Startup Poland is proud to present the fifth annual report on the Polish startup scene.
2019 KEY FINDINGS
1. Twice as many startups as 5 years ago
The number of tech companies that responded to the survey in 2019 (1,235 total) increased by 12% on last year, and by 290% compared to the first survey in 2015. We estimate the current number of technology startups in Poland to be between 4,300 – 4,700 companies, with 60% being exclusively IT/ICT companies.
2. If there is a silicon valley in Poland, it is in Lower Silesia
The highest concentration of tech entrepreneurs is in Wrocław and its environs in the region of Lower Silesia, in the south-west of Poland. Statistically, it takes just 4,500 Lower Silesians to form one tech company, a strong sign of how rich the region is in highly skilled, entrepreneurial tech talent. Two universities from Wrocław have attained a ranking of top rated academic institutions cooperating with startups, which proves how the collaboration between science and business fosters prosperity and entrepreneurship.
3. 65% of all startups in 5 hubs
Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Lublin and Tri-City, in that order, are the largest startup ecosystems, being home to over half of all Polish tech companies. Disappointingly, the entrepreneurial potential of some of the biggest Polish metropolitan areas, such as Poznań, Łódź and Katowice, has been consistently declining over the years.
4. About 130 startups with a solid business model and consistent growth rate
From the whole survey sample, only 44 startups (3% of the sample) have an average monthly revenue of over EUR 125k and have been growing on average 7% or more per month, in the last 6 months. Most of these champions work in the space of Artificial Intelligence, although AI is generally the hottest field for all the tech startups in Poland. If our estimations are correct, it could mean that all the VC funds which are looking for series A+ deals are fighting over a pool of around just 130 startups.
5. Polish techies still sell cheap
Polish techies must simply have no idea how to price their services, or they really understate their revenues. Out of 70 teams that have declared themselves to be busy, mostly with tech consulting and a base business model focused on time and materials, over 60% make at most EUR 25k a month - can you imagine? In the most optimistic case, namely of a one-man-software-company, this means an hourly rate of less than EUR 156, a very competitive rate compared to the US or Western European developers.
For those out there who want to craft valuable entrepreneurial education programs, this means they should put much greater emphasis on teaching future entrepreneurs how to design a rate card.
6. Exports consistently falling: over 60% of startups have no foreign clients
Just 39% of startups surveyed have any customers outside of Poland. This is a 7pp decrease on last year, and an alarming 18pp decrease compared to 5 years ago! The downward trend goes hand in hand with a declared eagerness to expand the business internationally: 75% of all startup plan to do so within 12 months. This willingness has been stable over the years, but apparently going abroad takes more than just a wish
7. It is twice as easy to get a state grant than a term sheet from a VC
Of any three startups looking for some kind of funding, one will get a term sheet, and two will get a state grant, provided they have been meeting VCs or applying for grant instruments. Statistically speaking, 32% is the success ratio for startups looking to raise a venture round and 69% - for public grant applications. However, half of the grants are less than EUR 125k, so we are not talking about an amount of capital that is enough for world class R&D.
8. 10% of VC-backed startups have raised more than EUR 2.5 million
While 5 years ago an EUR 2.5 million round was something all Polish business media outlets would have covered with flashy headlines, such an amount today is more mundane. Even so, 75% of VC-backed startups have raised less than EUR 1M.
9. Corporations get an A from startups
30% last year, and this year almost 40% of startups have been cooperating with corporations, with 75% rating this cooperation as good or very good. The share of cases where a corporation acts as a strategic client for startups has increased by 3pp, as has the co-development of innovative technologies. It seems that the corporate world in Poland is increasingly ready to drive the growth of startups.
10. Weak faith in traditional exits
Just 50% of startups believe their company might ever get acquired, and just 40% that it might list on a stock exchange. The most probable scenarios for most founders are: to become a key industry player, expand internationally, and stay with the company as the founder. 15% believe they’re very likely building the next unicorn, so perhaps that strategy makes a lot of sense ;)
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