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PI Newsletter #108

1. 10 Poland-based investors discuss trends, opportunities and the road ahead

The first survey in a two-part series about the nation’s startup ecosystem

Mike Butcher, TechCrunch, September 11, 2020

Poland is becoming an important European tech ecosystem after experiencing record levels of investment and growth in recent years.

It’s the largest economy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), is known for its technical talent and has now nurtured a number of large startups that have raised multiple rounds of funding. In 2019, investment in Poland’s startups — with Warsaw being the biggest startup hub in the country — grew eight times year-on-year to reach €294 million. This was more than the combined amounts of the nine years prior. While investment has slowed due to the pandemic, it has not stopped. And of course, COVID-19 has only accelerated the pace of digital adoption inside the country itself.

A July 2020 report by Dealroom found over 2,400 Polish early- and later-stage startups, 97 venture capital funds and cataloged over 1,600 funding rounds in 2019. The country has over 401,000 engineers (twice that of Romania at 139,000). It also had twice the number of venture capital rounds in the region (823 compared to Estonia’s 477).

Polish startups are on a funding roll, as the average cheque size for pre-Seed-stage investments has almost tripled since 2013. At the same time, it’s attracting foreign investors. Codility and Nomagic were two startup investments that stood out this year so far. Nomagic, a smart “pick and place” robotic solution, attracted investment from the U.K.’s Hoxton Ventures and Khosla Ventures in the U.S.

Key, later-stage startups include Booksy, Brainly and Docplanner, while significant recent exits include Fibaro, PizzaPortal and Frisco. Poland has a sophisticated banking system, meaning there is an increasing number of fintech startups in the space.

Meanwhile, the startup ecosystem has, in recent years, been spreading outward from the capital, Warsaw, to Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław and Gdansk.

The country has also developed into a leading video game exporter. CD Projekt’s Witcher series was a big hit, based as it was on a series of best-selling Polish books, which were also the basis for a Netflix show.

According to data from PwC, Poland’s video game and esports market was worth $664 million in 2019 — up from $400 million in 2014 — and is predicted to climb to nearly $850 million over the next four years.

We asked 10 investors, principally based in Warsaw, to give us their take on where things are right now.

·       Bryony Cooper, managing partner, Arkley Brinc VC

·       Anna Wnuk-Błażejczyk, investor relations manager, Experior.vc

·       Rafał Roszak, investment director, YouNick Mint

·       Michal Mroczkowski, partner, Market One Capital

·       Marcus Erken, partner, Sunfish Partners

·       Borys Musielak, partner, SMOK Ventures

·       Mathias Åsberg, partner, Nextgrid

·       Kuba DudekSpeedUp Venture Capital Group

·       Marcin Laczynski, partner, Next Road Ventures

·       Michał Rokosz, partner, Inovo Venture Partners

Bryony Cooper, managing partner, Arkley Brinc VC

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Deep tech topics including food and agritech, industrial IoT, media tech, cybersecurity and energy tech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
We just closed a follow-on round in CyberHeaven sp. Z o.o., bringing the total investment to 4 million PLN ($1 million). Together with their partner company UseCrypt, they’re setting a new standard in data security with a complete ecosystem of tools to ensure the highest possible level of encryption. Trusted by major corporations, military and government organisations, they are soon to announce a partnership with a major TV network.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I had a funny conversation with a friend the other day; we wondered how come cats and dogs can get a simple, six-month treatment to protect against ticks and fleas, but no such solution exists for humans?!
Many food and bio tech startups we see are in early/MVP stage; we’d like to see more in pilot stage, trialling/testing with customers.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We’re looking for experienced founders who have demonstrated their ability to execute and succeed in business, with beneficial strategic partnerships/network in place and a viable exit strategy. We’re particularly interested in deep tech startups with a physical/hardware aspect, at pilot stage.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
I’ve seen so many B2C home food growing/urban farming startups (hydroponics) — a nice idea, but I don’t believe it will take off. I’m also weary of consumer electronics and wearables that don’t deliver real value and are rather a gimmick.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We focus heavily on Poland (our local ecosystem), especially because our fund was created with the PFR Starter FIZ program from PFR Ventures (the Polish Development Fund). However we can invest into startups from any European country, and we review applications Europe-wide.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Of course COVID-19 has altered the answer to this question. Regardless of region, industries that are not affected by (or are benefiting from) the pandemic are best-positioned to thrive. That includes health and medtech, certain mobility sectors, remote work tools! As for Poland, there’s a strong resource pool for software and hardware capabilities at very competitive rates, so a wide range of industries can thrive here.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
In Warsaw and Poland, many new VC funds have been set up over the last 1-2 years, so there’s a lot of competition to find great startups. We differentiate ourselves by focusing on deep tech and hardware-related sectors (many others only invest into software/SaaS). Many Polish VCs are optimistic, but are focusing only on the current situation of companies — not thinking long term (i.e., exit strategy). I would definitely say the startup ecosystem in Poland is growing and should be considered as “one to watch” by global investors.

The rest of the article can be read on TechCrunch website (linked here) with the subscription.


2. “Massive Scandal” – EU Pays Muslim Brotherhood 36.5 million euros to “Subjugate Europe”

The European Union paid 36.5 million euros to groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose agenda involves the islamization of Europe, the right-wing I&D Faction in the European Parliament revealed.

“Apparently, the EU has been funding front organizations with our tax Euros which have close ties to extremist, terror-related organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood”, said EU parliament budget committee member Joachim Kuhs (I&D). “This is a massive scandal, and must be stopped immediately.”

The figures were unearthed by I&D Vice-Chair Nicolas Bay by searching the EU Financial Transparency System for the years 2014-2019 for the major European Muslim Brotherhood fronts. In these five years, a total of €5,422,678 million  went to the European Network against Racism, whose members include the “Forum of European Muslim Youth & Student Organizations” (FEMYSO). FEMYSO is a front organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, the German Bundestag Research Service wrote in 2015.

FEMYSO in turn acts as a lobbying organization in Brussels , protesting against the new EU commission 2019, calling it “not diverse“ enough and therefore “far-right.“ So the EU is paying a Muslim Brotherhood front group via another NGO to lobby itself and accuse EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen of having “adopted steps within the rhetoric and direction of those who vilify the full diversity of Europe” which “feed into nationalist and fascist agendas.”

FEMYSO member organizations include Muslim Brotherhood spinoffs like the “Jeunes Musulmans de France”, “Young Muslims UK” and the “Islamic Foundation” in UK, as well radical Turkish NGO Milli Görus, which German political police refer to as “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood“ that seeks to undermine the democratic constitution, and Muslim Youth in Germany (MJD), who have been under observation by German political police as a “danger to German democracy” for years. MJD organizes “regular appearances” by speakers with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and serves as “recruitment reservoir and talent pool for this Muslim Brotherhood influenced version of political Islam,” as the Bundestag Research Service wrote.

Continue reading here:


3. “The Scene was Horrific”: Persecution of Christians, August 2020

Part of a series.

About this series: While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, and persecution of Christians by extremists is growing.  The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

-“If we report these cases, the offenders get away with it by apologising and saying that they did it in an unconscious way. Should a Christian do something similar, he is immediately accused of blasphemy and the local Christian community is guilty by association. They rape our women, kill our people, destroy or burn our properties…. [All] we want is for our constitution and the law to treat us as equals, with justice, and for the guilty to be put on trial.” — Rev. Irfan James of Peshawar, AsiaNews.it, August 25, 2020, Pakistan.

– “You get so disappointed when you see immigrants do that. I’m an immigrant myself. And I don’t get it. Sweden has given them everything they want.” — Naem Sufan, sputniknews.com, August 2020, Sweden.

– Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl, escaped from the home of Mohamad Nakash—her kidnapper, whom the Lahore High Court had recently ruled is her legitimate husband despite her objections—and fled to a police station, where she gave testimony, including on how she was being “forced into prostitution” and “filmed while by being raped,” with threats that the tape would be published unless she complies with the demands of her rapist/husband and friends… — churchinneed.org; August 26, 2020, Pakistan.

Rape and Forced Conversions of Christians in Pakistan

In late August, Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl, escaped from the home of Mohamad Nakash—her kidnapper, whom the Lahore High Court had recently ruled is her legitimate husband despite her objections—and fled to a police station, where she gave testimony, including on how she was being “forced into prostitution” and “filmed while by being raped,” with threats that the tape would be published unless she complies with the demands of her rapist/husband and friends. “They threatened to murder my whole family,” the girl said. “My life was at stake in the hands of the accused and Nakash repeatedly raped me forcefully.” In an interview, a friend of Maira’s family described how the family is in hiding and constantly on the run, adding:

“Maira is traumatized. She cannot speak. We want to take her to the doctor, but we are afraid we might be spotted. We are all very frightened, but we place our trust in God.”

In a separate but similar instance, a married Muslim father of four kidnapped Saneha Kinza, the 15-year-old daughter of a pastor, while she was walking to church for early morning prayers. According to the report:

The original article in full can be accessed here:



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