taking into account that London’s startup ecosystem has been ranked top in EU, the amount of Polish startups participating in the competition is impressive, and their ideas are inspiring.
Jillion is a new collaborative way to fund dream projects with money made on auctions. On Jillion, people can support projects in two ways. One option is to donate something and put it up for an auction, and the funds will benefit a project of your choice. The other option is to simply bid for something others have donated. Existing crowdfunding platforms finance projects only through money donations.
The Social Good Vending Machine was started on the idea of creating a network of production and distribution dedicated for and serviced by the social economy sector. Monar, a Polish NGO helping individuals with a history of substance abuse and other groups threatened with social exclusion has at its disposal a network of centers located all over Poland, often close to big cities, through which production and distribution channels can be organized. The vending machines will be supplemented by an Internet store where high quality natural products are sold online. The products will come from a sober living farm situated in the underdeveloped, east side of Poland. Cultivation methods will be ecologically friendly, providing high quality, natural food products such as healthy snacks, meals to consume “on the go”, honey, and traditional Polish food products. Both distribution and production will be handled by people suffering extreme exclusion from society.
The company Uber has had some problems lately — the application was fined $7.3 millionn dollars in California, and the managers of the app in Europe were arrested. A similar, called Lynk has just recently been launched in Gdansk, Poland; it also helps users to order a cheaper taxi with a smartphone. The application is free and it gives users the cost of the trip straight away, taking into account distance, current traffic and the weather. Unlike Uber, the fee is guaranteed, which makes Lynk better solution for the client, and it’s all legal, another distinct bonus. Drivers need to hold a taxi license and needs to attend lots of tests before they are accepted for the job. The ride with the Lynk ends up with a VAT invoice, and the cars used for transport are new.
Poles have also came up with some great ideas in the area of Fintech (financial technology). Fintech is definitely one of the leading categories of start-ups, covering a wide range of products and services, including: cybersecurity, big data, payments, crowdfunding, Bitcoin and P2P lending. Many start-ups are working to disrupt the banking sector, and same phenomenon happens in Poland.
Atsora, which provides financial institutions with innovative tools for small business owners, has been selected by FinTech Innovation Lab in London to participate in its annual event at Level39, Europe’s largest financial technology space, with seven other start-ups. The Lab, supported by the Mayor of London, the City of London Corporation, and Innovate UK, was launched in London in 2012 from a collaboration between Accenture and 13 of the world’s leading financial institutions, including Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs
Azimo allows migrant workers to make fast, simple low cost money transfers to their family members in over one hundred countries. They operate online and help customers save 85 percent of what they would pay a high street bank or an online money transfer company. Based in London and Krakow, they are aiming to disrupt the industry dominated by legacy players Western Union and Moneygram. Their value proposition is the fact that they offer their services on mobile and to migrant workers, a population often overlooked by the tech sector.
Google Ventures and Octopus Investments have invested in the foreign expansion of the Polish startup travel club, Travelist. Secret Escapes, the owner of Travelist, has been already provided with $60 million by the two funds, which will support the firm’s expansion in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia, The company may also be promoted in Asia.
Filmaster is the absolute leader of Polish startups that caught the eye of outside investors. It is a movie recommendation engine built by a team in Warsaw, which has been sold to Samba TV for a little over €1 million. Filmaster was funded by HackFwd and Hard Gamma Ventures. Described as a service that offers movie recommendations using “its own proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms”, Borys Musielak, CEO of Filmaster said, “When I heard Ashwin present at Bitspiration Festival in Poland, I knew right away that we shared the same vision. Exactly one year later, we’re excited to join Samba TV, participate in its rapid growth and contribute to its launch in Europe.” Samba TV will begin using Filmaster’s technology in its software.
So far, we have talked about startups in the areas of art, finances, transport, travel, food, how about Polish social networks? Nasza Klasa, a kind of Polish Facebook but with fewer features, lets users find people from your collages and high schools. The real hot stuff, especially for singles, is Elimi. For people who like to flirt with a capital F, there’s Elimi. Elimi is better than Tinder similar products, where users pick their matches by judging “the book by its cover”, because on Elimi users can quickly meet new people by creating awesome tasks and games. By doing this, they can decide who to chat with and who to eliminate. After all, looks are not everything — brains matter. People who share their locations can meet other people from the neighborhood. The company raised $135,000 in seed investment from local Polish investors. They have about 1,000 users and have hosted 2,000 games in the previous year. Many of the interactions are currently in Polish, but this is a great option for people who want to meet others in Central Europe.
Elimi is appealing obviously for people who are looking for a relationships, but some people like to experience different kind of speed dates: business networking, and one of the best place for that is conferences. I have organized together with Pangea Magazine one conference so far. It was the Polish Business Fair last year. I met several interesting people during the event and I still keep contact with some of the participants, one year later. If I decide to do it again I would love to make a use of the application called Confrenz, a great mobile event organization platform. It has many extremely useful features. For instance it lets conference attendees interact! Finding relevant contacts and friends is just a few taps away. People can post their personal data in the app and it is easy to find others. They can connect and start networking right away! It lets attendees ask questions to speakers from their devices during lectures. Everybody can see and vote up questions from others as well, so there is a basis for meaningful discussions.
During busy conferences, it can get really hot. The Polish startup Climesense, with their specially designed sensor, lets users track, and monitor temperature where it matters most. It can be used in the greenhouse or for home optimization. The sensor also lets users know instantly when it is on the move or has just been disturbed. This way it can be used to protect belongings, improve home security or be used to monitor a child. The Clime (sensor) is paired directly with a smartphone and sends all the data to the cloud.
Arrinera Hussarya is another hot Polish startup, which produced the first Polish supercar. The Hussarya was named after the Polish Hussar Calvary from XVI century that was famous for its beauty, strength and maneuverability. The Hussarya is powered by an 8.2-liter V-8 that delivers more than 800 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque. Arrinera claims its supercar will hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 3.2 seconds, 200 km/h in 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 340 km/h. Awesome!
Readers of Forbes Magazine may read about Sellbox. It was the Polish company chosen as the second best company from over 500 European startups at the Webit Congress Startup Challenge. Sellbox created a platform that enables the user to sell digital good from their cloud in seconds. “We give you this short link that you can post on your twitter, Facebook, or on your website. When someone clicks the link, they will see your product page with all your descriptions, images, and the price. When they pay you get your money instantly,” said Piotr Machowski, CEO and Founder of Sellbox. Sellbox facilitated the sale of a variety of digital products, such as video tutorials, indie video games, and any other file that can be uploaded to the cloud. They recently integrated Bitcoin into their service. “Bitcoin is a great innovation. We love the idea that it was born for the Internet, and that it’s the currency of the Internet. We believe it will grow in popularity and become the main tool to pay over the Internet. That’s why we are excited to include it in Sellbox”. Sellbox was backed up by SpeedUp Venture Capital Group.
People who are curious to learn more about Polish startups can visit http://foundedinpoland.com/, which provides a list of some really successful startups founded in Poland.
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