I had huge luck and privilege that from a very young age I could travel to many places, some of them a long way from Poland like San Francisco or Singapore. What always struck me was that I met many Poles living and working there. In fact, I can’t recall a single trip when I didn’t make some Polish expat friends. All of them were very open and tried to help me – a fellow Pole, but at that time, living in Poland.
And when I moved to the UK the situation repeated itself. And it made me realise that an amazing opportunity for international cooperation between Poles in the tech sector is being terribly wasted. There was no truly global and bottom-up initiative giving Polish expats in London a chance to help their peers in Wrocław; those in San Francisco/Silicon Valley couldn’t reach those in London or Wrocław, unless they had personal connections – the list continues. Don’t get me wrong – there already were communities in San Francisco, Berlin or Dublin for local Poles in start-ups and tech to network. But they were limited to their respective geographies.
When in November 2014 Jacek Ratajczak (from intive) approached me with a proposition to co-found PLUG Polish Tech Link (or PLUG for short) I didn’t think long. His idea was in line with my thinking – that Poles need to stick together and help each other. This is how we understood modern patriotism, always with an intention to be inclusive and open to others. As people working in international businesses we immediately saw value in such a network for all community members, regardless of the language spoken.
We started in a modest way, with a monthly networking-over-beer meet-up in London – the most vibrant and the fastest growing technology hub in Europe. Each time we gathered a larger crowd; PLUGinLondon community started to form and grow. We added a layer of inspiration with presentations and panel discussions about hot topics and trends in the tech industry. Presentations and discussions were in English, which opened our meetings up to the non-Polish speaking audience interested in the subject. As a bonus, they started discovering the Polish start-up and technology ecosystem. Some people were coming with an intention to find out even more about it and to verify the rumours they have heard. Our open and non-restrictive approach invited people of many professions and nationalities, whose common ground was interest in tech.
After about a year, we decided to make a next step: go global. Two new chapters were created: PLUGinWrocław (September 2016) and PLUGinSan Francisco (January 2017). We also have relationships with similar communities in Berlin and Dublin, which were started independently about the same time PLUGinLondon was born. But this is not the end. We’re determined to be able to introduce our community members to valuable contacts in all of the most vibrant technology hubs in the world. New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Helsinki, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdansk – will soon be on our map. With a mission to become the international extension of the Polish technology ecosystem, PLUG Polish Tech Link will serve as a bridge allowing a multitude of geographical connections.
Poland is being now carefully observed by the Western countries as a gateway to Eastern Europe has become an interesting location and destination for companies from the UK as well. Positioning Poland as a focal point in the PLUG global network gives British businesses yet another way of entering its market.
Another form of releasing a full global potential of Polish technology entrepreneurs is Polish Tech Day – a conference taking place in London in June during London Technology Week. It’s a platform for Polish and UK tech sectors to discuss mutual investment prospects. We explore opportunities at the start-up/innovation and at corporate level. One of the highlights of Polish Tech Day is the finale of Pitch to London – a pitching competition for Polish start-ups, who get a chance to present in front of the UK-based investment funds and start-up accelerators.
Where does this put PLUG and our community members? In the best position to start making a global business. It’s all about connections and relationships. They open doors and can save an awful lot of time wasted on research or mistakes – wrong partners, wrong approach to the market, lack of sufficient preparation when entering a new international market. All of these can be avoided by having insider knowledge from the new target market. PLUG can deliver such insights by introducing to appropriate people.
Being part of a community in one location gives access to a global market and all other PLUGin communities. It is one of the easiest ways to build your brand awareness and to plan business trips more effectively with help from people met at our events.
The international growth of Polish and British technology companies is a huge challenge. PLUG Polish Tech Link offers a platform facilitating this process from the outset. Through our extensive network of contacts in such sought after locations like London or San Francisco, we can help in making the first steps.