The Complete Warsaw Startup City Guide

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Warsaw is a historical city with beautiful architecture. The city is also very modern and up to date when it comes to starting a business. Discover what this amazing place has to offer to every startup enthusiast!

What could you expect from a city where the largest building is called Palace of Culture and Science? That’s right, Warsaw is the city of crazy parties and smart people with creative ideas! You can meet here lots of hustling founders, brilliant entrepreneurs, talented designers, genius programmers and experienced investors.

Our city is the home of hundreds of startups – nearly 30% of all Polish startups surveyed for Startup Poland annual report are based in Warsaw! It’s a big startup community, but you will meet very open and helpful people here. That’s the kind of the community that can help you turn good ideas into business. If you’re looking for an excellent environment to work, you came to the right place. Welcome to Warsaw Startup Guide!

GPS Direction: Warsaw

Warsaw is the capital city of Poland, and it’s fair to say, that it is also an economic, political, and cultural centre of our country. It is also one of the most important cities in the Central and Eastern Europe. You will find headquarters of almost every major company here.

Warsaw is one of those cities that can change completely from one district to another. There are places where you can find skyscrapers next to houses built at the beginning of the last century. And thanks to our public transport you can get from a quiet, peaceful district to streets with a variety of clubs in ten minutes. That kind of diversity won’t leave you unimpressed!

Why Start Or Grow Your Company In Warsaw?

  • Polish capital city is cheaper to live than most European capitals but maintains most of Western Europe standards.
  • Cheap and terrific public transport (3,40 PLN for 20-minute ticket is less than 1 Euro) and Taxis/Uber (8 PLN + ~2 PLN per KM, lowest fee in Europe right now). It is entirely possible to function without a car.
    Amazing starting point for world tour thanks to the location in center of Europe and two airports (Modlin & Chopin).
  • Poles, especially younger ones, know English very well and are proud of their hospitality for foreigners. Here is great short YouTube animation explaining our complex history in few minutes.
  • It is the only EU capital city that is placed near a national park (Park Kampinoski). There are many parks (eg. Łazienki) and places where you can experience nature (eg. unregulated Vistula River bank).
  • Finding a 24-hour liquor store isn’t a problem, and there you will be able to pay with a contactless card.
  • Nearly 2 million residents in the center of a 38 million country in the heart of Europe.
  • Lots of business possibilities and business partners.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • Competition for best people. There are many international companies with branches in Poland (sometimes assigned for the whole Central European region) and they are aggressively hiring. It is becoming pretty hard to find great developers cheaply. The rates are slowly but steadily approaching Western standards.
  • Weather. It’s not Hawaii here, so we always want more sun. In winter temperatures fall below zero. In this sense Varsovians are much similar to London residents – we like to constantly complain about the weather.
    Polish law and taxes might be a pain for entrepreneurs. It is improving every year but still there will be a lot of paperwork in Polish. Newly born Foundation – Startup Poland – fights to change that.
  • Poland has own currency Polish Zloty (PLN) and we are not going to join Eurozone anytime soon (for good or bad). That might be a problem for small startups that are squaring up in Euro but also this empowers startup purchasing power.
  • Scattered startup community. There are a lot of events for niches, but there aren’t many big ones where you can mingle with people outside your specialization. Additionally a large part of founders who scaled up their startups are in US and UK busy conquering the world from there.

Warsaw is the capital city of one of the biggest countries in EU. There is enough capital and IT skill to help hungry founders from all around the world to make their dreams come true. It is a superb place to set your European headquarters for a global startup or to build and localize a software development team here. We are not Silicon Valley but we are getting there. There are examples of global startups that started in Warsaw.

Warsaw And Its Startup Community

Warsaw_guide_community

Background & Newest History:

First Polish Startup Weekend in May 2011 began the little “revolution” that made word “startup” appear in the mainstream media. At that time Warsaw, and its community, was in Central Europe’s avantgarde.

Small Warsaw startup boom begun. Many companies from SaaS to BioTech were born. Sadly none of them could become the “next Skype”. Because of that there weren’t any big startup companies that could gather the whole community around in contrary to Cracow and Poznan.

A side effect of that big amount of small startups was the creation of an experienced workforce. A lot of Varsovian founders were still hungry for success, so they looked for exciting career opportunities all around the country and abroad. They found them in Germany, Great Britain or the USA where they started working for big tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon or Facebook.

Nowadays business savvy startup founders in Warsaw focus on locating backbone of their team (developers) in Warsaw and go to Silicon Valley to make sales and building biz dev there. Thanks to them being in continuous crossovers there is a small void in local marketing and business development startup gurus. On the other hand, Varsovian diaspora is very well connected with global startup scene, especially with Silicon Valley and London.

Due to Warsaw startup scene history and great localisation many of the most well-known and significant events for startup community are here – OpenReaktor is a must experience if you are in Poland and Bitspiration festival delivers an incredible experience on the edge of business and art.

Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

  • The first and foremost important are closed Facebook Groups. There is no well-known group that is dedicated to Warsaw only, yet some semi-official sites such as:
  • Startup/IT events in Poland: most people promote their events here, even though the group name is in English, the conversations can take place in different languages.
  • Polish Startups: biggest English speaking Facebook community, you will find info about important startup events here and if you don’t see any promotions about the events don’t be shy to ask – someone will definitely provide you some information.

Event aggregators; websites dedicated to aggregate and find all events in Poland

Regular Events And Meetups:

Big ones:

  • Open Reaktor: Creme de la creme, one of the most important regular events in Polish scene that gathers people worldwide every month. Formula is based on 3 different ~20 minutes speeches in English with Q&A and then networking with (free!) beer and vegetarian pizza. Check Reaktor.net Facebook Page (startup cowroking place that organizes event) to see when the next one will be organized.
  • Aula Polska: One of the oldest and most established event in Poland. It gained its popularity when it was the only regular event focused on startups. Every month or two there are 3-4 lectures for about 30 minutes with Q&A section. Check their site to find out about new events.
  • Agile Warsaw: One of the biggest and more regular meetups in Poland. It is directed to software developers and it focuses on promoting Agile Methodology. It is often one big lecture with Q&A and informal beers afterwards. Great place to meet software developers and software houses. Check their Meetup page.

Niche Ones:

  • Startup Coffee: Meetup for starting and aspiring startup founders organized by creators of this guide
  • Startup Grind: Paid Meetup organized by Google that focuses on interviews with experienced startup founders.
  • AIP Events: Events organized by a foundation that aims to support academic entrepreneurship in Poland
  • Geek Girls Carrot Events: GGC is an NGO that promotes ITC, startups and entrepreneurship among women. They often organize motivational events, teach how to code, create business plans etc.

Major Events, Festivals & Conferences (All In English):

  • Wolves Summit: Youngest of all of the major events, backed by one of the biggest media groups in Poland. Conference is focused on entrepreneurship and innovative solutions. It might be costly but you can meet investors and global corporation managers here.
  • Front Trends Warsaw: One of the Europe most recognized conferences that talks about latest trends in FrontEnd Development. The conference took place in May lasting for few days.
  • UX Poland: Regular events in April focusing on User Experience design.
  • Bitspiration Festival: 2nd edition in Warsaw and 6th in general Bitspiration Festival. Last edition took place in one of the famous but inglorious Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki) and gathered over 50 speakers from Poland and beyond. Highly recommended.

Co-working Spaces In Warsaw

Warsaw_guide_coworking

In Warsaw you can find whatever you like. On one day you can work in a cozy local cafe hidden from passersby, another day in a coworking spaces or in prestigious skyscrapers. Did I mention that it is quite affordable?

Most local cafes or bars are located all around central Warsaw city districts. WiFi is usually free and if you ask politely you will be directed to a place that has electrical contacts. Espresso price starts from 6 PLN.

Dedicated coworking spaces are found in the city centre. You must decide if you want to work in a skyscraper, restored tenement house, post industrial office or with a startup that rents excess office space. There might be problems with mini office reservation but there shouldn’t be any problem with open coworking space. There is a wide range of prices but a 24/7 coworking desk costs usually around 600 PLN monthly.

Co-working Spaces In Warsaw:

      • Local places where you can drink or eat and work in the meantime.
        • Best coffee place: Filtry Cafe. There can be only one and we decided that this is the place to recommend. This modest local is hidden in Ochota district and it is the best place to drink Aeropress coffee. Filtry Cafe founders travel all around the world to find the best new types of coffee so every week or two you can taste new beverages.
      • Honorable best coffee mentions.
        • Kawka. Small and hidden from hustle of the big city with the kindest service possible and very creative coffee drinks.
        • STOR. It looks more like an Apple Store than a coffee place. A bit snobbish and pricey but coffee is great and you can buy ingredients to make your own favorite beverage.
        • Ministerstwo Kawy. Their name translates in Ministry of Coffee and they claim to serve the best coffee in the town. Some people prefer it over Filtry Cafe. We recommend checking them both.
      • Best atmosphere:
        • Kawiarnia Kafka. Located near the University of Warsaw green spaces, serving great pancakes and armed with sunbeds during summer time it is one of those places that bends time. If you need to chill this is the place.
        • Czuły Barbarzynca: If you love libraries you should go to cafe-book store “Sensitive Barbarian” where you can read some ambitious literature and drink smoothies.
        • Cafe Iluzja: Cafe located near cinema Iluzjon (functioning since the `50). Great for cinema lovers and freelancers.
      • Best places for solo founder:
        • To Lubię: Very small cafe built in an old tenement house, near a famous church. It has amazing smoothies and cakes. As a bonus there is a very homey atmosphere inside.
        • Cofeina: Great location (near subway), large coffee and affordable lunch options.
        • Relax Cafe: Near closed cinema Relax, which neon was one of informal city symbols. Again small cheap cafes with very good WiFi, right in the city center. Great location provides easy transport to wherever you want to go.
      • Best place for Teams:
        • Państwo Miasto: A little off the beaten track, but that’s a great cafe for any team, that needs to make a meetup. You can book a conference room here for free.
        • Zagadka: In the shadows of office buildings there is this cafe with great lunches and coffee. It has two floors, some bigger tables (best for a 6 people team) and very nice staff.
        • Karma: Right in the middle of the Savior Square. It is a place where you can meet Warsaw hipsters. There is this nice and spacious cafe, good enough for some bigger meetings. You really should try coffee there!
      • For Tea Lovers: Same Fusy: If you are feeling that today is the day of tea we suggest you went to the Old Town and find “Only grouds” teaspot where you can choose from many different teas. Good for work but only during the day as at the early evening people start meeting after work here.
      • Worth mentioning local coffee chain:
        • Green Cafe Nero: They try to maintain homely atmosphere, so every local has a bookshelf and warm light great for working in the evenings. Often you can find a cozy armchair with a table. Last but not least their coffee is very affordable.
      • Coworks:
        • Business Link: This is a cross town network of offices for startups and freelancers. Often they are located in one of the most prestigious locations like the Warsaw office that is in Zebra Tower.
        • Reaktor: First startup coworking space that is located in old-fashioned villa. Also the organizers created Open Reactor. If you are lucky you will be able to rent one of their seats!
        • Noa Cowork: Cowork with soul and great interior design. Loved by female entrepreneurs.
        • Centrum Przedsiębiorczości Smolna: City and EU backed initiative to give founders cheaper access to office spaces. If you are not afraid of paperwork it is a place for you.
        • Google Campus Warsaw: When Google Campus starts it will be open for entrepreneurs to work here.
        • Art Cluster: Coworking place focused on connecting artists and freelancers.
        • CoLegal: If you dreamt of having your own tenement house you can start from here. One of the most beautiful, renovated Warsaw buildings.
        • Przestrzeń ee: Or maybe you love post-industrial climates? Work from renovated chocolate factory!
        • Idea Hub: One of Polish banks made a special co-work for their startup clients for free.

Search For Financing Opportunities In Warsaw

Warsaw_guide_financing.

Warsaw has a variety of institutions and programs to help you fund your startup. You can join numerous accelerators, receive EU grants or find your perfect VC. The downside is that the valuations aren’t that high and it is difficult to get larger SV-size funding. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities to receive R&D funding from the government or easily start a company without the bureaucratic hassle. The thing worth noting is a lack of well established private angel investors.

Incubators/Accelerators:

  • The third Google Campus in Europe is based in Warsaw. It is an amazing place to meet great entrepreneurs and mentors and use the coworking space. Operated by Google for Entrepreneurs, they have dedicated team at Campus committed to creating a thriving startup community.
  • AIP Warsaw is probably the best place to start your very first company. For a small fee they take care of your accounting, social-security payments (ZUS), give you legal entity and offer some coworking spaces where you can work, meet with customers and network.
  • Twój Startup is another great option if you want to test your idea with minimal risk, low costs and receive first mentoring.
  • InnovationNest is launching a brand new accelerating program in January 2016. Best ways of getting in touch with Innovation Nest are warm intros from someone in their network.
  • Gamma Rebels offer an intensive three month program focused on early stage startups. They give you some initial funding and additional benefits like Amazon Web Services, great PayPal deals and, of course a lot of knowledge and feedback.

There are still opportunities to receive grants and subsidies from the European Union for innovative projects, R&D, your first company, education, etc. The comprehensive list can be found here or here. Grants and subventions useful links:

  • Startup Hub offers commercialization of new technologies and scientific research.
  • KIGNET is a chamber system of support by Polish Chamber of Commerce.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • Crowdfunding platform wspieram.to is focused on artists and creators. Perfect if you need small amounts of money for your project.
  • PolakPotrafi.pl is a great way to fund more ambitious projects.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • AIP Seed Capital works in tandem with the accelerator AIP. They’ve funded over 100 startups ranging from IT to biotech. They offer a simple model of investment – they give you 100k PLN and more for 15% of shares. They also give you access to their modern office space in Business Link Warsaw. They connect you with mentors, professionals and VCs.
  • Satus is a VC fund that is willing to invest in early stage, high-risk startups. Satus is a fairly large fund (145M) with an impressive portfolio (including sher.ly – a private cloud solution and Kickstarter success).
  • Giza Polish Ventures are a Warsaw-based and Israeli-sponsored Venture Capital (VC) fund that invests in local projects with global potential at various stages – from seed to growth. They invest in IT, life sciences, material engineering etc. Size of the fund is 85M PLN.
  • Early stage fund, that also supports startups through their Gamma Rebels Accelerator and HardGamma Consulting – a management consulting boutique. They’ve invested in Poland’s biggest Kickstarter success so far – Neuroon, intelligent sleeping mask.
  • Inovo is interested in investing in established startups that seek additional funding to accelerate their growth. They invest mostly in software (especially SaaS). Your company has to be registered in Poland in order to receive the investment.
  • MCI is a large fund with an impressive exit trackrecord. They manage multiple funds including Venture Capital. They mostly focus on larger companies and big investments.Xevin is hybrid model institution somewhere between Angel Fund and VC Fund. The investment size ranges from 50k to 1M EUR, and they mostly invest in Internet and Mobile companies, based in Central and Eastern Europe. They invest both in startups (UsabilityTools, Semstorm) and innovative digital agencies (Autentika).
  • Protos VC invests in Saas, Marketplace, eCommerce and Lead-generator startups. They support them with capital and business development experience. In their portfolio (as well as individual investments) we can find well-known Polish startups such as GoldenLine, Niania.pl, GameKit or DocPlanner.
  • Black Pearls manages capital funds that invest in companies in the early stages of development. Not only they invest in startups – they can also a help you create a corporate venture capital fund as well as look after the portfolio management.

If you need a very comprehensive list, please visit this document by StartupAkademia!

Keep On Doing The Great Job In Warsaw

Warsaw_mentors

First step is posting your question on Facebook Group Polish Startup Scene. You can accept to have your answer in 24 hours.

There are few startup organizations that regularly check Tweets with #techwawa so if you have any questions you can ask them here.

Feel free to contact us on Twitter @flame_140 or via mail iwantto@lighttheflame.co

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Last updated: August 25th, 2016

The guides are like startup communities – they constantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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