You might not realize, but the Poles are probably among the most intelligent, innovative and creative people in the world. I do not have the statistical proof for this bold statement, but they used to win and are still winning many Math and coding contests. Converting these capabilities into known solutions and world-famous companies hasn’t been too successful though. Fortunately, this is changing. Some evidence for this statement is the recent acquisition of Ivona by Amazon. During the 70’s/80’s Solidarity revolutionised Poland. Today it’s time for an entrepreneurial revolution and that’s why we launched GENE, the Gdansk Entrepreneurial NEtwork, today.
How it started …..
In October 2012, the Pomeranian Region and the Gdansk government organized a second economic mission to Silicon Valley. Apart from governmental representatives, 11 companies joined the trip.
Silicon Valley is known as the place where people start cool companies that generate billions of dollars of wealth (and tax revenue), create thousands of jobs, and yet does not pollute the environment that much. While seeing all the cool things happening in Silicon Valley, one question kept resonating for sure among a certain part of our group: “How can we create our own Silicon Valley in Tri-City?”
During our visits to Seattle and Chicago we met a different kind of entrepreneurship with more focus on work/life balance, something which seems a non-subject in Silicon Valley. There they claim you’re no longer working once you are an entrepreneur, it’s just your destination. Especially, for us Europeans this mentality is harder to get. And we should wonder as well whether this is the only truth. Should it be our blind aim to focus on bringing (our) businesses to Silicon Valley? Are our entrepreneurs only successful when they move to Silicon Valley? Will success be guaranteed?
The simple answer in our opinion to all of these questions is NO. Launching a business in Silicon Valley could be the result, the outcome of a successful idea/business, but it shouldn’t be the pure aim.
Trying to copy Silicon Valley is something else we shouldn’t aim for, because it’s just not possible. Developing an entrepreneurial community that enables entrepreneurship to flourish in our city and region is certainly something we could (and should) aim for. This is why we, Piotr Grodzki (Speednet), Bartosz Leoszewski (FancyFon), Łukasz Miądowicz and I launched GENE today. GENE is the Gdansk Entrepreneurial NEtwork, because entrepreneurship is deep in the Polish genes.
We don’t plan to reinvent the wheel once again
Using the motto: “Not invented here, but stolen with pride”, we are highly inspired by our visits to Surf Incubator, Startup Seattle and the book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City by Brad Feld, which was advised to us by Red Russak, Startup Seattle’s concierge. We will try to support our initiative as much as possible with existing tools which have proven to be successful. Among others we managed to place Gdansk on the StartupDigest “map” to have a single place to present all entrepreneurial events that take place in Gdansk and the region [please sign up to stay up to date!]. Because a lot is happening already, but the initiatives are fragmented and there’s not a single platform gathering all what is happening.
To open up towards the international audience we will also start adding as many events as possible to Meetup.com and we already joined the OpenCoffee Meetup network.
Step by step
We shouldn’t try to do everything at once, that won’t work. The result could be even the opposite, because it might put too much pressure on the little amount of people currently involved. We should just start with organizing one type of event for example every month and really make as many people as possible commit to it, the government and university included.
Such an event will be the OpenCoffee Club like the initiative taken by Saul Klein in London back in 2007.
Imagine it more as a big open lounge where people come and go, talk to others in the industry, showcase demo’s of what they are working on, save the world, and ultimately maybe get some work done and run a few small meetings.
It’s not another (obligatory) networking event. It’s a fixed time and a fixed place where people can meet and get inspired. Entrepreneurs, investors, everyone can mingle. Demo’s seem to be very powerful during such meetings. They include the potential to create unexpected opportunities. In case you want to demo, feel free to give it a try!
Will you support GENE?
We believe GENE will only start and continue to exist if entrepreneurs take the lead, that’s why we just did it. The government can for sure stimulate and facilitate different types of events to make entrepreneurs can meet. But without entrepreneurs, there won’t be an Entrepreneurial Network.
Knowing the majority of us will already be very busy running their own business and managing all kind of other obligations it will be hard for many to involve themselves a lot. But that’s also not what we ask for. Every little initiative will be appreciated. Big events are currently not really needed. Let’s first find out together what we want to achieve all together!
Please share your thoughts, ideas, questions, etc below or even better, visit our GENE Facebook page and join the OpenCoffee. Don’t count on others to form the network and organize all kind of great activities. We will need every single entrepreneur to be inclusive!