Co-founder/President of the Board at Startup Hub Poland
Philosopher, logics teacher, investment and sales manager. He believes Central-Eastern Europe, gathered around Polish investment market, can become a global Hub for driven and prosper startups.
InVenture Investment Group - www.inventure.ua found an opportunity to talk to the co-founder and CEO of Startup HUB Poland Macek Sadowski during his visit to Ukraine regarding venture cooperation between Poland and Ukraine.
What directions, forms of cooperation and integration of venture capital and problems do you see of Polish and Ukrainian markets?
As I can see here in Poland and Ukraine the supply of investment projects is not sufficient for investors. Our investors are looking on other markets – Moldova, Georgia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In fact our ambitions shall exceed our countries and drive us to consolidate the whole Region. Now every interesting project can receive investment in EU and Poland is the best doorway to do it. I think both Polish and Ukrainian startups should meet sharper selection and greater in-house competition before we go global. I very much expect to invite Ukrainians to Polish market. Startup Hub Poland is a promising “bridge” between Ukraine and Poland. We are interested in people with innovative ideas, projects and technologies which can bring actual value to the market and society. This is not a slogan if I add, the value are the people themselves. Your presence in Europe is a value in deep, civilizational sense.
What spheres are in priority for your investment?
We have some exact spheres we want to invest in – robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, renewable energy, agro sphere, and IT. When it comes to Ukraine we really see huge potential in agro investment. Since Ukraine has best vegetation conditions, she is the granary of Europe.
Tell a little about yourself. Why did you come to investment activity and how did you start your professional work?
My background is university and e-commerce. The true motivation was that a lot of talented people from my social circles have left Poland. The same happens in Ukraine, Czech Republic and other CEE countries. Of course travelling and getting new experience is great, but when it becomes a one-way-ticket only, one can become depressed. This way our region will became empty very soon. The best doctors, engineers, programmers, and mangers will immigrate if our generation do not do something. When Poland became the part of European Union we saw the opportunity to make Poland the investment center of Eastern and Central Europe. You may say such mission is too much for a group of investors and philosophers. Sure. My goal is to help first few and give a kick-off to other organizations. I bet we have huge potential to build a strong innovative market here. All states together we are actually strong.
So, do you want just to leave people in Poland or to back those who moved to the West before?
These are two legs of my Foundation: the first is to attract Polish people from our region to make start-ups in Poland; The second - to win attention of people who has left or are planning to leave Poland and the Region. Polish talented immigrants very rarely will get to the top in the West. In Poland they can be top stars. So our aim is to convince them to come back and develop their careers here, as the business opportunities are no longer that bad as they were couple of years ago. Actually CEE has a lot to offer and we are trying to give this news to the rest of the world. The message is – CEE is energetic, young, and has strongest bright minds.
What are the specific features of the Polish investment market? How does it differ from the Ukrainian and Western European markets?
Poland has interesting free market experiences (sometimes hard) and very good access to funds and investment opportunity. Open European market, western business standards, world class labs and infrastructure. What is common? Polish and Ukrainian markets have very good prospects of growth. And Western Europe – not that much. That’s why investors want to come here to help best startups. They are essential to help Poland and Ukraine to export technology, not technologists. It’s different to sell nuts and chocolate separately and to sell Snickers. Snickers costs one dollar while nuts and chocolate cost few cents.
Now Poland is a hot spot on the map that gathers Eastern and Western startups and investors. I hope next time we will talk, for you question I will answer: there are more similarities between Poland and Ukraine than differences.
There is an opinion that the crisis in Ukraine only spurred the start-up movement in the country. Do you share it? How will it influence the investment climate in Ukraine?
You have difficult situation, internal and external. It can forge stronger characters. I hope so remembering Polish history: the state has not existed for 123 years and still we it was a fruitful period for our culture and economy. These tough times produced Nobel prizes in literature and chemistry for Poland. I want to hope that sometimes difficulties can be motivation to do something significant.
What advices would you give for Ukrainian startups which want to go to Poland market?
First of all, talk to us. We know how to navigate young people like you and me to own, investable and winning company. Then make a good research, learn about industry and infrastructure you need, check which network feets best to your startup. If you do not need to ask us, you are good prepared. But do not hesitate to give your questions. The applicartion for – the best tool for us to understand, where we can help, is available on our website. Helping with this kind of processes is our mission and fun.
And think like Bertrand Russel - a really innovative mind never thinks about borders, regions, geography. Milano, Berlin, Kiev, Warsaw it does not matter. The good innovative project just should find its fuel.
When you are choosing what businesses to invest in, what aspects do you pay attention to first of all?
We pay attention to every project that comes to us through the website. If project team describes in easy way, what problem does it solve, why it is this innovation important for the market it really helps a lot in further communication. What is more founder are welcome to present their weaknesses – it build trust: “ok, these guys are aware of their week spots and are willing to resolve them with us”. A good startup for me should have a scalable model, determined team and unique IP advantage that will stop competition.
You are aware with Ukrainian market and have some experience here. How do you assess the level of Ukrainian IT stаrtaps? (regarding to those you saw in Ukraine during your visit)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Polish and Ukrainian coders, developers and other ITC specialists as a group resist competition with every other regions. Guys in Kiev are moreover very determined to win European and global markets, learn new languages and are updated with newest achievements. What they are still missing is an ease with teambuilding. It is not a business for singles. You need to invite investors who give smart money and a smart-network, and you need to build together a project tailored for a global market.
What directions, forms of cooperation and integration of venture capital do you see of Polish and Ukrainian markets?
Common pipeline analyses and co-investment are two basic and required actions. Promotion of the regional character of Polish and Ukrainian innovation is also to be done soon. Our VC’s need 2-3 successful examples of commercialization to gain more confidence in such ventures. What is happening now is mentorship – we participate in many events as support and jury. I hope it will intensify and become mutual.
Where do you see the opportunities for the Ukrainian startups at the Polish market, in which segments of IT they have the greatest demand?
Well, I do not think that only ICT start-ups have future in using Polish chances. Robotics, agro-tech inventions here are powerful. I assume an investment on this field from our region - although against contemporary fashion – will surprise us a lot next 12-16 months. To the ICT industry: I strongly believe, that IoT (internet of things) and software inventions around could be a game changer for the whole communication and consumption of media. Startup Hub Poland and our fellow funds have experience in training best teams to pivot their SaaS models in orders to feet best the market expectations. Also Big Data algorithms, if only they serve some actual market problem, focus a lot of interest of European investors.