#Project Kazimierz presents Ramon Tancinco, with Richard Lucas and Sam Cook. Ramon discusses his prophetic TEDxTalk concerning Krakow as a European Silicon Valley. They analyze the reason Krakow is a hub for tech companies and how it mirrors Silicon Valley in the United States. Richard talks about the influx of billion dollar companies. Finally, Sam explains how Krakow is not Silicon Valley and why that’s not a bad thing.
Table of contents, resources and links:
Resources and links:
- Ramon Tancinco LinkedIn account
- KrakowIT website
- PB work website
- TEDx talk Krakow: Europe’s Silicon Valley? Why not!
Table of contents:
“Mysterious Brazilian investor” in Krakow
- 0:46 Sam introduces Ramon
- 02:26 How did Richard met Ramon
- 03:55 Mysterious Brazilian investor
Krakow as a part of Cisco ecosystem
- 06:21 Aspire Movement
- 07:48 Startups and Big Companies
- 09:49 Startups weren’t necessary part of any kind of business landscape
- 13:44 Karkow is part of Cisco ecosystem
- 15:21 Ramon’s journey from Silicon Valley to Krakow
- 19:06 Cisco office in Krakow
Krakow: Europe’s Silicon Valley
- 21:06 Europe’s Silicon Valley
- 23:24 Four Pillars of Silicon Valley
- 26:36 Interaction between universities and tech communities is fundamental
Good money and bad money
- 27:25 Don’t think about VCs and multi million dollars
- 29:14 Investing with Smart Money
- 33:35 Execution is Key
Krakow is the city where you can find yourself
- 36:32 Ruin stereoptypes of Polish business community/li>
- 38:21 Strong economy is part of national survival
- 40:04 East is the New West
- 44:41 Summary
- 46:10 Outro
Hello again Project Kazimierz listener, this is Sam Cook here with your cohost as always, Richard Lucas, how are you doing Richard?
Doing very well. Good afternoon everyone.
Well, whatever time of the day they happen to be watching this or listening to this, welcome to another episode. And we’re here today with a person that was very interesting how I came in touch with him, Ramon Tancinco, the chief of technology of Cisco here in Krakow and he was actually in the office, the incubator office here about a month ago and they told them there was this oddball ex US army officer in the office and he looked me up on LinkedIn and found out that I was a graduate of the same school that he went to, at the Military Academy in United States at West Point and then he reached out to Richard who, if you haven’t figured it out by listening to this, knows absolutely everyone, and I asked for an introduction to Richard and I got to meet Ramon and he was been very interesting getting to know him. And his claim to fame or the thing that Richard forwards to me the introductory email was: a Ted Ex talk 4 years ago about Krakow being the next Silicon Valley in Europe which caused many people in the local community wonder if he was entirely sane but I think that he’s now looking like a bit of a prophet. Pleasure to have you on the show today Ramon.
Thank you very much, appreciate having me.
So Richard, as we get in to this, just give me a little bit of background about how you know Ramon and then I’m gonna have Ramon introduce himself when we get in to this.
It’s always interesting when people ask where we met because I’m a hospitable person and I have a lot of, I’m a couch surfer, I have a lot of people, I have quite large parties in my house and I often meet someone and I’ve also got this disease called prosopagnosia which means I don’t remember names or faces and I…
The world’s best networker at Krakow doesn’t remember faces.
I’ve literally fail to recognized relatives, I fail to recognize my shareholders in businesses and worst and not the least, I sometimes fail to recognize my important clients particularly, if I meet a lot of contacts. So, but I think Ramon and I met a number of years ago associated with a project, a website, PB Works, it’s a website that Ramon was instrumental in getting going or possibly through the Chamber of Commerce, I’m not sure. Ramon, do you remember? But anyway, the point was I came across Ramon as a sort of ultra-high energy guy sort of doing lots of stuff over and beyond his job and lots of different organizations and quite unlike the image of the corporate executive which rather negatively circulates around the world as the guy in a suit who sits in a big shiny building waiting for other people to do all the work. So Ramon made a very powerful first impression as a high energy guy and with one of those nice situations where the first impression turns out to be underestimate rather than overestimate. But Ramon, do you remember where we first met and can you elaborate on this nice introduction I’ve given you?
It’s funny because frankly speaking, I can’t remember it so perhaps I suffer from the same disease that you do. But it’s one of those things where I think as soon as we met each other, we could obviously see there were lots of areas of common interest. And I remember that one of the first I would say group meetings we have that discussion around the Krakow network, I think all of us were talking about the gap we had in Krakow around, obviously there were lot of, there was a lot of content existing for Polish speakers but what we didn’t have was anything for the external audiences and what we use I think as a template was the mysterious Brazilian investors. Like if I was a mysterious Brazilian investor and I wanted to put some money in to Krakow somehow or staff an office here, how would I do that, how would I learn about what the environment looks like? And so we have that, I think it was in 2008, we have that discussion with you, myself, with Paul Plip and Paweł Płaszczak we’re talking about this umbrella organization. I think that was the genesis of that Krakow IT website, that PB Works website we created. And then actually just to kind of dovetail, I remember the things I think collaborate as well on entrepreneurship initiatives with the city and for my perspective and yours as well I think, it’s just bigger than any one company or even individuals and just trying to actually reach across the aisle to work with everyone regardless of their agendas and trying to find out the common interests to move this city forward was what we have in common. And you’re obviously one of the perennial networkers here and I think you basically accelerated everyone, I mean, I think you always opened the TedEx pretty much everyone you know and that’s really facilitated, it’s part of the grease in the engine that’s allowed us to make things happen in where we are today.
Certainly I’ve often felt that if you, I mean, when I do introductions, I often very much say you’re on your own and I don’t supervise people so I don’t have to be the one people meet each other to keep an eye on what they say. But I remember, I think it was you who introduced me to Paul Cliff who was the first TedEx Krakow license holder in the city and I remember that meeting, but I think because you said I’m meeting up, we must have met earlier and there was certainly this initiative, one of the IT Krakowie which means IT in Krakow which was as he mentioned, Paweł Płaszczak he was, again, he get this people, these most fabulous CVs and they’re not very well-known in the wider world but they’ve done excellent things and it just took us only a number of things to come together. So we went back and then you’ve got involved in the Aspire Movement and worked, for sure, you’ve been wanting to inspire people later down the line, maybe you can describe what Aspire is as well?
No, absolutely. So it’s essentially a non-profit that focuses on, initially it focused on the multinationals operating in Krakow and I would argue that, I think in Krakow, it probably represents 90% of the multinationals in Krakow and now, it also has a lot of multinationals outside of Krakow as well. But that, it actually, that’s actually run by Andrew Helm which is the general secretary and he’s been living in Krakow for I believe over 20 years.
Yes. He’s almost as long as me and then in the 1990, I’ve been here 24 years and he’s certainly one of the longest standing and he in the 1990s around the British – Polish Chamber of Commerce of which I was vice chairman. And again, back then it was very different than BPCC was basically, I think it was Tesco, it was BP and that was more or less it once then so these things evolved. But also I think it’s worth noting for anyone listening anywhere in the world, any time of the day or night, these kind of trade associations or industry associations are very much what people make of them, they can be extremely dull where nothing ever happens or they can actually be engines for change and it’s very much in the hands of the members so whether you put them to use or not, isn’t it?
Well that’s absolutely the case. I think the reality is that the organization is what we make it, right? Both as individual companies but also the organization because these kinds of organizations kind of come and go and the reality is that every company has their own specific agenda whether it’s, for example, recruiting, whether it’s retention, whether it’s community engagement via CSR but there’s certain things that I’d say companies are very good at but there’s also things that companies don’t necessarily have the patience for, the long term stuff that requires kind of that patient bridge building. For example, working with the city, working with the government, these are things that don’t necessarily produce results in a week or even years sometimes….
Or even a decade.
… or even a decade but the reality is that that’s actually where, if you have people that are just, they have vision but they’re also persistent and Andrew Helm, I would say characterized, he’s characterized by that, I think you as well. These are things that people have the patience to actually execute and inspire. Actually, obviously tries, again, to find the common denominators between the multinationals to drive their individual agendas, but at the same time, they’d also drives the longer term issues that require patience and I think those 2 types of contributions are critical, again, to the success. And now I would say as far as also reaching out to a lot of the smaller companies, midsized companies and even amazingly startup companies. I say amazingly because I don’t think that was actually initially something they were thinking about, they didn’t really, they saw it as kind of a place for multinational shared service centers, BPO, business process outsourcing, etcetera, I don’t think Andrew was really aware of the startup community, but actually the last big meeting we have, we have a conference every May, we have one coming up this May but last year, we actually hold together a gathering, and Richard, I think you were one of the panel members talking about the startup community for the first time ever to the multinational community and it was almost amazing to think that that was the first time. There was kind of a meeting with the minds between the multinationals and the startup space and, but that’s where we’re at and I think it’s good and it’s still very early days.
Yah, I think it’s worth underlining this sort of, the cultural and psychological and mental barrier between the world of startups and the world of big companies and of course in the last few years, billion dollar companies emerging out of Silicon Valley where there’s a regularity that is quite, it’s quite unremarkable. 15 – 20 years ago or even as part of this coming out of Communism, of course 20 years ago, there were no serious big companies whatsoever, there were these big state giants who no one took seriously and then there were the businesses being setup by the first generation of people who have the possibility to setup serious businesses after communism. So somehow in Central Europe, not just in Poland, there was this idea that startups weren’t necessary part of any kind of business landscape but in the west where I graduated and I maybe as different in America, very often there was like a startup is not an obvious thing for a graduate to do after leaving university, you’ve got a job with Goldman Sachs or with the US Army as you did or with the foreign office or with the consulting company or a Price Water has them was but somehow, there’s been this kind of breakthrough of awareness that maybe a startup is actually not such an odd thing for a highly educated person to do. And I think it was you who organized the panel at the Sheraton Hotel Aspire Conference where startups are on the agenda and of course a lot of the western executives who work in the Capgeminis and the Capitas and the Circos around 2015, by the way if you’re listening to this in 50 years’ time, in 2015, these companies are big global international business process outsourcing companies. The kind of guys who might be senior in those companies are possibly not the same type of people who would naturally see themselves in a startup, I don’t know if you can confirm that Ramon.
“Billion dollar companies emerging out of Silicon Valley where there’s a regularity that is quite, it’s quite unremarkable.”
No, I would absolutely confirm that. I mean, the reality is that it’s, culturally, they’re often quite different, I mean, there’s, if you look at the text space, it’s a bit of an anomaly because reality, there’s a lot of acquisition that happens whether you look at Google or Facebook or Cisco as an example, they actually acquire a lot of startup companies but the anomaly, most companies are kind of fixed in the way they’ve created their business, the way they create their fortunes, I mean, very often very successful businesses. But the reality today, and I would say that this is a trend that is a bit overwhelming for many companies is the fact that this digitalization of the world that’s happening and so the reality is I don’t think anyone’s gonna survive without having some level of digitalization of their company whether they’re startup company or whether a multi international, it’s 100 years old. And as a result of that, but there’s a lot of discomfort with that because if it’s worth for the last, let’s say 50 years or 80 years, it’s hard to imagine that that recipe for success can’t replicate and so for another 50 odd years. But the reality is that as you see industries fall one after another, that technology is just ever pervasive and ever increasing and there’s just no escape from that and I think that that’s actually where, when I look at some of the companies you mentioned in general, some of them are embracing that digitalization of the world, other ones are trying to scratching their head trying to understand that and other ones are embracing it full bore and I think that’s gonna be very interesting to watch because some, Uber is a great example, it was actually, I think they’re coming to Krakow or…
“Digitalization of the world that’s happening and so the reality is I don’t think anyone’s gonna survive without having some level of digitalization of their company whether they’re startup company or whether a multi international.”
I used them last week and this morning actually because I was running a little bit late so I called an Uber before I jumped in the shower and it was right there.
And they are disrupting existing industries. Airbnb is another great example and to imagine how do you disrupt the hotel industry, I mean, come on, that for me, that’s an inconceivable thing and yet they are and so, and using technology of all things, software. And so when I think about that and I look at multinationals, I think some companies, I think like you said, are kind of going native on the digitalization trends, other ones are really trying to figure it out but I don’t think anyone has the opportunity, the luxury of sitting back and on their hunches and kind of watching it happen without participating in it…
Okay, just very good point. And I think one thing that’s very interesting about your role in Cisco which I’m gonna ask you to describe in a moment is the way you’ve tried to make or you’re successfully making Krakow a kind of a hub or a pole of expertise and because quite often for these very smart process driven international companies, they still got this image of Krakow in Eastern Europe as being part of the, a northern to the, the Indians are listening to this because Infosys is doing exactly the same thing in India like the idea that the value added isn’t just people earn less for an hour of high quality skill or high quality coding but the actual, the center of innovation is here and this is part of the message of Project Kazimierz of this whole podcast, there’s something happening here which is beyond just good value for money. And perhaps and you can contrast your vision of where Krakow should be in the Cisco ecosystem perhaps kicking off by what you actually do, what are your responsibilities at Cisco coz I’m sure many of the, Cisco by the way is one of the largest networking companies in the world, certainly one of the cash richest, are you allowed to say that? But in 2015, when we’re recording this interview, Cisco is a world leading company in networking and so communications, but what’s your job in that company?
And Ramon, before you get started here, I’d love to hear a little bit of the back story about how you came to Cisco in Krakow because you do have background in Silicon Valley and that’s one of the themes I’d like to explore as you talk on that.
Sure, sure. So I start with the historical piece and kinda lead in to my current role. So basically, I went to West Point then I graduated and I was in the army for about 6 years and when I left the military, basically, the world was kind of just open and it was the…
What year was that?
1992, when I graduated from West Point and I left the military in…
Peace have broken out in our time with that point…
…there was no threats in the future or harassment.
Absolutely and we call this speed bump. When I was stationed in Germany, we’re in Vilseck which is, a lot of the operation goes through there and we consider those sort of speed bumps across to fill the gap at the time but I actually the Cold War was already kind of warming up so at that point, yah, it was pretty quiet globally speaking so, and we had a lot of drawdowns when we’re at that time so it was actually probably reasonable time to move on to new career pastures. And so when I came out, I was kind of looking MBA or going in to business directly…
That’s the late ‘90s?
Yeah, it was like ’97. And basically, when I looked at the different opportunities,
consulting became quite an interesting space because it was almost like a mini MBA, but on the practical side because you’re essentially being exposed to multiple industries over the course of 6 – 9 months projects.
And practicing on in other people’s budget…
Exactly, exactly, practicing someone else’s dime. And so basically, I went to Anderson Consulting and I did exactly that, I worked on a number of different projects and a number of different locations, all in different industries travelling all over United States, not necessarily the glamorous locations, usually not glamorous locations but you see the world that way at least the United States and so that was really, really nice. But then I had an opportunity to go to startup company and so, actually, I moved to Arizona when I went to Anderson Consulting, but a startup company recruited me to do somewhat similar consulting in the software space but I would say the hook was I had the opportunity to go to Paris for year to run projects. So how could I say no and for more money in a startup which is an ironic thing but it turned out to be the case. So I spent about a year and a half to startup company, did a project, went live successful with that but then at that point, I decided I wanna get out off the road coz I was just travelling nonstop and so that’s when I found an opportunity actually the company was, it’s just about, it was in discussions with being acquired by Cisco and so it was actually based just north of Petaluma in what they call telecom alley, the company was called Cerent. It was actually at the time the largest acquisition Cisco had made, I think it was 6.9 billion. And I spent about 9 months there in Petaluma and then I moved down to San Francisco and then I was actually driving between Silicon Valley and, living in San Francisco, driving to Silicon Valley and Petaluma to do different things within Cisco. And I spent about, now, I came in the engineering organization there so I was about 4 years of engineering and then I got married and then…
In to a girl from what country?
Sitting behind me in church in San Francisco so, it’s amazing, you need the story how we met? And, but basically living there with the family coz we’re having a child coming soon after that and we decided that we wanted to move somewhere else and Cisco had a very nice office in Research Triangle Park North Carolina so we moved to North Carolina where Duke University is based, I was there for about 4 years and as a result of visits I have already been making to Poland anyway, I started to give some of the executives here and they finally said, you know what? Maybe you should just come out here and we need folks that have kinda of a global mindset to grow it was then emerging markets in the organization. And so one thing led to another and sure enough, I end up finding myself in Poland. The ironic thing was that we only had an office in Warsaw, so in Krakow we had no office, but when I looked at, and my wife wasn’t from Krakow either but when I looked at Warsaw, it was just a really large city and it just felt kind of like New York or Chicago and I didn’t really want to repeat that because…
Probably a lot like Chicago.
A lot like Chicago and, I mean, it’s nice for folks that likes big cities but I wasn’t really interested in that and Krakow for me both felt small enough that it was kind of livable but more importantly, from colds perspective, it felt like kind of a hub, from an artistic perspective and touristic perspective of Polish culture and I wanted my kids to appreciate that if we’re gonna move to Poland, I want them to be immersed in it and most importantly from a business perspective, this is where the R&D was happening, I mean, Warsaw has lot of sales opportunities and things of that nature, but a lot of the engineering and the R&D was happening in Krakow, and for me that was a bigger long term bet for not only where I wanted to be, but also where my kids would wanna be and so we chose Krakow. And so I was here for a few years and the cool thing from a timing perspective was that Cisco hadn’t really done anything in countries in Europe, we have a lot of off sales in Cisco, but really hadn’t consolidated anything from a let’s say a shared service perspective at that point yet. And so I kind of put together business proposition and kinda shopped it around, it took me a few years to finally find someone that really cared but fortunately, Randy Pond was the COO at Cisco, a few years ago thought, I pitched to him via, amazingly, a Polish guy living in Beijing who was running the China research and development facility. I don’t know how these things work, this is stranger than fiction but it was the case and Jan Gronski actually helped me to pitch it to the COO and amazingly, the COO said, hey, let’s take a look at that and to be honest, I stepped away from the process because obviously, I was a bit biased because I was based in Krakow so the process started. Cisco actually looked at all of geographic Europe so everything from Reykjavik to Azerbaijan and as a result of that process, they basically shortlist the, they added filters, they shortlist the countries and eventually they got to cities and finally at the end, Krakow was chosen and so at that point, the rest is history, we went from 0 people little over 2 ½ years ago to about 800 people as where were at today.
Great. And it’s interesting this sort of, these additional aspects like the quality of life. I remember one of the owners of the British International School in Krakow said that quite often the way it work was to be the, this is in-sexist, it’s just describing the way the world offer this or has been. The man would come to, the man / husband/ father would come to Krakow, check out the job, if he like the job, he’d bring back his partner to look at the school and the school director said what he’ll do is he showed them around the school and then make sure the weather was nice and send them off to the old town of Krakow to have a coffee or a beer in the main market square. On then, inevitably, the city was sold not on the tech hub, not on the career, but it was sold on the quality of life and I think that the idea that this is a good place to bring people up despite all the cars you hear, the pollution is already strong argument as well, isn’t it Ramon?
No, no, I would definitely agree. I mean, I talked to a lot of the companies that come to Krakow when they’re still making their kind of side assessments and the reality is that to be honest, when you get to the last, let’s say 3 cities, the difference in terms of the spreadsheets, right? Whether it’s cost, whether it’s airport connections, etcetera, it becomes kind of hazy, it’s difficult, that last few percentage points is difficult to kind of differentiate in some ways. But then when you actually, for example, as you said, if you go to the Rynek and you have dinner, if you see the number of international people specifically from Asia, people from Africa, people from the west, then you see the demographic on the age side, right? 1 out of every 4 or 5 people, you see on this is less than 25, they’re students on the main market square and that’s the potential employee base for multinational then your excitement level just goes up that much higher. And so very often, that’s the critical factor that kind of pushes people across the decision point line to choose Krakow as a location. And to your point, when we have executives coming from Cisco, we always try to encourage them to come between the spring and the fall because frankly speaking, it sells itself in so many ways and rightly so, I think that tourist infrastructure is so critical to creating a business infrastructure.
And Ramon, this is one of the things you and I spoke about and Richard, like I said, when he introduced me to you, sent me this link which was really kind of the first shot in this movement, I think the first spoken shot of this movement of getting Krakow to become an
innovation hub in Europe, I mean, you’re just describing what you’re seeing, it’s not like it
wasn’t already happening but the first one crazy enough to say in public. And you talked about 4 pillars and I’d like to go through those 4 pillars with you that you said created Silicon Valley, but I’m gonna add the tourism thing in as a 5th one coz I think that really is the intangible, the magic that kinda makes that, the same allures in California with the great weather and San Francisco is a beautiful city in that area, but let’s go through those 4 pillars and just kinda rehash that talk coz I think that, and we’ll put link to this in the show notes and also if you’re listening to Project Kazimierz, you see a wonderful video that we just produced about where Ramon starts off talking about like why Krakow or some peoples’ disbelief that Krakow being the next Silicon Valley in Europe. So just talk, summarize the talk in the 4 pillars and then we’ll dig in to each one of those with Richard and see what you said then and how different it is now than what you were saying back then coz back then, if I hear the history right, Cisco was like you, right? You we’re the only person…
Yeah, actually, right when at that talk, it was ironic because we haven’t announced yet and I was definitely, I absolutely didn’t wanna talk about it because I don’t wanna jinx it, right? And so yeah, it was just, there was me and then I think there was a sales guy that kind of came in and actually another guy Kamil Żulewski who ironically became one of the guys that actually helped build the Krakow IT side as well. But going back to the talk, yeah, so a lot of that talk was based on just physically watching exactly what was happening and then kinda stepping away from watching Silicon Valley live and actually looking at the historical process of it, right? And seeing kinda where it started. So the context of the 4 pillars essentially were looking at, first of all, the multinationals, I think an absolute critical one. Another one is actually around university and the talent that’s generated as a result of the universities…
So these are the 4 aspects that help create an innovation hub like Silicon Valley?
Like Silicon Valley, exactly.
And when you talk about the multinationals, the big multinationals that were originally in Silicon Valley were the defense industry which had unlimited budget.
Absolutely. That time, especially right before the Cold War, right after World War II and going in to Cold War, that money was seem unlimited at the time.
Yeah. So you have the multinationals then you have the universities which…
With Stanford was the big engine at the time, now it’s expanded beyond that, Berkley is probably exclusive of that as well, but Stanford remains to be one of the key generators of talent and even the professors seem to be revolving door, so many professors leave and then they go and do a startup company or they do it while they’re actually professors, I can’t even track it but it’s amazing to see how that revolving door on students and professors actually accelerates the landscape.
It’s very interesting because my background before I lived in Cambridge UK, I’m on the US for 5 years before I moved to Krakow and Cambridge School has the Cambridge phenomenon and this is also extremely close relationship between the technical parts of the university in Cambridge and the business community which has produced I think 4 billion dollar companies including maybe famously infamously Mike Lynche’s Autonomy which Hewlett Packard acquired and HP acquired and rather controversial circumstances, but also CSR who invented Bluetooth, also the guys who invented the reduce and structure risk, risk chipsets and licensing to all companies all over the world and I think that interaction between the university and the business high tech community is absolutely fundamental. There are some good things beginning to happen here in Krakow but we’ve got a very long way to go, haven’t we?
No, absolutely, absolutely, which actually kinda ties to the last 2 which is serial entrepreneurs and venture capital money, it’s actually angel through venture capital money because I think that there’s a focus on VC money but I think we’re actually in the earlier stage of that even where…
A lot of state funding here…
Absolutely. Coz I think actually which is ironic, I think Richard when we’re having that first discussion back in 2008, one of the things I think I pulled out just as a scroll man was looking at the life of entrepreneur from the person with an idea all the way out to exit whether it’s ITO or acquisition. And the reality is there’s lots of gaps in those stages because people think about VCs and multi million dollars but the reality is that going from a lady or a guy in a garage to hiring the copartners, getting to like the hiring the first 3 people and then hiring for the next 10 people, that’s actually where the critical pain is both from, coz I think countries in Europe is very good at technical ideas, but they’re not actually so skilled on the marketing side yet on the first startup space. And actually getting the funding piece is also a big gap there because again, in the States, I think now or even in London, people are used to the idea of giving a little bit of money to someone with an idea that doesn’t even have a straight minimum viable product yet. But in such countries like Europe, it’s like why would I give you money? What are you talking about?
The trust factor.
Absolutely, absolutely. And also familiarity with how that works in other places and so I think that’s the piece where I think we’re still early stages with that although like I said in the last 2 years, that’s really caught on fire if I look at, I mean, if I’m look at just the ability for companies that are very successfully pulled money in, it’s great. And that actually ties in to the second piece which is the VC piece so I think now we have I would say the active VCs in addition to the local starts to being well connected either in to London or in to Silicon Valley themselves, but I think that a really healthy environment will mean that we have more of that locally over time.
Well, and that’s one of the things you and I were talking about Ramon and Richard have both been angel investors here in Krakow and Richard, I think you’ve been throwing money around since ‘90s Richard and you’re just very well-known for that…
Just to clarify for everyone listening to this, whenever I give a talk about this, I always emphasize this is not a charitable activity and I say that, I may be tall, I may be fat, I may be have a red face but it’s not Christmas and I’m not Santa Claus because this idea, the dream for every entrepreneur is to find some rich dumb investor who’s gonna shower them with money, and it was a lot of the education to go on there, and I always emphasize that the guy who gives you money is expecting to get more back later than he gives you and it’s not a gift, it’s an investment. But certainly Ramon and I placed the money in to estimate, I don’t know, I haven’t compared notes on the other investments that we’ve done but the willingness for people to risk a bit out on cash to help someone else and the basis that help isn’t their interest is something that’s spreading now and I think people begin to see they can be very smart business decision too.
Well, to expand with that point, you made a point that I really think it’s worth expanding on around the rich dumb investor because I think that if you’re immature market,
there’s an idea that well, I want that rich dumb investor. But the reality though is that you actually probably want the smart investor and you want smart money because a dollar is not a dollar because if you’re just getting, I said, the money for the sake of the money, you’re missing the point. The reality is that maybe you need money to accelerate your business but the reality, and investors should be coming with advice, they should be coming with their network and their ability to basically plug you in to that network so that you’re actually able to grow yourself well. So, like I said, giving more money to actually get some office space of your own to actually hire more developers, that’s nice but that’s just table space. The reality is that you need to also figure out the marketing piece, you need to figure out the sales piece, how do you scale, what’s the speed with what you’re scaling to other markets, do you wanna go to Asia, do you wanna go to United States? These are things that smart money will actually help you to figure out the answers to that question based on your business model. Dumb money will give you cash and then you’ll just be kind of spending it but you don’t really know enough yet how to spend that well. And so I would argue for anyone listening, focus on the smart money even it means a little bit less. I wouldn’t argue it doesn’t mean less because if you make the right connections, you’ll get smart money and at the scale you need to grow your business properly.
And as well on taking on finance as well as smart money and dumb money, there’s also a good money and bad money and dirty money, I’m not talking about corrupt money, but one of the advantages of the angel investors is they quite often connected to local community so they’re gonna be around. And although, I’m not gonna point my finger in anyone in particular and they’re certainly not in Krakow, there are some firms which are like, even accelerators where their business model is to invest in startups and because it’s a business for them, they wanna get the best deal they possibly can. Quite when people come to me, I say they got a great idea, they’re cash positive and actually why take an investor at all? You’re doing fine without me. If you waste another year the way you’re going, you can get a much high evaluation and maybe you don’t need an investor and you quite often, the “good angel” is someone who can send you away saying don’t find an investor, you don’t need it on the other hand the bad money can be money that invest when you don’t need an angel and you suddenly got some balance, you got a shareholder when you’d be much better off not taking in that 20,000 – 30,000 – 40,000 bucks for some of your business because you can save that for a cofounder and the value to you is much higher to keep that equity, keep that part dry and as well and so I think diversity is the key. The other thing is in terms of entrepreneur sharing their experience is so many different types of entrepreneurs and it’s very important not just to feel there’s only one type of person who can be useful like Ramon has very good insights and influence for international companies where at the big ones and that money is very useful for somebody that wants to sell to one but wouldn’t be so useful for someone setting up a chain of restaurants because Ramon haven’t been a customer of a chain of restaurants, he hasn’t been, I don’t know, have you never had a restaurant, have you Ramon?
He is an avid farmer so he might actually be good for a…
I’ll sell the restaurant.
… for a chef, right?
We’ve got about 10 minutes, I’m onboarding a new employee today, we’re in 2 several locations, I’ve got to add another 12 minutes before I have to wrap up. But Ramon, in terms of you like going forward to the future, what do you see the, like let’s say the opportunities, maybe threats, what would be a sign of success? Everyone talks about the multibillion dollar exit, we can live for a long time without a billion dollar exit and still regardless of a very successful city but other things you’re particularly looking out for which will have a sense of like self-healing growth or what are your sort of like your internal checklist of things that will be a sign that we’re not just doing well now but we’re already doing even better in the future?
Well, I think that vision is all great and well but execution is actually key, right? And I think that that’s the piece where you’re referring a little bit to what Sam was talking about with the cultural piece. I believe that the ecosystem which is kind of was the underlying factor behind across the 4 different pillars is really the critical piece and to be honest, the healthier that is, the more accelerates everything. So when I look at Project Kazimierz as an example, this is actually almost the lightning rod potentially for bringing all of the things together and but then as you’re presenting that in a very cohesive way to an external audience, right? And that external audience can be in Poland, it can be in Norwegian, it can be in United States, it can be in India, it doesn’t really matter but it’s, and kind of bite size where people can consume it but I think getting back to concrete piece, I believe that seeing the evolution of the ecosystem locally whether that’s startup events, whether that’s even number of startup companies and again, if you can actually measure that by the number of events, you can measure that by the amount of angel funding that’s actually happening by the amount of venture capital that’s coming in, these are all very concrete things and I think that there’s so many examples of it. You can look across upon the Silicon Valley or New York or Boston, you can look inside of Europe around what’s going on at London, what’s going on Berlin, there’s lots of examples of what a success looks like and for my perspective as long as we keep progressing on that proper scale and we keep increasing the visibility around it, I think that it will just happen. I’ll be honest, like I said, I think that in my own mind, I expected it to take longer than it actually has to reach this point but I think if you talk to polls, it hasn’t happened quickly enough so there is still proper answer, I think the question is if you’re here for the long term then you make the personal investment and the passionate investment just make it happen and then it will just actually happen. If I look at the scene with regards to people that are involved in the space, it’s rapidly different than it was in 2008, I mean, there’s so many new faces and I love that because you made a very good point on diversity, just like in nature, diversity creates a healthy ecosystem and I think that I’m seeing more and more of that diversity, it’s not just about individuals but it’s about new individuals, it’s about new initiatives, sometimes they overlap with each other, sometimes they might be cannibalizing each other but the realities that you wanna have as many as possible because that accelerates the big picture and I think, so, I guess having the vision is great but the key is this concrete initiatives they’re driving at the ground level.
“The ecosystem which is kind of was the underlying factor behind across the 4 different pillars is really the critical piece and to be honest, the healthier that is, the more accelerates everything.”
Yeah, I agree with that. One of the things I’m looking out for is to broaden the number of I would say senior people, entrepreneurs or senior executives who regarded as part of what their responsible for to continue this. This is very much in the sense, as you said, there are new faces and there are people like Vincent Vergonjeanne who we interviewed a few days ago who’s a very successful French entrepreneur who we need, we need those more people coming in to this community. I’m not against the 22 – 25 – 28 year olds, we also need in terms of slightly grey hairs and we also need the Polish business community to buy in to this because I think what challenging a lot of stereotypes of typical behavior in the Polish business community and that’s a challenge that we’re gonna have to keep on thrusting peoples’ faces, isn’t it?
No, absolutely. I mean, that’s what the beauties of being at Cisco is that it’s a company that just embraces innovation. And I’m actually sitting in Hub:raum and I look
around and actually, we’re doing a cooperative event called Challenge Up and it combines Deutsche Telekom which hosts Hub:raum it includes Intel and it includes Cisco so you have multinationals that are actually cooperating with startup companies to basically accelerate startup companies and innovation, I mean, that’s where the big companies collaborate with the smaller companies to create new companies and new businesses that may not even existed today. And you’re exactly correct is that, and actually, I think professor Ian Angel who was one of the speakers of the conference last year said it perfectly around this idea of the future around cities and countries, he said it’s not about countries, it’s about cities and actually it’s only about ultimately cities that can actually attract global talent, that’s….
…city states, essentially we go back to Athens or in Rome…
Although I think it was professor, you’re talking about professor Angel, yeah?
Because he also argued against paying taxes and he argued against the nation state… Poland’s a company that has been kicked around a lot of those neighbors to the east and the west over the centuries and we’re very aware of history here and I say as much as we want to make money than to worry about whether you pay tax on it and I also think that it’s actually a very strong point for the local audience that it’s a matter of national survival that we need to pay for our soldiers and policemen and Poland just contracted with I think it’s Raytheon to buy between 6 and 8 billion dollars’ worth of anti-incoming missile defense systems because we need it and I think the idea that a strong economy is part of national survival. Just like the Japanese understood when Admiral Perry came in and demolished their thoughts and I think it was 1853 before the unequal treaties and the Japanese realized that they were technologically behind America and that goes a major restoration and that cause the Japanese to regard economic growth and development as a key point of national survival and I say to the Polish people and to professor Angel that he’s very lucky to come from the UK which is an island defended by the Americans… but if you’re in the frontline and we’re almost in the frontline here, we can’t be so relaxed casual and quite frankly, insulting to our governments which actually do a pretty good job of defending us and we need to grow the economy in order to defend our independence. And I’ve got 3 children here so I particularly think that they should grow up in a country this free, free and democratic.
And Richard, one of the things that I really, and people ask me why Krakow and I just got here and I wasn’t pulled here by a girl like Ramon and I have no good reason to be here, I think everyone in the US still thinks I’m crazy or offer reservation and people here think the same thing but I guess my answer now as I think about it more is I’m a historian and I love not just reading about history but being part of it in some way and I think you can make history in Poland, I think you can be part of something much bigger than you could be a part of in the United States right now not just from going out to San Francisco to make Silicon Valley richer but making a new part of the world grow at a much faster rate, be a much bigger part of that community and making it wealthy not just for wealth sake but for a purpose which is to make that country’s government stronger in a part of world that’s destabilizing right now, to the east, Ukraine’s at war and the Baltic countries are very nervous right now and to me, that’s part of the allure and Ramon and the video that we just launched for Project Kazimierz is Poland is a land of opportunity and I like to say the east is the new west because you always used to go west in history to find more adventure and danger and improve yourself and now, the Western United States is the most comfortable part of the west so much so that if they’re not careful, they’ll fall off in to the ocean coz they’re so bloated with all of the things that come to trappings of success and it’s all coming back to the east where the original settlers went west…
There’s another point that I make, I was asked today by someone from a city to the north of Krakow called Warsaw, people from Warsaw being interviewed by Project Kazimierz and I said, and this is actually truth, anyone listening to this anywhere in the planet, we’re actually interested in anyone who can contribute and there’s no accents of the 3 people in this podcast today, none of us from Krakow but Krakow has brought us together and Project Kazimierz is bringing us together right now. And Krakow historically was a great trading center where it was on the trading routes from east to west, from north to south and so I would say if someone’s coming through Krakow, they’ve gonna be in Kashmir, they’re gonna be attending an event and they’ve got something to share with us, we absolutely want them to get in touch because the idea in this digital world, location is still important and we still wanna meet each other, look each other in the eyes but at the same time, we can just be the nexus through which people connect and someone who makes a fortune in Silicon Valley who’s from Krakow, that one is gonna come back here then if someone from Estimode had a legal corporation in United States and the money came from Krakow so I don’t see this a closed loop, I see this is upward spiral.
Yeah. And Richard, the thing that Ramon said and you’ve got the skeptics and the people who say, well, Krakow can’t be Silicon Valley coz Silicon Valley had its own unique systems, that’s exactly right. In fact, like Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes and there’s certain factors here that okay, we don’t have the arrow space industry but we do have multinationals which are acting like that big funds of cash that has made Krakow such a growth city. We okay our professors at AGH and Jagiellonian are not going in to the business world and the collaboration is not there yet but you still have this mountain of talent that I think is unprecedented not only on the engineering side but what I’m really excited about as a marketer is all the artist and musicians and people that produce the film that we make for this project and the composers and the copyrighters and the graphic designers, that’s the real talent, the untapped talent in Krakow. Everyone’s kinda picked over the engineering talent, there’s more engineering talent…
And also, and just on arrow space, in a city very close to Krakow a couple of hours away called Rzeszów which has aviation valley, most of the world’s global players from Pratt & Whitney to STE, they’re all Rolls-Royces here in Krakow. Arrow spaces actually very strong in Poland and there’s a new highway that’s quite quick to get there and so I would I say we’re not gonna have everyone in the world here in this connected world, we don’t need everyone here but the artists and the designers, the creators, they’re very much part of what we’ve got and what we need. So if you’re listening again somewhere else in the world and you feel you’re looking for a place where your creative juices will run then this city is certainly a place where you can find yourself. Just, I’m actually gonna have to wrap in the last minute, do you wanna make any final comment Ramon before we move on or shall I let Sam wrap this up?
Yeah Richard, I can just wrap this up with Ramon coz I know that he has to go shortly too but Richard, thanks for sticking with us on this, you have to go to your meeting and thanks again Richard for, I think we’re 10 episodes or so in to this, all the introductions you’ve made, this has been a really special project. We just had our launch party the other night for the podcast and if and when this episode finally comes out, you’ll obviously be listening first ones but it’s been great journey and I think we’re just getting started.
Okay. So I’m actually going offline now so the recording is gonna stop, very nice…
Oh, you’re switching off the recording Richard?
I have to move to different building now so I’ll be in motion so maybe you do wanna just close this because…
Alright, the chaotic ending here. Thanks again Project Kazimierz listener, thank you Ramon for joining us, giving us seasoned insights and all that you’ve done to build the
community. And again, Richard, like we said, we just had our launch party and finally thank you listener if you’re with us at this point and you’ve definitely heard a lot and there’s a lot more to come out of this great thing that’s happening here in Krakow and in Kazimierz.
Thanks, bye, bye.
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