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With too much travel lately I have skipped a whole week of blog posts. How irresponsible. Anyhow, the life goes on and I will try to compensate with a comprehensive round-up on Friday.
This week I attended a startup conference Bitspiration in Cracow, Poland. Cracow startup ecosystem is interestingly quite active. First of all, it is a home for two venture funds: IIF and Innovation Nest, as well as a number of startups.
Unlike most of the conferences, Bitspiration did not include startup competition in the agenda, but I was lucky to meet a few entrepreneurs who told me about their ventures. Here is my full report.
First, here are some of the local startups.
Adtaily, the online advertisement network business founded by Jakub Krzych was sold to Agora Group since 2009. The new owner decided to switch off the English version of the website. Krzych is working on another venture (quite interesting, but this is all I can say) and he has been getting traction with some US incubators recently.
Innovation Nest’s Piotr Wilam has early told me that Nozbe, a suite of cloud-based personal productivity apps, is also somehow associated with Cracow, but its co-founder Michael Sliwinski was not around, and last time I spoke to him, he was based in Spain.
Applicake is a software development company, with a focus on Ruby on Rails and mobile technologies. Its founders Agata Mazur and Ela Madej made it to the list of Top 100 Tech Women in Europe. In 2009 they also co-founded FutureSimple, a cloud-based sales and contact management software for small businesses.
Here are some other names outside of Cracow.
SentiOne is a social media monitoring platform, which allows SMEs monitor not only social networks, but also blogs and forums. Interestingly, it can automatically say whether the feedback is negative or positive. According to its founder and CEO Kamil Bragiel the company’s uniqueness is how quickly a user can open an account and start monitoring, compared to its competitors, reviewed to some extent here.
This week SentiOne launched an English version of the website, and will soon also introduce social media monitoring in English and German languages (at the moment it only works in Polish). It is certainly a pretty busy space, with Buddy Media having been acquired by SalesForce for $800 million recently and the question how quickly SentiOne will be able to carve out a market share (and what their marketing strategy will be).
Heureka.pl is a digital marketing and advertisement agency which is launching a mobile app accelerator / incubator and will leverage its ideas and development resources to create mobile apps. The idea to move from serving clients to profit from in-house ideas directly reminded me of Hungarian Carnation Group.
Sugentum, founded by Kate Scisel helps online shops launch mobile commerce and Facebook websites. The demo was fun (shopping for a bag on an Android phone), admittedly the after-party full Polish fans watching of Russia-Poland game was a distraction.
Presspad is a Cracow-based, Innovation Nest-backed startup run by former blogger and an expert on all things Apple Pawel Nowak. The company allows magazine and newspaper publishers create a mobile apps, including multimedia and social media sharing functionality. Their marketing strategy is pretty cool, but I guess that was off the record. Surely there are competitors. We know some of them.
I bumped into Sebastian Zontek, the co-founder and CEO of a better known startup in the Q&A space called Wisdio. Interestingly, one of his investors Wojciech Woziwodzki is also a backer of Tequila Mobile, a Polish mobile gaming company which has over 3 million users. They also own Tequila Planet, a mobile gaming network (Android, Java, Blackberry, iOS) operating in 80 countries, which provides game developers with in-app billing solution, its worldwide distribution and marketing support.
I also caught up with Tomasz Czechowicz, who runs MCI Capital. As far as CEE ecommerce market is concerned, back in 2010 Intel and MCI invested Euro 10 million into the Mall.cz (Czech online shopping website), and a few days ago Netretail Holding, the owner of the Mall.cz as well as mall.pl, mall.sk, mall.hu and Mimovrste.si was sold for the estimated 220-230 million Euro to Allegro Group (that story and information was originally printed in finance.cz) For those who is raising funding, MCI seed fund is limited to the startups which are registered in Poland, but its growth capital is available for the wider region. If you want more details, get in touch.
Let’s not forget about the fabulous startup Showroom, backed by HardGamma. The company offers online, Facebook and mobile shopping platform for designer clothes, focusing on independent Polish designers. The designers set up shops within Showroom, and do their own order fulfillment. Inventories are then synchronized across all three platforms. Should you care, the prices for goods are reasonable, and the company is expanding to other European countries. Contacts in online fashion industry in EU needed.
And finally, a cloud-based backup service Opero from Gorzow has ambitions to go global. Runa folks, if you are reading this, take note, since Lukasz Jesis will be likely knocking on your door pretty soon (yes I know, you have Acronis already).
I am approaching a dangerous 1000 words limit, but here is one more thing. During the after party, Russia was playing against Poland, so I got a Polish flag painted on my cheeks and told (jokingly) to support Poland. And even though I am not into football, it felt wrong. Apologies to the hosts, I had to remove the “hostile” paint and disappear before the game was finished. Thankfully for everyone, at least in Cracow, it was a draw.
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