TechStars descends upon Krakow
With a mentorship list that included Brad Feld of Foundry Group, Fred Wilson of Union Ventures and Dick Costolo, ex-CEO of Twitter,Techstars is a giant among global startup accelerators. They just launched a program in Berlin earlier this summer. The managing director of Techstars Berlin, Jens Lapinski, paid Krakow a visit at the invitation of local start-ups. He was hosted by coworking space COLAB. He helped out by providing a whole day of mentoring and an evening of pitching and networking
“Because we had heard so many great things about the Krakow start-up community, we were very happy to come here and take a look on the invite of some of the local talents. Based on my day of mentoring some of the start-ups, I was not disappointed. There are some really great talents here. We at TechStars are happy to begin a relationship with the Krakow start-up community.” - That was one of the first things that Jens Lapinski, managing director of TechStars Berlin, told me when I talked to him before the pitching event at COLAB.
Jens Lapinski was a partner at Forward Labs, which he co-founded in January 2012. Forward Labs built profitable start-ups at high speed using lean startup principles. Before that, Jens co-founded and was CEO of aiHit, a provider of automated company data to the business information industry.
The evening’s event was sponsored by KIC Innoenergy, a European company dedicated to promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and education in the sustainable energy field by bringing together academics, businesses and research institutes. With a branch in Krakow, they are looking for start-ups with sustainable energy initiatives to apply to their KIC Kickoff program.
Jens did introduction with a reminder of Steve Blank’s Four Steps to Epiphany. He talked about each of the four steps (customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation, and company building) with some concrete examples. He marvelled at how well Poland is following this model in building great businesses.
Then came the pitching. The prize of the contest was bragging rights as well as further mentoring from Jens. The teams pitching were:
Sinterit - They build and sell professional and affordable SLS printers. This laser printer sinters nylon powder to 3D print objects for projects and manufacturing. It can also print using aluminum powder as well. The key is that since you are printing with powder, you can print multiple units at one time.
Craftinity - They use machine learning to help you with your research needs by scanning over multiple sources and reporting trends, anomalies, and recommendations. This may cut down on the time a researcher might need to carry out his or her research.
Rombo Games - They combine board games with a smart device app featuring augmented reality to engage the whole family with an evening of fun. They also participated in the Pirates on Shore event in May.
JLupin - They are a cloud based server service that allows users to run multiple Java applications at once. This may lower the cost of running multiple applications and memory for companies.
WhenVisted - This is a foundation that offers businesses a PR platform to get followers so they can benefit people like the homeless or the disabled with some actions done on the website. By donating to various NGOs through the service, businesses would gain more positive exposure.
The winning team of the pitching contest was Rombo-Games. Jens was impressed by the colorful displays and the demonstration of the games. Jens noted that this demo was very engaging and dynamic because of the augmented reality aspect. Rombo Games will be organizing a Kickstarter campaign in the upcoming months.
The runner up to the pitching contest was Sinterit, because their product was easy to understand and they had some samples of finished products already.
The event was a good introduction to what the Krakow start-up community have to offer. Jens was impressed by the level of sophistication of the products presented by the teams. Jens told me that he would be happy to come back to Krakow with a bigger team from Techstars in the future for something more momentous.
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