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Eastist: Startups in Central & Eastern Europe - Page 3

This interview was contributed by Denes Lenard. He is the co-founder at the web agency Webfoo  and passionate about entrepreneurship.

Vlad, let me first introduce you – you are one of those people who support the business environment in Cluj Napoca. You have built different business communities and now you have organized the first Startup Weekend in the city. Can you give an overview of the event?

Thanks for reaching out to me. Let me start with a few words about Startup Weekend. It is a non-profit based in Seattle, Washington that organizes 54-hour events in cities around the world, all of which help educate, support, and empower people to become entrepreneurs. I have brought Startup Weekend to Cluj-Napoca because I know that our community will be strengthened and become more integrated because of this event. At this event we had 90+ participants, 24 ideas pitched and 11 teams formed.

90+ participants is quite a few for Cluj Napoca. People must have been awaiting such an event with a lot of eagerness. How did the participants feel before and after the event?

Quite a few I would say, as well. Honestly, our initial expectations were for 60 participants, but had a good push with meetups and presentations before the event. The people were more than eager to find out more and did so in large numbers, which is why we had to close the registration 3 days before the event.

Also, after the event we had a meetup to find out more about the status of the participating projects. You can find information about the first three teams here.
Read more

This week is a bit short on news, but here’s a little bit from Poland.

    Easter Cupcakes

  • YetiPay, a system for micropayments (it really only takes two clicks to pay) achieved 100.000 transactions in less than one year from its official launch. Every day, 600 new users register in YetiPay, and 1500 transactions are performed. It is mostly used for fast payments for digital content (articles, e-books and download limits).
  • Chayamuni qualified for the StartUpChile accelerator program.
  • HyperBees, a Polish team working in London, won the Get Discovered contest in San Francisco with their game Hype Quiz.

For some more news head over to the roundup on Goal Europe.

Enjoy the long weekend if you have it!

You have been hearing about the growing startup communities in Warsaw and Krakow, but the city of Poznań is also claiming a spot in the Polish technology world. It has a mix of factors that have the potential to foster a new generation of Polish startups with a global outlook, which is the goal of Huge Thing, a newly launched startup incubator in Poznań.

This bustling old city is the fifth largest in Poland with a population of over 500.000, home to the Polish headquarters of many international corporations as well as home-grown companies, such as Allegro, a hugely successful auction site with properties all around CEE. The several large universities in the city produce many engineering graduates and it even has a design institute. Most promisingly, it’s only a bit over 2 hours away from Berlin by train or on a newly-rebuilt highway.

I observed the advantages of this proximity to Berlin personally when I met Arkadiusz Hajduk (@ahajduk) and Bartek Gola (@golabartek) from SpeedUp, a VC firm from Poznań, over coffee in Berlin. They were in town meeting with German VCs as part of their efforts to help their portfolio companies grow (more on that later). It’s easy for them to show up in Berlin for business meetings any time, and they are leveraging this advantage. Shortly after this meeting, I learned that Arkadiusz Hajduk was launching Huge Thing with support from SpeedUp and LMS Invest, and was invited to join as a mentor. Huge Thing recruited a handful of mentors of various nationalities from Germany and that’s exciting. It’s great to see bridges being built between startup communities in these two cities, in no small part thanks to the networking efforts of Poznan VCs.

This past weekend I went to Poznan for the mentor kick-off and to meet the teams that were selected for the first batch. They will participate in the program for 6 months, undergoing intensive mentoring during the first half, and acceleration boosted by angel investments during the second half. It’s too early to talk about the ideas presented at the kick-off, but many of them sounded promising. Even more importantly, the participants seem to be a talented bunch with great personalities and leadership potential. You’ll be learning more about them here in the future.

Make sure you don’t miss any Central and Eastern European tech news. Sign up for the Eastist Newsletter, delivered weekly, full of stuff like you see below and more.

Startup News

Poland News (by Szymon Szymczyk, our Poland contributor)

Completely coincidently almost all of the news this week are related to NK.pl, the most popular Polish social network (until it was overtaken by Facebook in 2011).

  • NK.pl published information about their income. Surprisingly, despite systematically losing users (mainly because of Facebook), it saw increasing revenues. In the last 12 months revenue has increased by 15% and reached 72,16 mln złotych (17,35 mln euro) with net profit 17,3 mln złotych (4,16 mln euro). It was possible thanks to games and other paid content – their share in revenues increased from 36% in 2010 to 47% in 2011.
  • On April 2, 2012, a new incubator program will start, supported by NK.pl. It offers know-how, mentoring, advertisement and services (including IT infrastructure).
  • Business angel Marcin Pytel, has invested “several hundred thousand złotych” (1 euro = 4,16 złotych) in Picadilla, a social games developer. The company employs 15 people and is located in Wrocław. Its first project, the game “Shoplife”, was made available on September 2011 on NK.pl and so far it was played by almost 500K players. The next step was to publish the game on Russian odnoklassniki (at the end of February 2012) where it was played by 340K players.
  • On May 25-27 another Startup Weekend event will be held in Wrocław, in a quite impressive location.

Lots of insight into Russia this week

Jobs

  • Check out new job listings at Piano Media, Workinfield, and LogMeIn in Bratislava and Budapest on Eastist Jobs!

Sign up for the Eastist Newsletter and you’ll get more of where this came from every week.

Make sure you don’t miss any Central and Eastern European tech news. Sign up for the Eastist Newsletter, delivered weekly, full of stuff like you see below and more.


Startup News

Lots of money news out of Russia

Poland News (by Szymon Szymczyk, our Poland contributor)

  • hardGAMMA Ventures, a Polish VC found specializing in seed and early stage investments, has invested in Springboard, a London based accelerator program for startups. Details of the investment were not disclosed.
  • IQ Partners, one of the most active Polish VC funds, has published results for 2011. Through affiliated companies they have invested over 20 mln złotych (4,79 mln euro) in 14 startups. They also have made 11 total or partial exits with average IRR of 140%. Currently the IQ Partners group includes 52 companies.
  • Registration for The Aulery startup competition has started. The Aulery is an annual competition and awards ceremony to recognize successful startups. In the past three editions, only Polish startups took part. This time the competition is open to companies from the CEE region and applications can be submitted here.
  • Warsaw based Filmaster (backed by HackFwd) made a pivot, and presented Filmaster.tv in the appCircus competiton during SXSW. Filmaster.tv is a recommendation engine available as SaaS (watch the trailer). They also qualified for MIPCube Lab, a competition for “the most promising disruptive TV start-up of the year”.

Read more

Make sure you don’t miss any Central and Eastern European tech news. Sign up for the Eastist Newsletter, delivered weekly, full of stuff like you see below and more.

 

News (with special thanks to Szymon Szymczyk for contributing the Poland news)

  • Yuri Milner stepped down as Chairman of mail.ru and everyone is watching to see what his next move will be. Read on TechCrunch
  • Another round of the Pitch in Berlin contest took place at last weekend’s HackFwd Build #09 event, and one of the winners was ScatchApp from Poland, continuing the Polish winning streak. Read on HackFwd
  • The Nokaut Group made an IPO on March 14th on the Polish Stock Exchange. They are the owners of Nokaut.pl, one of the largest price comparison engines in Poland.
  • Russian online shopping web Wikimart raised $30 million in a round led by US venture firm Tiger Global Management. Read on GoalEurope

Read more

As a way of outsourcing fun experiences, we bring you a few nuggets from the South by Southwest (SXSW) media/music/film/awesomeness festival in Austin, Texas. We extracted the following reports from a few Eastist friends who went.

These were the three questions we asked:
1. What was your favorite moment?
2. What was the most helpful thing for your business that happened at SXSW?
3. What was your favorite American food or drink you got to indulge while in Austin?

And here are the answers from:

Borys Musielak (@michuk), founder and CEO of Filmaster.

1. The moment when Angelina Jolie’s Right Leg tweeted about her being at the @filmaster booth:

2. Being a SXSW Trade Show exhibitor was the single best decision we made. It’s the most efficient way to meet the right people at SXSW. Filmmakers, VOD/cable/TV business owners, journalists, editors, film buffs – we’ve met them all. And as we’re we’re moving slightly towards B2B with our Filmaster.TV offering, it was a great way to generate hundreds of leads. Which of them will transform into deals? You’ll be one of the first to know!

3. Bar Louie’s surprise free lunch was the meal I enjoyed the most. Great new restaurant, proper service, and amazing food – highly recommended if you ever visit Austin.

 

Radovan Andrej Grežo (@andrejwin), Creative Director of MUW;Digital and founder of StartupCamp in Slovakia.

1. Meeting absolutely brilliant people – Todd Noley and Barrett Michael from local ad agency GSD&M, talking back at a panel to the CCO of AQKA, and bumping into the recruiter for Wieden+Kennedy Portland in the hall and ending up talking with her for half an hour.

2. I have created a huge and massively helpful network of contacts, and got inspired by some amazing technologies and concepts.

3. I am a huge french toast and hamburger fan and that is what I always claim as my main reason to travel to the US whenever I do. And I found pretty good ones of both on my pre-SXSW travel.

 

Krzysztof Kowalczyk (@kkowalcz), Partner at HardGamma Ventues and co-founder of GammaRebels.

1. Session with Billy Corgan, leader of Smashing Pumpkins, one of my favorite bands. This is unique to SXSW that it gathers all the creative industries (interactive, music, and film), therefore it is wildly inspiring, and also allows answers to cross-industry questions (e.g. music in the digital age).

2. Several high-profile meetings, which I scheduled before coming there. Of course company confidential ;) .

3. Dr Pepper, truly a Texas invention!

 

Tomaž Štolfa (@tomazstolfa), founder of vox.io.

1. My favorite moment was a random encounter while sitting on a bench in the center of Austin. Something like that can only happen if a lot of smart people are in the same place at once.

2. We got a lot of feedback and validated some of the ideas we had around the perception of what we do.

3. Texas BBQ is a must.

Make sure you don’t miss any Central and Eastern European tech news. Sign up for the Eastist Newsletter, delivered weekly, full of stuff like you see below and more.

 

Startup News

    The #balticmafia is all over the blogs this week!

  • The winners of the Startup Sauna Lithuania warmup this Thursday were: GoodBuzz, Adduplex, and TropicMind.
  • BusyFlow, a GammaRebels startup, just launched a redesign, and is also busy pitching at the Launch conference in San Francisco.
  • An exciting new english-language blog covering Polish startups launched. It’s a crowd-sourced approach to bringing news about the entrepreneurs by the entrepreneurs. Welcome to the party “Polish Startup Scene”!
  • Skolkovo is reported to be planning to extend its support of startups to other CIS countries in addition to Russia. Read on Arctic Startup

Media Love (extremely Baltic this week)

Opinion & Reporting

  • Oliver Holle, a Central European investor, wrote an interesting piece on investing in fringe markets (CEE to be specific), focusing on modest returns instead of “swinging for the fences” (a baseball metaphor, in case that doesn’t make sense to Euros). Read on TNW 
  • On how vox.io is doing more for Slovenian startups than the government. Read on stritar’s chronolog

Read more

Over the past few months, our focus at Eastist has become more defined. Its aim from the start has been to connect entrepreneurs, innovators, and startup enthusiast across Central and Eastern Europe. There are many ways of achieving this, but for now, Eastist will focus on four areas:

  1. Original features. This is the crux of what we do — reports on places, people and organizations, interviews, opinion, analysis. If you have any ideas or requests, let us know, and if you would like to contribute, please get in touch!
  2. News roundup and newsletter. As the startup world in our region grows, so does the blogosphere surrounding it. Instead of duplicating efforts, we want to point your attention to all the good stuff being written elsewhere. A good way to stay caught up is also to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
  3. EastistWire. This is a new feature launching today. While nobody likes to publish press releases thinly disguised as blog posts, they do provide news about the companies releasing them. If we had the resources of a large news operation, we would incorporate press releases into value-added original reporting. While we aim to do that whenever possible, we don’t want the releases to sit around in the inbox purgatory and news to be lost while we ponder writing an interesting article. EastistWire aims to solve that by publishing short versions of press releases. They will still get tweeted and summarized in the news roundup, but they won’t clutter the main news. What do you think?
  4. EastistJobs. This feature will be launching within the next weeks. It will be a free job board listing startup jobs around the region. Email jobs at eastist to get your listings up before the launch!

I know, you’re wondering where your weekly news roundup is, and don’t worry, it’s still a solid almost-weekly tradition. But right now, I’m way busy with things like working on bringing you juicy Eastist-relevant content from San Francisco. (On Monday, the Nice Reply team was convinced there were bullet holes in the wall in a bar in San Francisco I took them to. I have a feeling they didn’t believe me it was a known startup hangout. Would you like to read an article about the different kinds of American beer we tried?) In the meantime, Natasha over at GoalEurope published a great news roundup this week. Head over and catch up.

I’m sitting in an office right across the street from the YouTube offices and I’m really tempted to go shoot an undercover video of the slide that is rumored to be there. Stay tuned.