Startups and Pierogi

Our Master in Management’s entrepreneurship specialization Option-E kicked off with a bang! After an introductory session and meeting the team on Berlin campus, Berlin’s Option-E students went on an educational trip to Warsaw, Poland from 11-15 September 2021.

The current Option-E cohort from Berlin explored Central and Eastern Europe’s most dynamic startup ecosystem. They met different stakeholders such as investors, entrepreneurs, founders, representatives of incubators, venture building companies as well as software houses. 

Discovering Warsaw’s lifestyle and history

First, our Option-E students dived deep into Warsaw’s intriguing architecture, culture, and history, as well as its vibrant lifestyle. The first two days were devoted to sightseeing, and tasting what culinary Warsaw has to offer. 

In the evenings, we socialized and relaxed in one of the many open-air bars and clubs along the Vistula river. The sandy beaches were also the place where we hosted the first Option-E beach volleyball tournament!

Meeting Kozminski University

ESCP Business School and Kozminski University have a close partnership. Our Option-E students met representatives from Kozminski Business Hub, a well-known place for fostering academic innovations. In engaging half-day workshops, they worked in groups on real cases, followed by a pitching exercise.

Then, Aleksandra Przegalinska, who is the vice-rector of Kozminski and an AI expert, delivered an inspirational speech. He spoke about the importance of AI in innovation. Moreover, he offered students the opportunity to participate in the next tech hackathons that are organised by the school.  

“What is venture building?” with Daftcode

On the next day, we visited Daftcode to learn about venture building. Venture builders are organisations that systematically produce new companies, and help them grow and succeed. Their role is to foster innovation, which is changing the way new companies and products are created (Garcia-Luengo 2017). 

Daftcode is one of the leaders of the Polish venture building scene. More than 14 companies built and a team of 9 people working exclusively on ideation processes. Our students got to know how Daftcode as a venture builder. Its mission is to help entrepreneurs to create successful, long-lasting, and cutting-edge businesses. Daftcode builds a great portfolio of startups mainly in the sectors of FinTech, InsurTech, and Big Data.

“How to foster innovation?” with HubHub

Our Option-E students, who soon will have to build their own entrepreneurial projects, also visited a co-working environment. In HubHub, which is designed to create and maximise innovation, they met with the CEO of MIT Enterprise Forum CEE. He presented various arts of supporting Polish and Central and Eastern European (CEE) startups. The students learned about their startup acceleration program, which aims at supporting and developing the most innovative startups from Central and Eastern Europe by providing financial, legal, and consultancy support to startup founders.

“What does the Polish tech scene look like?” with Startup Poland

Startup Poland is a grassroots organization created by Polish start-up founders that wants to enhance the conditions for Polish startups by influencing policy-makers, educators, academics, and the media. They produce comprehensive research and surveys about the Polish ecosystem (check their reports here). 

On the field trip, our Option-E students met with Tomek Snazyk, the CEO of Startup Poland, who is an active start-up advisor and investor. Tomek gave us an overview of the Polish and the Central and Eastern European startup scene and discussed the attractiveness of Poland in the ecosystem based on the recent reports created by Startup Poland.

“How to build a startup?” with The Heart

Later on, we visited the Cambridge Innovation Center Warsaw, where they met with Tomasz Rudolf. He is the former Executive Chairman at The Heart and a serial entrepreneur. Besides its venture building activity, The Heart is a corporate centre for digital ventures that creates new business, products, and services on demand together with corporate clients. 

Tomasz shared his ideation expert experience, and his passion for solving problems as an entrepreneur. He also spoke about the reality of experiencing failures as a young entrepreneur, which was really inspiring for our Option E cohort.

“How to build your first MVP?” with Start-up House

Many global rankings highlight Poland as one of the top locations when it comes to coding and IT skills. Warsaw is home to some of the world’s leading software houses specializing in creating tailor-made digital products for companies from all over the world. On their trip, the Option-E group met with Alexander Stasiak and Marek Palys. 

Alexander and Marek are the founders of Start-up House, an organisation specializing in the development of MVPs for early-stage start-ups. They introduced different tools, helpful resources, and methods to succeed in this crucial step. They also elaborated on how the co-creation process with a software house looks like.

Last stop: Inspiration at Contractbook  

To complete their exploration into Warsaw’s start-up world, the students talked to Krzysztof Palucki about the reality of being a Product Manager. Krzysztof Palucki grew from a venture capitalist at TeamVest Capital and OTB Ventures to a product manager at Contractbook, and had lots to share about his professional journey.

Along with all these insightful meetings,  the trip was a great opportunity for the students to get to know each other, do some first team-building activities, and who knows, maybe, become co-founders at some point!