Warsaw, 21 August 2023.
No investment capital and dynamic changes on the market are the challenges faced by Polish startups. Santander Bank Polska decided to support the development of innovative enterprises through the Santander X project and the Santander X Global Award Poland competition.

Polish startups play a key role in shaping the economic future of the country. However, lack of access to investment capital poses a serious challenge to their growth. Programmes, such as PFR Starter and NCBiR Bridge Alfa, which have now ended, ERE important sources of funding for many young companies. Moreover, changes in the investment fund market and a decrease in activity on the global venture capital market have additionally increased the pressure on Polish startups. Investments in Europe fell by 66% and in USA by over 54%[1]. This situation  was also influenced by the development of artificial intelligence which significantly lowered the entry threshold in some industries. This made it possible to create completely new markets with unknown growth dynamics so far.

The data published by PFR Ventures for Q2 2023 shows that the capital invested and the number of financed companies is decreasing from quarter to quarter. In H1 2022 over PLN 2bn was invested in startups and in H1 2023 only PLN 875m. Decrease in the value of financing at the beginning of the year (Q1’23 vs. Q1’22) was visible all over Europe at -66%, and in Poland it reached -27%. Now however, when comparing Q2’23 to Q1’23 it can be seen that the European market is starting to grow again (+28%) while the Polish market still keeps shrinking (-4%).

– The lack of investment capital, the growing role of technology and the AI revolution have all intertwined in an instant, creating completely new challenges on the market. As a bank, we want to be a bridge connecting the vision of company founders with the necessary investment funds. Our task is to support innovative projects and help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Financial institutions such as Santander Bank Polska have many solutions that can support the development of young companies, said Bartosz Ziółek, Director for Corporate and Investment Banking in Santander Bank Polska.

As an example, the Santander Bank Polska expert mentioned venture debt which is an alternative for venture capital. It allows the founders to keep their shares, while giving the same chance for the development of the company and a better valuation in the next round of financing.

– The bank can also finance the development of interesting projects by sharing the risk with a fund. Venture Debt (Growth Debt) is a particularly interesting form of financing. This is a financing model similar to a bank loan, aimed at fast-growing companies whose valuation will increase significantly in the near future, adds Bartosz Ziółek.

In response to the challenges that young companies are currently facing, Santander Bank Polska is targeting entrepreneurs with the Santander X programme. It is a global ecosystem with the aim to promote talent and innovation. Santander X helps startups, scaleups, micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs in getting necessary training and mentoring support needed to develop projects or verify ideas. The programme also facilitates access to resources, connects specialists and innovators from various industries to create an environment conducive to the development of enterprises.

This is why Santander X is organising a competition for startups in Poland. In the first phase, 10 companies will be selected and invited to the mentoring phase. Of these, three winners will be selected. The highest ranked projects will be awarded EUR 10,000, EUR 6,000, EUR 4,000 as well as a promotion by Santander Bank Polska. The winners will be invited to the Santander X Global Award where they will be competing at an international level against the winners from 8 other countries.

The winners of the local edition of the contest will also get access to Santander X 100, a global community of startups and scaleups awarded in Santander X competitions and programmes. Among other things, the platform gives access to further development, consulting, training, capital, clients, talents as well as the opportunity to share experiences.

For detailed terms and conditions of participation in the programme, please go to: https://app.santanderx.com/calls/santander-x-award-poland-startup-23.

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[1] Report "Transactions on the Polish VC market in Q1 2023" by PFR Ventures and Inovo VC.