6 Steps For Building A World Class Startup Community In Krakow
By Rudradeb Mitra
My first acquaintance with Krakow startup community was in April 2017. I was invited by Richard Lucas to give a talk at Enterprise Monday. It was a very friendly and welcoming event. I met some awesome people and at the end of the event, I had already made up my mind to move to Krakow.
Fast forward 6 months. I have been living in Krakow for almost 3 months now. Occasionally I attend events of my interest and I got to know about the local startup community. So when Paul Kulon asked me to write this post, I was happy to share my experiences.
“One man can make a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA legend.
When I was building my startups I was lucky enough to get a lot of support from the communities in San Francisco and Cambridge. People were genuinely helpful. They connected me to potential investors, advisors, fellow entrepreneurs and customers. I felt I was part of a team and my journey would have been a lot more difficult without the help from the community.
Looking back, I feel the communities helped me in three main ways:
- Meeting people who inspired me. I remember meeting twitter co-founder in person in Cambridge and thinking to myself, wow if he can do it – so can I. This experience changed my life.
- Meeting people who helped me. They were fellow entrepreneurs with whom I met once a week to share my problems, mentors who gave me their time for free to guide me, investors who helped me gain more knowledge on financials and investments and potential future customers who gave me their feedback on the product.
- Having a great ecosystem of university students, other startups and corporations. Students are often willing to work to gain experience in a startup at a low salary. Something very important for startups. By having access to Stanford and Cambridge University I was able to find smart students to work with.
When I compare Krakow startup community with the other startup communities I have lived/worked in, namely Cambridge, San Francisco and Bangalore, I can definitely say Krakow startup community is moving in the right direction and have a lot of potential. There is a good local University, lots of corporates and other startups, successful local entrepreneurs and friendly people.
But no community is built by itself. There is a lot of work needed to build a vibrant community. I commend Richard Lucas, Paul Kulon and many others who put their time to build a great community in Krakow. And personally, in whatever ways, I am always happy to help the local community.
“I believe that we all have a responsibility to give back. No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck. Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful.” by Ron Conway
However, there is always room for improvement for Krakow to become a truly world-class startup community. I can see the following:
- Needs more inspirational but approachable people – One thing that strikes me a lot in Poland is that how unapproachable people are. A couple of days ago I was talking to a CEO of $100M revenue company based in SF. If I think in Poland, the CEOs of even $1M are less approachable. I am not sure why! Arranging a meeting with CEOs in Poland takes weeks if not months. I feel there is a lack of giving back culture here and there is a sense of arrogance among many who have become successful. Kudos to Richard to organize Enterprise Monday where successful entrepreneurs come and share their stories but perhaps more can be done to encourage people to give back to the community.
- More Seed investors who were entrepreneurs. One of the best thing about SF, Cambridge and Bangalore is that there are plenty of seed investors who were entrepreneurs. They not only have the funds but can also add a lot of value to the company via their experience. Most investors I met in Poland are VC fund managers who have never built any startup. At an early stage, a startup is better of taking money from a seed investor with a track record in building startups than looking for VC fund. This is a pain point many entrepreneurs face in Poland.
- Need more events on Public speaking for Entrepreneurs – I used to attend an event called Pitch and Mix in Cambridge. Once a week we used to meet and pitch our ideas to others openly. It was an informal pitch for 1 min. I feel here new entrepreneur are too afraid to share their ideas and all the pitching events are too formal or run by consultants with an intention to sell their services.
- The local student ecosystem can be developed more. My experience says that hiring students in Krakow is way difficult than in San Francisco. The local university seems not so interested in encouraging entrepreneurship. I hope this will change.
- Can build a more sales driven culture. Krakow has great technologist but almost no sales people and very few good marketing people. You can build a great product, you can create great content but if you do not have a good sales engine – the startup will not succeed or not succeed to the extent it can. I think a lot of work can be done to build sales driven culture among startups. Would love to see more events around that.
- Need more People who are genuinely helping others. I remember having a conversation with someone in Warsaw who said to me that he sells contacts to startups. Ridiculous! My advice to any startup where a mentor asks for money or someone asks money for contacts – run away. One way to help startups will be to create a list of people in the community with skills and contact numbers who are willing to provide help for x hours in a week for free.
Rudradeb Mitra has built 4 startups – two of them in Silicon Valley, one in Cambridge, UK and one in Belgium. He has lived in 10 countries and has done business with companies from over 30 countries. These days he is spending most of his time sharing his knowledge and experience with entrepreneurs. He is a mentor of PARC (Polish Agency of Enterprise development) and Founders Institute. He also writes regularly on startups, sales, growth hacking and Artificial Intelligence.