With over 100 startups, Krakow is home to only about 10% of Poland’s startups but when it comes to getting funding, Krakow startups are successful in raking in big bucks. Last year, 40% of startups that received over 2.5m in funding were from Krakow!
One of the startups that were recently in the limelight for raising investment is Krakow’s HR Tech Startup, HCM Deck. Earlier this year, the company, that offers SaaS enterprise platform letting companies manage, automate and analyze employee development, raised €2.8 million following 100% YoY growth. Their platform is already used by more than 150,000 employees of big companies, including Allianz, Leroy Merlin, OBI, Volkswagen, Nationale Nederlanden.
We got an opportunity to interact with HCM Deck’s co-founder, Simon Janicki, to learn what it takes to run a startup successfully in Krakow. Simon is an experienced entrepreneur. Before founding HCM Deck, Szymon built MyNetwork, one of the biggest e-learning companies in Europe. Both companies along with his long-time co-founder Rafał Niesłuchowski. In this article, Szymon discusses the basic things that an entrepreneur needs to get in order.
1) Getting the definition of startup right: Thinking bold and global
A startup is a young company that is just beginning to develop. These companies offer a product or service that is not currently being offered elsewhere in the market, or that the founders believe is being offered in an inferior manner.
A startup is also about having the right combination of innovation along with a scalable business model where from the very first day your business model & market approach should consider that you want to be the global leaders in what you are intending to do. Don’t confine your business to local market (Krakow/Poland)!
2) The two essential things that your startup needs
Product: At the very beginning stage of a startup, it is most advisable to concentrate on what the product is, define who your clients are & where the company needs to have a good product foot in the market which is solving a significant problem that exists in the market.
Growth Strategy: And later on, when the company has sorted out the products, its use and impact — that is when the growth strategy comes into play. It is very crucial for any startup to have a goal where it should be growing year over year – ideally, you should be 10 times bigger in two years than your present status.
3) What do you need as a new founder & CEO?
If there is anything that the hit TV show, Silicon Valley, teaches us that as a startup founder, you will always be bombarded with one unique challenge after another. Taking your startup from an idea into your head to a successful company would require you to be equipped with special skills.
Knowledge: Basic knowledge about the terminologies, market standards, startup ecosystems, MRR, ARR metric systems as that helps in shaping your goals for the company.
I recommend that you follow Christoph Janz’s blog from Point 9 Capital for more ideas & definitely make the book Play Bigger by Al Ramadan & Dave Peterson your guide.
Learn from others: It is highly recommended that you share, network, mentor and ask to be mentored from people who all already way up in the game to avoid the most common mistakes. It is surprisingly easy to get valuable advice easily (and most of the time for free) if you ask other successful entrepreneurs for some mentoring.
Networking: Building your network is the best option that overcomes everything above as they all are the subsets of networking. Make sure your network has the right kind and amount of VC, investors & advisors. Attend the network parties/events you get to attend to make those contacts and pitch or talk about your company & product at the same time.
4) Recognizing the Outside and Inside Competencies that your Startup Needs
Outside facing competencies include sales and marketing. Your startup can hugely benefit from having a person (either a founder or CEO) with good stage presence and art of telling stories in both English and Polish — someone who can capture the audience’s attention and keep it while marketing your company. Of course, this person needs to have a deep knowledge of the market.
Inside facing competencies consist of managing the product, engineering, HR, operations, administration, financial & legal matters of the particular company.
5) Building a winning team
Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
In order for your startup to succeed, it is very important that each person you hire should be smarter than you in a specific area.
6) Getting ready for your investment pitch
One of the common mistakes that new founders often make is that they present local Krakow/Poland-specific statistics instead of telling how to solution can be scaled globally. You need to think like a VC! If VCs invest in 20 startups, they know that 19 of them will tank but the one that will succeed will have the potential to grow across markets – not just Poland.
VCs are also interested in your selling capabilities. Besides presenting a plan for growth, you should also focus on your sales tactics and strategy.
7) Choosing your co-founder wisely
I know my co-founder for longer than I have known my wife (I have been married for 14 years)! However, the length doesn’t matter as much as the right match & balance of skills. For example, if you excel at the outside competencies, someone with the inside competencies will be the right fit for you.
8) Never stop learning!
While everyone in your company may look up to you for guidance, your personal growth is also important. Keep developing your knowledge and skills by reading books, listening to podcasts and attending training events. I try to listen to at least one audiobook per week.
Note: This article was written by OMGKRK’s team based on Simon’s workshop during the Dragons Cave pre-accelerator program.