Innovative Tech in Central and Eastern Europe: Highlights From Wolves Summit 2021
Author: Svetlana Stotskaya
Wolves Summit, the largest technology conference in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), was a hybrid event conducted in person and live from Wrocław, Poland, on October 19-21. It brought together a diversity of industry experts, entrepreneurs, investors, and other representatives of the tech and startup community. More than 2000 attendees had an opportunity to listen to a plethora of panel discussions, keynote presentations, startup pitches and attend networking meetings.
The keynote speakers guided visitors through a deep unpacking of a variety of topics from sustainability to advice on startup fundraising. Many of the panelists marked the unique characteristics of the Central and Eastern Europe tech ecosystem.
A special interest aroused about international expansion, startup fundraising, and hiring considering the recent changes in the way companies operate.
During the panel discussion “Global trends in payment systems for financial institutions,” one of the major shifts in venture capital investments in the new reality was mentioned by Kristi Kurvits, an associate at Tera Ventures. As opposed to the old way, when investors met with founders in person, today, “Investors do not need to be present physically to decide to invest.”
Many startups have more opportunities than ever before, including access to talent by adoption of remote work and easier expansion to different geographies.
Zoltan Vardy, the founder of The Launch Code, shared his advice on scaling to foreign markets that can be done by either focusing on being global from day one of a company’s existence or going gradually, market by market. In addition, he recommended that founders be prepared in mind, body, and spirit for international growth.
One panel session with representatives from four startups and two VCs was dedicated to different challenges and solutions of scaling in CEE. Alexandru Bogdan, CEO at Roca X, moderated the discussion in which Aleksandra Kubicka, Fribo’s business development director, noted the importance of knowing the end customer of a product. At the same time, Mircea Popa, a founder and CEO at Medicai, stressed the necessity to learn the local healthcare legislation if a digital health startup enters a new market. Stefan Iarca, xVision’s co-founder and CEO, shared his experience of selling medical products in Romania. Gergely Ivancsics, an investment manager at Impact Ventures Hungary, talked about soft landing, and Evelina Necula, Kinderpedia’s co-founder and CMO, described Kinderpedia’s market entry strategy for distant regions such as South Africa.
In the “Coming of age — startups and venture capital in Central and Eastern Europe” discussion, Sasha Vidiborskiy, Atomico’s principal, inspired attendees to dream big and execute their visions.
Christoph Klink, a partner at Antler, gave advice on choosing a co-founder, saying that it is not necessary to have a combination of technical and commercial founders, but it does not hurt to have a professional with relevant knowledge as a founder. For consumer brands, for example, it is important to have a marketing founder.
Accompanying the panel sessions was the Great Pitch Contest, where international startups from various industries lined up to introduce their innovative ideas. Although all startups did extremely well, only ten slots were available to pitch in the finals on Thursday, October 21st.
Pleasy Play, an intimate wellness app offering games-based relationship management solutions, claimed the winning title. The second place went to Kinderpedia, a SaaS platform and mobile app for parents to interact with kindergartens and primary schools. EmailTree AI, a customer service automation solution, placed third.
Panda Training, which develops change management software with an AI chatbot coach, became a special AI Startup Incubator Award winner. Other finalists were Alphamoon, CancerCenter, Swapp!, TakeTask, RISE, Morari Medical.
There was another pitching event during the summit: the finals of UiPath Automation Awards 2021, a contest conducted by UiPath in partnership with AWS. Applicants from the CEE and Turkey regions went through a rigorous selection process and were divided into two categories: Startup and Scale-up.
As a result, six companies — three in the Startup category and three in the Scale-up category — pitched to the expert judging panel for a chance to win the top prize. Dronehub, a drone-on-a-box solution, Apify, a web scraping and automation platform, Powerful Medical, a deep tech product for diagnosis and personalized treatment of cardiovascular diseases, were representatives of the Scale-up category.
Demoboost, software for creating and sharing product demos, Serket, an AI platform for pig producers, and EasySales, B2B SaaS for automated e-commerce sales, were competing in the Startup category for €50000 in cash in addition to other benefits from the organizers.
Every startup got fifteen minutes to present its product and answer the questions from the judges — investors and industry executives from such companies as UiPath, AWS, Credo Ventures, Seedcamp. Serket and Powerful Medical produced a strong performance to win the contest in their categories.
In total, over 1000 startups attended Wolves Summit 2021.