Poland is on track for its best year yet for venture capital funding.
International VCs are showing increasing interest in the country and Polish startups are raising bigger rounds, according to a report by local firms PFR Ventures and Inovo Venture Partners.
It’s another sign that momentum is accelerating in European tech hubs outside places like London and Paris.
Traditionally, VC funding in Poland has lagged significantly behind neighbouring giants like Germany and Sweden. Between 2017 and 2021, only $27 in VC money was invested per capita in Poland, significantly lower than the European average of $269.
That said, Polish tech has had its successes. Ecommerce platform Allegro was one of the biggest European tech public listings in 2020. And scaleups like healthtech unicorn Docplanner, edtech Brainly and booking app Booksy have scaled their businesses in Europe and beyond.
Now though, the report suggests, there are many more Polish startups set to attract plenty of investor interest.
Here are three takeaways from the report:
Polish tech is on track for its biggest funding year yet despite geopolitical instability
In the first three months of 2022, VCs invested a total of €251m in 98 transactions in Poland. On an annualised basis, that would suggest Polish startups could attract over €1bn for the first time ever in 2022.
“What was missing in the past was cash for Series A, Series B and later-stage startups. Right now there are more and more VC funds from Europe and the US approaching Poland,” says PFR Ventures vice president of the board Aleksander Mokrzycki, adding that they're now able to do later-stage deals.
It’s worth noting that the definition of Polish startups in the report is a bit broader than most data sources. The report counted companies that had at least three of the following: a certain percentage of employees in Poland, a Polish founder or cofounder, Polish capital or that self-identify as Polish.
2022’s largest round so far went to Polish-Finnish microsatellite company ICEYE, which raised €119m in February. One of the company’s cofounders is Polish, it employs many people in Poland and it has raised money from a Polish VC.
“We do not see any — I repeat any — risk that investors will not invest in Poland because of Ukraine.
Other big rounds in the quarter include sanctions enforcement company Silent Eight, which raised $40m from HSBC and others in its Series B in March. Customer onboarding platform Stonly raised a $22m Series A from Northzone, Accel and others in January.
Mokrzycki says that the conflict in Ukraine might even help Polish startups raise more money — especially those creating technology with defence and military applications. NATO’s €1bn fund for deeptech startups could also be a big investor here, he says.
He added that Ukrainians relocating startups to Poland could also boost the ecosystem.
“We do not see any — I repeat any — risk that investors will not invest in Poland because of Ukraine.”
Government cash still plays a big role in Poland’s startup ecosystem
Government funding has been key in launching all of the world’s major tech ecosystems — including the US — and as a nascent tech ecosystem, it still plays a major role in Poland. PFR Ventures, for example, is a fund of funds backed by purely public money.
Nearly 90% of transactions involved both public and private capital, or 43% of the value of transactions. For comparison, Invest Europe has previously estimated that government funding accounts for 30% of VC funding in Europe.
ICEYE, for example, has raised capital from several public institutions including the European Investment Fund (EIF), Finnish Industry Investment (Tesi) and the British Business Bank.
Polish VCs are investing more alongside non-Polish investors
45% of total transaction value in the first three months of 2022 were co-investments between Polish VCs and international investors, compared to just 21% in the same period last year.
And though the percentage of deals done purely by local VCs decreased as a whole, as an absolute value, Polish VCs actually wrote more cheques. Total investments by Polish funds in Q1 of 2022 were €41m versus €34m during the same quarter in 2021.