I just spent an amazing three days in Poland. First and foremost a huge shout-out to Chris Kowalczyk for organizing the trip. Chris is one of HackFwd’s Referrers and is probably the most “hyper-connected” individual I’ve met in a long time. If you want to know anything and anyone in the Polish startup world, Chris is your guy.
The visit began with OpenCoffee Warsaw. There was an amazing buzz at this weekly gathering, people sharing ideas and product demos left and right. It was hard to keep up with everything that was going on around me but everyone was speaking in English so I could try and listen to two conversations at the same time.
That evening, I attended and had the pleasure of speaking to the crowd at Pitch Rally. This is a fascinating event which I would encourage others to do in their cities. It reminded me of Start In Paris, but this event is a closed session where startups apply to pitch in front of the local investor community. What’s even more impressive is that this Polish event is always held in English because the organizers have a strong belief that the highest level of exposure for the events and the startups comes from a large following of people inside and outside of Poland.
Following Pitch Rally, we flew to Gdansk to attend the annual InfoShare conference where over 1000 attendees gather for a two-day conference. While the entire event was in Polish, John Lunn from PayPal X and myself did deliver keynotes in English. It was exciting to see the level of enthusiasm from the audience and the startup fever in this beautiful city – with the nickname Silicon Pier.
We flew back to Warsaw in order to attend the final event of the week – Startup Weekend Warsaw. I’m a big fan of Startup Weekend and this was certainly one of the best I’ve seen. This was the first Startup Weekend held in Poland and the organizers were told not to expect a huge turnout. There were over 200 people including mentors, jury and participants attending over the course of the weekend which made this a huge success. It’s also worth noting the majority of the attendees were developers allowing the teams to actually build some pretty amazing product over the course of the weekend.
What I really want to highlight about this Startup Weekend is that the entire thing was in English. That’s a huge commitment from all the attendees to step out of their comfort zone and pitch, build and present in a 2nd language. The result — an ability for anyone around the world to follow the entire weekend via twitter, livestream etc. and see some of the amazing talent in Poland. Huge congratulations to the organizers for taking this decision. Poland just put themselves on the map this weekend as innovators willing to step out of the box and attract a worldwide audience. I’m already looking forward to my next trip.
David Bizer, Talent Geek, HackFwd