Project Kazimierz presents Paul Papadimitriou and Ivan Hernandez, with Richard Lucas and Sam Cook. Paul and Ivan, co-founders of Digital Loop, discuss podcasting and its effectiveness in distributing a message. Richard discusses angel investing and entrepreneurship with them. Finally, they look forward to predicting technology trends and how they judge startups to invest in.
Mentions and links:
Table of contents:
Ivan’s and Paul’s Background
- 00:47 Sam’s introduction to the show
- 02:10 Richard tells how he met Ivan on Bitspiration
- 06:02 Paul’s story
Rebirth of podcasting
- 08:27 State of podcasting scene in Europe
- 11:55 The beginning of DigitalLoop
- 15:35 The hardest bits and learning curve about recording
- 22:27 The beauty of creating a good show
- 25:04 Power of the medium
Investing in technology
- 31:20 Paul’s opinion on investing in people
- 36:30 Situation in emerging markets
- 40:14 Growing your ecosystem
Predictions for upcoming trends in technology
- 47:40 Importance of connectivity
- 55:27 Hardware as added layer of complexity
- 56:40 Quality of end product relation with the ecosystem
- 59:00 Sources of innovation
- 01:02:40 Technology predictions
- 01:04:50 The importance of circumstances
Poland in international context
- 01:12:00 Piece of advice for all start-ups from Ivan
- 01:16:10 Tip for every entrepreneur from Paul
- 01:18:04 Sam’s recap and closing
- 01:19:52 Outro
Hello again Project Kazimierz listener, my name is Sam Cook the cohost of Project Kazimierz along with my host Richard Lucas. How are you doing Richard?
Very well. Good afternoon or good morning or good night depending on what time of day you’re listening anywhere in the world..
Hi Richard, your standard introduction. You ways start out with the evening and today you’d have to say all of them, right?
… the change so…
But, okay, so Richard and I have 2 very interesting guests today, Paul Papadimitriou, an entrepreneur turned lobbyist, innovation scout, world renowned keynote speaker in early stage startup investor and advisor and Ivan Hernandez, former flying trapeze artist turned digital strategist, I’m gonna have him explain that, and advisor to early stage startups and keynote speaker. And Richard as his standard introduced Paul and Ivan to myself and me and my team will do all the work producing this and hopefully we’ll have a great conversation here. So Richard, I’m gonna toss it over to you to do an introduction, why did you bring Paul and Ivan to the show today?
Well there’s 2 reasons really, I’ve met Ivan and Paul back at Bitspiration and the TechCrunch on Saturday conference, I was on a panel with Ivan there. And so I saw one level, they’re both interesting technology people with a strong awareness of what’s going on in Central Europe and Poland but not only. Beyond that, they’re also the cofounders of a podcast called The Digital Loop which means as is often the case, I get my best ideas from other people and they started the world before me doing something that in fact you were part of making happen so I could say it’s not exactly The Digital Loop Podcast is the inspiration to Project Kazimierz but certainly people doing what you’re thinking of is highly motivating. But, and so I think that’s enough introduction from me and maybe I think if you don’t know what order to introduce people, alphabetical order is the right way to go so maybe Ivan, do you wanna introduce yourself better than we can?
I just wanna hear about the flying trapeze artist piece because…
Well first of all, thank you so much for having us, it’s a pleasure to join you guys. I’ve been listening to the episodes that you have produced and they are great, they’re very, very interesting so congratulations on the launch of your podcast. Yes, I’m originally from Mexico but I’ve been living in Poland since 1999 so I speak Polish fluently with a very, very funny accent but I’ve been already based here for a while and I’d like to joke that I’m an honorary Poland by now. And in a previous life, yes, I used to be a flying trapeze artist, I used to fly under trapeze, that’s how actually I met my wife when I was working and travelling around the world, I worked in 10 different countries. And when I was based in Turkey flying on the trapeze, I met this beautiful Polish girl that, well, I taught her to fly under trapeze and I guess the lesson worked out well because here I am 16 years later with 2 kids, married and very happy so yeah, that’s my story.
And I was gonna ask you what was her name but…
Her name is Magda, Magda Hernandez so yes, now, Magna Hernandez now and yah, we’re very happy here in Warsaw having a great time and really, really happy to be part of this new raise of innovation and startup studies happening in Poland…
And even if you wanna have a private conversation with me, możemy mówić po polsku, but jestem przekonany że nie wiem czy Paul tak dobrze, ale na pewno Sam nie rozumie, I was just saying that if you want private conversation, we can have it coz I also speak Polish with a very funny accent as well.
Hey, watch out, I just took my first Polish lesson yesterday Richard so you might start to lose that competitive advantage or at least you can’t talk about me without me knowing what’s going on.
Paul, how’s your Polish?
Well, it sucks, I mean, I’ve been coming to Poland for what? Like 5 years now? Like maybe 3 times a year, it hasn’t improved a bit so I already saw, you can lose me as much as you want, I will not understand obviously.
When I do business with some people, when they speaks me in English, I have no idea what they’re talking about either so sometimes it’s not just language, it’s content, let’s hope that’s not problem for our listeners today.
Well Paul, over to you, I guess you haven’t met a Polish girl yet which has brought you to Poland so but actually Ivan, I was kinda joking about what’s her name, everyone I’ve met who’s gotten in to Poland from outside is usually met a girl, I’m one of the ones that actually didn’t move here for a Polish girl which is interesting.
Well, yeah, you’re an exception because absolutely you’re right. But actually there’s something that happens in many, many countries because when I moved to Japan like almost like 8 years ago, the same thing happens, most of the expats you meet all they are because they met a girl so it happens everywhere around the world.
So me, okay, my last name tells you that I’m Greek but that’s not where I was born, I was born and raised in Switzerland. My mother was from Finland so you can imagine the Fins being the toughest and the Greeks right now so have this kind of paradox within myself, right? So yeah, but I’ll stop talking, yeah exactly, very hard on myself. I always say that I work like a Swiss so I wake up every morning at 6 and I start work at 7 but then I party like a Greek which means I come home at 5 AM so it’s kind of hard to find some sleep. So I’m born and raised there and then I moved to Asia, to Japan, moved to Philippines as well afterwards many countries. I ended up in London 3 ½ years ago, I really loved it, besides the weather, it’s so, so theoretically, we’re end of summer and I’m looking at my office window and it’s great and it must be like 18 degrees Celsius so it’s not that great, welcome to the British summer. So I’ve…
Yeah, exactly. We had a heat wave for 2 days last month, that was our summer, I think that’s already gone so I just had one barbeque, that’s it. So basically yah, I’ve done many things, my résumé doesn’t mean a thing after a university, I opened a startup, that was on the ‘90s so very different era then I moved on to other stuff in marketing. I ended up being lobbyist and then one day I moved to Japan and I opened a company I have now, it’s been 8 years and it’s called Intelligence or, I mean, we went to a rebrand but anyway. And most of the stuff I do is helping large corporations about innovation, that’s how I make money actually and then of course I invest in startup and advice startups as well although there’s way too many advisors nowadays so mostly trying to invest and keep mum about it. But this is not where I make a lot of money because as an angel, it’s a numbers game so it’s hard to put enough bets to make a lot of money. So basically as an angel, I always say it’s money you can afford to lose but it’s fine and I’ve invested actually in startups in Poland as well. So I didn’t come to Poland the first time because of a girl, I came to Poland first time because a friend of mine, Alejandro Barrera, he’s Spanish, went to a conference and told me this country is amazing, you should come and I went and since then, I’m nonstop going in it, that’s where I met Ivan, I think 4 years ago, right Ivan?
Yah, that’s right, we met at a conference, yeah.
And Ivan did inspire you to move to Poland?
Well, he is kind of the odd one and no blue eyes, no blonde hair.
Exactly. So, well, I just wanted to kinda kick this off with, it’s great to talk to a fellow podcast host and also people who’ve been involved in the conference Bitspiration, I saw you there at the last one and finally, going in to the angel investing world a little bit in Europe which is I think different than potentially the angel investing world in the UK and the US which we’ve had a few investors come on the show and talk about the US versus Europe so I think those are the 3 main things we’d like to talk about today. And first of all, how is the podcasting scene? Coz when I met Richard, I think Richard is approached by so many different people in Krakow who have great ideas and wants something and needs something and I’ve had a great honor of getting with Richard pretty well because I actually do something that he’s always wanted to do which is podcasting so it’s been great fun doing this show with Richard. And you guys have been added a bit longer, what is the state of the podcasting scene in Europe?
I would say that podcasting in general have seen some kind of a rebirth in the past 2 years, people are starting talking about it more and more. I guess it’s, one side is obviously because of tools have become more easily available. It used to have like you have to have a recording studio if you wanna do a podcast so the quality was really bad. Now you could do like we’re doing today, now we’re in Skype and using a software to record the tracks, you could do that at Google Hangouts. The price of microphones, the quality microphones have dropped. And people also have like, they’ve realized that podcasting as a content creator, so you guys, sometimes it’s not easy but it takes, you can do 1 hour of content very quickly whereas if you want me to write that amount of stuff, you’d need like a full day of writing and editing so that’s one thing. And on from the listeners’ point of view, for the ones that wants to learn about content, it’s also very easy way, you can do that while you run, you could do that while you commute so it’s been seeing a rebirth.
In Europe, it’s been a bit late as usual as compared to the US but we’re seeing great podcast being introduced. This is what we try, I mean, again, when Ivan and myself thought about doing a podcast, he was like more like: we don’t have time, to be very honest, we don’t have time to write block post all the time so instead of doing that, let’s have somebody else and we have a discussion like we have in today. Once a week, now it’s less than once a week to be very honest with you guys because we’re very busy but this is, I think it’s a win – win, for the listeners’ point of view, it’s easy content to listen to and from the constant producers and maybe have a different take Sam but it’s a different setup but it’s not that hard to produce. I mean, then the quality is hard, I mean, you have to keep, like you guys, you have to keep maintaining, finding your guests etcetera, etcetera so that can be a little bit exhausting but I think it’s only beginning. And there’s Spotify has already introduced podcast section so you cannot register you and me guys yet but Apple music will also introduce I think so there’s also, in terms of outlets where you can actually put to podcast is becoming easier to actually attract audiences so I think this is why we’re seeing this rebirth of podcast.
“Podcasting has seen a rebirth in the past 2 years. People are talking about it more. The tools are becoming cheaper and more available.”
What sort of traffic are you getting as a matter of fact? When exactly did you start and what’s the traffic you’re getting, I mean, how many downloads do you have when you go up on iTunes and so on?
So the traffic, probably stick it out and let Ivan speak, the traffic is, so we started this, first we started, was it 3 years ago Ivan now? 2 ½ years ago?
Yeah, 2 ½, almost 3 years ago.
Yeah. So we do seasons, we’ve got to map out, it’s a bit silly but it’s funny, like TV shows run for season 1 and 24 episodes so we do that, we’re in season 3 episode 15 I think now. And so, but the first season was almost everything was on YouTube, so I was, we were pushing YouTube a lot and we gone from some episodes 3,000, 4,000 views per episode but then we figured at some point that basically, it was just watching us talking in front of the microphone, it was not that interesting so I started pushing a little bit more the Sound Cloud so I put the podcast at Sound Cloud, Sound Cloud is a platform, it’s like YouTube for sounds, it allows you then to syndicate your content to iTunes and other platforms and this has been, it’s been a bit longer to pick up but I mean, the number is just like probably, overall, we’ve had on YouTube maybe 40,000 views or maybe a bit more, on Sound Cloud, it’s reaching 50,000 listens instead of views and the website itself is less.But you do a great job by the way guys because you have a lot of content in the website. We have, we embed to sound, we embed to video as well because we’re keeping the video because YouTube views is potent and then we put some links. You guys also do a transcript which is very smart to do. I wouldn’t thought about doing that and never came around it so congrats to you guys for doing this. And so website is maybe a bit less, maybe 5,000 – 6,000 views, not like lot because we don’t really push the website, we push the Sound Cloud and iTunes. On iTunes though, I’ve done a mistake at the beginning because I was very new at this, is that I didn’t actually put any specific tracker so I couldn’t know how many people actually listening on iTunes so I have only there recent numbers because we switched the RSS feed.
Well, yeah and I think one of the things that Richard and I, this is a very interesting conversation for our listeners because most of our listeners are business executives, entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, people who aspire to this lifestyle and you brought up some really interesting points about podcasting and letting people behind the curtain. We just started I think about 2 months ago and we’re approaching 5,000 downloads, actually no, I think we’re over 5,000 downloads and we get about 1,000 listens per episode or at least our first episode is about to hit 1,000. And, but we had a pretty focused launch strategy around it, we’ve done a little bit of advertising although not a ton but from our side and the way I do it because I’ve done it with my other company, Triathlon Research, we do put quite a bit of work in to it, it’s actually quite a bit…
Yeah, there is, yeah.
…quite a bit of staff that does it but I think what you’re talking about is all the things that we do, you don’t necessarily need to do, you don’t need to do the transcript, you can just put up a great iTunes link and there’s some tools on it and one of these days, I think Richard will probably have to teach a local podcasting course in Krakow to help the local.
Yeah, that’s, I totally agree with you because, and the other thing is that my philosophy always been: ship it, and when we started that, when we met with Ivan, I came up with the idea of recording and then I think it was, and Ivan might correct me, but 2 weeks later, we were at Google Hangout and started recording and I said, you know what? We didn’t have like USB microphones, we didn’t have, I just setup a very quick website, at first, even the website was on Tumblr so like free, everything was like ship it and let’s see if actually we can make it. And then because I think the hardest bit in content creation in general but obviously for podcast is actually discipline is saying, okay, every week or every 2 weeks, whichever time you and I decide, you go and we record and then you produce content on a regular basis so that your audience has an expectations of having the quality content coming up so this is the hardest bit. And then we started shipping around so okay, we improved the microphone, improved the website, we have a website on first base which is better like… So I think most people, I mean, and you do a great job because you had the experience already probably by doing others, but I think people should start to do this just like record stuff, it’s very easy, put it on Sound Cloud and just wait for it. And then over time when you get used to it, it’s like a startup, at the beginning, you don’t have all the bells and whistles and that’s fine…
And I do recommend that because I think on the one hand, you’re talking about like the reason, minimum viable podcast, right? But I think at the same time, and it’s a great idea but you need to have a focus, you need to know why you’re doing it. The amount of, they may call quality content in there is increasing and increasing so I’d say that even if it’s not like production-wise brilliant, if it’s dull, if it’s boring then, and if you go on iTunes and you’re like search a podcast about something like digital marketing, you will find incredibly boring and I would say that I usually did the TedEx Kazimierz and I was saying to the team we can have problems with the lighting, we can have problems with the registration, we can have problems with the seating but we cannot have problems with the quality of the tool because we live or die by the quality of the tool. And it’s like a conference, if the talks are boring, it doesn’t matter how nice the sandwiches are, right? And so, and in fact, Sam gave our interesting talk which isn’t yet up on YouTube, TedEx Kazimierz, so I would say that I would encourage who are listening if you’re gonna do a podcast, make sure that you know why your each episode is interesting, right?
Yah. And also I would add that there’s a, because that was Sam’s question, coming back to Sam’s question about the podcast in Europe and Eastern Europe, there are not many yet so there’s like a big opportunity. A lot of people want to know what’s going on for instance in Poland, like all these emerging markets are interesting for, here, we’re talking about entrepreneurship and startups but, I mean, I don’t have access to content, I mean, I do myself because I go to Poland because I know Ivan, because I know guys there but there’s a lot of people want just like a bite size, sympathizing what’s going on and a podcast is a great way. I mean, I know that Ivan listens to even more podcasts than I do so Ivan, you could maybe have a take on that.
Yah. I mean, as you mentioned earlier, podcast represent a huge opportunity for individuals, for brands, for companies to distribute interesting, relevant, entertaining, useful content and these content at the end of the day if it has great quality, it’s gonna open doors. So when you talk about the opportunity to share your vision and share your ideas in a way that actually it’s relevant and interesting. I think that this is a fantastic, fantastic tool to share and to open doors, I mean, this is one of the things that we, as you mentioned earlier, our focus on the beginning was to start. We had that this sense of urgency that once we decided that we’re gonna do this together, it took us probably like a week or even less to just decide, establish, put the things in place and record and then we haven’t stopped since then and we are very consistent. Of course the time for me is not as disciplined as it used to be in the past because both of us, Paul and I, we travel a lot. We already had some episodes in which Paul was, I don’t know, in Brazil and I was in Dubai or he was in Japan and I was in somewhere else. So we try to keep going and keep the discipline but it has been a little bit difficult so from that point of view, we have not been able to continue the once a week way of doing things…
“Podcasts represent a huge opportunity for people to distribute content. If the content is high quality, it’s going to open doors.”
But yeah, sorry to interrupt you with that and if anyone who does a podcast or any type of content, you just have to set expectations and at some point we said live on our shows, you know guys, we’re not gonna be able to do once a week because that’s just not possible because at the same time, we have consulting work, we have all the type of jobs. So when we just like from now on, it’s gonna be every 2 – 3 weeks and that works as well because as long as the people know, they know. The worst thing, and especially in the beginning, you all have seen that, you open a new blog because you decide I wanna blog, you’re up for 2 weeks and then you stop. And because you say there’s no audience, nobody’s coming to read you but that’s okay, at the beginning when we started, there was no one actually listening to us, okay, I didn’t do the all advertising stuff at the beginning, I started later on but that was okay. A lot of people are feeling let down and said, oh, only have like 50 people listening. You know what? That 50 people, you come back to them and say why did you listen, what do you like, what you didn’t like? Like you said earlier Richard, we almost run it like a small startup, say okay, what is the stuff that we know how to do well and how can we improve that’s why I believe in the ship it thing. I’m sure that you guys even though you’ve, again, I commend you for the quality of your website but I’m sure, I have been listening throughout I think 8 episodes you’ve done guys, there’s been improvement already because you’re learning by doing as well, it’s only by doing every week or so at episode, like okay, this last time we didn’t do right, this time we’re gonna do right and this is the thing I would call out guys in Poland, by the way, when I say guys, gender neutral, please do not understand that all we’re talking to males. Just do it, honestly, just do it, even if it’s crappy production in the beginning, if you have an interesting content, push it a little bit, you’ll have listeners. Maybe you’ll fail, that’s fine but at least you tried.
Yeah. And that’s one of the things that I would just add on to what you guys has said and if any of you listen to this show and looked at our website and seen our video, that’s not what you need to get started one of these things. And I think that talking to Paul and Ivan here is a great encouragement because anyone who’s in Poland listening to this, I’m here to tell you that I do this in the US market, my podcast is a huge source of marketing and branding and revenue for me and my other company and the only reason I went all out on Project Kazimierz is I’m a publishing company and I know what right looks like, I know how to do it and I have a staff that’s been trained to do it but that’s not what you need to get started. And on my first podcast, we didn’t do all these things the same way and we’ve improved it over time and the podcast that we’re doing right now benefits from those systems.And I think one of the things that you guys, and I just love to share some stats with our listeners, we’re on episode 9 right now and even if you think no one’s listening, they are gonna go back and that’s the beauty about podcasting is I remember last year, I ran across Free Economics Radio and I spent like 2 months all I was doing when I was traveling at the time was just walking around beautiful European cities in Spain and listening to Free Economics and like 2 years, I feel like I got my masters in economics. So what that did for me was people who are podcasters, they’ll find a show and if it’s good no matter what episode they listen to, they go back and I can tell you our stats, we’ve had 956 people listened to our first episode with Richard and I, was probably the worst quality recording we’ve ever done but it’s good content so I think that helps us out but even this month, the first month that had 695 downloads, the second month that had 204 and this month that has 57, even this month with more and more episodes where people typically worked their way back from back to front, we’re still getting that. And it’s just really interesting to see the statistics on it and you say well someone says only 50 people, can you imagine 50 people, how many of you out there give and talks in front of a room full of 50 people but what’s amazing to me is we have 5,917 listeners. I don’t think Richard and I have ever spoken in front of an auditorium like that but we have that audience through this podcast and it’s just getting started.
And I think there is a point here which is like I’m a reasonably well established business guy here in Poland and the UK and America and Sam’s got a background in publishing. You guys, when nobody is, when you kicked it off but the key thing is this question of why, the power of why, you need to know why you’re doing it and you could be you own a fishing club in Somalia and you do the webpage for fishing club and if you’ve used our podcasting a bit, the challenges of doing that. And the world is moving to Micronesia that’s why you have communities of interest probably communities over geography and what that means is that for all you know, there’s someone who have very similar challenge in Peru or in Botswana or the North of Ireland and thanks to the power of the search engine and these global communities, if you’re seeking about problems that are interesting to you, there will be people out there who show that interest who would never ever meet and we’re 4 slightly geeky business tech guys and there will be people out there who find what we’re talking about very boring but that doesn’t matter because there should be people out there who find what we’re talking about interesting, right?
Exactly. That’s one of the points that I wanted to make that you never know who’s listening and we, I mean, I remember we were very surprised a couple of years ago, I was in Dubai having some meetings and doing the meeting, one of the ladies in the meeting said all of us, she said, sorry to interrupt but I just wanted to tell you that I love your show. And I’m like, oh my God, really? You’re listening to us? Yes, I mean, in the middle of the commercial, she start recording our 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 episodes, some of the discussions that Paul and I had and I thought that that was very, very interesting. And I don’t know, last year, we were in Lebanon, both Paul and I spoke at a conference in Beirut and we have people there coming to thank us about the content that we’re sharing and saying that they’re fans of the show. So again, you’ll never know who is listening and the message that you are sharing, it might be relevant and it might be something important and valuable for somebody in the other side of the world.So I think that this as a medium is a really, really powerful medium for you to build your position in the market, I mean, I can say from personal experience. I had many, many new interesting opportunities because of the podcast. I have been twice the official blogger of LeWeb, one of the biggest event scenes in Europe because of the podcast. I mean, I went there as the Digital Loop and I had the opportunity to take, to be there as the official blogger of the event, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting, influential people that have an impact on me and everything because a couple of years ago, 2 guys having a beer decided to what the hell is try this thing. So you never know, you just need to go for it, try it and some really, really interesting things might happen.
And I will, I mean, what happened to us in podcasting particularly the American ones is that all the popular ones interview each other to help boost each other to their audiences and there’s a slight danger of us starting congratulating each other and the fact is that we are 4 extremely intelligent interesting people, right? So it’s obvious that I listen. Again, if I understand half of us are also very good looking which also helps and…
Well, on the podcast, I’m not sure about that.
But we have the perfect faces for radio so you guys on YouTube. But the point is I’ll also say that in fact you never get anywhere in life without the risk of failure and suppose you try this and it doesn’t work out, at least you tried, so what? You don’t wanna die thinking I bet I could’ve had a podcast and it would be hugely successful. If you tried it, well, that’s one of the things that didn’t work in your life, many failures. So, but I would say that remember, if you put a bunch of money in to marketing a product company with a bad product, you kill the company quickly but do focus on making it interesting, have an idea of your target listener or make it interesting for that girl, woman or type of person, right?
And one final thing as well is obviously what you guys said, okay, we are congratulating each other but inviting guests is also very potent because obviously then you rely also on other peoples’ networks to kinda enhance the audience size so it’s also, that works very well. And it doesn’t have to be, because again, I meet people, I mean, we all, for sure, we all meet people say I wanna do a podcast but I cannot get to interview, I don’t know, Gary, I’m like, you don’t have to interview Gary, there are other people might be interesting that might not be as well-known but they might be very well-known in their small community, in one city in Poland for instance, that’s good enough. And then you expand over this because, again, people come back, we have request from people say, I want to be interviewed by you guys and I said, oh… I was in Prague for Microsoft’s disclosure clients and the guys that came to me and start taking about a podcast and there was like, Ivan, what? Okay, you’re listening to it and then they were like, oh, how would we get on it? So that would never come to fruition but, I mean, people are asking us, you’ll never know when it comes. I do run another podcast called Layovers which is very niche, it’s about aviation so basically our travel innovation, sell the apps and stuff with another friend of mine. Same thing happens, we started doing that maybe like 3 months ago with all the lessons learned from Digital Loop and I have people from Emirates, they want to be interviewed in the podcast and like, okay, wow, I was not expecting that, I was expecting just to talk to 5 people, right? So you never know. So I will just encourage people to ship it, just go ahead do it, it’s cheap to do it nowadays.
Exactly. And moving on, one of the reasons we’re doing this, Sam and I doing this is we wanna promote this region and interesting people, projects and ideas on The Stage and as you said, they don’t have to be well-known, sometimes I really call people who deserve the international attention even if they don’t have in locals. Doing it in English is very important because it means that you have people who are really interested in the rest of the world, English is almost everyone’s second language if it’s not their first language. And obviously if you do it in Polish, it does limit you to a certain proportion of the planet which is a small one. But in terms of the kind of technologies, and this is maybe for both of you, maybe more for Paul who is an angel investor, what type of technologies and businesses do you like to invest in and do you see as the so high potential ones from Central Europe in general or Poland or for that matter, Krakow in particular?
Well, I wouldn’t say because again, I’m an angel so I don’t, I’m not a billionaire so it’s not a specific investing in a fund or…
You are not yet a billionaire…
He’s waiting for one of those angel companies to make him one, right?
So I mean, it’s a numbers game as I said but usually, I invest in people, that’s the first thing to be honest because the, everybody has great ideas, I mean, a lot of people have crap ideas as well but a lot of great ideas I see them all in time. But at the end of the day, I strongly believe in ideas and obviously in the execution of the idea will be the cross of the matter which by the way, little parenthesis is why I have a stronger opinion about people talking about copycats. You have rocket internet, not very far from you guys, it’s for me, it’s okay to copy, I mean, this is maybe the subject for another podcast because at the end of the day, no one has an original idea, ideas have always been around and everything is a remake and you just find a different take on an idea or maybe you find a same idea that somebody on the other side of the world, that’s okay, at the end of the day, it’s your execution.So I’ve invested in 2 polish startups, one is Seed Labs, you must know these guys obviously, it’s IOT play basically and the other one is called NavyTap.io, it’s testing tool for mobile. Why these companies not others? Because I’ve seen for instance, I remember meeting Estimote back in the days and invest to pass on that, was a mistake I never know, I don’t tend to think like this. It’s not, Poland is a great quality of engineers, this is I think the reason that Google has invested so much in being present in the country because the quality of the engineers is extremely high. The quality of the business marketing is not opposite but I would say is not that high, right? This is where people need more people skills and that’s bit the reality in the entire Eastern Europe market.
I invest mostly, I would say 90% of my investments are emerging markets, Eastern Europe, South America and South East Asia. There are a lot of comparisons between the 3 regions there but one thing that sets Central and Eastern Europe apart is that there’s a very engineer driven, a meets, consistently meets very high quality engineers that have, they just don’t know how to sell their ideas.
So is there a type of technology invested? No. I tend to invest in stuff like I can understand but I don’t always invest in stuff that I fully understand. For instance, when I invested in Seed Labs, I understood the concept, I understood that internet of things is something that is gonna grow bigger because I follow the trends that are happening obviously in terms of all the explosion of devices, of machine to machine communication. So okay, this is something that could work, now, am I a specialist in IT? Absolutely not. I just thought that these guys had an interesting angle, I might fail. Same for the mobile, the Navy Tap.io, they came up with an idea there’s a fragmentation in android devices, everybody knows like there’s like a thousand and thousand android devices that’s very hard to develop for android devices and be sure that your app is actually consistent on every single android device, it provide a solution for that that I find interesting.
Are there competitors? Yes. Do they have a unique take? I believe so because I did my due diligence as well. So this is where the two things, the commonality between these 2 investments if I only talk about Poland where they were extremely good engineers so they were delivering the idea now. The reasoning investing in those and not in others is very good engineered companies I’ve met is that because in these two cases, the people who run the business side of things, they are very good at getting shit done basically. And that’s what’s gonna set you apart because if you go, whether it’s in London or The Valley, New York and you don’t have people skills, you don’t have these kind of quality of getting shit done in front of very strong opponents, you’re gonna be eaten alive. And even if you have the greatest idea in the world, you can be eaten alive sadly maybe.
By the way Paul and Ivan too, please at the end of this, send us a link, send us an email with the links of the companies, of course we know about Seed Labs but we make a kind of show note summary with links and that would be valuable. I can just echo that I invest in people, I passed on Seed Labs, I did invest in Estimo, you’ll never know. And I always say the test in any business idea is do you have more money off towards than before? And that hasn’t yet happened in those cases but…
Let me just add something, I mean, this is interesting because, okay, we are angel investors but this is not something about skills in the end. In the end, what you need, you need VCs, you need angel and there’s a lot to say about some of the VCs in Poland, I’m not gonna name anyone but there’s a sister framework is not always great in Poland. That happens in other Eastern European counties but you need, I hate that term because it’s been overused, you need an entire consistent for startup to thrive, for ideas to thrive, for people to meet each other. So I know Krakow has done a great thing with OMG Krakow, they started kind of jumpstart the entire, just people meet each other so allowing ideas to flourish because you meet other people but then you need a framework.
And more, as a fellow angel investor, basically there’s 2 ways to make money and, I mean 3, 1: is to of course you can sell on secondary shares but it’s basically to have the roots to an exit whether it’s an IPO or MNA, this is where you can actually, where actually your paper cash opportunities, real money and that’s the problem in most of emerging markets is that what I’ve seen in the past 5 years is that there’s a big play in to putting, there’s a lot of money available either from the government, you and that’s for me, that’s a problem in Poland but I can talk about that later, but you need money in this system but money is always in the system, there’s always people with money. I know it doesn’t sound like that when you’re 18 years old and you’re trying to raise money and like wow, I cannot find it but there is money. The problem is you have everybody has to win, it’s not about a startup finding money, it’s about the VC or the angel making money and if your VC of your LPs, the people investing in your fund have to make money and in order for that, you have to have banking regulation, financial regulations are open, you have to have very easy way path for across border investment, you have to have, especially you have to have a very easy way for MNAs and that’s more often than not the problem in emerging countries, the governments are pushing in to like finding money but again, that’s not the issue. Because it’s so much harder to deregulate financial system because this is where the cracks of the matter, I want you Richard on me but we are small fragment compared to VCs potentially. VCs need, they actually have a fiduciary obligation to make money to make returns for their own investors so you have to have a framework and this is what, if there’s one thing I would say to government is this is where they should look at, this should actually make it easier for everybody to make money thus then startups will actually also get funds easier.
“I tend to invest in stuff I can understand, but I don’t always invest in stuff I fully understand.”
Yes, it’s interesting mentioning the role of the government because I very often people mistake action for positive action and there’s a lot of people in Poland who find the way EU runs these projects positively and disruptive and bad way because they make it so easy to get money to do stupid things and so how to get money to do sensible things but it’s quite…
It’s actually very easy because when you, Richard, when you put your money in to a company and that applies to any angel, any VCs, you making, you’re not, you’re playing, either with your money or with other people’s money but you have to win, I mean, overall otherwise you’re losing money which is fine, you can decide that you want to lose your money. A government doesn’t have the same incentives so it doesn’t decide the same way, the funds that you provide is great. I’m not saying that they should stop providing you but it doesn’t have the same incentive, their returns are not there so the way, if you have to invest your money because you have to win, you don’t do it the same way that if you invest your money because it just develop…
It’s a fundamental law of economics that people pay differently when they’re spending their own money and when they’re spending somebody else’s money and that’s even true in the government like people working for corporations, you’re selling to, someone’s spending IBM money is a different sell, the same guys for private individuals, lots of very obvious reasons. So I certainly think we’re on the same page there and certainly the role of the government is important and we have the various initiatives here in the region, Małopolska and Krakow where the government is behind it. And I think one of the most important things is from government people to start showing up and attending the networking event which they sometimes do because… as an entrepreneur and there are these public policy committees where basically it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like attending a very, very, very boring board meeting, you sit up growing old in this meeting where politicians aren’t listening at all, they’re telling you about all their terrible programs and you’re just wanting to rip your hair out because you can’t even, perhaps I wanna listen to the Digital Loop Podcast coz that be rude but it’s a kind of, it’s much better for people to meet each other. And I think one of the advantages of these networking meetings is that you do get re-confrontation with reality but at one of the open coffee meetings, some guy came over an interesting idea and I just said, okay, well, how much money do you want for your idea and what share do you want in return? He just said I want as much money as possible. I said, do you have a valuation? He said no. And I said, look, even if you’ve got no idea how to value a business, if you say that, it just shows you’re not worthy of investing, you need to say, I want 163,000 euros because it gives the sense you have a plan, right? You need to, and you care people about what people money want, right?
But I think it has become that to my experience over the last, now, almost 5 years I’ve come to Poland and I cannot say I know it well but I know it quite well. I’ve seen a huge difference already, there’s a, it’s not a mature market obviously yet but I mean, there are major differences as how people, there’s still a big need of education but that happens everywhere. Come on, even if I meet entrepreneurs in even new York, they have no clue what they’re doing and that’s fine because when I was 20, I had no clue what I was doing so that’s okay. Even I’m now 40, almost 40 and I’m still going…
I’m 49 and don’t know what I’m doing.
But the point is is that the trend is positive, there’s still, I mean, I’m sorry that I was almost ranting before but I think the trend is extremely positive. I’ve seen a lot of stuff happening, there was almost no sense of ecosystem 5 years ago and now there are, of course majorly in Krakow and Warsaw which almost are even though the size of the cities are not the same, it feels like the size of the ecosystem are almost the same because there are few ecosystem but they kinda work already quite well. And this is something you’ve seen great companies coming out, there’s been, and you need that, you need for an ecosystem to survive and to thrive, you need as well examples, heroes in the world. So of course when Estimo went to Y Company in the US, these are the startup things that like make other people believe that, oh, it’s possible. It’s not only thinking about, oh, I’m doing something in Krakow but maybe tomorrow I can be in London, can be Shanghai, I can expand globally, it’s possible. I don’t say you have to do it, by the way, let me very honest here, I’m not saying that every company has to expend whereas you leave to go to San Francisco but it’s possible, there’s the sense of the possible and I think this is something that wasn’t there.
When I was talking to younger entrepreneurs 5 years ago, for the first time I talked to the guys from Estimote, I think that was actually 5, 4 ½ years ago, you could feel like they were like a bit, they didn’t know what they were doing obviously but they also didn’t know what was possible. Now, when I meet entrepreneurs nowadays in Poland, they have a much better understanding of the reality, of course they still don’t know what they’re doing, they’re still may be dreaming but that’s fine because that’s how you succeed, if you think too much, you don’t succeed. So the trend is very positive in Poland but again, I’m an external point of view, maybe Ivan has a different take, I don’t know.
“Young entrepreneurs don’t know what they’re doing, they’re still dreaming. That’s how you succeed. If you think too much, you don’t succeed.”
I would just like to step in here because I’m the only non-angel investor here and I actually joke about that but actually, I was thinking through it here and I’m actually an angel investor when you look at my own company, I’ve probably put in about as much as an angel investor would have put in actually between me and my family. I guess the old saying, friends, fools and family, that’s how I’ve gotten to the business to where I am right now. But you bring out a very interesting point about the ecosystem in Poland is I’ve probably, I don’t even wanna go add it up but I’ve probably put in well over 300,000 dollars – 400,000 dollars combined in our business and that’s a substantial amount of money that’s gone in the building this over the last 3 years. And just came to the point recently where we started developing the business plan and seeing where the growth opportunities are and coming up with that number like Richard says, what do you need and what would you do with that? In fact, Richard helped me formulate that question for myself as we’ve been putting together this plan and I am struck by the lack of ecosystem here financially for those people who, I think there’s plenty of people now who are willing to angel invest and it’s not expensive to be an angel investor in Poland but the next level of capital is not quite there yet and that’s a big gap in the system. But one of the other points you’ve brought up is people like Ela Madej and Jakub, and Base, and Estimote and these other companies that are going to The Valley are really kinda blazing this trail where every young entrepreneur in Krakow and you speak to them like I wanna do what those guys are doing and they see that path and that example and I can tell that there’s gonna be a lot of other companies who are gonna make that effort and some of them are gonna be successful.
Absolutely. And I would add, and I know I’ve been talking too much first then I’ll shut up, but I would add that the other also engine of growth of an ecosystem is have to have serial entrepreneurs and only you go to Valley and be successful and that’s something that’s missing in Europe. You make it successful and then you come back and you start again and you start again and you start again and you start again. I mean, serial entrepreneurship, I’m not saying that everybody has to do it but having a few example of serial entrepreneurs is extremely useful as well because they are, again, role models but they also can give back in a way to the community, to the ecosystem and actually make that engine running.
And this is something that you see in, obviously The Valley, I mean, nobody can replicate what happens in The Valley and that’s fine but one of the engine is that I make an exit, I become a VC, I become an angel and invest in friends and then I do another project and then another one and then another one and another one and it’s this engine that keeps going and that seem that happening in emerging markets when you have someone very successful where I’ve seen that in Brazil, goes in The Valley making very big comes back and of course it comes back, it doesn’t mean that you have to come back and live there, I mean, come back and say, okay, I’m gonna do another startup from here, maybe I’ll travel, etcetera, that works very well. And it also gives, it’s a very, I know that an ecosystem cannot be built out of role models but if you don’t have role models, there’s no ecosystem either because people just don’t believe it’s possible…
Exactly. That’s why Piotr Wilam with his innovation and he’s actually in a country like Poland where like post-communist capitalism is quite new is really important because a lot of people have this vision on what you do when you get rich is you buy a big house with a swimming pool and you sit back showing off. Unlike Piotr Wilam made his fortune, he was on the, probably still is on the rich list of Poland with his Onet which is like the equivalent of Yahoo! It’s not like Google but he setup his fund and he’s a really nice regular guy, he shows up, he’s ready to chat to students and he has a different vision on what it means to be successful and wealthy and I think that role model is really important. Just a few days ago and Sam and I were interviewing a friend of mine called Peter Cowley who came to a Bitspiration and spoken a panel there and he’s angel investor of the year in the UK. And we were asking him, he’s successful enough not to work but he does it, he does it because he wants to and it gives his life meaning and this idea that he’s certainly not for everyone but it’s very important to have those people out there and what we are in the beginning of the road here in the sense there aren’t that many wealthy people out there, you will always will find the money the money if you look hard enough but at least it started here.
So we talked about the kind of companies to invest in, what about the, coz one thing I like about your podcast is your focus on new technological trends and what are the trends that you think are most relevant for this region in terms of, and you’ve obviously invested inside of things and maybe it’s just gonna be the same buzz words, mobile and IT, but other things going on that you guys think important that maybe you got to like, you got a particular take on the other trends which you think other people haven’t spotted?
Ivan, I’ll let you take that one.
Oh yeah, they’re the best I’ve found in my travels around the world.
Nice easy question.
Okay. Yeah, I mean, one of the things that trends and the topics that we’ve been talking about in our podcast for some time is connected with what Robert calls age of context. Something that we notice is the fact that these forces are converging because our 5 forces that are converging and are having an impact across different sectors, across different industries. We’re talking about mobile, social media, data, sensors, location, when all these forces combine, really, really interesting things starts to happen and basically what’s happening is that all these forces are combining in our mobile phones. So what’s happening now is that technologies, it’s becoming to a point that it’s starting to get to know more about consumers and about the users and companies that are able to understand this, to get all these information, understand it and focus on that in value. Other companies that are actually making a big difference and a lot of companies are gonna kill it in the market. So I think that companies that really understanding the concept of connecting ways to add the value whatever that value is for that specific user or individual and developing a formidable user experience are the companies that are going to make, have an impact in the market.So I’m not gonna say that it’s a specific technology, it’s not like internet of things, that’s the way to go, no, it can be a combination of everything, it can be a combination of, again, sensors with mobile with social media, you connect those forces together and all of these, I don’t know where a new service, a new app, a new way of doing things comes up and has an impact on the market. If you think about the big players like Uber and AirBnb these are companies understood these forces and understood the power of connectivity with the power of location with the power of mobile, social media and so on and so on. So in my opinion, those are the combination of those 5 forces is where we’re going now.
I would add that also we have to think about the unseen so the foundations. So basically we know that everybody nowadays talks about information, artificial intelligence, etcetera, etcetera. So there’s a lot of pieces and trends that are, so machine learning is one and again, when I see the quality of the engineers in Eastern Europe and in Poland in particular, these are stuff that might not be well understood by the general public because it’s not consumer phasing but there’s a lot of underlying technologies that you need nowadays in order to like, what Ivan just mentioned, the age of context, you need to contextualize all these data in to an experience for the user but for that, you need all the engine running behind it. And I’ve met some amazing ideas in Eastern Europe recently about enhancing machine learning, comprehension, etcetera, etcetera so these are the kind of stuff that are harder to comprehend but of very, very importance.
And you might have not read about them a lot in Tech Crunch, etcetera, because of course, again, they are very difficult to understand and I’ve also seen startups doing new type of servers, I would be lost even to trying to describe what they did but what it pitch me was like, okay, this is something that could have at least an impact that again, we might not see this in the all underlying technologies that sits behind all the stuff that we see is very, it’s crucial and especially it leverages a very high quality of engineers and that the stuff that is existing in Poland and I believe that that’s something I would look at but again, it’s harder to understand. I think the more and more we’re going, all of those things are going faster and faster obviously and the more the, we’ll see startups and people doing stuff that we’re not exactly sure what they’re doing but we understand they make an impact then the results we’re seeing as consumers and I think this is very, also one very big trend. I don’t know if I would be able to invest in any of these because some of the stuff, I mean, I’ve met some PHDs recently, I think it was 8 months ago in Poland, doing something about image recognition, honestly I understood the concept and understood the potency of the idea for businesses but it’s so complex that if I have to do due diligence, I would be lost because how the hell could I compare that with other technologies especially because no one talks about them because again, they’re very behind the scenes, but I think this is where, there’s a lot of potential and also probably a lot of money to be made.
Interesting. The concept of due diligence for anyone listening, due diligence is like a checking things out phase before you make an investment and as financial due diligence where you check out the person sold some dozen, doesn’t have any sort of like the numbers they’re giving you a true. Then there’s technical due diligence where ideally you find someone who knows the area or thinking of investing and can give you opinion and that’s why Peter Cowley who invested a lot of tech businesses are not necessarily online businesses but hardcore technology businesses. In Cambridge UK, there’s a great engineering, technical resolution, this is nice fact about Trinity College Cambridge, I mean, in France was a country which is a great immigrant, I’m hardly French so they gave me to make jokes about the French but having access to those…
Even if you’re English, you’re allowed to make fun of the French, I mean, that’s the…
We’ve already had a French entrepreneur, we did a great podcast a few days ago and we are internationalist here in this program. I think…
I will introduce you to other French that lives in Shenzhen because that’s another trend. Of course, the hardware is becoming, a lot of the stuff were obviously was software and Estimo take on the lost trend but it was very early that understanding but now, all these disruption comes to hardware as well. But hardware is one added layer of complexity is that you actually have to produce it at scale and almost only China can do that and so I’ll introduce you to a guy who lives there, runs an exit radar out of Shenzhen because that’s fascinating. And I think these are lesson learned as well from guys from Estimote, where they had to scale something either the creation of their product, it’s still very hard, it’s not at your doorstep, you have to figure out ways for the supply chain, etcetera…
I bought Scanadu which is this wonderful iPhone synchronizing the – you press it to your head, it takes all your biometrics like your pulse and your blood pressure and so on and it broke after a week and it was like, it’s not that I treat my stuff well but didn’t treat it badly and even with the sort of like 25 million dollar funded hits on Kickstarter, it’s hard to make things really well.
It’s really hard, it’s really hard. So just to jump to what you said about Cambridge a number of Noble Prizes, that’s another thing where, again, I know that when, especially when you’re younger and I’m not seeing that because I’m older but when you’re younger, it’s true that the things you see in front of you are mostly consumer stuff, right? And this is where you apply disruption, disruptive ideas to move that overused word. But I believe that like I said earlier that there’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes happening and if you look at other models, you’ve mentioned Cambridge but if you look at India or if you look at Switzerland where they do with the technical universities there, the one in Zurich and Losanna the extremely, extremely, extremely well done, they are a different model of ecosystem. A lot of people think that, oh, the only way to do an ecosystem will be something similar along what happens to the Silicon Valley which by the way, they forget a lot of universities are involved with but anyway.
But there are other models, so if I were a Polish government, it’s less, as a politician, you cannot sell it as well because it’s easier to sell that, oh, the next Facebook is gonna come out of Poland and to say the next whatever database technology is gonna come from there but I think they’re also fundamental technologies because again, this is a comparative advantage that exist in Poland in terms of engineering so I think these set of models could also be applied. And you just mentioned Cambridge, I mean, they’re like Text Stars as one they have a program there where there is hardware, this is the kind of stuff that could be potentially replicated in Poland to make use of, to show, again, to show the local entrepreneurs especially who don’t even think themselves as entrepreneur because maybe if you’re an engineer that has a PHD in engineering, computer engineering, you might not see yourself as an entrepreneur but you show them, you know what? You can be one and here’s why and you prove them in front of people that have gone from Text Star and Cambridge and like, oh, there’s stuff to be done, me too, I don’t have to do a Facebook, I could this or that, I think this is very important.
And also the ability to realize that being successful isn’t by doing it all by yourself but you can, there was a couple of guys out in Open Coffee Krakow this morning which we held in COLAB, the coworking center which I’m involved as a shareholder and then there was one guy showing up and basically I’m a geek and I’m looking for it, I’m looking for a cofounder and the other guy say I’m looking for technical cofounder, you could be a hardware guy, you could make stuff but you need a software guy or you need a marketing person. And for a guy who’s brilliant at coding, you may be absolutely not the guy who can stand in front of a crowd and make a pitch and as the sort of if you like the sort of the startup community habits or the Silicon Valley habits of getting together with people and forming teams is something that can apply to also to the sectors of the economy and it does, right?
And, I know, sorry guys, I talk too much. But there’s, I mean, we tend to talk, we tend to think this is kind of narrative bias, we tend to think that innovation comes out of startups but let’s not forget, a lot of innovation comes actually from very big companies, I mean, not everything can be done in a startup level. When you think about finding, I’ve met this pharma company about to release, I cannot say the name of whatever but they’re about to release a vaccine for cancer, I mean, there’s no way you could have done that with 5 people and code it, right? So we have to sometimes kind of step back and say okay, we have as well to kind of bridge with the corporate world not only for partnership, not only for finding those clients but also because of corporate wealth, not all of them but some of them are crap obviously but they have this mental block about how to find innovation some of them. And I think there’s also a very big opportunity there to kinda bridge that with corporate world and help them, look, I mean, imagine corporate world as being someone who’s just forgot how to imagine, sometimes it’s just that, you show them how to do that as part of my job, you show them the same way I would say about young entrepreneurs, you show them it’s possible, you show them it’s possible to release an app within 30 days. If you say that to a corporate person, they will say that’s impossible, we need 6 months and then we need 12 and that’s gonna be 18 in reality. Show them it’s possible to do something in 30 days, show them, teach them how to fail fast all the time. I know it’s hard and it’s a big undertaking. Not everybody well understand it but I believe we cannot just dream about the future and dream a future will only be startups, you live in Poland, I live in UK, there’s still like massive amount of big corporations around us that not all of them are bad and we can actually bridge with them and I think this is something that could be done in Poland, I mean, instead of just complaining about how crappy they are and how bad the service they are maybe as well push them in to adopting certain technology in to adopting some of the right mindset as well there because that will help the entire ecosystems as well.
And also in terms of mindset, I think that we live in a world that’s different in terms of communication from the way that it has ever been and it is now and for example the most successful company destined in the UK, Vantage Power, founded by Alex Schade who’s a student from Imperial College London which is a hybrid diesel electric bus engine, I had that guy being interviewed on the BBC, I contacted him and a few weeks later we were shaking hands and you really can these, and I maybe an extreme case of risk taking but you really can approach anyone anywhere these days. And you, obviously we communicate by email, by Skype, we chatted to each other, we didn’t meet each other but it really is the case that if you come across someone doing something cool somewhere else in the world, there’s nothing to stop you getting in touch. If they say no, well, they just say no but they may say yes. It’s absolutely incredible how far you can get if you’re simply ready to pick up the phone. I do recommend the phone or the Skype before the email if you possibly can because you learn so much more about people when you’re talking to them than when you’re emailing them but one way or another, you can get to people these days. You can check them on LinkedIn, on Slide Share, there’s so many ways to get to people if you want to, right?
Well Richard, one of the things I think Paul, you brought up a great point and Richard, you’re talking about the next steps and the next technology and I think people, I’m a historian and people ask me to predict or comment on something that just happened and I’ll say, well, give me 20 years and I’ll tell you because I love the opportunity of hindsight but as investors, you don’t have that luxury and you’re really betting on the future and trying to make some intelligent guesses. And one of the things I think that I know historians, policy makers make the mistake of using history to try and predict the future where it’s a great guide but it’s certainly isn’t a great predictor all the time and I think in investing the same thing is happening where everyone’s looking for the next Facebook, well, it’s already happened and everyone’s looking for the next big software, the next Uber, the next Air Beam. Well those have already happened and I think the trend that you can see from all of that, though Facebook was all about in the cloud and building that social network and then Uber and Air B&B, I mean, the greatest inventory of realms in the world now, hotel rooms is Air B&B and they don’t own a single property and Uber same thing, they own the most cars but they don’t own any of them. And if you kinda see the trend is software has made a great leap but now it’s starting to go in to old traditional industries and I think if anyone’s thinking about whether to start a company or if you’re an angel investor, what to invest in next, start looking at those industries that have not yet been disrupted by technology and see which ones that you know about and that when you do the due diligence, you’re not gonna get bored because you’re actually interested on the topic and I think that’s, don’t start a business or don’t invest in a business as an angel that you don’t like, you don’t, I think that it will be a hard experience. And reading the Elon Musk book recently, it was amazing to see someone disrupt something such a boring thing as a car and I think to start looking for those industries that have not been touched by technology yet but will is the big lesson here.
Yeah, I mean, here in the UK, I mean, in London obviously, finance you can start to feel that, funds are being started to being hit, healthcare, all of these stuff. You’re right, but what I really like about what you just said is that we cannot tell the future, I mean, even founders himself, if you look at one of the recent success stories at least in terms of funding Slack, Slack has started as a communication tool within a company called Tiny Deck because it’s, Tiny Specs, sorry, because they wanted to do as an online gaming but even themselves have no idea what they’re doing, right? They were not disrupting enterprise messaging tool, they were not even thinking themselves so even if you have met them, they would not have told you that they were doing that. So this is why I’m coming back to what I said very early in the show, I think people is also what matters. Of course yeah, idea matters but at the end of the day, sometimes you see where they call pivot when you have like these idea then suddenly you realize, oh, it’s much bigger than I thought, it’s like I’ve started doing this but after I realize the problem was not here but it’s there so I’m moving. So if you don’t trust the people to actually come up with like that, of our companies that came to me and said, okay, Paul you invested. About 6 months later, we realize they were going nowhere and this is what we’re gonna do and you have to trust the people at that point. Maybe I don’t like the new idea but you know what? Go with it because I think you made your research.
So this is where, and the other thing is timing because you said there was this great, it was really amazing to read, the founder of Air B&B write a blog post in medium and I’ll send you guys a link, where actually shared 7 rejection you got from VCs because people will like it’s so early but it’s not that VCs were dumb and some of them were but it’s because you might have been too early, it might have been in the right. I mean, the startup I was at in 1999, 1998 and 1999, we’re doing mobile delivery content so of course when you say that nowadays, people like, oh, you’re pioneer. No, we’re not a pioneer, we were dumb because we’re like maybe what? 20,000 people in the world actually accessing the internet thru their mobile phone so we had no market. So in the same stuff, maybe 10 years later would have worked, we didn’t do it so it’s only now a fun story and not good to share but timing is also very important. Something that might sound foolish today might be completely logical in 3 or the opposite so that’s why I don’t think we can read the future and that’s why we have to rely on people but I think I interrupted Ivan, he wanted to say something.
And I don’t wanna mention any names because it isn’t appropriate but there have been people wandering around the ecosystem here in Central Europe, they’ve given thoroughly bad advice and taking advantage of the inexperience of some young entrepreneurs by signing up very, I don’t know if you’ve come across the idea of zombie stock which is self-replicating stock so that some angel or so called angel that doesn’t have very much money signs himself into a situation where basically any stock he replicates automatically in any future investment run even if he’s doing nothing and in this case, it wasn’t he or just like getting build sign deals with such strong confidentiality in the nondisclosure, the innocent entrepreneur is unable to take external advice on the deal because he’s promise he won’t talk to anyone about it. And so I think that you need to take your due diligence, it’s very important to find your mentors and your advisors but also…
Sorry to interrupt, I was just gonna add something, and this is why guys like you are important because we say that because we know it but when you are either, when you started angel investing, if you’ve talked to angel investing startup, you just started for your first startups, you just don’t know what the bad people and the good people and good ideas and bad ideas, good deals and a bad deal, you have no idea. So this is what The Valley has been able to do of course possible in some cities because they’ve introduced like this, it’s almost like a curriculum, it’s not a curriculum as if you sit down and listen to teachers but you go, you meet with the community constantly and people tell each other this is not the way to do it and actually, that’s something that I could, people in Poland, and I’m sorry because I don’t wanna make it a stereotype but people can be very reserved and it’s not only Poland, it always throws back to the education model. In countries where when you were at school and you were supposed to listen to the teacher and not interact too much with it, you still have that kind of same feeling in terms of approaching people.And I always say to people in Poland and in Eastern Europe, Japan is worse for that, come, talk, ask, most people if you just ask a question, they will answer, they will come to you Richard and just you will answer because if you kindly ask a question but if you never ask then you don’t have the information and then you actually make those mistakes and then you have maybe soured so all VCs are crap, no, it’s not true, there are great VCs, there are great mentors, there are great advisors, etcetera but you have to, I think your role guys, that’s what I’d like to say and we were very glad to be invited on this show is that your role is not to kinda tell that to, even if I’m not doing this startup, I just wanna shop in bed and just mentioned open coffee I’ve never been to and like, I’m young I just wanna learn just what’s going, I can feel that, I know this exist otherwise it’s just an unknown unknown. I don’t know what happens and then I failed because I’ve been screwed over by someone and there are people that would always be. There are very bad apples in The Valley as well, it’s not as if they’re immune to that but the ecosystem makes it like a, acts like a vaccine because people with more information or sharing information, they talk to each other and say, avoid this type of deal, it’s gonna be bad for you. Okay, fine, this is how it goes and this is what the ecosystems become mature that happens.
Okay, so that’s, I mean, we’re moving to our last few minutes here and one message that clearly we come through very clearly from what you just said is don’t be afraid to ask and also within reason, don’t be afraid to fail, if you wanna succeed, you have to risk failure although I think this idea of failing fast, failing often is very important to take failure that you can cope with because going bankrupt, it is a very unpleasant experience so I’m not sort of like shock, don’t do dumb stuff. But if you think of other things from your Digital Loop perspectives, Poland even like if you imagine some 15, 25, doesn’t matter, 50, 75 year old listening on some distant part of the planet, could be Venezuela, we have listeners in Vietnam…
That’s our third most popular country Richard, 337 downloads from Vietnam.
Okay. So what message do you have for Vietnamese listeners about the, but it could obviously be for everyone…
Huge startup scene in Vietnam by the way.
I mean, they’re a 70 million people country and there are many, many of the entrepreneurs who came here in the communist time when Vietnam was part of the sort of the Soviet dominated world and they stayed on as students say for probably the same reason as Ivan although I’m just guessing. But I would say, what is the message about this region that you think is worth underlining, great engineers, don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to ask coz is there anything else that you think is important?
I think that something that is really, really important, this is a piece of advice that I always share with many startups and entrepreneurs that I’ve been advising is the fact that in nowadays, it’s really important to think big and to not limit yourself. Today, the barriers to have access to different markets and the opportunities that appear somewhere else at a regional or even global level are really, really, really low. So the fact that you may be in Vietnam or you may be in Chile or you may be in Mexico, you have today, thanks to these advances in technology, the opportunity to reach out people in completely different areas or regions of the world. So don’t limit yourself, yes, maybe if you are starting, maybe you want to start doing your, creating your business or your application or whatever that is you’re doing at a smaller level and gradually start growing but don’t limit yourself just to doing one small thing for one small market because that’s all you, because you limit yourself. One of the things that I always say is that the level of quality of the programming and the level of talent that we have here in Poland and in the whole Central and Eastern European region, I mean, I have the opportunity to travel and to work with companies in Bulgaria, in Montenegro, in Romania, when you see the level of technology and the level of quality of work that is done in this region, it’s comparable to what is being done in London or New York or anywhere else. The level of quality is there, now, we just need to go for it and as you mentioned, the companies that you’ve been mentioning the past, Estimote, Seed Labs, UXPin, Brainly these are companies that are going global, these are companies that are having a lot of success because they are thinking big. So regardless where you are, think big, have a good plan and go for it. And again, as Paul said it, ship it, have this sense of urgency, keep moving forward and don’t be afraid to…
What’s your final message to the listener in Vietnam or The Philippines or Turkey for that matter?
Don’t overthink. The thing I see the most at the beginning is people come up with an idea, yeah, but what about this and that and this, oh, and I’ve seen that through another company are doing this and I’m like, so what? I’m not saying that US search engine because maybe Google, unless you’re really doing something amazing because Google is there, but don’t overthink. I think a lot of very successful entrepreneurs are people that, of course they think strategically, they think big ideas like Ivan just said, the urgency, etcetera, but stop overthinking. And I think we have a problem, not a problem, it’s too much of a word but don’t spend your day in Facebook reading about everything and go at Tech Crunch reading about every single piece of news because then you have, you create yourself, you put yourself in to an egg and you don’t think you can actually break through the shell, don’t overthink. Just if you have an idea is good, talk obviously, go to open coffees like you mentioned, listen to your podcast but at one point, stop thinking and just do it, I mean, keep thinking or you might go dumb but stop because I see way too many people especially in emerging markets because maybe they think that they’re not able because in an emerging market like, yeah, how about this and that and just don’t overthink.
I’d say it doesn’t matter what, I think, it doesn’t matter what the investors think and it’s about what the users think and the clients think and if you just go to your idea doing your potential clients and if they tell you it’s a terrible idea, just say thank you, I really appreciate it and why exactly? Well, and that’s market research, go ahead and talk to the users because what they think does matter. And I always say to people don’t get my money, you don’t need my money, just go and talk to users, if you’ve got users then talk to people about money. And Sam, do you wanna wrap this because I’m really getting to the end.
Richard has spent, he spent, no, I know you have a meeting Richard. Finally, I just like to summarize this for the listener, great insights at the beginning from Paul and Ivan and just a discussion from us on podcasting, there’s 2 different models there so full production model which we’ve done on this show to get started but really the model I think everyone here in Poland should be looking towards is what Ivan and Paul did which is just ship the product, just get something out there. The only bottom line that you really have is quality of content, people will tolerate other things being less than perfect but you just need an idea and you need to speak to people and solve their problems with your content.
And then moving on to the discussion on angel investors, it was really a great conversation from people at all different levels of the game from people like myself who are still in that startup, well post-startup phase looking for the next place and people have made multiple angel investments like Paul and Richard and Ivan. So thanks again Paul and Ivan for joining us from Digital Loop, look forward to sharing your show with our listeners. And thanks again finally Project Kazimierz listener for taking the time to invest in your education, it’s gonna be how you spend your time, where your focus goes, your energy flows and I think this is definitely gonna be helpful for you in your journey as a business owner or executive or someone who’d like to move in to the entrepreneurial space in Eastern Europe and specifically Poland. So until next time, thank you for joining us, we’ll see you on the next show
Yah. And as John Lee Duman from Entrepreneurs on Fire sometimes say we’ll see you on the flipside, I wish, I don’t know what it means but that’s what we’ll do.