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What it means when US giants come to Krakow

Crakow Krakow Poland Europe Finance Fintech Technology Emerging Markets Business CEE

Crakow Krakow Poland Europe Finance Fintech Technology Emerging Markets Business CEE

Krakow on a cold February night with temperatures south of -10 degrees, and a special opening night for Utah’s biggest StartUp – Qualtrics. Heading up to the Japanese Museum in Krakow in the freezing cold, you’d have to wonder if Qualtrics really knew what they were letting themselves in for by coming to Krakow (there are warmer places in the world).
And this leads us to the most important part of the Story of Qualtrics in Krakow. Back in the States, Qualtrics is a huge player in the market and well known by many companies, here is a diagram to explain better:

When you are a company like Qualtrics, you take your decisions seriously, and the event they have organized in Krakow reflected exactly that. Following in the footsteps of sleek and innovative companies like Revolut, Azimo, UBER and IG Group who have all built their Engineering and Support teams up in Krakow over the last years, Qualtrics have entered the Krakow market with a BANG.
Being welcomed at the entrance by the Finance Director for EMEA, Brian O’Driscoll himself is not something that I am used to seeing in any country, let alone in Krakow in the sub-Siberian cold. And well before any presentations started there was already a full house of local Engineers all keen to hear more about the phenomenon that is Qualtrics from Provo in Utah. With white T-shirts displaying details of their offices in Seattle, Provo, Dublin and Krakow there was a huge presence of their engineers, and other team members to answer questions about their business and within minutes I was hearing all about their plans in Krakow.
With people from Sabre, Ocado, Alexander Mann Solutions, AON, Luxoft and many others in attendance throughout the Museum it was great to hear about Qualtrics plan to grow their Centre in Krakow to 200 people over the next year or so.
I also found out that Qualtrics had looked into opening their centre in Geneva, Prague, Budapest, Gdansk, Vilnius and even in Dublin where they already had an office, but eventually chose Krakow. Quite an accolade for Krakow if you think about it, although it does make me wonder why Stockholm hadn’t been on the list? Stockholm has after all created global brands like Spotify, Candy Crush and Minecraft; however, I was told that Stockholm is a gaming City and the engineers there may not necessarily have the right competencies. Either way, Stockholm is a place that I never hear enough of – always surprises me.
Let’s get back to the Qualtrics event though, where John Thimsen, Craig Kulfan, Ryan Debenham and Piotr Uryga told us the story of Qualtrics and the impact that Amazon had on some of their lives leading up to the boom that happened in Qualtrics in 2013 – 2014. With over 1600 people working for them now from a meagre few hundred in 2012, the company is growing astronomically as well as being cash positive and backed by the illustrious Sequoia Cap, and is a main partner to huge players such as Citi, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Swiss Re to name but a few.
Ryan discussed Neuronets in a lot of detail in relation to Machine Learning and how these Neuronets help to create “sentiment” from the data that their APIs are connected with. Advanced stuff, and although Machine Learning is one of the buzzwords today there were some people at the event that felt that Machine Learning only had a few more years to go before it hits its peak and becomes automated itself.
Then there was the 2-pizza team’ analogy that I had not heard before, but that sums up the approach that Qualtrics has to create excellence in teamwork. To prove this the 10 newest engineers already employed in Krakow in a matter of months have already created an App that is being showcased by Qualtrics in the States as one of the most novel ideas recently developed – impressive for such a young new team, but then you really have to see Piotr Uryga in action to understand how charismatic he really is and how unsurprised you should be. Piotr Uryga also mentioned how the recruitment process had been quick and successful in Poland and that the team were well and truly able to compete with existing teams in both talent and scalability. Bearing in mind that Seattle is ridiculously competitive when it comes to talent (the bulk of Qualtrics engineers are based in Seattle) then it appears that Krakow may not be as saturated as some people thought.
On a final note, it was awesome to be able to talk to John Thimsen, who is a truly inspirational person, and together with Sol Hallam from ASPIRE in Krakow welcome him to the Shared Service phenomenon that is Krakow. Although Shared Services doesn’t sound suitable for StartUps, in the case of Qualtrics, this is most certainly the case. Krakow keeps growing, and the stories of success from this hot tourist and business destination are getting more and more noticeable on the global stage.
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