DT accelerates innovation in Poland

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The hub:raum in Krakow opened its doors in April of this year as the Deutsche Telekom incubator for Southern and Eastern Europe. Its mission: to provide entrepreneurs with support to get their innovative ideas off the ground.

In an interview, Jakub Probola, Head of Innovation at T-Mobile Poland, explains why Krakow is the place to be for entrepreneurs.

Mr. Probola, DT opened the hub:raum incubator in Krakow, but already has one in Berlin. Why does the company need two incubators for startups?

Jakub Probola: Each one has a different focus. Ours is on Southern and Eastern Europe, the customers that live there and of course on the entrepreneurs who want to launch their startups there. The location alone means that they have different needs and expectations that we are set up to fulfill.

Why Krakow? Warsaw is the capital and largest city in Poland and more or less the economic center of the country?

Jakub Probola: But Krakow is the startup center. It is a major university city, with a huge pool of bright, young people with new and innovative ideas. There are lots of IT and other technology companies there, as well. It is also centrally located and easily accessible from most of the region's major cities. All this gives the city a very vibrant environment for entrepreneurs that we saw accelerate when we announced that we would be opening hub:raum there.

What exactly do you mean by accelerate?

Jakub Probola: The online startup communities that are already there, Hype 53 is a well-known one, started holding more workshops, events, trainings etc. following our announcement. All of a sudden, there was a lot more energy and the momentum is still going.

Why do you think that an incubator from Deutsche Telekom is having such a positive effect there?

Jakub Probola: I think lots of factors come together here. For one thing, we are new on the scene, which automatically makes us interesting. We offer them seed capital, facilities, expert mentors from outside the Group as well as our own employees. We have access to a huge customer base in Poland and across Europe. And by bringing them in, we can integrate their products, services and ideas into our own offering; both locally and for the DT Group as a whole. It is all about having our finger on the pulse of the times.

Let's go back for a second to the customer base across Europe: How do you plan to bring the startups into other countries and, how are you bringing in startups from other countries?

Jakub Probola: Of course, we are bringing in employees from across the Group to make sure our organization is an international one. Gereon Hammel from DT and Cosmin Ochisor from Romtelecom, for instance, have been in the core project team since the beginning. We also have representatives from the national companies in the steering committee; it decides on the startups we are going to support. And this is the best part for the entrepreneurs: Once a national company says they are interested, that startup is guaranteed a customer base in at least one country. As far as I know, we are the only incubator that can do that.

What about Berlin? How closely do you work with the hub:raum there?

Jakub Probola: Very. We learned a lot from them when we were getting started and we have a steady, regular flow of information, ideas and knowledge. And that flow is mutual: They recently adopted our design for a flyer we made to advertise a workshop, for instance. We are also working together to organize a startup conference in Vienna for this year. So there is lots coming.