What do we get from Polish Startup Report 2017?

The Polish innovation ecosystem is growing up and gaining strength. We have just seen the third release of annual Polish Startups Report. Though the picture of the Polish tech hub emerging from the research is not full, some conclusions can be made — and shared.

The Report is based on the results of an online survey made by Startup Poland Foundation — the only Polish organization that successfully undertook the task to profile our ecosystem nationwide. Conducted in 2017, it is the most broad report on Poland’s tech scene.

Why is the picture not full?

621 startups took part in the survey. We know there’s more — much more. At Black Pearls VC we received over 800 investment proposals last year. Most startups I know live outside the ecosystem, silently building their success. I guess that most just don’t feel like filling a survey will do them any good. Even though we encourage them strongly every year. Nevertheless there are many interesting, often surprising conclusions, with some presented below.

Our ecosystem is opening up more.

- Over 50% of startups work in IT: big data, analytics, business intelligence, development tools and IoT. And 28% of startups in Poland have team members from abroad, with our neighbours from Ukraine taking the 1st place here. Ukrainian and Polish IT developers and engineers are one of world’s best. Talk about potential!
- 50% of Polish startups are exporting. And among those most are showing regular revenues, achieving break even much sooner than their peers serving only the domestic market. Seems that finally we are reaching out to the world and succeed in doing that.
- 1 out of 5 Polish startups has a foreign investor. However I definitely do not feel that is so common from a VC perspective. Maybe we are on the verge of a breakthrough?
- Life Science projects require much more patience and funding than others. Considering the amount of capital invested in Poland into R&D projects currently and during the last few years — the best is yet to come.

So, what do we know about Polish VC’s from the Report?

44% of the startups raising capital plan to do it with a foreign investor. Startups don’t find Polish VC’s support in entering global markets strong enough. And I bet many startups deciding between working with a Polish or foreign VC — would choose the second. However we can work together and we should aspire to, for the sake of everyone in the ecosystem. As a country we should push more strongly towards being a part of the global network. Learn from the best VC’s and attract them to Poland by showing the potential and opportunities. And then invest together. 
From another perspective, fundraising (for our newest fund) has proven me that our ecosystem has a massive potential but we still lack trust- it’s definitely one of the most pressing systemic challenges that we must work on.

We have to be more connected.

As startups in Poland are clearly on the right track, the activity of Polish VC’s turns more and more to this direction as well. Connecting Poland to the global innovation ecosystem is absolutely essential for the whole industry. And I know our colleagues are also doing the great job of doing just that. Take Innovation Nest and their huge success of fundraising with European Investment Fund (big congrats btw). Here at Black Pearls VC, we take that very seriously too- take last week for example- Marcin P. Kowalik (Managing Partner at Black Pearls VC, was in Tel Aviv at the DLD conference together with PFR Ventures (Polish Development Fund)- the largest fund of funds program in CEE. Meanwhile Ewa Treitz (Partner at Black Pearls VC) shared her insights as a Mentor while participating in Pirate Summit (Cologne, Germany) — one of the key startup conferences in Europe. On top of that, I must also mention that we are proud to have entered Invest Europe last year, and be a part of the Kauffman Fellows family. Seems like everyone is doing their part and the ecosystem is heading the right way!

The English version of the Report will be available soon — contact me or stay tuned to the Startup Poland website to get a copy.