Inexpensive, often underrated and with a population of roughly 40 million, Poland has been providing talented programmers and top coders to the Silicon Valley for years. While Germany and in particular Berlin with its cool open spaces, hipster bars and currywursts still attract most talents and investments on the continent, Poland is progressively affirming its membership in the vibrant European web and mobile startup family.
Krakow, Poznan and Warsaw’s tech hives are packed with young people eager to develop their groundbreaking apps, inspired online projects and promising e-trade concepts. Despite a slowly developing local market and the lack of an actual strong products portfolio, entrepreneurship is booming there as well.
Boosted by an increased number of angel investors and VCs, the local startup scene is supported by EU funding and Poles back from the US to develop their own venture funds and accelerators. Demonstrating an obvious keenness on hitting the tech sky, the Polish geek community regularly organises all kinds of startup related events, barcamps, hackathons and other tech fests in partnership with other European cities. Amongst the joyous pool of emerging companies, here are five that have caught inventures.eu’s eyes and are raising our hopes:
Founded in Poznan, iTraff Technology is not only turning heads but it is also turning smartphones into smart shopping tools. Surfing on the success of its app SaveUp, the fast growing company is about to launch Recognize, another photo recognition technology for Android systems and iOS, also initiated by Arkadiusz Skuza, Paweł Elbanowski, Marcin Szajek and Wojciech Radomsk of iTraff. This API’s principle is simple: grab your smartphone, take a snapshot of the coveted product and you are instantly directed to virtual stores enabling you to get it shipped to your place. Proof that American VCs did not miss its strong profitable potential, iTraff is already operating both in Texas and Poland, and aims to completely shift its headquarters to the USA.
Fun in Design
As winner of the Polish startupfest 2012, Fun in Design has naturally gripped our attention. This stylish service website launched last year by Paweł Kocoń and OlaJaroszkiewicz offers Polish fashionistas a new way to fill their closet with their dream shoes. With an assortment of over 200 models and 100 materials to choose from – do the math – it allows for an ocean of possibilities for unique creations, shipped within 21 days. Handcrafted in Poland with skins imported from Italy, Fun in Design‘s shoes are already buzzing in local media and getting increasing attention from the fashion sphere.
Officially launched in January this year by Michal Wendrowski, Rublon is very likely to make waves outside of Poland in the near future. Based on patent applications, this security technology aims to do nothing less than putting an end to password-based authentication, and thus to phishing and password cracking as well.
The key behind this revolutionary concept developed for both Android and iOS, is asymmetric cryptography in the form of codes. Once scanned with a smartphone, these codes will get you registered or logged in automatically, sparing you the pain of remembering an umpteenth lame variation of your good-for-all password.
American giant Etsy and German copycat Dawanda should watch out for SHOWROOM, their little Polish sister who’s been growing incredibly fast since its launch in January. Founded by Michal Juda and Jasiek Stasz, this online marketplace for independent fashion designers provides a complete range of e-commerce solutions, from stock and orders management to promotional tools through social media.
Within a year, the Warsaw-based startup has already become the biggest marketplace for indie fashion and furniture in the country, gathering over 400 creators and labels. Funded by Polish VC HardGamma Ventures, the company has begun its international expansion with media corporation Burda International acquiring a 25% stake in it last month. A company that is likely to broaden Polish fashion’s horizons by a great deal (see inventures.eu’s news article here).
Lukas Sobański and Tomasz Szczęsny’s website PlaceKnow ends our short list on a particularly glorious note. Runner-up to the prize for the most promising startup in the world at Startup Open 2012, this online portal integrates several functionalities for a complete interactive experience not only for travellers but also companies and local organisations. Simply put, it’s a pictorial map of the world featuring reviews of attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops and news about local ongoings. As a mix of TripAdvisor, Qype and Pinterest, the site aims to connect people and follow users with similar interests. Experiencing rapid growth since its launch in March, PlaceKnow has already gathered over 400.000 photos uploaded by users from 3.000 locations around the world. It also operates as a mobile app for Android and iOS.