I recently had the pleasure of visiting a European city which is to a great extent a true example of how technology is changing society and business across Europe today. Once, Krakow was a city infamous for its nearness to Auschwitz and a terrifying example of how the Nazis could destroy a previously peaceful society where people of many creeds had lived together in peace. Under the Soviet occupation, it was just another grey Polish city. But since liberation in the later 1980s and the emergence of a strong Polish market economy in the 1990s/2000s, Krakow is taking its place in the technology world, along with the major hub of Warsaw, as a crucible of technology innovation.
I flew to Krakow to join the burgeoning startup group there known as Hive which showcased pitches from local startups aiming to go global. While there I shot the ‘mini documentary’ below which gives you a flavour of some of the early startup companies in Poland.
But the powering force behind this emerging scene is Applicake. No other business exemplifies both Poland and Central and Eestern Europe’s emergence as a tech powerhouse to me than this young company.
I first met the founders three years ago when they were already a couple of years into the journey. Ela, Bart, Pawel and Agata are four young founders who literally taught themselves to code, got an office in an old factory and decided to start an outsourcing business. They developed web apps and sites for playing clients, often from Western Europe.
But they aren’t just any kind of company.
Soon they realised that to generate the talent they needed they would have to actively participate in lifting their whole tech scene. They started meet-ups, Ela Madej, the CEO (whose parents were both early computer scientists), started travelling to Western tech conferences, they got to know VCs. It sounds simple, but they also made a conscious decision to blog and tweet in English – it’s for that reason I started hearing about them.
And most importantly of all, they started developing their own products which has led them towards the startup world. Today Applicake continues to work for some of the hottest product startups out there, but it’s team has divided in two to create FutureSimple, a new series of apps aimed directly at SMEs.
While in Krakow I also had the good fortune to meet up with Rafał Han of ciufcia.pl, the largest polish website with edutainment games for preschoolers. Pronounced “ChoofChaa”, this game based around a kids steam train is aiming to roll out in English and follow the Angry Bords model of toy merchandising.
Please check out the video and get a flavour of the Krakow tech scene.