NLAB. The First Cohort
Akanza. Nexbio. SPINO. Clinic Hunter. The First Cohort. 3 Barts & Mart, who thanks to the NLAB: Nevada-Lubelskie Acceleration Bridge found themselves in Nevada. For long? What did they go with and what they managed to achieve? You will find out from our reportage. ⤵
NLAB. The First Cohort
It's nearly 40 minutes of Las Vegas interviews and shots you do not know.
These are the statements of people who worked hard on presentations, B2B meetings and modifications of their business models for 2 weeks.
These are the statements of the mentors from the state of Nevada who accepted and evaluated the business potential of our compatriots.
This is the material you have to see if you've ever thought about foreign expansion, but you were afraid to try. ↘
NLAB. The First Cohort. Interviews with entrepreneurs who, thanks to the NLAB: Nevada-Lublin Acceleration Bridge competition, left for Nevada to expand abroad to the US market.
The NLAB: Nevada-Lublin Acceleration Bridge is the first such program to be implemented in the transatlantic dimension at the regional and state level. The Lublin Voivodeship made the decision on its implementation with partners from Nevada in 2017 and that same year, on October 17, during the joint conference, the then Marshal Sławomir Sosnowski, then Deputy Speaker Krzysztof Grabczuk and Governor of the State of Nevada, Brian Sandoval signed a letter of intent to implement the NLAB program. Since then, work has begun on the details of the project, under which a technical dialogue was conducted with entities specializing in the development of start-up activities.
Krzysztof Buczyński, Pro-Export Specialist and Investment Pilot at the Marshal's Office of the Lublin Voivodship asked a few questions for entrepreneurs while their visit in Nevada.
Paweł Pietrasieński, Director of Special Projects, Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Paweł Pietrasieński: Today we start the second week of the Lubelskie’s acceleration program in the state of Nevada. We have just finished a week of intensive meetings in Northern Nevada (Carson City, Reno, Lake Tahoe Region). Now we begin the second part devoted mainly to the city of Las Vegas and its local ecosystem.
I must admit that the companies that are with us are getter stronger and stronger from meeting to meeting. Their first pitching, which was organized just after their arrival, was beautifully polished. The mentors have changed a lot, not only in the way of presenting, because this is a secondary issue, but most of all, they have some hae adapted their business models. One could say that minute by minute, day by day, their chances of finding a partner or a business inwestor, individual or corporate client are increasing. All thanks to their offers being better tailored to the local market.
The majority of participants have already declared that they will be returning here. There is no doubt, and this is what we hear from the best mentors around, that closing deals with a signed contract, take time. A crucial thing has been created, a mutual form of trust, i.e. companies begin to trust mentors, and mentors begin to believe that there is a great potential in them. The aim is to set up office here, through Nevada and having access to the largest consumer market in the world for companies from the Lubelskie Voivodeship.
Krzysztof Buczyński: What else awaits us this week?
Paweł Pietrasieński: We have arranged many different kinds of attractions for companies. First of all, we chose Work In Progress as our meeting point, which is incredibly located in downtown Las Vegas, at the same time it is a popular meeting point for many financial and marketing organisations. This can be very useful for companies. Tomorrow there are one-on-one meetings here. We will be also visiting a number of companies in which Americans of Polish origin play a significant role. Tomorrow we will be in one of the largest engineering companies in Nevada AHERN and there we will be hosted by Tom Wilczek, Business Development Director. His surname is not accidental - a Pole, who has already visited Lublin.
Moreover, we will also meet our strategic partner, the Polish-American Chamber of Commerce, which have great know-how about trade and other relations between Poland and the United States, in particular the state of Nevada.
We will also visit other Chambers of Commerce, but most importantly, we will visit Nevada's largest technology company, SWITCH, in their commercial area. There we will also meet representatives from Nevada in Las Vegas, who, by the way, are very interested in the development of academic-research relations with universities in Lubelskie Voivodship, which is a distinction for us, but also a challenge that we have to face in building this partnership. On one hand it is dedicated to supporting companies, to present them as well as introduce to local business networks, but on the other hand we are aware that all this must be accompanied by ever stronger relations between the governments of the State of Nevada and the Marshal's Office and the authorities of the Lublin Province, as well as between individual institutions, and here we count very much on cooperation, in particular between the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and also the International Institute of Games, which is the leader on this global gaming market, with institutions and companies from the Lublin province.
Bartosz Wawrzyszak, SPINO
Krzysztof Buczyński: We are in Vegas, it’s the second week of the NLAB acceleration program. What are your impressions following the first week in North Nevada and after your first day in Vegas?
Bartosz Wawrzyszak: I think that the range of possibilities that has been presented to us in North Nevada is brilliant, it’s been simply extremely extensive. What positively surprised me compared to the experience with European investors was to receive criticism, but at the same time to open ten other doors through American partners, how to overcome current problems and assimilate with the American market in a way that will allow us to succeed here. When one door closes, ten more doors open to us, and that is very nice.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Is this the greates value you see in the program?
Bartosz Wawrzyszak: I think that the greatest value are the people who organized it, both on the Lubelskie and Nevada side, because nothing would happen without the people involved. A program is a program, an agenda is an agenda, but it is the people who give the momentum. This is something that should be noticed and I, as a startup founder, confirm it works. I can recommend the NLab cooperation to any startup interested in expanding into foreign markets.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Deciding to participate in this project from the very beginning, from the moment you submitted your application, you certainly had some expectations and some uncertainty as to what to expect from this program. Have your expectations been met so far?
Bartosz Wawrzyszak: The short answer is yes. All my expectations are fulfilled. I have a slight advantage over the rest participating startups because I graduated from school and university in the United States, so I’m familiar with American dydnamics, I know what this nation is able to do and what it offers, also enrolling in the American program organized by the Polish government, I had some concerns, that it will be influenced by our national scepticism, but nothing of this occured, it is also a 100% American experience, the people who are here are incredibly open but also ready to help, so companies that want to come here in the future should be ready to be extremely busy.
Bartłomiej Bielecki, AKANZA
Krzysztof Buczyński: We started the second week of the acceleration program in Nevada. As a representative of AKANZA, what are your impressions following your first week of this business trip?
Bartłomiej Bielecki: We spent the first week in Reno in the North of Nevada. We had a huge number of meetings, both with people representing the authorities, as well as a meetings at the university, a meeting with business mentors and basically with the entire business environment that operates there. We are very happy because we have had many very promising meetings. We received some great feedback from the people who came to these meetings.
The cooperation between Paweł Pietresinski and the rest of the team is very well organized, we also appreciate his help in this matter. Our meetings resulted in the fact that we decided our business will go in a slightly different direction than we initially planned, we will focus on the gaming industry, which is the leading one in the state of Nevada.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Was it your intention to join the program and be open to suggestions, recommendations, that may require you to change something, or is it something that surprised you, that during the course of the program we have to adapt our business to actually tailor it to Nevada? Was this something that you had taken into account before, or not?
Bartłomiej Bielecki: Of course, in business, especially in IT, you have to be ready for such changes when entering a new market, contacting new people, having great feedback from them. It is very often the case that the project goes a little bit in a different direction than it was originally supposed to go. I think this is not only my impression, but also that of the other members of our first cohort.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Answering briefly - yes or no - are you satisfied?
Bartłomiej Bielecki: We are very pleased to be here, very positively surprised by the organization and effectiveness of our activities here.
Marek Golan, AKANZA
Krzysztof Buczyński: Mark, you are in an unusual situation compared to other company representatives here, you decided to accompany the representative of your company, who took part in the acceleration process in Lublin. You’re both representing your company.
Marek Golan: Yes, that’s right, thanks to the NLAB program, our company had the opportunity to participate in this programme, which we are very happy about, and that we were in the group of ten companies that have the opportunity to present our business in front of potential investors or other business partners in Nevada. However, because only one member of our team could participate in this program, I decided to invest in joining my colleague and participate in this program at my own cost.
I'm here for the first day, but from what I've noticed so far, it's really a very professionally prepared program. I am very impressed with how much the American part is involved in the NLAB program.
Krzysztof Buczyński: What are your expectations of your personal participation? From the CEO's point of view: Are you here to find out what is happening here and what support can people from Nevada actually offer?
Marek Golan: Generally, my approach or Bartek's approach is the same. We are a company that wants to scale to foreign markets. Looking at Nevada's approach to this type of cooperation, I see that we have such an opportunity, an opportunity to work here in the local market. We also know that a lot depends on us. What we do here now will have an impact on whether or not we can enter the American market.
Marcin Stachyra, NEXBIO
Krzysztof Buczyński: You are with your company here as a member of this first group, we’re all calling this the "cohort" of startups taking part in this acceleration program in Nevada. What impressions do you have after the first week? Now we have started the second week, but what impressions do you have from the first week and the support that you have received here from the Nevada partners?
Marcin Stachyra: My impressions are very positive, it was a very intensive week. The second one looks to be similar. What is invaluable for visits like this one is the opportunity to establish direct contacts with both the institutions that support business coming to Nevada, as well as with potential partners. It has to be said that building connection this way is a lot faster. In the case of this project, after one or two meetings we have many contacts, which (and this depends on us and our partners) can be used in a great way in the near future, in other words – only advantages.
Krzysztof Buczyński: And if you were to advise companies that didn’t apply to participate in our pilot project, assuming that we would also implement it in the future, what would you like to say to them- is it worth it?
Marcin Stachyra: I think you don't have to be afraid. Certainly for small companies, for startups the challenge is the fact that it is associated with a two-week trip (in this case). It is sometimes difficult to leave the business behind in Poland, but I think that if you can delegate operational activities internally, it is worth doing.
Nevada is a gateway to the whole of the United States. In our case, we are a biotechnology company, operating in the agritech sector, we treat Nevada as a place from which we can go to neighboring states, where agriculture is a huge part of the economy, such as California, for example, or Idaho, but in Nevada itself we managed to get some nice, valuable contacts, which may pay off in the future.
Krzysztof Buczyński: This is a pilot project, as we have mentioned many times, consisting of two parts: the Bootcamp Lubelskie stage, which we already have behind us – this helped us select the winning ten startups that now have the chance to come here, and of course the acceleration program in Nevada. In your view, what was the greatest added value for your company?
Marcin Stachyra: We are still here and in the process, but I can already say that we are getting to know the mechanisms of the functioning of the American market, and also the institutions surrounding business, which are are very well-developed here. Reno and Carson City, where we were in the first week, are relatively small centres but thanks to this the distance between people, organisations and companies is very small. Coming from Poland, we are also shortening this distance. It can help companies that are seriously thinking about setting up a branch, or setting up a new entity in the United States, and have access from the funds that are provided locally for companies based in the United States. This is already worth emphasizing. If someone really thinks about opening a branch here, the NLAB acceleration program is a great opportunity to do so.
Bartosz Prokopowicz, Clinic Hunter
Krzysztof Buczyński: Your time in Nevada, and the acceleration program is coming to an end. What are your impressions, who have you met here, what have you done? What refelctions do you have following these two weeks in Nevada?
Bartosz Prokopowicz: First of all, I am very pleased. It's hard to describe it in a few words. Many amazing meetings with many people. What I learned on the first day is that in America it's all about relationships and you can achieve a lot with the right people backing you. If you don't know anyone, it's very difficult to do anything here. We had meetings with startup founders and government representatives, with institutions that support business, covering the whole spectrum. It is hard for me to remember all the people I met, over fifty new contacts on LinkedIn, at least. This was certainly the biggest benefit. Also, seeing how business is done here. We visited a few companies, a few start-ups, which you can often only watch on TV. Just like in Silicon Valley, startup operate in the same way here in Nevada. So, it was very inspiring to see such startups.
As far as our business is concerned, first of all I tried to understand the American medical market and I also got a lot of resources for this. For example, at the University of Nevada in Reno, I met with a professor who has been involved in healthcare for many years, and it has already given me a lot, or with a few other people from healthcare. Really beneficial. It is above what I expected, much better than I could have expected, I am very happy.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Your case is slightly different from other companies. You already have a ready product, a service really. When you think about entering the American market here, after these two weeks, will you have to change the approach that you have and that works in Poland in order to have a strong presence here? Do you have an idea, a concept, for what you have to change, how to adapt?
Bartosz Prokopowicz: Yes, we can see that there is a completely different market here. As far as the insurance system is concerned, it is a completely different system than in Europe. The same applies to the geography of the United States. Our business is that we move people from one place to another to treat them in good clinics, but also much cheaper. In the United States, the entire East is a different area, so we have to think very hard about how to geographically approach it, but there are also some ideas for cooperation with insurance companies, which we would very much like to do.
Krzysztof Buczyński: What would you say - one piece of advice for companies that are considering participating in similar programs? What would you tell them? Not worth it? And also, what would you advise them to take into account if they really want to be here.
Bartosz Prokopowicz: I think it is definitely worth it. Even if at the moment you are not thinking about entering the United States but in the future. It is a program that gives you so many contacts, which you are not able to get if you came here alone. This is a value that cannot even be bought on the market in any other way. This is unique and I think it is worth taking advantage of it, and being here you have to use your time to the maximum and certainly with all the people you get to meet. Follow up as quickly as possible. Every evening follow up with emails, connect on LinkedIn, reach out and make contact with these people. I'm already emailing at least five people after these meetings, and I also think that they will be great relationships to develop.
Piotr Zwierzyk, IPA LLC, Netins Software
Krzysztof Buczyński: You’ve been with your business here in Las Vegas for a few months now. What are your impressions from the beginning of your operations in Nevada? How are you doing?
Piotr Zwierzyk: It’s not as easy as we expected. We’re a software house and, probably like most European companies did, we thought that once we come here, a contract is just waiting for us. Unfortunately, it’s not like this. You need to walk a lot. Seriously, here in the US you just need to do it. It’s even more than that. Despite being here for over four months now, we still make contacts and build our network. The fact is that you have to have someone who can introduce you to other businesses. The more experienced this person is, the better is his perception by other companies. Such a person does not guarantee you success or a contract itself, but will help you a lot.
We’ve been receiving huge help since day 1 of our presence here. Our adventure with the US, with Nevada started exactly a year ago during the NLAB conference. Honestly, we were going to Lublin with reservations and smile on our faces, because we didn’t believe that governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval will ever come to Lublin. We were really surprised to see him in person there! Then we took just one business card – Paweł Pietrasieński’s one from Nevada’s GOED. We came here first in May, and then again in July. And now I’ve been here since August to carry out our operations. This assistance is very important. It all starts in Lublin, but there’s a great connection with Nevada, where GOED supports us all the time. In fact it is GOED that introduces us to other companies in first place. It’s important there are coworking spaces where you can work, but the value is that GOED really can help, you’re not an outsider from Poland, but someone who works with the governor. It really matters, especially taking into account the high status the governors has here in Nevada.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Apart from your „footwear” advice to get yourself good shoes, what would be your advice for the companies that are here with the first group as part of the NLAB programme, and for other firms that want to set up their operations here?
Piotr Zwierzyk: First of all – be humble. What happens in Poland and successes there mean nothing here. You start from scratch, from zero, or even less than that since you’re an alien. You need to keep proving your skills. The second thing is persistence. You need to be persistent to keep in touch with the contacts you make. Keep reminding about yourself. And be open to changes because sometimes you want to do something, but it turns out you have to do something totally different. Life teaches you how to pivot and do different things. But the most important thing, which is related to modesty, is that you have to listen to people.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Your company did not participate in our acceleration program, in this first edition. First, but we hope this is a pilot and there will be next editions. Probably you know some assumptions of NLAB program, what the companies receive from us. What do you think of the program?
Piotr Zwierzyk: As Netins we covered the costs of our first trips here on our own, and this is not petty cash. It’s expensive. The companies which get the funding from Lubelskie should be really thankful and pleased, because our first trips, before even making the decision to invest here, were quite expensive. In Poland we are a well-established company, so we could cover these costs on our own, but for the companies that come here under the program it’s huge help. It’s about financing, but also about not being left alone at the airport and being said “Good luck”. This first step, namely bringing the company to Las Vegas, is already made. The companies just start this networking thing, which is very important here. In other words, all of this is given to them on a plate.
Jarad Van Wagoner, Director Of International Business & Policy, R&R Partners
Krzysztof Buczyński: So once again a big thank you for your contribution to the entire program Nevada-Lubelskie Acceleration Bridge. So, the question is: what’s your impression about the companies, that are here, on the one side, and on other hand: about the entire idea of building a bridge between Lubelskie companies and helping them expand globally by launching them in Nevada.
Jarad Van Wagoner: I’m very excited about the companies that are here first of all. The companies that were selected and they’ve come have good, solid ideas about what it is that they want to do but they’re flexible at the same time and they prepared, they thought through what they want to do, they had the conversations that led them to be ready to come over and have the next level of discussions, which I think is exciting.
The program in total is I think very important because it brings opportunities to the forefront for these companies that maybe just need a little bit more help, maybe need a little bit of direction and maybe need some that networking to able to make that bridge, to cross that bridge. And what Lublin and State of Nevada have done to make this happen - I think it’s unique and it’s exciting. We’re able to talk about Nevada as an access point for US market and working with Lublin we’re able to identify exciting companies that are – again – ready, or if they’re not ready, they ready to take the next small step to make that happen. So, I think it’s pretty well organized, well run and I look forward to seeing the results that will came out of that.
Krzysztof Buczyński: What do you think of the idea that it’s not business, that is not a private sector that takes care of startups, like accelerators, VC funds and stuff like this, but it is public administration, is our Marshal Office. What we did in Poland is unique, it’s the first project of this type. What do you think of public administration, public sector taking care of private one?
Jarad Van Wagoner: That’s an interesting question for me because I tend to be very conservative and I like small government, but where I like government to be involved is in giving people more opportunities to create more jobs, to create more opportunities for people to produce, be imaginative and make exciting things happen. So, for me this is one of those exciting areas where government can step in if they’re willing to be flexible, if they’re willing to step outside of what governments usually do, then they get a lot done. And what a Marshal Office in Lublin has done is just that. They’ve step outside of a normal role of what a government would do and found ways to help businesses make connections.
Sometimes these connections just don’t happen easily when you’re just a small company trying to make it happen on your own, but when it’s a government agency that’s willing to reach out to another government agency, or another institution, then those connections can take place more easily and can facilitate discussions that otherwise may have taken months or years to take place. And I really think that what the Marshal Office in Lublin is doing is accelerating that process and it’s not for the benefit of the government – it’s for the benefit of those small business owners, for the startups and for the people that they are going to employ and pay and hire and that’s what’s exciting about them.
Krzysztof Buczyński: You know these two perspectives from public administration and now working for private business. What would be the one advice you could give to companies, companies from Europe, from Poland eager to come here to establish their operations here in Nevada, what would be the one advice, what they should take into consideration?
Jarad Van Wagoner: To use the connections that are being made now to understand the market that they trying to enter. I really think that’s the biggest challenge for a company that knows what it is that they want to produce. The next big challenge is knowing the market, so use these connections that are being made to learn about the market, to learn who’s going to need their products or services, and how to sell those products and services in that market. I think that’s the biggest takeaway and the most important thing from the program like these.
Kristopher Sanchez, Director of International Trade at State of Nevada
Krzysztof Buczyński: You are the one of the founding fathers of this special relationship that exist between Nevada and Lubelskie Region. You were involved from the very start, from the very beginning in building these relationships. How do you assess development of the relationships, businesswise as we have companies here? And the second thing is what can you say about the support that Nevada provides to startups like those guys we have with us today?
Kristopher Sanchez: I think that we feel instrumentally fortunate to have the companies put their trust in us and to help them accomplish their goals. You know, we understand from working with our companies here that, you know, regardless of where a company is from, they face a lot of similar challenges. And so, how we can add value and be a differentiator for these companies and help them be successful is something that we’ve spent quite a bit of time on and putting together this program.
It’s great to see you mention that three years in the making that we have the companies here now in this cohort, and it was great just a few minutes ago to hear from them to understand what their feedback is and to know from them what’s working and we, you know, there’s a lot of very positive feedback that we just received, which is great to hear. You know, I think that for me it’s interesting to see the similarities that exist. We often say that companies are looked at differently based on where they’re from, but it’s not the case in my view. The challenges are the same, it’s how you bring people together to solve those issues and leverage where people are good in their skillsets to accomplish the objective.
And I think that Nevada is uniquely situated to do that. We have a very robust mentor capability. We have the proximity to Silicon Valley and we have got the commitment from our partners and our communities to help make the program be successful and of equal importance in Lubelskie and the region they are committed to seeing this program be successful as well and there’s a lot of value for the companies and our regions by partnering. So, you know, if a company is stronger here and gains market share, they’ll be stronger at home and for us that’s very important there’s mutual benefit and we’ve set out to ensure in the structuring of this project that there would be mutual benefit across borders, right, that, you know, companies successful here and in turn would be successful at home as well.
Krzysztof Buczyński: Is it difficult to convince partners and potential, prospective partners from Nevada that it’s worth engaging in the program, to present this added value, because sometimes it might be difficult taking into consideration that Poland and especially one of those regions in Poland, might be less recognized for people from the US? Do you think this is difficult to show this added value and to convince them, to make them enter the program as a partner?
Kristopher Sanchez: No, it hasn’t been and I’ll tell you why – because, you know, Nevada, as we’ve talked about it in previous instances, was extremely hard-hit by the downturn in the economy and it caused so many people in our state at different levels, company owners, businesses, government officials at all levels to really look at things differently, to approach the world differently, and I find that there’s a tremendous desire amongst everybody to engage internationally, and to want to learn more about what companies are doing in different jurisdictions around the world, and so I find it people are very much interested and want to be helpful, that there’s still a bit of a maybe a little bit of a novelty.
This is a very new program and it’s very unique. And I think that people just want to be a part of it and want to see it through and so our response has been positive and certainly we know that there will be opportunities along the way to make it better, but overall, across the state, and I think we’ve seen that with the participation we’ve had in Northern Nevada and now in the Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, all the communities that are engaged and the entities that are engaged are intrigued, want to be there and find value and opportunity in being a part of it.
Tom Wszalek, Marketing and Management Consultant/Mentor with C-Level Operating Executive Experience
Krzysztof Buczyński: What are your general impressions about the companies that you listened to, and about this program? How ready they are to enter the US market?
Tom Wszalek: Well, I was very impressed by the variety and the quality of the presentations. I think that their chances of the success are significant. It’s always a challenge, so I think it’s a matter of adapting what has been accomplished elsewhere to what is always a bit of a unique market. But all of the business models which essentially is the core of it seem very creative and basically have a lot of potential. So, it’s never an easy thing, but again I was very positive, I’ve seen a lot of presentation here and elsewhere, but they were well done and interesting different types of businesses.
Darcey Hall, CEO at GoalDen Solutions
Thanks for having us here, Work in Progress and NeONBRAND, it was awesome meeting all the Barts and Marts and Marks from Poland for the startup pitching ideas. There is a lot of great ideas and I’m excited that the global collaboration, because it’s not just one idea from one area, but there is a lot of different ideas that can come together. It was amazing to hear how things can come together, and I’m excited, really excited that Nevada will be a center point for the growth of these great ideas. It was a great event, we had nice food, excellent presentation and thank you all!