If entrepreneurship is a state of mind that forces you to follow your dreams no matter what, Roman Kala was a true entrepreneur, probably the biggest I know.
The story begins 84 years ago, in a small village, Miedzyrzec Korecki, Poland (now part of the Ukraine). I don’t know much of his childhood — he never talked about this period. When he was 15, the Nazis came and killed his father, along with other 1500 countrymen. He fled with his mother and the only brother to nearby Równe, but stayed there only for two years, when the Soviets came and kicked the Polish out from their homes. Thousands of people were put in a packed train and forced to head west towards Recoverred Territories (the land taken back from the Germans after the war). A few days later they reached Nakło where the remains of the family settled. A typical Polish war story.
It was June 2011. I’ve been running Filmaster.com from home for over half a year by that time. And I felt I’m getting less productive each day. Something had to change. I decided I need a separate place to work with my whole team. So I started searching.
A five people company is a pain when looking for a headquarter in Warsaw. You can take a room or two in a huge office space downtown but it feels corporate – you don’t necessarily want to work on your startup next to an estate agent. Another option is to take a small flat. Really small. Like a studio. The problem is – it’s way too expensive if you want it in a well-commuted area, and it’s way too obscure if you want it cheap. Sounds like mission impossible… so I gave up.
I gave up searching alone and started talking to fellow startupers. It quickly turned out a few of them were actually looking for a new place at the same time as well. So we decided to team up with HumanWay.com (great HR platform) and Homplex.pl (which helps set up your flat). That’s three small companies and some 15 people in total – a much better starting point to look for a cool location. So, we started looking together. We saw a few nice flats. I mean, nice places where you could live with your wife or have a rich-looking notary office. But not exactly a place we imagined our startups would fit in. We also saw some office spaces… which all looked like all other office spaces. And a few houses, mostly in a very bad state, requiring a lot of work to put back on track. So… we were stuck again. We haven’t found anything that we’d feel comfortable in and the few cool locations were simply too expensive. So then… a crazy idea came up!
Why not get something that we cannot afford?! Sounds stupid and irresponsible? Sure! But This is what we did 🙂
Taking risks is something I got used to. It got me into huge debts before but it also allows me to do what I love. So, it didn’t take long to make the decision: we’re renting the best house we’ve seen during these 2 weeks Of search and we’re starting something that could be best described as a startup commune. We invite all cool startups to work with us together, charging a minimal price for a desk, so that we could gather a bunch of most exciting, innovative and awesome Warsaw startups in one place. The vision was big, so how did it go? Well, lots of cool people replied at first when we announced our plans. Then some of them changed their mind for different reasons and we got worried. We needed at least 6 additional people in there so that we wouldn’t end up paying a ridiculous rent ourselves. Instead, we got… 18 in a month! The response outgrew our expectations! Now we have startups like MyGuidie.com (city guide network), LinkFndr.com (a klout lookalike), Citilia.pl (Polish opentable), sejmometr.pl (government monitoring service), DI.com.pl (Polish arsTechnica), mediafun (famous blogger, Polish Scobleizer) with his crew, walldate.com (Facebook dating) and some amazing freelancers like Janek (portfolio: http://sirjanshomestead.com) working in one place, that we called ReaktorWarsaw.
I can’t say exactly where we’re going, yet, as there is no plan, just a spontaneous series of events taking place because all of us what them to happen. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s the best place to work and run a startup ever so if you arrive in Warsaw, Poland, don’t even think of NOT visiting Reaktor.net!