A new venture capital fund, SMOK Ventures, has been launched in Poland, and will allocate approximately 46 million zloty (around 11 million euros) for investments.
SMOK is a Polish-American venture capital fund created by former entrepreneurs and community leaders with the aim of helping early stage start-up founders build multi-million-dollar global software enterprises from Poland. It is backed by the Polish Development Fund (PFR), which has put up 80 per cent of the capital. On top of that Paul Bragiel, an international investor and co-founder of Bragiel Brothers is a managing partner. Polish duo Borys Musielak and Diana Koziarska, creators of the ReaktorX pre-accelerator, are also involved.
“The Polish technology industry has come a long way over the last twenty years. Local entrepreneurs focused exclusively on the internal market. A decade ago we observed the first daredevils who dared to try their hand at Silicon Valley. Over the last five years, entrepreneurs have gained confidence in building companies on an international scale. Currently, Poland is one of the rising stars in Europe,” Paul Bragiel told Puls Biznesu.
“The VC market has finally moved. The first successes are recorded, among others Brainly, Docplanner, and CD Projekt and Techland produce games on a world-class level. We decided that this is the right moment for us to run the fund. We focus on seed investments because it is in this area that we feel the strongest,” added Borys Musielak.
SMOK is focusing its sights on projects that are just starting up, with a particular focus on companies specialising in game development, augmented/virtual reality, artificial intelligence, marketing tech and fin-tech.
The fund already has 25 investors, which include: Wiktor Schmidt , CEO and co-founder of Netguru; Jan Stasz , co-founder of Showroom; Konrad Wawruch, CEO and co-founder of 7bulls.com; Paweł Zylm, specialist in the insurtech industry, former president of BRE Ubezpieczenia and Przemek Żebrowski, one of the founders and former president of K2 Internet.
“The management team has a characteristic structure: on the one hand, we have two experienced investors from Silicon Valley [the Bragiel brothers], and on the other hand, Polish entrepreneurs with a strong understanding of the start-up ecosystem. We believe that such a powerhouse has a real chance of achieving great success, precisely because of the combination of investment competences and knowledge about the market,” said Jarosław Więckowski, Investment Associate a PFR responsible for the Starter FIZ programme.
Times are changing, as Mr Musielak explains: “In Poland, investing in VC funds is not popular… However, this is slowly changing, more so because cooperation with funds means access to a larger number of projects. As these are high-risk investments, many companies need to be in portfolios, and their independent search on the market can be difficult.”