CEE Startups Go Global

The CEE (Central and Eastern European) region is known its human capital and innovation, and according to the Central Bank Group, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania will strengthen their market leader position in Europe in the coming years.

But did you know that the region is a quickly becoming a hotbed of innovation? Skype and CD Projekt (the video game developer behind the Witcher) are probably the most well-known startups from the CEE.  More than 30,000 startups operate in the region, and despite many challenges, they are managing to break through and go global. The development of new technologies, progressive innovation, and support from foreign investors are all working together to put the region – and it’s emerging businesses – on the innovation map.

Investors are increasingly eager to look this way, too. Last year, CEE startups raised a total of €177m ($199m), up from just €15m in 2012, according to data from research-funding platform Dealroom.co1; 2017 is on track for even stronger growth. 

But the CEE's startup scene remains small and faces a number of challenges. To support and help grow the innovation ecosystem in region, MassChallenge is partnering with PKO Bank Polski, Poland's largest commercial bank, and the Foundation for Technology Entrepreneurship, an influential Polish startup ecosystem player, to support the best CEE startups in scaling their businesses through Bridge to MassChallenge Warsaw

The Fight for Survival and Growth

Today, startups from the CEE tend to demand new, international work and connections more often than larger and already-established companies. They want and need to grow beyond their domestic markets in order to survive. 

When we come up with an innovative idea and decide to start a new company especially in the CEE, the main challenge a young startup faces is the need for a dynamic development and reaching out to new clients. 

It often turns out that the local market in which we operate, is too new or too small for our businesses to start flourishing. A threat exists, particularly when the product is highly innovative or corresponds with the needs of only a narrow group. In this case, it is worthwhile to consider an extension of business activity and focus on foreign expansion, targeting those countries which actively foster innovative ecosystems and help it to flourish. If handled correctly and with support of experienced professionals, we might hit the jackpot. There is much more to win than lose. 

Internationalization is also the right way forward in terms of economies of scale – startups will be able to capitalize on experience better on the market, characterized by a higher margin. 

“Building a global development strategy is a real challenge, and help can be provided by accelerator programs with a strong network of international and experienced experts. All those ready to achieve global success are encouraged to take a look at the Bridge to MassChallenge Warsaw program – global startup competition that  is currently receiving applications  and invites startups from Central and Eastern Europe, and beyond to register," says Paweł Bochniarz, President of  the Foundation for Technology Entrepreneurship – a partner of the Bridge to MassChallenge Warsaw program.

This blog is by the Foundation for Technology Entrepreneurship.