Historically, Hungary and Poland have always been known to have a strong friendship. One only has to look at how both countries are fiercely proud of their ‘Hussars’, to see how much they have in common. It was in the 16th century when Stephan Bathory, a prince of Hungarian descent, took up the mantle of the King of Poland. The young prince of Transylvania was already familiar with Hussars from his time fighting the Turks, and set out to make the Polish hussars follow Hungarian traditions, replacing lancers as the new heavy cavalry of the Polish kingdom.
In 1683 at the Battle of Vienna, the Polish Hussars helped the Hungarians to turn the tide of war against the Turks.
Since the turn of the Millennia the relationship between Hungary and Poland has been increasing again. Initially the countries were both founding members of the Visegrad Group. Today, Hungarians are attracted to the Polish job market, whilst Poles make up a large percentage of tourism in Hungary.
Poles and Hungarians, Two Brothers
To get a better idea about how the relationship has evolved in recent times, we reached out to the Gabor Konya, Secretary for Economic Issues at the Hungarian Embassy in Warsaw, to understand more.
“Traditionally pharmaceutical, plastic, construction, and tourism are the biggest industries in Hungary and have enjoyed a good position in the Polish market over the years.” Gabor shared. “Poland is also the fourth largest economic partner of Hungary, with over 10 billion euros of trade flowing between the countries in the last decade.”
“By the end of 2019 Hungary had made a total of 1 billion 325 million Euros investment into Poland. At the same time Poland had made a total of 1 billion 223 million Euros investment into Hungary.” Gabor continues. “The pandemic took a toll on the partnership developing between the two countries. The trading volumes between the countries dropped by 8%, something that both countries will be looking to improve together in 2021.”
“Hungarian companies are taking advantage of the opportunities that the larger Polish economy is presenting. With new investment into infrastructure, energy, transport, as well as the new central airport in Poland, all of these areas offer opportunities. Digitalisation and Research & Development projects are also becoming more popular for Hungarian companies looking at Poland.” Gabor concludes.
What is the recent history of Hungarian StartUps in Poland?
Since the turn of the millennia and the onset of the digital era, the largest Hungarian StartUp that many in Poland (and the rest of the world) will be familiar with, is Prezi.com. Founded in Budapest back in 2009 by three Hungarian entrepreneurs, Prezi is used in all 195 countries in the world.
While Prezi might be a giant amongst Tech StartUps, several more have tried to follow their trajectory. In 2016 three Hungarian forerunners of HR innovation presented their products in Warsaw, namely CX-Ray, Indivizo+ and SimTeam. Then, in 2019 they were joined by Talentuno, who secured a 5.5 million Euro investment round to help them roll-out into Poland:
Today, further Hungarian StartUps are looking at growing in the Polish market. We decided to speak to the latest entrant.
HR Solutions for internal communications, made in Hungary
Blue Colibri App is a Hungarian startup that aims to improve internal communication and employee engagement by providing a platform specialized for non-desk employees. We talked to Viktória Fulai, CEO and co-founder of Blue Colibri App, to learn more about the company and its plans to enter the Polish market.
Viktória, along with the other co-founder, Tamás Barathi, established Blue Colibri in February 2019. Prior to starting their own enterprise, the two of them had worked together at Colibri HR Solutions, an employer branding, HR and marketing consulting company.
The story of Blue Colibri dates back to this period, Viktória explained to us.
“We were working together with several corporate clients from a wide range of industries at that time. We were responsible for carrying out market research and project diagnostics. We went to companies and asked employees what they liked most and least about their workplace.”
The results, as Viktória shared with us, indicated that internal communication was one of the most pressing problems in the vast majority of companies. “All the time, and I mean literally all the time, people listed internal communication among the top 3 worst things about their work. No matter if it was a white-collar or blue-collar company, it was rated exceptionally poorly. It was a problem everywhere.”
“Working at an HR consulting company, we tried providing them with advice such as ‘you should use more infographics’ and ‘you should train your leaders to be more informative.’ But to be honest, these were not really good solutions. So we started to think about how we could make internal communication better in other ways.”
The idea of creating an app sparked from a conversation between Viktória, Tamás, and the head of HR at one of their client companies. “The HR leader complained to us that ‘it is impossible to actually communicate with truck repairmen because they just don’t have an email address,’” Viktória remembers. “If leadership wanted to get in touch with them, they had to call them one by one, but that was just so inefficient. Then, she said: ‘it would be so great if anybody could just use their own phone, make two clicks, and could read news about the company.’ Tamás and I found this to be an astonishing idea and thought we could make it happen. We figured we could create an app that is available to anybody. The main idea was that all the workers in the company should be able to access company-related news with just two clicks.”
Viktória and Tamás began the path of what she calls a “really common startup story.” They created a prototype and reached out to clients to see if those were interested in using the app. They tried collecting information to understand what features would be crucial to add to the app. Based on the feedback received they developed a second prototype and outlined other aspects of a possible market entrance. “We started to map the competitors, map the market and benchmarked a lot. We also started thinking about what our pricing policy could be.”
Their project leapt when they received a notable investment from a leading tech investment firm. “We went to pitch to Oxo Technologies Holding, in December 2018, and received a VC funding of €200,000,” we founded the company in February 2019 and created the first version of Blue Colibri, Blue Colibri 1.0. The current version was developed during the summer of 2019 and we established our first partnerships in September.” Viktória elaborated.
Blue Colibri’s innovation is that it is designed for non-desk employees, Viktória explained. “Internal communication is especially problematic in companies that have a large number of non-desk employees. That’s why we created our solution focusing on them. We understand that for someone unfamiliar with the technology using a new app might sound complicated, so we created an app with an easy-to-use interface. More importantly, you don’t need an email address, you can easily log in with your own ID or company-specific details.”
“’Within 2 years, Blue Colibri’s features developed a lot and they are able to serve organizations not only with non-desk, but diverse workforce as well. Just to give you an example we have just launched our well-being feature. We work together with professionals in the fields of mental and physical health to make sure that workers receive adequate advice about the importance of their well-being. We also teamed up with a gym that provides daily exercise suggestion to employees.”
Blue Colibri has achieved significant growth since its establishment. “We started hiring more people at the beginning of 2020, and now have 18 employees,” Viktória let us know. “We have 55 customers and around 42,000 employees use our application, 70% of whom are blue-collar workers. Most of our partners are from retail, the hospitality sector, FMCG and production.”
The key to their success, Viktória thinks, is their direct relationship with customers. “We are very open with our customers and help them to develop the solutions they actually need. If a customer comes up with an idea, then we help them develop a new feature. We answer their unique requests and needs and we are building our software based on our customers’ requests and feedback. For instance, two of our customers reached out to us that they wanted an internal referral program. So we created this feature and named it Forms, which eventually become a huge success. It was popular among other clients too. We also have a platform called Blue Colibri New, it’s a platform where we share best practices, expertise content and feature updates, and the community can interact with each other as well.”
“We are right now in the phase where we are really flexible regarding our features. Our goal for the future is to be a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), so anybody could download Blue Colibri. At that point, it won’t be that easy to incorporate all the suggestions in our app, but right now we have this competitive advantage.”
The Blue Colibri app is available in 8 languages, Hungarian, English, German, Polish, Romanian, Croatian, Ukrainian and Slovenian, while Serbian and Bulgarian versions are currently being developed. Although most of the clients are Hungarian corporates and manufacturers, they employ a lot of foreign workers, mainly Ukrainians, Serbs, and Poles. Furthermore, Blue Colibri has hired a Romanian-speaking employee and are planning to recruit a Polish-speaking member of the team too, so that they can provide direct customer support to a wider range of workers.
Currently, Blue Colibri is planning an expansion across the Central Eastern European region, with Poland as their first target destination. “We chose Poland because we think that the situation of employees and internal communication is similar to that existing in Hungary. We have undertaken market research and found that although there are some great solutions offered in Poland, there is not a product that offers the same kind of feature as ours. Additionally, the Polish market is similar to the Hungarian one, but it is also notably bigger.”
“We want to find distributor partners, meaning that we don’t want to open an office in Poland right now. We want to team up with HR–, PR–, and marketing consulting companies, who can actually build their solutions on our software.”
For more details about how Blu Colibri can help your firm here is a link to their presentation.
If you are a Hungarian StartUp looking to grow, then we highly advise you to get in touch with the Central European Economic Developent Network (CED), details which are available at the end of our story.
Author: Benjamin Jenei
CED Central European Economic Development Network Nonprofit Ltd. is solely responsible for Hungary’s export promotion and the execution of the country’s economic development efforts in Central Europe. CED has a complete overview of the supply and demand of business opera- tions due to the contribution of our offices in Hungary and 22 branches in neighboring countries, plus Poland and the Czech Republic. CED’s main objective is to support Hungarian manufacturers to enter foreign markets in the CE region, thereby increasing Hungarian export volume and the economic competitiveness of this region. Services of the institution are designed to meet the needs of Hungarian manufactures, while following international trends. Regardless of their company size and export experience, all of our partners can utilize our comprehensive range of services including targeted business partner mediation, monitoring of export opportunities, ensuring preferential presence at international fairs and exhibitions.
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