From Startup Sprint to Entrepreneur For Life

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This weekend I was mentoring at Startup Sprint, an event organized by Poznan-based investor, LMS Invest and startup accelerator, Huge Thing. It’s a bit like Startup Weekend but focused on a specific subject. This time it was culture. Previous events included subjects like sports, e-commerce, education or finance.

When I was first asked to mentor on a startup event (Startup Weekend Szczecin last year, check out my coverage), I felt pretty weird as I wasn’t really sure I could be any helpful. I haven’t built (yet!) a company sold to Facebook for one billion dollars, I’m not a director in a major IT firm. I don’t even know if I know what I’m doing! I’ve been building a company for almost two years now and still thriving to succeed and conquer the world, although getting closer any month now 🙂 

However, in Szczecin, two things happened that made me feel great. 

First, ScatchApp was created by Michał Łyczek. We spent the whole journey from Warsaw to Szczecin (6+ hours) with Michał‚ and Tomek Kolinko discussing opportunities for an app that recognizes hand-sketched objects and transforms them into vectors on a computer screen. Michał‚ wrote the prototype of the app in 2 days and won the event, to later set up his business in Reaktor, the co-working space I co-founded. There, he met David Bizer who convinced him to come and pitch at HackFwd’s Pitch in Berlin event in March. In April HackFwd invested 191k EUR in ScatchApp, half a year after Szczecin. It’s currently one of the hottest Polish startups, although based in Berlin since May. 

Second, Ania Pietka, who came to Szczecin to set up Sportfol.io, a social network for amateur sportsmen, was just graduating from college and didn’t really know much about startups at all. In Szczecin she took the second place, after ScatchApp but her project died soon after the event. Ania didn’t give up though and she continues her startup adventure. We met again in Poznan this weekend, where she moved to join Huge Thing with her new project, a platform for internet shops that allows to subscribe to products you want shipped every week or month (like coffee for the office or new socks). She caught the enterpreneurship virus and I don’t believe she’ll ever be able to work for someone anymore. That, I consider a good thing 🙂 

I’m very proud of the fact I was able help to trigger some decisions or events that led to these small success stories. 

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Startup Sprint Culture venue

Having been active on “the startups scene” for some 3 years, I though I know most startupers who are doing amazing things in this part of the world. But oh dear, I was very wrong. This weekend on Startup Sprint I was lucky to again meet some amazing young people who are likely to change the world. I was super-happy to see my old friend Marcin Szepczyński find a non-technical co-founder Paweł Pawelec, who complements Marcin in every possible way. They together work on an advertizing platform Lorneta as part of Huge Thing but at Startup Spring Culture they pitched LikeScore, a Klout-like index describing your relation to culture. Paweł‚ had an astonishing pitch and the concept turned out to have a lot of viral potential. Together with some mentors we came up with at least a couple ideas of how to create a lot of buzz about the project when it’s live. One of them included a former prime minister of Poland Jarosław Kaczyński, a scandalist singer Doda-Elektroda and so-called Grycan-sisters, children of a powerful Polish icecream vendor owner, popular on gossip websites. LikeScore was not the only cool project at Startup Sprint. Gig.er (they don’t know yet if Erithrea sells their top level domain to Europeans) is a kickstarter meets amiando for concerts. Notifi is a Facebook-based system to notify you about any upcoming cultural event you might be interested to join (cooperation with gig.er sounds almost natural). And Whalla takes your offline events online with a system which looks a bit like Pinterest for events and reminds me of the early concepts of my fellow HackBox, Sharypic.

 Irena Mrozek (mentor) congratulating LikeScore team (Paweł and Marcin)

Although I tried hard I still don’t know whether or not I was a helpful mentor this weekend (this is something the participants need to state), but I know one thing for sure: I gained a lot by meeting so many awesome people.

What makes events like Startup Weekend or Startup Sprint great are not instant successes of the concepts created during the weekends (which rarely ever happen), but the impact they make on participants and their life decisions. I hope that the guys and girls behind LikeScore, gig.er, Whalla and notifi will follow the path of Michał‚ and Ania to become entrepreneurs for life. Being a small part of making it happen will make me feel great, again!



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