Written by Piotr Wilam
Let me go back three years. After a couple of years of angel investing in Poland, I realised that something had changed.
First, I discovered that it is for real: "Software eats the world". In the late nineties I read somewhere on the Web that "if something can be digital, it will be digital". I thought back then – what a clever idea. What I did not realise at that time – something that is so obvious today – was that becoming digital is a profound change in the nature of things. Let us take newspapers, for example: the change in the method the physical delivery of the content from paper to mobile devices is not just a change of medium. The change of medium changes the whole industry. And software eats the whole world, not just a couple of industries.
Secondly, Internet business has become global. Back in the nineties when I co-founded Onet.pl, it was possible to build companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Poland. Allegro surpassed the $1 billion mark, and Onet was valued at $500 million at one point. In those days, local businesses and consumers in a country like Poland spent money only on Microsoft software!
A third discovery was that in digital industries Poland is a small niche market, and it is very unlikely that a company will grow by first dominating the Polish market segment and then going abroad – it simply does not work like that. There might be pilot implementations in a local market, but not years-long growth with the aim of gaining a major market share.
These three insights led me to the typical entrepreneurial situation – what should I do with it? The idea followed shortly – think big. Let’s think seriously about starting companies locally that will grow globally.
Innovation Nest started with this idea.