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Polish ecosystem

Welcome to our new series, diving deeper into the La French Tech community and getting to better understand French President Emmanuel Macron’s visionary target of turning France into a “startup nation” and Europe into a flourishing partnership playground. By 2030, the French government aims to focus its efforts in Europe, so the continent can support 10 tech giants worth €100B each.

This series will take us through different countries known for prosperous fields where tech innovation can flourish. We began our journey in Bucharest, Romania, went through Sofia, Bulgaria, and now continue with the La French Tech chapter in Krakow, Poland, before we dive into Belgrade, Serbia.

“La French Tech Cracovie” is a representation of the French startup scene in Krakow, Poland, that brings together startups, investors, policymakers, and community builders. Powered by the Ministry of Economy and Finance of France, the initiative aims to promote Krakow as a major Technologic Hub in Europe that is attractive to French investors. In addition, the chapter aims to assist Polish founders to enter the French market, support French founders who are looking to build a business in Poland, and build a Polish-French startup community. 

To give you the most thorough overview of the significance of La French Tech Cracovie, The Recursive met with Romain Rebour, co-founder of the matchmaking platform for IT teams SquadGurus, CEO of the startup and tech consultant company Glokal, and President of La French Tech Cracovie. Romain Rebour is originally from Lyon, France. He shares that he has always been involved in the IT consulting sector and has gained extensive experience in venture building. He has been in CEE for seven years, three out of which he spent in Prague, and the rest in Krakow.  

After spending some time in Poland, I got to know many French and French-speaking Polish entrepreneurs, so I saw the need and opportunity to form a meaningful community in the city. At that time there was no such existing Polish-French business community anywhere in the country. That is why I joined with other like-minded entrepreneurs and we officially established La French Tech Cracovie in 2019 in order to meet the needs of Polish and French entrepreneurs.
Romain Rebour Polish ecosystem
Romain Rebour
President of La French Tech Cracovie

The three main founders are Romain Rebour, Julien Hallier, co-founder and CEO of the travel tech startup Destination Pologne and a Representative of the French Chamber of Commerce in Krakow, and Billy Yen, ex-CEO of an AI-powered text summarization startup. Besides the three founders, the organization works with volunteers who help them with organizational tasks, as well as 10 advisors, both Polish and French. 

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Read further to find out what are the advantages of developing a business in Krakow, how has La French Tech Cracovie grown in the past 3 years, and in what ways it has helped French and Polish founders alike. 

Poland as a place to start or scale a business

 

The startup ecosystem in Poland is considered to be one of the most well-connected ones in Central and Eastern Europe, and is often referred to as the innovation hub of the region. To some part, this is due to its existing innovation infrastructure – there are more than 3K startups, 130 venture capital firms, and over 100 accelerators. In addition, the number of software engineers in the country exceeds 255K. 

Poland is also the 5th largest EU market by population and has some of the lowest cost of living in the EU. By far, the country is also the one with the most gender-equal tech communities in Europe. According to StartupBlink, the Polish startup ecosystem is a regional leader in innovation ranked at number 33 globally. The top-ranked city in Poland is Warsaw, followed by Krakow, and Wroclaw. 

When it comes to the industry breakdown, Poland is considered a great place to locate businesses in the fields of E-commerce and Retail, Marketing and Sales, and Health Technology. Some of the downsides of the local market are connected to the complexity of doing business due to the market confusion that springs from fast-changing regulations, problems with government digitalization, the coronavirus pandemic, and the smaller packages of conveniences for foreign investors than in other countries.

The goals of La French Tech for 2022

La French Tech is an initiative launched by the French government back in 2014, in Paris, intending to turn Europe into a unicorn community that can compete with other big startup communities around the world such as Silicon Valley. The initiative is already joined by 150 key European tech players and over 23K vetted startups, 280 VCs, and 4K corporates.

The goal of the program in 2022 is to build a roadmap to scale the tech ecosystem, develop prosperous economies, achieve social cohesion, and reach climate transition targets. So far, La French Tech has assisted 24 tech champions that have gained unicorn status, reaching the 2025 target set by the French President three years in advance. 

“At the beginning of our efforts to build La French Tech community in Krakow, we had to do a lot of work to understand the local market better in order to be a relevant bridge between the French government and the Polish ecosystem. Three years later, we have built a chapter with more than 250 startups and scaleups that are founded by both French and Polish entrepreneurs. Out of these, 13 scaleups are part of the Next 40 ranking for scaleups which are valued at almost €1B or that have raised more than €100M in the last three years,” Romain Rebour comments. 

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In addition to creating tech synergies between Poland and France, La French Tech Krakow has built strong partnerships with organizations such as Business France, the agency in charge of supporting French companies in their international development, as well as the General Consulate of Krakow, The French Embassy in Poland, and CCI France-Poland. 

La French Tech Cracovie is also a keen supporter of bringing people together. In 2022, the chapter is organizing four live events with keynotes and startup pitching competitions. In addition, La Tech Tech Cracovie is partnering with other event organizers so that members of the community can gain visibility as guest keynote speakers, jury members, and moderators. 

The list of activities in which La French Tech Cracovie is engaged goes on and on. The chapter provides 5 hours of free mentoring to startups and companies who need the founder’s advice. There is also a soft landing program in partnership with La French Tech Lyon Saint-Etienne. Every year (when there are no Covid restrictions)  they have 5 companies from the Lyon chapter come to Poland to do an exploration of the Polish ecosystem; afterward, they send 5 companies from Poland to explore the French ecosystem. According to Romain Rebour, this initiative has proven to be a successful method for creating solid and long-lasting partnerships. 

Opportunities for French-Polish business and startup cooperation

For starters, France is the 4th biggest investor in the Polish economy. According to estimates of La French Tech, around 1 300 companies are established in the country and 250 000 jobs are directly dependent on French investments. This has allowed the organization to develop a deep understanding of the different aspects of the Polish economy and its culture. Given that, the initiative is able to help French founders with the advice and the connections they need to carry out their project in Poland.

La French Tech Cracovie identifies the existing issues in the Polish market and works in close collaboration with the French Embassy to market conditions better for French entrepreneurs. 

“Different companies have different needs – Polish startups need clients in France, French startups need developers in Poland, at least in the beginning. We allow this and vice versa. When the French companies decide to build a small engineering team in Poland, we help them to realize the potential of the local market,” Romain Rebour highlights.

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La French Tech founders' support

“Around 80% of French founders in Poland are men who are in the country because of their wives. Usually, they have reestablished their businesses here because they have met a girlfriend and later married. The other type of founders and businessmen in our community are expats who have come to Poland in order to find a better opportunity than they were able to do in the saturated French market
Romain Rebour Polish ecosystem
Romain Rebour
President of La French Tech Cracovie

The Recursive reached out to one more member of La French Tech Cracovie, to find out why he moved there and to explore his experience in the Polish market so far.

Billy Yen is the Co-Founder and CMO of La French Tech Cracovie, founder and former CEO of  Koseed.io, an AI-powered text summarization tool for audio and video content. He is a marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in Digital Advertising & Marketing experience in several markets: North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Currently, he is Marketing Manager at the Swiss data services company, Unit8. 

Here is why, as a founder, he chose to grow his business in Kraków:

“What Kraków misses in size, compared to bigger cities, it gains in proximity and dynamism. People can easily refer you to another friend who can help you. Its eclectic community of talents, local and international, gave me the energy to create the momentum that I needed when I started my business.”

Billy-Yen
Billy Yen, Co-Founder of La French Tech Cracovie

In addition, Billy shares how La French Tech Cracovie supported him on his entrepreneurial journey.

“La French Tech Cracovie, founded by French entrepreneurs with an international background, provides me a space to discuss my ideas and some guidance on my business plan. But I believe that its power resides in the network of entrepreneurs, corporates, officials, and tech hubs.”

And last, but not least, Billy highlights go-to places in town for socializing and meeting with like-minded people.

“I enjoyed going to events organized by La French Tech Cracovie, like their Apero’ Tech in Hevre, the Summer Jam by OMGKRK, CCIFP events at La Petite France, for meeting the French community, or any event organized by the TEDx Kazimierz community, or start the day with entrepreneurs at Open Coffee Krk.”

 

Author: Elena Ivanova