While the CEE region has become an increasingly attractive destination to British companies for outsourcing IT services in recent years; Mateusz Cyrankiewicz, the Polish co-founder of thriving UK-based startup Dropr, travelled the opposite way, grew dreadlocks and settled down in an old peanut factory in Eastern London. In a casual Q&A session across one sea and two time zones, he tells us the reasons behind his spontaneous expatriation.
Matt Cyrankiewicz (left) and Dropr co-founder Noel Lynagh at the Lovie Awards. Photo: lovieawards.eu
Away we go
Born in Kraków in the times of social unrest, final countdown and nuke reactor explosions behind the border, Mateusz or Matt Cyrankiewicz left Poland about six years ago, right after finishing high school. He’skept moving around ever since, studying in Ireland, Wales, Chile and Spain, until he settled in England last year, after getting a degree in multimedia from the University of Wales.
“I arrived in Ireland together with a huge wave of Poles, some seeking wealth and some looking for far less mundane types of luck on the green island. Ireland was of course a great opportunity having a booming IT industry and I availed of that and now London is a great place to build a startup but I think these have never been my reasons to abandon my [Polish] forest.”
Fish & chips versus pierogi
Indeed, while a stream of CEE programmers keeps fueling the Silicon Valley’s IT staff because of attractive salaries and exciting career prospects, Matt decided to stay abroad rather than heading back to his motherland as well, yet for less materialistic reasons.
“I never thought of Poland as a place that lacked opportunities for me, but I really love to travel and had a chance to go and study in Ireland. Some of my friends in Poland did really well staying there and the digital media are getting really big there recently.”
With a lot of great programmers coming from Poland, including most of Dropr’s coders, Matt is well aware of his country’s rich IT resources, although he admits not being too familiar with the Polish startup scene.
“I know that the government is helping out, so many young people get the chance to get some seed funding without sacrificing any equity. Polish startups to date are mainly focused locally, which I’m sure works for them, as it’s a pretty big country, but it would be great to see some making it internationally as well. There’s big potential, for sure.”
This being said, he does acknowledge and enjoy the advantages of working in the UK, where “opening a business takes only as much as deciding to do it.” Paperwork and even taxes come later, when the business is already making its first steps, which makes it easy for first time entrepreneurs to fiddle with their ideas and prove some concepts, as Matt tells us.
Thus, after years of freelancing building numerous portfolio websites and social networking web apps, Matt decided to launch the first multimedia platform for all creative heads with Noel Lynagh, whom he met while studying. Together, they founded Dropr in 2010, supported by seed-funding and cross-financed through their other projects.
“Building a startup is both harder than you’d think and a better experience than you’d expect. So prepare but fear not, buy the ticket, take the ride!”
Building something truly multimedia
Their website is based on the good old concept of providing a platform that allows artists to share their work online. This noble project has already been done by many, such as Pullfolio and Behance, but so far was always focused on one or two media.
While Matt was very much into art and modernist product design, Noel used to build websites for rock bands, which added the medium of sound to the visual concept. With Dropr, they aimed to bring creative people together, across their backgrounds and mediums of expression.
“The idea of creating ‘The Creative Network’ has always been there, it’s just never been built and we happened to be the first. It’s a bit like the iPhone, there have been a whole lot of smartphones before but at the same time it was something completely new and an awesome break-through that benefited consumers around the world. I think Dropr with its openness; multi-platform support and extreme ease of use could be a similar big evolutionary step, this time for the creative industry.”
Clean from banner ads and purely focused on creative content, the website is designed to be as accessible and user-friendly as possible for maximising the artists’ exposure. After signing up through social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Flickr and MySpace or via Dropr itself, members – who are already over 11.000 – can upload a sheer amount of content online, including static images and texts, but also music and videos, including Flash and HTML5 files.
And there is more in the pipes. Matt and Noel are already working on the next-next version to come in spring 2013. As if that wasn’t enough, they are also about to release Sassy Serpentine, an improved version of Dropr with a responsive interface working better on tablets and mobile phones.
Special wishes for next year? “100.000 members, a Webby award and a month of travel around some far, green and foreign land. Thanks!” Be careful what you wish for Matt Cyrankiewicz; you just might get it.