Welcome to Poland Valley

Hundred start-up incubators located in universities and business parks in less than three years. Twenty venture capital public funds with 180 million euros for start ups and entrepreneurs. 350 consultants approved by the development agency of SMBs to help entrepreneurs and businessmen. 239 new companies  in the Stock Exchange in the last three years including the secondary technological market… Silicon Valley? Not, wrong answer. We are talking about Poland Valley.

Poland is the only Member state of the European Union (EU) that has not entered recession during the  financial crisis. And that, which is never a matter of luck, has been achieved it with a model of balanced growth based among others on the Spanish experience (something that can turn out to be paradoxical seen the current moment of the Spanish economy).

In the years before joining the European Union, the Poles were travelling in delegation every week to our country. Spain was their model. They studied scrupulously both our process of integration and the later phases of negotiation, reception and application of the European funds. They were like Spain twenty years earlier. And they were right: Poland is a catholic country that comes from an agricultural economy as ours then, with a similar development and almost the same inhabitants.

They wanted to become the new Spain and, certainly, they have achieved it in terms of reception of structural funds from the EU. They used parts of our model, but they took good note of our mistakes. They did not just invest in highways. They put aside a good part of their budget  to support to his business sector and started an operative program of Innovative Economy with funds of the EU but co-financed by their central Administration.

If you are an entrepreneur, in Poland they start supporting you from the very moment in which you feel the motivation to start something. In the university they “pre-incubate” you; they do not even require you to have an idea at that stage. They help you to look for your own idea. Once you finish your high education and you already have the idea, you can go to an incubator that in addition to training, consultancy, mentoring, space and computer teams almost free, offers you finance for up to 200.000 euros to invest in your company.

And the most amazing thing is that the best incubators in Poland are private. In the last years, a good number of private foundations have supported the entrepreneur, with a positive result.

On top of the private initiative, the public one does not stay behind: if the start of your company has been fine and you need capital to consolidate and to expand your business, for every euro that you obtain of private capital, the Administration grants another euro of public venture capital. And they still have a good percentage of available capital of 180 million euros for next two years.

The Poles have been a fast learner. From Spain but  also from other countries. But they are not done. They want to make it better. And they look again at Spain. They feel comfortable with our reference. And the fact is that in Spain, we do not lack support for entrepreneurs in the initial phases. What we lack is bank financing and entrepreneurial spirit. What we need to get rid of is bureaucracy.

Between the good practices of Spain that attract attention again of the Poles there is the impressive network of start up incubators from Incyde, an NGO from the  Chambers of Commerce supporting entrepreneurs.
Next to a hundred of incubators and more than six thousand companies created in only ten years of work. In Incyde they support the entrepreneur even if it fails. Their motto: ” It does not always work fine the first time“.

Perhaps we are learning finally that one of the bases of an enterprising culture is the tolerance to failure. I hope our children could one day start up their companies in Spain Valley.

Sanyu Karani is a founder of Econet in Poland and specialist in public financing. (News published in El País 15/05/2011)