In 2017, Brainly, the world's largest social learning network for students, secured $14 million USD in a Series B round, bringing its total fundraising tally to $38.5 million USD.
The education technology startup was launched in Poland in 2009, as a digital community where middle schoolers and high schoolers could assist each other with homework.
Today, Brainly has more than 100 million monthly users in over 35 countries, and is arguably an international success story.
It is also an indicator of how Poland’s innovative startups and entrepreneurs are competing in the global market, and ultimately reaching new heights.
A Startup-Friendly Business Landscape
Poland’s startup ecosystem is robust. Industry titans, like Samsung and Microsoft, have contributed to this by setting up incubators and accelerators in the European Union’s sixth largest country.
The nation of 38.5 million boasts 400,000 graduates from institutions of higher learning each year, half of them engineers.
While programmers have put Central Europe’s biggest economy on the world tech map, their expertise often comes at a lower cost than that of their Western European and American counterparts.
This startup-friendly business landscape may be populated by budding local firms but they have ambitious global goals. Half of them export their products and services.
Accordingly, Poland’s startups are applying out-of-the-box thinking and emerging technologies, to planet-wide problems – from medical and education challenges to climate change – and they’re coming up with meaningful solutions.
Whether reimagining transport through magnetically levitated high-speed pods, or designing the framework for an LED-powered smart city, Polish startups are ready to bring scalable ideas to the world.
Poland’s trailblazing young firms have been most successful in the big data, analytics, life sciences, health and biotech spaces.
Startup Infermedica is working across some of these areas. Its white label symptom checker asks patients questions, analyses data and then an AI inference engine delivers a preliminary medical diagnosis and advice.
With up to 26 percent of cases being self-treatable, it aims to prevent unnecessary doctor visits through self care and remote consultations.
While leading booking platform DocPlanner created a gold standard in digital healthcare and recently raised €15 million in Series D funding, startup HospiCare is innovating along similar lines.
Its co-founder Eliza Kugler, having experienced firsthand the home care needs of her incurably ill daughter, conceived of the namesake mobile app to enable communication and patient management for doctors, parents and caregivers.
In the medtech realm, Wroclaw’s Nestmedic has developed Pregnabit, a device that monitors foetal health through cardiotocographic examination from any location – helping doctors and midwives readily assist pregnant patients.
It recently signed a contract with Kenyan company eMedica to support Africa’s pressing healthcare access needs.
Tech-Enabled Communication and Learning
Poland’s startups are also advancing tools that can aid people with learning and communication challenges.
Founded at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Neurodio creates training games for those with learning difficulties. The Toruń firm does this by cleverly combining game design with neuroscience, to produce engaging cognitive training products.
Startup Migam is focused on growing its service-oriented solutions for the hearing impaired in the local Polish-language market — not an uncommon route, as 35 percent of the nation’s startups which end up exporting, tend to first test and establish their offerings domestically.
The Migam Interpreter is a desktop and device-based app which facilitates real-time access to sign language interpreters via webcam. Bridging the communication divide between the hearing and hearing-impaired, the startup counts among its clients Uber, ING and Revlon.
Building Tomorrow’s Smart Cities Today
Another area of specialisation for Polish startups is IoT — a market projected to grow globally to $457 billion USD come 2020. By 2040, worldwide energy demand is poised to rise by 28 percent.
Gradis operates at the nexus of both Iot and renewables, and is laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s smart cities.
The Kraków startup enables clients to dynamically adjust outdoor lighting and improve related efficiency and costs, with the end goal of reducing CO2 emissions in cities. By applying AI algorithms, through its state-of-the-art software platform, it designs and optimises LED street and road lighting, from poles to controls, to save energy.
Meanwhile, solar power is undergoing a materials revolution, and Saule Technologies has been central to it. In 2014, the startup’s co-founder and CTO Olga Malinkiewicz broke ground with the introduction of the world’s first inkjet-printed perovskite solar cells.
Inexpensive to produce, the thin, semitransparent material can essentially turn ordinary windows into energy-harbouring solar panels. It can also be applied to smartphones so they can be charged in an eco-friendly way.
Transportation for the 21st Century
A train journey from Kraków to Gdansk can take five and a half hours. Startup Hyper Poland wants to cut this to 35 minutes using Hyperloop, a breakthrough concept which could facilitate sustainable travel at up to 1,220 km/h, by transporting magnetically levitated train pods through tubes.
Advancement of the emerging tech is being spearheaded by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, whose company sponsored an international Hyperloop Pod Competition. Among over 1,200 entrants, Hyper Poland distinguished itself as a finalist.
Launched in 2015 from the Warsaw University of Technology, the Polish startup is now working on design for the Hyperloop vehicle, tube and station.
It is fired up to build a Hyperloop infrastructure for Poland, a reality which could, in the near future, help connect people to their workplaces and families, while conserving perhaps the most precious commodity of all: time.