The 1st British-Polish IT Forum, held at the Polish Embassy in London on 20 November 2018, brought together Polish tech firms, from large ones to start-ups, and representatives from UK businesses interested in making contact with them.
Opened by Poland’s ambassador to Great Britain, Arkady Rzegocki, the forum was jointly organised by the BPCC, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, the Polish Embassy in London and PLUGin, the Polish innovation diaspora, and attracted over 100 participants from 60 firms.
Two FTSE100 firms with tech hubs in Warsaw were keen to share their experiences in Poland. Matt Bonetti, head of development at Hargreaves Lansdowne, and Mark Fairbrother, vice-president of product development at Sage plc, spoke about their firms’ satisfaction with their decision to open development units in Poland. They were joined by other British business people who were involved in outsourcing to Poland, such as Duncan Saunders of Warsaw Stock Exchange-listed PGS Software and Mark Aikman of Ignition Transformation, or who started up tech businesses in Poland, such as serial entrepreneur Bob Spence from 5Next. All had nothing but praise for the skills and the hard-working ethic of Polish developers; Poland has a rapidly rising reputation as being one of the best countries in the world to do tech work. Matt Bonetti said that Hargreaves Lansdowne decided to open in Warsaw after conducting a search “from India to Ireland”.
Three panels examined different aspects of Poland as a location for doing tech. Many interesting insights were shared, including those around Polish start-ups. Piotr Kubalka, managing director of Capital Business Links, a London-based firm that helps Polish entrepreneurs set up business in the UK, said that many of his firm’s 3,000 clients are firms from the IT sector. He also outsources his own firm’s back office operations to Kraków, saying that Poland is far more transparent as an offshoring location than countries such as the Philippines.
The Polish business voice came from Michał Sztanga, managing director of Future Processing, the Gliwice-based IT firm that employs 900 people and exports over 80% of its solutions to the UK; he was joined by Wit Więch, director, business analyst team, at Software Hut, a company known for bespoke software and outsourcing. Future Processing has 18 years’ experience in working for British clients, and has built up strong relationships built on trust and close cooperation, said Mr Sztanga.
Poland’s key advantages were enumerated – high levels of language competences, including knowledge of spoken (and unspoken!) English, technical skills, small difference in time zones and the fact that over 75,000 students are currently studying in IT and IT-related fields.
“Just 20 years ago Poland was virtually unknown for its technological achievements. But the situation has significantly changed since then and today, we are one of the top software development outsourcing destinations in the world, consistently at or near the top of various rankings. Every day, numerous foreign companies rely on Polish developers to deliver software essential to their bottom line,” said Ambassador Rzegocki.
The event was designed to give maximum networking opportunities for British and Polish IT people, with lunch, two mixer breaks and a cocktail reception – after which conversations continued in nearby pub until last orders. The result was that many firms made useful contacts that will hopefully result in new business in both directions.