After Going ‘Free of L.G.B.T.,’ a Polish Town Pays a Price

Krasnik voted to be “free of L.G.B.T.” two years ago to satisfy conservative voters. Now, the mayor regrets the move, which has led to censure from other European countries and put funding at risk.

#discrimination, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #law-and-justice-poland, #poland, #politics-and-government


In New Holocaust Survivor Testimony, Hate Speech Is a Dangerous Seed

A new campaign called #ItStartedWithWords features short videos from Holocaust survivors on the origins of World War II and offers a timely message amid an outbreak of anti-Asian hate.

#conference-on-jewish-material-claims-against-germany, #germany, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #poland, #state-department, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity, #world-war-ii-1939-45


20,000 White Crosses: Marking Covid’s Toll in Central and Eastern Europe

The crosses painted on a Prague street highlight a stark death toll in the Czech Republic as the coronavirus sweeps across the region.

#central-europe, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #czech-republic, #eastern-europe, #hungary, #poland, #shutdowns-institutional, #vaccination-and-immunization


Europe Lifts Vaccine Suspension as Virus Surge Brings New Lockdowns

France, Germany and other countries resumed use of the AstraZeneca shots after concerns about side effects, but the pace of inoculation remained too slow to blunt the latest wave of infection.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #easter-and-holy-week, #europe, #italy, #lithuania, #paris-france, #poland, #politics-and-government, #spain, #united-states


The Nazi-Fighting Women of the Jewish Resistance

They went undercover, smuggled revolvers in teddy bears and were bearers of the truth. Why hadn’t I heard their stories?

#holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #jews-and-judaism, #poland, #warsaw-poland, #women-and-girls, #world-war-ii-1939-45


A Quest to Reclaim a Family Home Unearths a Past Buried by the Holocaust

In “Plunder,” a memoir by Menachem Kaiser, the author tries to repossess a building owned by his grandfather before the war and discovers a history he knew nothing about.

#books-and-literature, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #jews-and-judaism, #kaiser-menachem, #plunder-a-memoir-of-family-property-and-nazi-treasure-book, #poland, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity


Aleksander Doba, Who Kayaked Across the Atlantic, Dies at 74

He hungered to paddle across an ocean so vast it seemed infinite. He did it three times, setting records and becoming a national hero in Poland.

#atlantic-ocean, #deaths-obituaries, #doba-alexsander-1946-2021, #kayaks, #oceans-and-seas, #poland, #records-and-achievements


Polish Court Orders Scholars to Apologize Over Holocaust Study

In a partial victory for nationalists, a libel case ended with two scholars ordered to make a public apology for saying a wartime Polish mayor was complicit in Nazi crimes, but not to pay damages.

#holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #jews-and-judaism, #libel-and-slander, #poland, #research, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity


A Massacre in a Forest Becomes a Test of Poland’s Pushback on Wartime Blame

Two researchers are on trial for writing that a Polish mayor was complicit in a massacre. Critics say the government is trying to emphasize Polish suffering in World War II and downplay complicity in Nazi crimes.

#holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #law-and-justice-poland, #libel-and-slander, #poland, #politics-and-government, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity, #world-war-ii-1939-45


The Brain Within the Brain of a Rising Tennis Queen

Iga Swiatek of Poland came out of nowhere to win the French Open in October. A sports psychologist was with her all the way.

#anxiety-and-stress, #australian-open-tennis, #melbourne-australia, #poland, #swiatek-iga-2001


Protesters in Poland Vow to Fight Abortion Ban

Women’s rights advocates and thousands of their allies vowed to continue fighting a near-total ban on abortions that came into effect on Wednesday.

#abortion, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #europe, #law-and-justice-poland, #poland, #politics-and-government, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights


Poland Imposes Near-Total Ban on Abortion

A contentious ruling in Poland, which spurred thousands of women and their allies to protest, came into legal force on Wednesday.

#abortion, #europe, #poland, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #women-and-girls


Booksy raises $70M war chest to acquire salon appointment apps, expand internationally

Beauty and wellness appointment booking apps have proliferated of the last few years, but it appears the race is still on as today one of the leaders, Booksy, raises $70 million in a Series C round led by Cat Rock Capital, with participation from Sprints Capital. 

The round was also joined by OpenOcean, Piton Capital, VNV Global, Enern, Kai Hansen, Zach Coelius and Manta Ray Ventures, and takes the total raised by the firm to $119 million. The funding will be used for expansion plans across North America, expanding to new verticals, and acquiring complementary businesses.

The Booksy app is used by customers to book and pay for beauty appointments with local businesses. Salons, nail bars and barbershops can manage the bookings, payments, and customer base via the accompanying Booksy Biz app. The platform also allows salons to sell other products via Booksy E-Commerce, which acts as a marketplace allowing customers to discover and book other local stylists, nail technicians etc.

Booksy was founded by Polish entrepreneurs Stefan Batory (CEO) and Konrad Howard. Allowing customers to schedule their best appointment time means that 38% of customers end up booking after-hours and increasing their appointment frequency by 20%, says the company. The startup launched in 2014 but is now in the US (its largest market), UK, Poland, Spain, Brazil, and South Africa. It claims to be the number-one beauty booking app in each country, with “13 million” consumers on the app.

Batory said in a statement: “Like with many sectors negatively hit by the pandemic, it’s been a turbulent time for the beauty and wellness industry but we’re confident in its ability to come back from this, so it’s fantastic to see our latest group of investors share our optimism and vision. This latest round of funding enables us to reach even more salons and service providers across the US, and in all the regions we operate, which in turn helps them reach more customers.” 

Alex Captain, founder and managing partner at Cat Rock Capital, said: “We are incredibly excited to invest in Booksy as it builds the leading global software platform for digitizing the beauty and wellness industry around the world.”

Booksy certainly seems to have cracked the international expansion game ahead of most competitors, which tend to stay more local to their countries of origin such as Treatwell, Styleseat, Vagaro and Mindbody. The opportunity for Booksy is to now use its war cast to roll-up other local players.

It has already acquired rival Lavito in 2018 and, more recently, merged with Versum in December 2020 allowing it to enter Mexico.

#brazil, #ceo, #cloud-applications, #e-commerce, #europe, #managing-partner, #manta-ray-ventures, #mexico, #mindbody, #north-america, #piton-capital, #poland, #polis, #software-platform, #south-africa, #spain, #sprints-capital, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #zach-coelius


How 8 Countries Have Tried to Keep Artists Afloat During Panemic

Governments around the world have tried to support the arts during the pandemic, some more generously than others.

#austria, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #culture-arts, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #new-zealand, #poland, #south-africa, #south-korea, #stimulus-economic, #unemployment


On Factory Floors, a Chime and Flashing Light to Maintain Distance

Businesses like Henkel, a big German chemical company, are trying wearable sensors to prevent virus outbreaks among workers.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #factories-and-manufacturing, #germany, #henkel-kgaa, #kinexon, #national-basketball-assn, #poland, #sensors, #wearable-computing


Poland’s GeneMe secures €5.2M seed funding for its rapid COVID-19 test

GeneMe, Poland-based biotechnology company with a COVID-19 test, has secured a €5.2M round of seed funding led by Robin Tombs, co-Founder of Yoti and previously of Gamesys, and other angel investors.

The startup has developed and patented a universal protein (polymerase) for RT-LAMP testing, which allows the production of highly accurate, rapid, molecular genetic COVID tests. It has three molecular NAAT COVID-19 tests: FRANKD, SAVD, and ICED. FRANKD is CE IVD-approved and FDA EUA-applied, and its solution is already utilized in over twenty countries. FRANKD has been identified, through official research made by the Scottish government, as the most accurate, rapid COVID-19 test on the market. The FRANKD solution has already been used by Heathrow Airport, Virgin Atlantic and TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

Dawid Nidzworski, CEO of GeneMe said: “We’re interested not only in health issues, but also in genetic predispositions, such as talents, sports abilities, learning problems, or caffeine metabolism. In the future, everyone will be able to conduct genetic analysis at home.”

Robin Tombs, Co-Founder of Yoti said: “GeneMe’s innovative approach will be highly disruptive over coming years, enabling more regular testing at point of care at much lower cost.”

GeneMe is a spin-oout from The Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine (IBMM), an independent biomedical research institution.

Recently, the company announced a partnership with U.S.-based BIOLYPH, the world leader in lyophilization services, to scale up FRANKD and SAVD significantly.

GeneMe’s patented technology simplifies the entire testing procedure compared to standard laboratory-based RT-PCR tests. RT-LAMP tests are more effective, which means results can be trusted. GeneMe’s testing technology can also be assembled at point-of-care, which makes it possible to integrate highly accurate testing stations at places of work and in locations with high throughput, such as international borders.

The global COVID-19 diagnostics market size is estimated at $84.4B in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1% from 2021 to 2027 (Grand View Research).

#biology, #biotechnology, #ceo, #co-founder, #europe, #fda, #poland, #tc, #united-kingdom, #virgin-atlantic, #yoti


Brainly raises $80M as its platform for crowdsourced homework help balloons to 350M users

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a major upswing in virtual learning — where some schools have gone (and stayed) remote, and others have incorporated significantly stronger online components, in order to help communities maintain more social distancing. That has in turn led to a surge in the usage of tools to help home learners do their work better, and today, one of them is announcing a growth round that speaks to the opportunity in that market.

Brainly, a startup from Poland that has built a popular network for students and their parents to engage with each other for advice and help with homework questions, has raised $80 million, a series D that it will be using both to continue building out the tools that it offers to students as well as to hone in on expansion in some key emerging markets such as Indonesia and Brazil. The news comes on the heels of dramatic growth for the company, which has seen its user base grow from 150 million users in 2019 to 350 million today.

The funding is being led by previous backer Learn Capital, with past investors Prosus Ventures, Runa Capital, MantaRay, and General Catalyst Partners also participating. The company has now raised some $150 million and while it’s not disclosing valuation, CEO and co-founder Michał Borkowski confirmed it is “definitely” an upround for the company. For more context, Pitchbook estimates that the company was valued at $180 million in its last round, a Series C of $30 million in 2019.

That C round was raised specifically to help Brainly grow in the U.S. It currently has some 30 million users in that market, and it happens to be the only one in which Brainly is monetising users. Everywhere else, Brainly is currently free to use. (In the U.S. there are also some formidable competitors, like Chegg, which has strong traction in the market of helping students with homework.)

“Brainly has become one of the world’s largest learning communities, achieving significant organic growth in over 35 countries,” said Vinit Sukhija, Partner at Learn Capital, in a statement.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Brainly was finding an audience with students — primarily those aged 13-19, said Borkowski — who were turning to the service to connect with people who could help them with homework when they found themselves at an impasse with, say, a math problem or getting to grips with the sequence of events that led to the revolutions of 1848. The platform is open-ended and is a little like a Quora for homework, in that people can find and answer questions they are interested in, as well as ask questions themselves.

That platform, however, took on a whole new dimension of importance with the shift to virtual learning, Borkowski said.

“In the western world, online education wasn’t a big investment area [pre-Covid] and that has changed a lot, with huge adoption by students, parents and teachers,” he said. “But that big transition, switching from offline to online, has left kids struggling because teachers have so much more to do, so they can’t engage in the same way.”

So with “homework” becoming “all work”, that has effectively led to needing more help than ever with home studies. And while many parents have tried to get more involved to make up the difference, “having parents as teachers has been hard,” he added. They may have been taught differently from how their kids are learning, or they don’t remember or know answers.

One thing that Brainly started to see, he said, was that with the pandemic more parents started using the app alongside students, either to work out answers together or to get the help themselves before helping their kids, with a number of these being from parents of kids younger than 13. He said that 15-20% of all new registrations currently are coming from parents.

Brainly up to now has been mainly focused on how to build out more tools for the students — and now parents — that use it, and has so far been about organic growth for those communities.

However, there is clearly scope to expand that to more educational stakeholders to better organise what kind of questions are answered and how. Borkowski said that the company has indeed been approached by educators, those building curriculums and others so that answers might tie in better with the kinds of questions that they are most likely to ask of students, although for now the company “wants to keep the focus on students and parents getting stuck.”

In terms of future products, Brainly is looking at ways of bringing in more tutoring, video and AI into the mix. The AI aspect is very interesting and will in fact tie in to wider curriculum coverage based on more localised needs. For example, if you ask for help with a particular kind of quadratic equation technique, you can then be served lots of same practice questions to help better learn and apply what you’ve just been learning, and you might even then get suggested related topics that will appear alongside that in a wider mathematics examination. And, you might be offered the chance to meet with a tutor for further help.

Tutoring, he said, is something that Brainly has already been quietly piloting and has run some 150,000 sessions to date. Having such a large user base, Borkowski said, helps the startup run services at scale while still effectively keeping them in test mode.

“It will be about looking at what students are studying and how to map that to the curriculum in the country, and what we can do to help with that.” Borkowski said. “But it will require a heavy lift and and machine learning to pinpoint students” for it to work properly, which is one reason it has yet to roll it out more comprehensively, he added.

Tutoring and more personalization are not the only areas where Brainly is actively testing out new services. The company is also creating more space for adding in video to demonstrate different techniques (which I suspect is especially good for something like mathematics, but equally helpful for, say, an art technique).

There are “thousands per week” being added already, but as with tutoring “that, for us, is a testing stage,” added Borkowski. There should be more coming in Q1 about new products, he said.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #brainly, #brazil, #e-commerce, #education, #europe, #funding, #gamification, #general-catalyst, #general-catalyst-partners, #homework, #indonesia, #machine-learning, #online-education, #poland, #prosus-ventures, #quora, #runa-capital, #subscription-services, #tc, #united-states


E.U. Agrees to Cut Emissions by 2030 in New Climate Deal

The agreement calls for European Union countries to cut their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels, a more substantial reduction than previously proposed.

#brussels-belgium, #europe, #european-commission, #european-parliament, #european-union, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #poland, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change


E.U. Insists on Rule of Law in Emerging Deal With Hungary and Poland

Leaders will meet Thursday to work out a compromise with the two holdouts, who have vetoed the bloc’s budget and stimulus plans over threats that they will lose access to funds.

#budgets-and-budgeting, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #democracy-theory-and-philosophy, #european-commission, #european-union, #hungary, #orban-viktor, #poland, #politics-and-government, #stimulus-economic


In Poland, Protests Over Abortion Ban Could Revolutionize Politics

The government’s conservative social policies, closely tied to the Catholic Church, have met with a backlash from women hoping to change a political culture that developed after Communism fell.

#abortion, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #law-and-legislation, #poland, #politics-and-government, #women-and-girls


The E.U. Puts Its Foot Down on the Rule of Law

While the leaders of Hungary and Poland resist.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #european-union, #fidesz-party, #hungary, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #law-and-justice-poland, #merkel-angela, #orban-viktor, #poland, #politics-and-government


Hungary, Poland Threaten E.U. Stimulus Over Rule of Law Links

The two illiberal governments, having been enabled by the bloc’s leaders and evaded punishment, now hold a 1.8 trillion euro package hostage.

#budgets-and-budgeting, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #european-commission, #european-parliament, #european-union, #hungary, #legislatures-and-parliaments, #merkel-angela, #morawiecki-mateusz, #orban-viktor, #poland, #politics-and-government, #stimulus-economic


The Apocalyptic Politics of the Populist Right

By refusing to concede, Trump has sent a message to his fellow strongmen that this is a fight for survival.

#duda-andrzej-1972, #hungary, #orban-viktor, #poland, #presidential-election-of-2020, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government


European Union Tries to Counter Anti-L.G.B.T.Q. Wave in Hungary and Poland

The bloc is trying to stop the Eastern European member nations from advancing discriminatory measures, but its legal powers are limited.

#discrimination, #european-union, #hate-crimes, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #hungary, #poland, #politics-and-government, #transgender-and-transsexuals, #womens-rights


Poland Delays a Near-Total Ban on Abortion

The move came after two weeks of protests that were the most intense in the country since the 1989 collapse of communism.

#abortion, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #law-and-legislation, #poland, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #women-and-girls


Women Converge on Warsaw, Largest Protests in Poland in Decades

Outraged by a court decision to ban nearly all abortions, hundreds of thousands have taken part in demonstrations over the past week. The action in Warsaw on Friday was expected to be the biggest so far.

#abortion, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #duda-andrzej-1972, #europe, #european-union, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #law-and-justice-poland, #morawiecki-mateusz, #poland, #politics-and-government, #roman-catholic-church, #tvp-polish-television, #warsaw-poland, #women-and-girls


Taco Hemingway Agonizes About His Role in Poland’s Culture Wars

Taco Hemingway became one of his country’s biggest rappers with tracks about partying. This summer, his focus changed and so did the kind of attention he got.

#content-type-personal-profile, #poland, #politics-and-government, #polskie-tango-song, #rap-and-hip-hop, #szczesniak-filip-taco-hemingway, #warsaw-poland


Protests in Poland Over Abortion Law Continue for Sixth Day

The leader of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accused demonstrators of seeking the destruction of the nation and appealed to supporters to “defend Poland.”

#abortion, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #legislatures-and-parliaments, #poland, #warsaw-poland, #women-and-girls


Why a New Abortion Ban in Poland is Causing a Furor

The ruling party has tried and failed in the Parliament to restrict abortion. Now the courts it controls have done it, instead, sparking the biggest protests since the government came to power.

#abortion, #churches-buildings, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #duda-andrzej-1972, #law-and-justice-poland, #poland, #roman-catholic-church, #womens-rights


President Andrzej Duda of Poland Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A spokesman said the head of state was feeling well despite a positive test result. A second political leader is also in isolation after he came in contact with an infected person.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #duda-andrzej-1972, #poland


After Fleeing Poland, an Antiracism Activist Finds Refuge in Norway

A decision to grant asylum on political grounds highlights growing concerns over democratic backsliding in Poland.

#asylum-right-of, #gawel-rafal, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #law-and-justice-poland, #norway, #poland


World War II-Era ‘Earthquake Bomb’ Explodes in Polish Waters

Polish Navy divers tried to remotely neutralize a six-ton “Tallboy” dropped by the British, but the bomb had no intention of going quietly.

#bombs-and-explosives, #defense-and-military-forces, #poland, #royal-air-force, #world-war-ii-1939-45


Battle Over Mink Fur Almost Brings Down the Polish Government

Legislation to ban mink farming cracked the governing coalition, forcing the country’s most powerful politician to assume formal office and exposing a struggle for control of Polish conservatism.

#agriculture-and-farming, #animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #animals, #duda-andrzej-1972, #european-union, #fur, #law-and-justice-poland, #minks-animals, #morawiecki-mateusz, #poland, #politics-and-government, #radio-maryja, #ziobro-zbigniew


Belarus and Turkey Top a Thorny Agenda at E.U. Summit

The delay in punishing Belarus for the crackdown that followed its flawed elections had been a huge embarrassment for the bloc.

#belarus, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #european-union, #hungary, #poland, #turkey


10 Poland-based investors discuss trends, opportunities and the road ahead

Poland is becoming an important European tech ecosystem after experiencing record levels of investment and growth in recent years.

It’s the largest economy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), is known for its technical talent and has now nurtured a number of large startups that have raised multiple rounds of funding. In 2019, investment in Poland’s startups — with Warsaw being the biggest startup hub in the country — grew eight times year-on-year to reach €294 million. This was more than the combined amounts of the nine years prior. While investment has slowed due to the pandemic, it has not stopped. And of course, COVID-19 has only accelerated the pace of digital adoption inside the country itself.

A July 2020 report by Dealroom found over 2,400 Polish early- and later-stage startups, 97 venture capital funds and cataloged over 1,600 funding rounds in 2019. The country has over 401,000 engineers (twice that of Romania at 139,000). It also had twice the number of venture capital rounds in the region (823 compared to Estonia’s 477).

Polish startups are on a funding roll, as the average cheque size for pre-Seed-stage investments has almost tripled since 2013. At the same time, it’s attracting foreign investors. Codility and Nomagic were two startup investments that stood out this year so far. Nomagic, a smart “pick and place” robotic solution, attracted investment from the U.K.’s Hoxton Ventures and Khosla Ventures in the U.S.

Key, later-stage startups include Booksy, Brainly and Docplanner, while significant recent exits include Fibaro, PizzaPortal and Frisco. Poland has a sophisticated banking system, meaning there is an increasing number of fintech startups in the space.

Meanwhile, the startup ecosystem has, in recent years, been spreading outward from the capital, Warsaw, to Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław and Gdansk.

The country has also developed into a leading video game exporter. CD Projekt’s Witcher series was a big hit, based as it was on a series of best-selling Polish books, which were also the basis for a Netflix show.

According to data from PwC, Poland’s video game and esports market was worth $664 million in 2019 — up from $400 million in 2014 — and is predicted to climb to nearly $850 million over the next four years.

We asked 10 investors, principally based in Warsaw, to give us their take on where things are right now.

Bryony Cooper, managing partner, Arkley Brinc VC

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Deep tech topics including food and agritech, industrial IoT, media tech, cybersecurity and energy tech.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
We just closed a follow-on round in CyberHeaven sp. Z o.o., bringing the total investment to 4 million PLN ($1 million). Together with their partner company UseCrypt, they’re setting a new standard in data security with a complete ecosystem of tools to ensure the highest possible level of encryption. Trusted by major corporations, military and government organisations, they are soon to announce a partnership with a major TV network.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
I had a funny conversation with a friend the other day; we wondered how come cats and dogs can get a simple, six-month treatment to protect against ticks and fleas, but no such solution exists for humans?!
Many food and bio tech startups we see are in early/MVP stage; we’d like to see more in pilot stage, trialling/testing with customers.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We’re looking for experienced founders who have demonstrated their ability to execute and succeed in business, with beneficial strategic partnerships/network in place and a viable exit strategy. We’re particularly interested in deep tech startups with a physical/hardware aspect, at pilot stage.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
I’ve seen so many B2C home food growing/urban farming startups (hydroponics) — a nice idea, but I don’t believe it will take off. I’m also weary of consumer electronics and wearables that don’t deliver real value and are rather a gimmick.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We focus heavily on Poland (our local ecosystem), especially because our fund was created with the PFR Starter FIZ program from PFR Ventures (the Polish Development Fund). However we can invest into startups from any European country, and we review applications Europe-wide.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Of course COVID-19 has altered the answer to this question. Regardless of region, industries that are not affected by (or are benefiting from) the pandemic are best-positioned to thrive. That includes health and medtech, certain mobility sectors, remote work tools! As for Poland, there’s a strong resource pool for software and hardware capabilities at very competitive rates, so a wide range of industries can thrive here.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
In Warsaw and Poland, many new VC funds have been set up over the last 1-2 years, so there’s a lot of competition to find great startups. We differentiate ourselves by focusing on deep tech and hardware-related sectors (many others only invest into software/SaaS). Many Polish VCs are optimistic, but are focusing only on the current situation of companies — not thinking long term (i.e., exit strategy). I would definitely say the startup ecosystem in Poland is growing and should be considered as “one to watch” by global investors.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes, I do believe it is becoming less important to be located in a major city. More and more companies are making remote work possible, with more tools available for remote work and communication. Therefore location is no longer paramount to successful networking and meetings. The world is going virtual.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Many industries that require manufacturing of hardware or physical products have been affected by factory closures, putting time delays on production. Also, B2B food tech companies have struggled with the downturn in restaurant business, with supply chains and distribution channels affected. They have to rethink their business models. Whereas ordering take-out food and any on-demand/home delivery services are on the rise, opening up new opportunities (though this trend began years ago).

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
The main concerns are about delays in production, or that B2B customers are less open to making new investments/purchases at the moment with so much economic uncertainty. Some of our portfolio companies (such as Cyberheaven, mentioned above) are going full speed ahead. The global discussions on data privacy raised by health-tracking apps have opened up many opportunities for them, as more corporations and individuals are prioritising protecting personal data.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
We see some acceleration, some slowing down but no stopping!

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Seeing our team consistently keep up momentum and adapt so quickly to remote work has given me hope. Also seeing our portfolio companies assess and adapt to “the new normal” with total confidence in achieving their goals.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Startups should not lose faith due to COVID-19. Consumers and businesses still have needs to be fulfilled. Opportunities may change, but there are still plenty out there. And let’s not forget the importance of fighting climate change and the UN Sustainable Development goals! We’re happy with how our Q4 pipeline is looking 🙂

#central-europe, #covid-19, #europe, #poland, #tc, #warsaw


Belarus Protest Leader Vanishes Amid Reports of Masked Abductors

With large-scale demonstrations showing little sign of winding down, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko’s security forces appear to have shifted from mass repression to more targeted disappearances.

#babariko-viktor, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #kgb, #lithuania, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #maria-kolesnikova, #minsk-belarus, #poland, #russia


The 22-Year-Old Coordinating Protests in Belarus, From a Small Office in Poland

Stepan Svetlov hasn’t set foot in Belarus for two years. But his social media profile is now a lodestar for demonstrators back home.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #lukashenko-aleksandr-g, #minsk-belarus, #poland, #social-media, #stepan-svetlov, #telegram, #voter-fraud-election-fraud


Cosmose, a platform that analyzes foot traffic in physical stores, gets $15 million Series A

Cosmose, a platform that tracks foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to help companies predict customer behavior, announced today it has raised a $15 million Series A. The round was by Tiga Investments, with participation from returning investors OTB Ventures and TDJ Pitango, who co-led Cosmose’s seed round last year. The company said its valuation is now more than $100 million.

The Series A will be used for product development and geographic expansion, starting with Southeast Asian markets this year, followed by the Middle East and India. Chief executive officer Miron Mironiuk, who founded Cosmose in 2014, said its goal is to break even and generate profit by 2021.

Cosmose has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and Warsaw, where is software engineering team is based. Most of the stores its tech is currently use in are in China and Japan, and its clients include companies like Walmart, Marriott, Samsung, and LVMH.

As companies try to recover from the impact of COVID-19, Mironiuk said Cosmose’s platform has helped clients make decisions about when to reopen stores and what kind of inventory to stock, and how to increase revenue. For example, ‘some shops wanted to connect with customers who used to shop in their physical locations and encourage them to buy online,” he said. “Hotels in Japan were focused on promoting their in-house restaurants to local residents to make up for the lost revenue.” The company is also working with Boston Consulting Group on a report called “COVID-19 offline retail recovery traffic in China” for publication next week.

Mironiuk said that a PwC audit of the platform’s accuracy completed in December 2019 confirmed its ability to track customers within 1.6 meters of their location in a store, and that its data ecosystem now comprises of more than one billion smartphones and 360,000 stores. Cosmose’s plan is to grow that to two billion smartphones and 10 million stores by 2022.

The company offers three main products: Cosmose Analytics, which tracks customers’ movements inside brick-and-mortar stores; Cosmose AI, a data analytics and prediction platform to help retailers create marketing campaigns and increase sales; and Cosmose Media, for targeting online ads.

Cosmose does not require hardware installation, which means no regular maintenance is required after Cosmose maps a store, and helps it differentiate from rivals.

There are other companies that also analyze foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, including RetailNext and ShopperTrak, but being tracked might alarm customers who are concerned about their privacy. Mironiuk said all of the smartphone data Cosmose AI gathers is anonymized, so the company doesn’t know who shoppers are. The platform uses alphanumeric IDs called OMNIcookies, does not collect personal data like phone MAC addresses, mobile numbers, or email addresses, and follows data privacy laws in each of the countries it operates in. It also allows shoppers to opt-out of tracking.

In a press statement about the investment, Raymond Zage, the CEO and founder of Tiga Investments, said “I was attracted by the strong results Cosmose is already achieving for some of the world’s recognizable brands, while simultaneously ensuring user privacy is protected. Cosmose team is saving stores while enhancing consumer experience.”

#adtech, #asia, #brick-and-mortar, #china, #cosmose, #cosmose-ai, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #poland, #retail-tracking, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc


Here are four areas the $311 billion CPPIB investment fund thinks will be impacted by COVID-19

The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, an asset manager controlling around $311 billion in assets for the Canada’s pensioners and retirees, has identified four key industries that are set to experience massive changes as a result of the global economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The firm expects the massive changes in e-commerce, healthcare, logistics, and urban infrastructure to remain in place for an extended period of time and is urging investors to rethink their approaches to each as a result.

“It really ties into the mandate that we have in thematic investing,” said Leon Pedersen, the head of Thematic Investments at CPPIB.

There was a realization at the firm that structural changes were happening and that there was value for the fund manager in ensuring that the changes were being addressed across its broad investment portfolio. “We have a long term mandate and we have a long term investment horizon so we can afford to think long term in our investment outlook,” Pedersen said.

The Thematic Investments group within CPPIB will make mid-cap, small-cap and private investments in companies that reflect the firm’s long term theses, according to Pedersen. So not only does this survey indicate where the firm sees certain industries going, but it’s also a sign of where CPPIB might commit some investment capital.

The research, culled from international surveys with over 3,500 respondents as well as intensive conversations with the firm’s investment professionals and portfolio companies, indicates that there’s likely a new baseline in e-commerce usage that will continue to drive growth among companies that offer blended retail offerings and that offices are likely never going to return to full-time occupancy by every corporate employee.

Already CPPIB has made investments in companies like Fabric, a warehouse management and automation company.

The e-commerce wave has crested, but the tide may turn

Amid the good news for e-commerce companies is a word of warning for companies in the online grocery space. While usage surged to 31 percent of U.S. households, up from 13 percent in August, consumers gave the service poor marks and many grocers are actually losing money on online orders. The move online also favored bigger omni-channel vendors like Amazon and Walmart, the study found.

The CPPIB also found that there may be opportunities for brick and mortar vendors in the aftermath of the epidemic. As younger consumers return to shopping center they’re going to find fewer retailers available, since bankruptcies are coming in both the US and Europe. That could open the door for new brands to emerge. Meanwhile, in China, more consumers are moving offline with malls growing and customers returning to shopping centers.

Some of the biggest winners will actually be online entertainment and cashless payments — since fewer stores are accepting cash and music and video streaming represent low-risk, easier options than live events or movie theaters.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 30: General views of tourists and shoppers returning to the Hollywood & Highland shopping mall for the first weekend of in-store retail business being open since COVID-19 closures began in mid-March on May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Healthcare goes digital and privacy matters more than ever

Consumers in the West, already reluctant to hand over personal information, have become even more sensitive to government handling of their information despite the public health benefits of tracking and tracing, according to the CPPIB. In Germany and the U.S. half of consumers said they had concerns about sharing their data with government or corporations, compared with less than 20 percent of Chinese survey respondents.

However, even as people are more reluctant to share personal information with governments or corporations, they’re becoming more willing to share personal information over technology platforms. One-third of the patients who used tele-medical services in the U.S. during the pandemic did so for the first time. And roughly twenty percent of the nation had a telemedicine consultation over the course of the year, according to CPPIB data.

Technologies that improve the experience are likely to do well, because of the people who did try telemedicine, satisfaction levels in the service went down.

DENVER, CO – MARCH 12: Healthcare workers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment check in with people waiting to be tested for COVID-19 at the state’s first drive-up testing center on March 12, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. The testing center is free and available to anyone who has a note from a doctor confirming they meet the criteria to be tested for the virus. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Cities and infrastructure will change

“From mass transit to public gatherings, few areas of urban life will be left unmarked by COVID-19,” write the CPPIB report authors.

Remote work will accelerate dramatically changing the complexion of downtown environments as the breadth of amenities on offer will spread to suburban communities where residents flock.  According to CPPIB’s data roughly half of workers in China, the UK and the US worked from home during the pandemic, up from 5 percent or less in 2019. In Canada, four-in-ten Canadian were telecommuting.

To that end, the CPPIB sees opportunities for companies enabling remote work (including security, collaboration and productivity technologies) and automating business practices. On the flip side, for those workers who remain wedded to the office by necessity or natural inclination, there’s going to need to be cleaning and sanitation services and someone’s going to have to provide some COVID-19 specific tools.

With personal space at a premium, public transit and ride hailing is expected to take a hit as well, according to the CPPIB report.

New York City, NY is shown in the above Maxar satellite image. Image Credit: Maxar

Supply chains become the ties that bind in a distributed, virtual world

As more aspects of daily life become socially distanced and digital, supply chains will assume an even more central position in the economy.

“Amid rising labor costs and heightened geopolitical risk, companies today are focused on resilience,” write the CPPIB authors.

Companies are reassessing their reliance on Chinese manufacturing since political pressure is coming from more regions on Chinese suppliers thanks to the internment of the Uighur population in Xinjiang and the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democratic and open society. According to CPPIB, India, Southeast Asia, and regional players like Mexico and Poland are best positioned to benefit from this supply chain diversification. Supply chain management software providers, and robotics and automation services stand to benefit.

“Confined to their homes for months and subjected to a rapid reordering of their perceived health risks and economic prospects, consumers are emerging from a shared trauma that will change their priorities and concerns for years to come,” the CPPIB study’s authors write.

#amazon, #asset-manager, #canada, #canada-pension-plan, #china, #e-commerce, #economy, #europe, #fabric, #finance, #germany, #head, #healthcare, #india, #manufacturing, #mexico, #online-entertainment, #poland, #retail, #southeast-asia, #tc, #telecommuting, #telemedicine, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #urban-infrastructure, #walmart


Polish Cleric Retires in Face of Cover-Up Accusations. It’s Not Enough, Critics Say.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz of Poland, a move seen as a subtle rebuke. But far more is needed to address the abuse of children by priests, advocates say.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #francis, #gdansk-poland, #poland, #priests, #roman-catholic-church, #sex-crimes


Remembering Poland’s Doomed Fight Against the Nazis

Roger Moorhouse’s “Poland 1939” looks back at the very beginning of World War II to understand what happened and what might have happened.

#books-and-literature, #germany, #hitler-adolf, #holocaust-and-the-nazi-era, #moorhouse-roger, #poland, #poland-1939-the-outbreak-of-world-war-ii-book, #russia, #stalin-joseph, #world-war-ii-1939-45


Poland’s Supreme Court Declares Presidential Election Valid

The decision comes after supporters of the opposition candidate filed protests questioning the narrow victory for the incumbent, Andrzej Duda.

#courts-and-the-judiciary, #duda-andrzej-1972, #law-and-justice-poland, #organization-for-security-and-cooperation-in-europe, #poland, #politics-and-government, #trzaskowski-rafal, #voting-and-voters, #warsaw-poland


Buildots raises $16M to bring computer vision to construction management

Buildots, a Tel Aviv and London-based startup that is using computer vision to modernize the construction management industry, today announced that it has raised $16 million in total funding. This includes a $3 million seed round that was previously unreported and a $13 million Series A round, both led by TLV Partners. Other investors include Innogy Ventures, Tidhar Construction Group, Ziv Aviram (co-founder of Mobileye & OrCam), Magma Ventures head Zvika Limon, serial entrepreneurs Benny Schnaider and  Avigdor Willenz, as well as Tidhar chairman Gil Geva.

The idea behind Buildots is pretty straightforward. The team is using hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras to allow project managers at construction sites to get an overview of the state of a project and whether it remains on schedule. The company’s software creates a digital twin of the construction site, using the architectural plans and schedule as its basis, and then uses computer vision to compare what the plans say to the reality that its tools are seeing. With this, Buildots can immediately detect when there’s a power outlet missing in a room or whether there’s a sink that still needs to be installed in a kitchen, for example.

“Buildots have been able to solve a challenge that for many seemed unconquerable, delivering huge potential for changing the way we complete our projects,” said Tidhar’s Geva in a statement. “The combination of an ambitious vision, great team and strong execution abilities quickly led us from being a customer to joining as an investor to take part in their journey.”

The company was co-founded in 2018 by Roy Danon, Aviv Leibovici and Yakir Sundry. Like so many Israeli startups, the founders met during their time in the Israeli Defense Forces, where they graduated from the Talpiot unit.

“At some point, like many of our friends, we had the urge to do something together — to build a company, to start something from scratch,” said Danon, the company’s CEO. “For us, we like getting our hands dirty. We saw most of our friends going into the most standard industries like cloud and cyber and storage and things that obviously people like us feel more comfortable in, but for some reason we had like a bug that said, ‘we want to do something that is a bit harder, that has a bigger impact on the world.’ ”

So the team started looking into how it could bring technology to traditional industries like agriculture, finance and medicine, but then settled upon construction thanks to a chance meeting with a construction company. For the first six months, the team mostly did research in both Israel and London to understand where it could provide value.

Danon argues that the construction industry is essentially a manufacturing industry, but with very outdated control and process management systems that still often relies on Excel to track progress.

Image Credits: Buildots

Construction sites obviously pose their own problems. There’s often no Wi-Fi, for example, so contractors generally still have to upload their videos manually to Buildots’ servers. They are also three dimensional, so the team had to develop systems to understand on what floor a video was taken, for example, and for large indoor spaces, GPS won’t work either.

The teams tells me that before the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was mostly focused on Israel and the U.K., but the pandemic actually accelerated its push into other geographies. It just started work on a large project in Poland and is scheduled to work on another one in Japan next month.

Because the construction industry is very project-driven, sales often start with getting one project manager on board. That project manager also usually owns the budget for the project, so they can often also sign the check, Danon noted. And once that works out, then the general contractor often wants to talk to the company about a larger enterprise deal.

As for the funding, the company’s Series A round came together just before the lockdowns started. The company managed to bring together an interesting mix of investors from both the construction and technology industries.

Now, the plan is to scale the company, which currently has 35 employees, and figure out even more ways to use the data the service collects and make it useful for its users. “We have a long journey to turn all the data we have into supporting all the workflows on a construction site,” said Danon. “There are so many more things to do and so many more roles to support.”

Image Credits: Buildots

#agriculture, #avigdor-willenz, #buildots, #cloud, #construction-site, #cyber, #enterprise, #finance, #fundings-exits, #gps, #israel, #japan, #london, #magma-ventures, #medicine, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #mobileye, #poland, #recent-funding, #science-and-technology, #startups, #technology, #tel-aviv, #tlv-partners, #united-kingdom


When Conservatives Fall for Demagogues

A debate with “Twilight of Democracy” author Anne Applebaum.

#applebaum-anne, #bush-george-w, #great-britain-withdrawal-from-eu-brexit, #orban-viktor, #poland, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #twilight-of-democracy-the-seductive-lure-of-the-authoritarian-state-book, #united-states-politics-and-government


Twilight of the Liberal Right

Conservatism always contained the seeds of authoritarianism.

#applebaum-anne, #books-and-literature, #cold-war-era, #conservatism-us-politics, #ingraham-laura-a, #liberalism-us-politics, #poland, #politics-and-government, #twilight-of-democracy-the-seductive-lure-of-the-authoritarian-state-book, #united-states-politics-and-government, #ussr-former-soviet-union


Poland Considers Leaving Treaty on Domestic Violence, Spurring Outcry

The European treaty was intended to protect women from abuse, but it has become a target for populist and nationalist leaders who claim it poses a threat to “traditional families.”

#domestic-violence, #europe, #law-and-legislation, #poland, #politics-and-government, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights


Hungary’s Independent Press Takes Another Blow and Reporters Quit

The concentration of control of the media in Hungary by the government is part of a troubling pattern in Central Europe, where Poland’s press also faces pressure following a presidential election.

#central-europe, #european-union, #freedom-of-the-press, #hungary, #kaczynski-jaroslaw, #law-and-justice-poland, #media, #news-and-news-media, #orban-viktor, #poland, #propaganda


A Director Brings Cerebral, Sexy Style to Opera Classics

Krzysztof Warlikowski, who is staging “Elektra” at the Salzburg Festival, gives ancient myths a contemporary flavor.

#electra-play, #elektra-opera, #opera, #poland, #poniedzialek-jacek, #salzburg-festival, #strauss-richard, #szczesniak-malgorzata, #theater, #warlikowski-krzysztof


Why Intellectuals Support Dictators

Anne Applebaum’s “Twilight of Democracy” examines the role of thinkers and writers who back modern authoritarians.

#applebaum-anne, #books-and-literature, #democracy-theory-and-philosophy, #law-and-justice-poland, #poland, #politics-and-government, #soros-george, #twilight-of-democracy-the-seductive-lure-of-the-authoritarian-state-book


Poland’s Presidential Election Was Close but Voters Remain Far Apart

President Andrzej Duda won a narrow victory after a bitter, polarizing campaign that tore at the social fabric of the country. The results are likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court.

#duda-andrzej-1972, #elections, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #law-and-justice-poland, #poland, #trzaskowski-rafal, #warsaw-poland