'We offer a better chance for success'

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hub:raum Krakow, the Deutsche Telekom incubator for Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, has moved into its permanent offices and completed its first turbo accelerator program for startups. In an interview, Jakub Probola, Head of hub:raum, explains where they want to go and how they will get there.

Mr. Probola, DT has an incubator in Berlin, which has a very vibrant startup scene of its own. Why do we need one in Krakow?

Jakub Probola: Because being close to startups geographically is crucial to making them feel comfortable about working with us. Entrepreneurs want to feel that whoever is supporting them knows what is important to them, what they need and above all what they worry about. If you want to know all that, you have to be right there with them.

Your week-long roadtrip in September took you through 12 countries – as far as Estonia. You can't be everywhere.

Jakub Probola: No, we can't – no one can. That's why when we were putting our staff together, we made sure they are not only qualified professionally, but also that our combined networks of contacts connect us, at least indirectly, to the countries and region we are looking at.

Which are…?

Jakub Probola: All of the Deutsche Telekom national companies in Europe, of course, as well as the countries bordering them.

To come back to WARP: Do you really think that, among the 15 startups, you have the one that will be the next big thing?

Jakub Probola: That would be great, obviously, but that isn't necessarily the only reason to hold an event like this one. Sure, the plan was to bring three, maybe even four of them into the incubator, invest and get them going. But all the others are now our multipliers. They will go out and talk to other startups and other incubators about us and spread the word about hub:raum Krakow and about DT.

So the plan is to have startups pounding on your door, begging to be let in?

Jakub Probola: I don't think I would put it this way, but as word spreads about how we work and what we have to offer, I think we will have lots of good, fast, innovative companies with good ideas to choose from.

Do you think you will be able to cherry pick in the future?

Jakub Probola: I do. Our connection to Deutsche Telekom gives any startup that works with us an almost endless source of experience and resources. It is about more than just the capital we are offering them. We offer them a better chance for success because they get access to the DT customer base potentially in 12 national companies. It is not a guarantee, but it is more than they would get from other incubators. Also, in my opinion, we have to cherry pick. Remember, this is about delivering the best services to our customers. Also, if we take on too many, we can't give all of them the support they need or that we promise. That gets around, too and we have a responsibility to them.

Are some startups skeptical about working with Deutsche Telekom – the so-called magenta elephant?

Jakub Probola: Yes, and we were aware of this from the very beginning. That is why it is vital for us to have the degree of autonomy we have. There are two aspects we need to come back to DT and the national companies about and that is on our investments and involvement. I have always emphasized that we are doing this for and with the national companies and they are, of course, a crucial part of our decision-making process. Together, we ensure that our investments bring real value and this has been a very constructive process so far. With that, all we have to do is tell the startups how we can benefit them and then they are interested; very interested.