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I was meaning to write about technology entrepreneurship in Poland, and now, yet, another competition gave me this opportunity, as there is a winner and I must write about it. First, let me put in a few more words about the organizers.
Looking back, the Startup Sauna logos have been appearing quite frequently on GoalEurope over the past couple of weeks. And yes, they did it again. Weary but unwavering, Ville Simola and his team have been conducting Warmup in Poland, the third largest country in eastern Europe after Russia and Ukraine.
As if Russia was not enough.
Startup Sauna is a non-profit accelerator where mentors are successful Finnish technology entrepreneurs. According to Kamil Bargiel, the organizer from the Polish side, startups do not have to sell an equity stake in exchange for mentorship, so they are even more keen to participate.
Bargiel is an entrepreneur himself whose two companies were recently funded by the Polish VCs. One of them is a social media brand monitoring tool, SentiOne, which raised 200,000 Euros last week from AI NOT, the non-profit Polish accelerator. The solution, currently available in Polish, will be launched in all European languages. His another startup Share-Look is funded by AIP Seed Capital, which typically invests 25 000 Euros for 15 per cent equity stake. It is a mobile application, which acts as a personal shopping assistant and a fashion advisor.
Bargiel met Finnish crew while working at Aalto Venture Garage and later decided to create a test event with Startup Sauna which turned out to be very successful.
Here are the results.
Meet Imgn.it, which makes it easy to create 3D scenes and 360 degrees views of objects from photos taken with an ordinary camera. The idea itself is not unique. Take, for example, Estonian EDS Systems, which has been creating virtual tours over the past 11 years, including Tallinn Old Town 3D project. Simplicity and low cost of implementation are important to make 3D scenes more widespread and this what Imgn.it offers. The user experience can not be compared with that of EDS virtual tours, but it is still work in progress.
The project, funded by AIP Seed Capital, does not have a distinct business model yet, but from my point of view, the advertisement revenue model can do just fine. Just imagine that you are viewing a 3D scene of a beach and seeing a virtual billboard of a beer commercial. Subtle but effective.
Other finalists included NeptunIDE, a cloud-based integrated development environment for PHP developers. This project reminded me of a generic cloud-based code editor, CodeAnywhere, a Croatian startup short-listed for Startup Week 2011 competition, although it is not an IDE but a browser-based text editing alternative.
Another finalist and a participant of the Polish accelerator Gamma Rebels is Game Disrupt, an educational social online game developer in a stealth mode. Gamma Rebels, featured on TechCrunch in summer 2011, has been founded earlier this year by Chris Kowalczyk and Piotr Sienkiewicz. Apparently, as a result of TechCrunch article, the accelerator has extended application deadlines for the international applicants and even invested in a team from India that physically moved to Warsaw to participate.
When asked about the venture capital scene in Poland, Bargiel was very positive, “It is a good time to raise venture capital in Poland. Seed money from 20,000 to 300,000 Euros are easy to raise.” For larger investment rounds, however, entrepreneurs might look further west unless they are lean, mean, bootstrapping machines or have a breakthrough on a relatively large, local market. According to Bargiel, AIP Seed Capital and Hard Gamma Ventures are the two most active VCs in Poland although there rumours that a new fund is about to be announced.
I presume that the next step for Imgn.it team is to raise a larger funding round with the help of Startup Sauna. I wish them good luck, and hope that they will share with us 3D scenes of Startup Sauna offices especially if they catch Finns playing with Russian unmanned helicopters.
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