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The best startups in Poland. Part I: What is a startup and what to do with it?

You have probably come across the term “startup” many times. It is one of the most popular ideas to start one’s own business today. Do you know how it differs from an ordinary enterprise starting its activity and why is it so popular? It is high time to find the answers to these questions!

This is the first part of the series about everything you need to know about Polish startups. When reading about them, you will learn their definitions, see how to create them and find plenty of inspiration transformed into prosperous and profitable initiatives. Perhaps you will also have some innovative ideas for your own online business?

 

Startup – what is it?

The term “startup” has been in use for several years only and does not have a very specific meaning. However, it is worth referring to the definition given by Eric Ries, the creator of the concept of startups and the author of “The Lean Startup” – a book commonly regarded as the “startup bible”, as evidenced by e.g. its presence on the list of the New York Times’ bestsellers. In his publication, Ries gives the following definition: “A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

 

Let us now develop this definition:

– “a startup is a human institution” – this means that it is created and managed by a team of people constituting a hierarchy;
– “designed to deliver a new product or service” – there is a significant difference between a startup and ordinary business activity. A startup is an innovative initiative that has no equivalent on the market. A start-up may build on consumer needs already identified by other entrepreneurs. However it must meet those needs in an innovative way that differs from the approach taken by the competitors. Otherwise it cannot be called a start-up.
– “under conditions of extreme uncertainty” – it is yet another aspect distinguishing a startup from a typical company. The latter relies on professional calculations and operates in an area already explored by its predecessors ensuring it has a sufficiently large market. A startup relies only on conjectures and the probability for a given product to find buyers. There is no guarantee of success – the only strength is a great vision and enthusiasm for work.

 

A frequently asked question concerns the environment in which startups develop, whether it should be the Internet or the real world? In theory, each of them is appropriate, but the lion’s share of startups develop online. Today, it is the Internet that offers the greatest possibilities to promote an idea among the largest group of potential customers and at the same time does not require a costly advertising campaign. All you need is a bit of strong will and contacts on social networking websites. Given those, your startup will soon be known to thousands.

 

A good startup

Now that you already know what a startup is, you probably wonder what to turn it into a success. There is no universal recipe for “a good startup”, since each one is different and requires an individual approach. But if you are not afraid to put your heart and soul into it, and have an idea that is truly  innovative, functional and conforms to the consumers' needs', you should have no reason to worry.

 

Remember that today there are virtually no people who have a lot of time. All your proposals must therefore be reasonable and the access to them – quick and easy. They should be comprehensive, cover numerous aspects and provide a complete service to the customer. If you concentrate on a narrow field of activity, you will most certainly put off potential customers.

You can find out more by reading about successful Polish startups, which may serve as examples of how to best put your thought into action

 

A good startup creator

This paragraph could list of number of characteristics that a good startup creator should have. But this is not the point. Startups vary widely and each of them is fully original. Therefore, their creators cannot be conventional. However, they should still have these three basic characteristics:

– have a masterly command of areas where their startups will operate;
– be able to work hard and with diligence, without this they will not manage to convince the Internet users that their initiative is the best one;
– be resourceful and smart to be able to use the startup potential to the maximum.

 

If you want to know what the Internet market experts who are behind the success of well-known brands, such as Wirtualna Polska or Gazeta.pl, have to say to the startup beginners, visit: http://www.startupschool.pl/setup/. You will also find numerous interesting tips, including those loosely related to the subject, HERE.

 

How to begin?

You are interested in a startup? You want to implement your plans using this formula? That is great! But remember that you will not achieve anything without sufficient capital. Theoretically, you may use your private funds at first, but, firstly, not everyone has sufficient resources, and, secondly, why spend them, if you can obtain funding in another way? Below you will find information on how to obtain financial assistance.

 

STARTUP SCHOOL is a very interesting Polish initiative. It was established by Rafał Agnieszczak, a well-known online entrepreneur, the founder of Fotka.pl, and the president of the board of the following websites: Świstak.pl, Finansowo.pl as well as a member of the board of Szafa.pl. In the startup school, he acts as a sponsor ready to allocate his capital for the development of his students'  best projects. From 2009 STARTUP SCHOOL has organised five two or three-month editions of workshops attended by sixty participants (although there  are  more and more applicants each year). Their task was to create interesting ideas for startups and implement their projects. Long hours of hard work were combined with inspiring meetings with mentors and numerous thematic training courses. Each group received professional support on legal or thematic issues. Financing offered for a single project could amount to as much as PLN 130,000.

 

Every edition finished with an official presentation of implemented ideas. Many of them functions until today and are still supported by STARTUP SCHOOL which in 2013 introduced the system of an all-year incubation of activities. You will find more information about the school HERE. Currently, no registration is taking place  for another edition. The next round will probably take place in summer 2016.

 

Startup Weekend is a similar concept. Its participants have a similar task to the students of STARTUP SCHOOL, but much less time for its implementation. They must perform all necessary work between Friday and Sunday afternoon – in fifty four hours. The work involves mainly the creation of a concept and its implementation in the form of an application. At the end of the workshop, there is an official presentation of programmes, followed by the decision of the jury selecting the best startup. The winners receive money for further development and dissemination of their product. They can also rely on substantive assistance from investors involved in the Startup Weekend. You will find information about such events HERE.

 

We must not forget about the so-called business angel networks. They attract  creative entrepreneurs willing to invest in sometimes risky ventures. They provide support in developing the concept and preparing the project documentation, offer an opportunity to present oneself to business angels (investors), as well as help with the anonymous familiarisation with the best offers (selected by the network) and professional training. There are fifteen such networks in Poland. You will find their list HERE.

 

Those who know something about the economy and the economic system may use the venture capital fund. Its aim is to finance new enterprises entering the market. A new company receives capital through the purchase of a part or all its share by an investor. This allows the company to use financial and technical assistance of the investor, and ensures its greater stability and security. The venture capital financing period may amount to several years. You will find more details HERE.

 

Paradoxically, you can also establish a startup using ... another startup. What we mean is VentureFlirt.com. Both young startup founders and potential investors may register on  the website. The aim of the portal is to find the most interesting offers for each party and create an opportunity to meet and talk about the details of the venture. It may be called a simplified form of a business angel network.

 

The choice of the method to establish a startup is up to you, your personal preferences and, largely, also the amount of time that you can devote to developing and implementing an idea.

 

Krzysztof Andrulonis