MIT Enterprise Forum – Poland

My colleague at Walnut Ventures, Adam de Sola Pool connected me with four promising startups from Poland participating in the MIT Enterprise Forum Poland contest in Cambridge. This created an opportunity to interview four really promising young founders.

Being a founder of a startup in a place like Poland where the infrastructure to support new companies is just starting is really challenging. The four young founders have all demonstrated impressive determination to bring their startup’s products to remarkably advanced stages.

In this inspiring chat you will meet Sergejs (Sergey) who studied economics but is making the oil patch greener, Tomasz who trained in robotics but helped invent a new way to train cardiologists, Rafal whose marketing platform has been adopted by Citibank and brilliant Katarzyna (Kate) who invented a way to make counterfeiting of products nearly impossible.

MIT Entrepreneurship Forum – Poland with Adam de Sola Pool


SAL DAHER: Welcome to Angel Invest Boston. Conversations with Boston’s most interesting Angel investors and founders. I am Sal Daher, and my goal for this podcast is to learn more about building successful new companies. The best way I can think of doing this is by talking to people who have done it. People such as my four guests today, founders participating in the MIT Enterprise Forum Poland. See, I’m taking advantage of the fact that these outstanding entrepreneurs are visiting Boston, and we are coming to you from our studios in Charlestown and the way that it’s going to work is instead of my interviewing one person, I’m going to make shorter interviews of these tremendously talented young entrepreneurs, about 15 minutes each, and they’re going to tell us a little bit of how they came to be entrepreneurs, what their company does, and I think it will be extremely compelling stories. I have here as my co-host Adam de Sola Pool who is sponsoring these impressive young entrepreneurs here in Boston, so welcome. And Adam will be pitching in and asking questions as well.

ADAM POOL: Thank you very much, Sal. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Sergejs Jakimous (pronounced Sergey Yakimov) CEO & Co-founder of Vortex Oil Engineering

SAL DAHER: The first guest that we have today is a young entrepreneur by the name of Sergejs Jakimous. Welcome Sergejs.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Thanks a lot. Great to be here.


SAL DAHER: Excellent. Now, Sergejs, please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right so that’s an easy one. So, I’m basically a bit of an academic. I actually hold two MA degrees which are not business related. One is political economy and statistics and the other one is law and finance. So actually, sort of tried to achieve some sort of merge of competencies with my background. I never stayed in academia though. I, I, I always sort of opted for the entrepreneurial part of career and uh, well, I really hope that I achieve that, but either way, I mean, I still enjoy teaching.

SAL DAHER: Where are you teaching?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Stockholm School of Economics, that is-

SAL DAHER: In Stockholm, you’re-

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: That is Stockholm/Riga.


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, Sweden/Latvia. And um, right now, my full dedication is basically in my company Vortex Oil-

SAL DAHER: Excellent. Excellent. Please tell us about your company. Tell us the name of your company and what it is that you’re doing, what problem you’re solving.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right, my company is Vortex Oil Engineering. We are a bit more than uh, one year old. We’re actually an oil and gas service company so what we do is we manufacture equipment for oil and gas services, or to be more specific, for improved oil recovery.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: And we’re uh, focusing on um, two essential things in improved oil recovery. Now as many might know, one of the major technologies in oil recovery out there is the so-called water flood. Water flood is a very simple process. We basically increase the pressure in the formation under the ground by injecting water and forcing the oil out of the formation. Now, this is used like 90% fields worldwide but this has inborn problems. And the biggest problem is the reusability-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Of the flooding water.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Now, our company focuses on specific treatment of this flooding water to uh, solve two major problems. First one is cutting down the recycling- the water recycling cost because you’re not, you cannot use the same amount of water for a long time. I mean, it gets dirty, it cannot separate it efficiently so we need to recycle it or you need to dump it somewhere. But that is forbidden for the last ten years due to ecological reasons. The second thing is, I mean, uh, oil is not a renewable resource, which means that we sort of are decreasing our reserves every day and we need like 94 million barrels a day anyway worldwide. So, uh, most of the oil fields are maturing, which leads us to the second problem. How do you increase the efficiency-?

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Of oil recovery without significant investment and by utilizing the resources you already have instead of jumping around, finding new oil fields and trying to deplete them in a very inefficient manner, so what we focus on is two. We save water. We optimize the water usage and we improve the oil recovery in the same oil fields where we have deployed.

SAL DAHER: Okay. So, Vortex Oil Engineering, is it competitive worldwide? Who is your competition currently? Is there anyone addressing this problem currently?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Um, the problem right now is addressed in very sort of old school manner-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Uh, which means either adding chemicals to the flooding water-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Or trying to filter it. Both are very costly and you know, the biggest problem about this is that they’re not, they’re all temporary, which means that you don’t get a long-term benefit.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: In oil and gas, the competition is mainly not between companies. It’s, it’s between methods.

SAL DAHER: Methods, okay.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, it’s basically a lot of companies providing the same service, it’s just you know, chemical flooding. And then the, the formula for chemicals doesn’t change much.

SAL DAHER: Now when you say chemical flooding-


SAL DAHER: Is this like fracking uh, you know, hydraulic fracturing? Is, is that the same thing? Is that the same process or is this used in another way?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: They can be combined-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: They can be used separately-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So that very much depends on how the field is set up and how the operator wants it to be.

SAL DAHER: So, does your technology enable hydraulic fracturing?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Our technology substitutes hydraulic fracturing which means that once we are deployed, we are minimally invasive, we’re very easy to implement as opposed to fracking. We don’t have that of a drastic ecological consequence as fracking does and uh, we can actually keep the water flood as it is, efficient for a much longer time without actually going to fracking or going to polymer floodings.

SAL DAHER: Right, right.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: That means that we sort of keep it efficient-

SAL DAHER: Okay, so what you’re saying is water flood to push oil out of the formation?


SAL DAHER: You’re using water? Instead of cracking the formation to get at the hydrocarbons?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Absolutely. So, what we do is plug in into the water flooding process that the operator already has, and we emulsify the water-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: In a way that is more efficient in getting into the formation because if you think-

SAL DAHER: Emulsify with what?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: With our equipment.

SAL DAHER: What is the compound that is emulsified with-

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: We’re not using any chemicals so we’re not using any compounds so where we innovate or what we have innovated in back in the days when this was only the lab idea or the product idea we’re applying computational full modeling, CFD modeling and a sort of known how in hydrodynamics and hydroaccoustics. This enables us to manufacture the equipment which works on a hydroaccoustics mill principle-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So what we do is we basically reuse the sizes of the residual oil content minerals silt sand in the flooding water.


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: And what this does is that, if you think about the oil formation, right? It’s not a lake under the ground. It’s basically a sponge-

SAL DAHER: Right. Right.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Like the one you wash your dishes with.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: And uh, oil contained in pores, is contained in pores so what we do is we help the oil and the gas operator to flush the sponge out more efficiently.

SAL DAHER: By conditioning the water-


SAL DAHER: Uh, and you call it emulsifying, but you’re saying that you’re extracting particles from the water that can prevent the squeezing out of the oil particles on this. Do you want to add anything for this, Adam?

ADAM POOL: I, I’m really intrigued how you with a politics, law, and economics degree in Latvia came to establish a Polish company that’s competing on a global market and succeeding.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: But I mean that’s one big world, right? I mean that was the opportunity I had a chance to take and I took it. So, I mean, if you look at the uh … if you trace Vortex back as a company to the foundations, we’re a very pragmatic move so we’re not, we’re not a impassioned move without creating something. We were a very pragmatic one since we have this very specific or very distinct merge of competencies in the team. We have a research team of researchers that has, have worked with oil and gas uh with uh, the majors in Europe and Russia that have developed the technology back in the days, but failed to commercialize it because they didn’t have the experience, they didn’t have the knowledge. And we have the management team that was passionate about the technology and could apply these sort of business skills and you know, the product development skills in order to turn this into the actual product to go out there and you know, to put on the table of the oil and gas operator.

SAL DAHER: Now, is this technology in the public domain, uh, do people have patents on this?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, people didn’t have any patents on this. Uh, it wasn’t disclosed prior to that.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: We have now run the necessary field testings with the actual operators with actual field deployments, uh, and we’re now PCD application pending, which means that is the company which will own the um, the rights.

SAL DAHER: So, you’re, you’re seeking to patent this uh, in the U, the US?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right, so our major markets are European Union, but not much surprisingly. European Union is not so big in oil recovery anymore.


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: US, Latin America for sure. Uh, MENA region so the Saudi Arabia-



SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


SAL DAHER: Middle East, North Africa, yes.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Yeah and uh, well a little less but Asia, China is also big in, in water flood.


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, we’re pretty much worldwide applicable and uh, the good thing about us is we’re basically plugging into the process which is used in 90% of fields worldwide anyway.

SAL DAHER: So, so basically this is technology that had been kind of sitting around and had been used in laboratory conditions uh, but had not really been brought to the field and you are commercializing it?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right. So, the technology basically originated as an idea or as a product concept, whatever you call it. Technology venture of all three, right? And uh, what we did, we basically-

SAL DAHER: Well who was the inventor? Who was the person who developed the technology?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: The research group, uh, the research group that has worked with uh, oil and gas majors back in the days and which has internally, back in the days again, I mean, identified this as a problem with flooding water that can be solved in this sort of quite elegant manner.

ADAM POOL: Back in the days is communist days? Post-communism?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: That is extremely post-communist days. (Laughs).


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, it’s, it’s not-

ADAM POOL: Why, why did they not commercialize it themselves?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Um, they didn’t have the skills to do that. So, this is a fundamental difference I am always talking about. So, the researchers or the scientists-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Uh, have this very specific paradigm of how they see the world.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: And um, entrepreneurs on the other hand, see it a bit differently so see it on the wider angle. They might not have the technical experience, so they might not have the specific scientific knowledge, but they sort of, you know, look around the corners and, and, and, and researchers are pure scientists as academia, they are sometimes not doing that so uh, and this is where we merge, we merge competencies. This is where we started to help them and started to work with them to actually turn this into the product.

SAL DAHER: Excellent, excellent. This, this reminds me of Ed Roberts, a professor at the Sloan School. He’s a founding thinker in the whole idea of studying entrepreneurship as an academic discipline and he says that innovation equals the product of invention times commercialization.


SAL DAHER: So, if invention is 0, but you’re trying to commercialize something, it’s not innovation and vice versa. If there is a 0 in there, there is no innovation. So, there was, there was an invention but no innovation. That is fascinating. So, Sergejs, what are your plans for Vortex Oil Engineering?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Well, since we have the venture investors on board-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: This company is currently in the first place, is view as a venture case-


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Which means that we’re not aiming to compete with you know, the big guys out there like Schlumberger or Halliburton or, you know, ConocoPhillips.


SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Whoever you name. Uh, where we aim to do is we aim to prove that we’re actually better in what we are doing and then you know, achieve an exit. Uh, for the shareholders, for the investors, so everyone is happy.

SAL DAHER: Tell me a little bit about your capitalization. The funding that you have had so far.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right, so we actually started out from Latvia. We didn’t actually start from Poland.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: We have attracted a very small pre-seed back in Latvia which 50,000 euros. That was the first validation, for the first laboratory testing for product building, etc.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Then, the Polish investing came in. That was a seed investment already and that was a bit more than uh 300,000 euros.

SAL DAHER: Could you describe what type of investors these were?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: These were investors that were focusing specifically on early stage um, technology companies so heavy IP-

SAL DAHER: Were these institutions? Individuals?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: This was a fund.

SAL DAHER: A fund.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, so these were not business angels. They were focused explicitly on heavy IP technologies-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Heavy IP companies, not IT. So, with this money, we moved to Poland, we established our HQ there so we’re now HQ’ed in Warsaw, and we did two field test deployments. One is already finished. That was in Romania.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: That was done together with the OMV Group which is the big Austrian conglomerate and the other one, which is pending right now is uh, in Argentina with Pan-American Energy.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Which is the second largest oil and gas producer in the country.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, uh, we’re sort of scaling up. Uh, we have a number of field deployments actually confirmed around the globe right now, so uh, one of my goals here in Boston is actually to explore the opportunities of how to raise money from US and uh …-

SAL DAHER: How much money do you need?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: We’re, our overall funding requirement right now is around 1.3 mil-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Euros, which is a bit more you know, 1.4 mil dollars, uh, but we’re not that keen on you know spending investment money anyway so we, we try to optimize it in the way we can-

SAL DAHER: Interesting.

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: So, uh, we’re, we’re after entrenched structure so we’re after a trench structure with our investor to different milestones, so which milestones unlock which stage of funding. Uh, what is good to say though is that we basically have as angel investors that would match some of this round. We already have uh, a number of higher profile individuals from oil and gas and the ones that worked in executive positions with Schlumberger, and Halliburton so-

SAL DAHER: So, you’re getting strategic investors in already?

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: Right, we’re getting more of uh strategic individuals-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: If you look at it-

SAL DAHER: Oh, so these are executives from…-

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: These were former executives-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

SERGEJS JAKIMOUS: That worked, now work as business angels and invest in oil and gas and you know, technologies that they find relevant and uh interesting.

SAL DAHER: Sergejs Jakimous, this has been really very interesting. As I said, we’re limited on time, uh, so we will have to preclude the interview right now and go onto another one of our guests but I’m very grateful that you came to the studio to talk about this. I know that it’s very hard to uh, start a company in places that doesn’t have the infrastructure that exists uh, in the United States so I salute you for the, uh, tremendous effort that you have done, and I’m going to look further into this company.

Tomasz Dziwinski, Ph.D., Co-Founder of Medical Simulation Technologies

Tomasz Dziwiński, Co-Founder of Medical Simulation Technologies
Tomasz Dziwiński, Co-Founder of Medical Simulation Technologies

SAL DAHER: My colleague, Adam de Sola Pool and I are glad to welcome our second guest today, Tomasz Dziwinski. He is the young co-founder of Medical Simulation Technologies and he is going to tell us a little bit about the company, but first, Tomasz, please tell us a little bit about how you came to be an entrepreneur.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Uh, thank you very much. I am very happy to be here, and uh, my background is um, academic study in Krakow uh, Control Engineering.

SAL DAHER: What kind of engineering?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Control engineering.

SAL DAHER: Oh control.


SAL DAHER: Automatic con-control engineering, okay.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Yes, and I’m always very interested in electronics, then I uh, I enrolled in PhD physics in Krakow but during my PhD, I meet great people from my university who were interested in simulators for training medical staff to help them perform better and learn not on the patient, but learn on the simulators-


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, this is the, the beginning of the company. The company is not very old. We founded it last year, but before that, we did a lot of research. It was more than five years of research, and we wanted to validate and prove the idea that we had at the time is good. That’s why we organize a lot of workshops in Poland. We cooperate with many physicians.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And even if our first prototype was not very beautiful, it was really garage prototype, but it was enough like minimal viable product but it was enough to prove that that conception is right-

SAL DAHER: So, you’re creating physical simulations or it’s, it’s not digital simulations? It’s physical simulations?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: It is physical simulations, yes, yes.

SAL DAHER: So, it’s kind of like a dummy.


SAL DAHER: Which exists already so what is the improvement that you’re adding here with your technology?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Um, our um, simulator is dedicated to cardiologists.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Because in cardiology, there are a lot of examination procedures that are quite difficult, the technology in cardiology is so difficult and physicians do not have opportunity to train them except training directly on the patient.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, our motto and the thing that we really believe in that a patient shouldn’t be a training model for cardiologist.

SAL DAHER: What kind of procedures is it that you’re…-

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Uh, our first simulator is dedicated for transesophageal echocardiography.

SAL DAHER: (Laughs).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: The procedure-

SAL DAHER: Yeah, you don’t want to be training doing that. Transesophageal is, electrocardiogram, I have had one. It means they knock out the patient and the put a tube-


SAL DAHER: Down their throat.


SAL DAHER: And it’s extremely unpleasant and things so if you can put it down the trachea of a dummy, uh, I can, that is tremendous. And there is not a simulator for esophageal ultrasound?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: You’re right. The examination is extremely unpleasant and the, the worst thing is that when the physician is not experienced, the examination can take a lot of time-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Like sometimes even one hour and another thing, this examination can be risky because esophagus is very sensitive, and it can be harmed-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: It can be uh, it can be performed by, by probe that is inserted into, into that, and there are three companies that already produce simulators for that examination, but the most important problems with that simulator is that they use computer graphics models so somebody draw the heart, draw the images and physicians learn on something that is not very realistic. Um, the educational value is really-

SAL DAHER: So, so those are not physical simulator, those are digital simulator or visual simulators?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: These are physical simulators, but always uh, the examination is based on the image seen on the screen.


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And this image, used, used by, by our competitors are drawn by some graphics-


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And the idea that we had is that we need to use real patient data so we transformed computer tomography data from real patient, from patient with numerous pathologies, we transform it to a view that would be seen during real examination.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, the difference is that our simulator is the most realistic one that, that can be found in the market.

SAL DAHER: Okay, so you’re not addressing just the problem of actually getting the ultrasound probe down someone’s esophagus, it’s also gathering the data which is tricky.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Yes, there are two tricky parts. The first one is of course, manipulating with the simulator because there are a lot of, let’s say degree of freedoms, there are a lot of knobs and buttons that needs to be-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Used in the proper way, but the most important thing is to understand the image that is seen on, on, on the echocardiography machine.


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, we need to learn both parts and the simulator that exist focus on the first part to do manually, this examination, but we want to focus on understanding the imagine which in reality, this ultrasound image, the quality is not a very good, a lot of artifacts, reverberations so we need to learn, physicians, to make a proper diagnosis in fact.

SAL DAHER: Tomasz, how did you come about starting this company?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: It was started by the idea of one of our colleagues-

SAL DAHER: So, you’re, you’re an engineer?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Yes, I’m an engineer. In the beginning, I was doing the, the electronic device for the, for the simulator but the idea comes from one of my colleague who found that the idea of transformation CT scans image into the view that would be seen on the echocardiography machine, so this algorithm is our secret sauce, and it is one of the most complicated part of the simulator-

SAL DAHER: So, your competitive advantage is from an algorithm, a piece of software-


SAL DAHER: That translates images of standard patients-

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Of real patients.

SAL DAHER: Of real patients to what is seen on the simulator?



TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And this is also the method is protected by European patent and of course, the algorithm is secret, but this was the research part took a lot of time to make it happen-


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And then when the algorithm was ready, we, we started to produce torso so the physical part of the simulator and together, software and hardware was used to make workshops for para physicians on the beginning in Poland and now we, we realize that US market is very opened for that kind of technology and we, we want to start to use the US market as our beach market.

SAL DAHER: Okay, medical devices. Now tell us a little bit more about how you have gotten to where you are, where have you gotten your funding?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Because our company is one year old, we started to do the product by our own funding so we did not use external funding in the beginning and when we made this first version, minimum viable product, we validated-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And then we founded company. We were looking for in the beginning for um, contest in Europe for grants to finalize the development and then we organized production. Right now, our simulator is ready to be sell and right now we are considering the first round of investment.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So basically, you have bootstrapped yourself?


SAL DAHER: Okay, are you working full-time on the project or are you working part-time?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Yes, since we started the company, we, we are working full-time in this product.

SAL DAHER: And you’re funding with your own money?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: On the beginning it was funding with our own money, then we won contest in –

SAL DAHER: Prizes-

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Prizes in Europe. We got 50,000 euro-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Uh, we also, we are finalist of MIT Enterprise Forum Poland and this gives us opportunity to be here to learn more on investment processes in US-


Kamil Kipiel, Co-Founder of Medical Simulation Technologies
Kamil Kipiel, Co-Founder of Medical Simulation Technologies

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: …and this is one of our opportunity to start first round of investment in-

SAL DAHER: Please also mention, your, your co-founder.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Yes, my colleague, Kamil, who-

SAL DAHER: He’s off mic, but he’s…-

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: He’s off mic, but he’s responsible for, for business developer. He has a lot of experience in business, let’s say business back office.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And then we have group of researchers, programmers, software development, hardware development-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And we have professor of cardiology who is one of the most experienced person in Poland in terms of echocardiography-

SAL DAHER: Ah, okay.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And he’s responsible for translating the medical knowledge into our engineering point of view.

SAL DAHER: That’s, that’s very interesting. Very interesting.

ADAM POOL: How much are you going to sell the device for?


ADAM POOL: What price are you going to sell the device?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Uh, we, we don’t disclose the price. We always ask client to send us a request-

SAL DAHER: A negotiated a price-

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And, and, and the price is not disclosed-

ADAM POOL: And about how many of these machines per year are purchased in Poland, in America, and around the world?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Because we finalized our product a few weeks ago, we still haven’t sell yet, but we expect that we, we will sell around 100 system per year.

ADAM POOL: Great, that will make a big difference and beyond that, using your proprietary algorithm for translating uh, CAT scans into visuals, what is your next-

SAL DAHER: Yes, what’s, what’s the roadmap?

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Okay, so we realized one very promising thing that a lot of minimally invasive surgery are done with a feedback that comes from transesophageal echocardiography so instead of opening chest, a lot of cardiac surgeries are done with minimal invasive devices-


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: And it is also very difficult for surgery to start this way of, of surgery that they haven’t, they don’t have experience before.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, we are working with one of startup company from US to do the specific simulator for them to train this method of surgery and that simulator that is dedicated for them includes echocardiography simulator and surgery simulators in, in one torso and the tricky part of that kind of surgery is also the cooperation between echocardiographer and surgery so they need, all of them need to do their job.


TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: They also need to communicate, to understand the language of each other-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: So, the company that we cooperate with from US realized that this was big issue, and they realized that the physicians that will do the operation needs to train before and the most efficient way to train is use simulators. So, they ask us for uh, right now for, uh, research project and then before they will start trial in, in US to validate the method, they want to teach physicians on the simulator before they will go for, for patient.

SAL DAHER: Excellent.


SAL DAHER: So, Tomasz Dziwinski, thank you very much for coming to our studio, and uh, I hope that your, your very interesting venture, Medical Simulation Technologies, of which you’re a co-founder progresses in an attempt to simulate the human torso for cardiac purposes. Thank you very much.

TOMASZ DZIWIŃSKI: Thank you very much for invitation.

Rafal Kosno, Co-Founder & CEO of Waywer, a Marketing Platform Using Text with Video & Audio


SAL DAHER: Coming up next, I will interview Rafal Kosno, a young entrepreneur from Poland, founder of Waywer, but first, I wish to thank listener Tinman, for this review titled Very Thoughtful. “This is my favorite type of podcast. Interested guests oriented around a particular subject area. I have been consistently pleased with each episode. This is a definite must subscribe.” Tinman, you have given back by leaving a review. Great example. You see, the Angel Invest Boston podcast has outstanding guests such as Rafal, which is here from Poland day, is professionally produced and comes to us with no corny commercials. All we ask in return is for your help in getting the word out about the podcast. So please, review us on iTunes, tell a friend about us, or sign up to hear about in person events coming up.

 So, without further delay, I would like to uh, speak now with a young founder, Rafal Kosno, of Waywer. Welcome, Rafal.

RAFAL KOSNO: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here.

SAL DAHER: Excellent. Excellent.

RAFAL KOSNO: Um, so let me tell you briefly about who am I and what my company does. I graduated uh, in economics and IT in Warsaw and I have two co-founders in my team. Uh, one of them is uh, actually a doctor, and he is a very experienced entrepreneur. He has won Entrepreneur of the Year Award a couple of years back in Poland, and Igor is uh, responsible for technical development of our product. We also have another team member, Adrian who is, who used to work with Price Water House Coopers, a financial audit company and uh, he is an adult in our company-

SAL DAHER: (Laughs).

RAFAL KOSNO: He is responsible-

SAL DAHER: Adult supervision.

RAFAL KOSNO: For finances. (Laughs). Yes, I, uh, he’s actually making sure that, that we not only do what we love but we also make it really profitable business out of it.

SAL DAHER: Excellent.

RAFAL KOSNO: And I am the CEO, and I’m responsible for business developments, sales and uh, also product development. Over the last eight years, I worked in consulting for very large consulting companies for corporations and so on. And what me and my co-founders noticed is that every business struggles in getting effectively to customers. I do not know if you know that in the US, over 70% Americans are on the no call list.


RAFAL KOSNO: Only 2%, and that’s only 2% people click on promotional emails that you receive-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: Well, you could be using direct sales but it’s very, very expensive. Um, we have been thinking how should we communicate with customers to, to provide them like really effective tools, and we thought that we should take a lot of from different industries.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: Our solution should be mobile first, but also available on other devices. We should go into multichannel-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: And we should be able to provide some sort of really high quality uh, content that is basically personalized, that the offer is tailored to the user-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: And do it in a somewhat automated way-


RAFAL KOSNO: That’s why, that’s how we came up with Waywer, an interacting video messaging uh platform-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: That allows you communication with customers so you can send personalized videos full of text and other content in real time, in multichannel so as the customer, you get what you want, when you want the way you like it most-

SAL DAHER: Ah. Okay.


SAL DAHER: This is promising.

RAFAL KOSNO: And in the core of our product, we have the video messaging tool which is used for cold calling or cold messaging I should say with your existing customers-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: And we thought about how to deliver the content to the customer, and from the three commonly used channels, calling, emailing, texting, uh, the first two are already heavily utilized. I mean we have legislation and software in place that basically stops unwanted emails uh, companies are not allowed to call us if we don’t like it so we decided to go for text messaging and also push our notification, our messages in other channels like push notifications to applications using Facebook’s bots and so on, but at this point, text messaging turns out to be most effective, but the question that everybody is asking themselves like what can you sell using text message?

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: Well not much, but if you put a link into a website in your text message and deliver it to mobile devices of your customers or potential customers, you can actually have lots of very interactive, high-quality content on the website that is opened, and this kind of tool already is proven to be very, very effective. I mean, we have over 30 large corporate implementations uh, in 23 countries and the opening rate for our messages can be like 10 to 20x higher than in case of emailing. But after that, having built this tool, we realize that actually sales process is somewhat more complicated. It’s not the single event of sending the offer or commercial or this kind of communication, but you also have to think about other steps of the sales process, and we did that. We took a look at what it takes to, to successfully sell a product and built other tools for gathering hot leads, uh, for getting information about customers who might be interested in our product-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: So, we connect our tools with CRMs. We connect it to real, to real-time marketing tool. We provide forms that allow you to gather customer data and some more. You can video message them and then you can close the sale using our tools for uh, remote detailing and collaboration online with customers and on top of that, we’ve, we built up a system for tracking very detailed activities of every customer.


RAFAL KOSNO: So, we know precisely who has opened the message, uh, who has seen it, who like the product, who is interested in it, because we can not only talk, but also listen back to the customer, we can…-

SAL DAHER: So, you’re, so the text message is enhanced with video and audio, you said?

RAFAL KOSNO: Precisely. And you can put a lot of interacting content there. Like, I could be asking you questions, are you interested in our product? Yes, no, please contact me later. Whatever answers you want to have there, they will be there. You can put in some surveys, you can put in uh, a graphic, links, attachments, etc. and we will, you will know precisely who of the recipients of our messages uh, click on, on the link, who downloaded the attachment, who has seen the video, whether they have seen it more than once, how many times-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

RAFAL KOSNO: So, let me, let me give you an example how, how it works.

SAL DAHER: Sure, sure.

RAFAL KOSNO: So, imagine that you have just bought a ticket to Thailand using your credit card.

SAL DAHER: A ticket to?

RAFAL KOSNO: Thailand, whatever.

SAL DAHER: Oh, Thailand. A ticket, an airplane ticket.

RAFAL KOSNO: You’re going somewhere for a holiday. Precisely.


RAFAL KOSNO: And a few seconds later you receive a text message where the sender ID is uh, let’s say Citibank and the text says that basically, like Hi, Sal. Some well-known traveler is sending you a video message. You can, you can view it by clicking on the link. A, a preview of the logo of the bank is loaded, it’s all, the link it in the domain name of the bank.

SAL DAHER: So, so a well-known …

RAFAL KOSNO: Traveler. A person who travels around the world, like um, I, I know in Poland Bear Grylls is pretty popular-

SAL DAHER: Okay, okay.

RAFAL KOSNO: I don’t know who would be-

SAL DAHER: Okay so someone who is a well-known, see in America, travelers don’t stand out that much, so in Poland, someone who is a well-known world traveler says something and then, then that person provides an ad or promo or something.

RAFAL KOSNO: Precisely.


RAFAL KOSNO: And to get this kind of message and you click on the link and you VM, you see a message where this well-known person is like telling you like Sal, if you’re going to a holiday, you really should get travel insurance, it’s really smart, uh, if you’re interested, like your bank just prepared a great offer in cooperation with some company-


RAFAL KOSNO: If you’re interested, just let us know, click on the link and you can either close the sales or actually have someone call you back.


RAFAL KOSNO: So, when you get it, people are really, really impressed. It could be other case, like, it could be a, a well-known a football player, uh, also calling you by your first name and uh, you know, advertising a product that they are selling. When you get these type of message, you will not only love it-

SAL DAHER: You do a voice simulation?

RAFAL KOSNO: Um, we are cooperating with several companies to, to create this personalized video messages and there are several ways to do it. Like, from our point of view, the most efficient and, and cost-effective way is to basically use our application for recording several types of messages and then combining different, uh, uh, different part of videos.


RAFAL KOSNO: It’s a bit technical, but it’s fairly simple process to do.

SAL DAHER: Okay, okay. This is, this is very interesting. Adam, do you have any questions?

ADAM POOL: Yes, this product obviously has global application though it may need to be tailored to local, cultural norms, however, you have taken the decision, I think to go global first rather than roll it out completely in Poland and demonstrate the full capability and become cash flow-positive just on the Polish market, am I correct and why did you do that?

RAFAL KOSNO: We are already cash flow-positive and basically the, the idea is that we have to invest and once the product is uh, ready, I mean it’s still being developed. We’re still adding new stuff, but when it works, when it actually deliver results, there is no point to limit ourselves to just one country, and on the contrary, we usually have to start with Poland because if we go to a well-known uh, international corporation the first question they will ask us “What did our Polish branch say about that” so that was the case with lots of pharmaceutical companies, with Citibank for example, who is our customer in Poland-


RAFAL KOSNO: And they used our product, they field tested it and now that they know it actually deliver results, they invited me to go to New York and uh, talk to the head quarter. After all, why shouldn’t they use it in, in other countries as well if it works.

SAL DAHER: Excellent.

ADAM POOL: So, what is the rollout time table? Where do you expect to be this year? 2018? 2019?

RAFAL KOSNO: Well, I think this our planning is more towards the next year when it comes to rollout. We started operations to start office in, in New York, but we have also uh, reached out to a couple people who are in sales in, in software sales uh, in San Francisco and we want to build a network of cooperating partners who have a lot of experience in selling in US who already did that for other companies and they can basically research out to the contacts they already have, we will pay them heavily uh, pretty, pretty nice provision on doing implementation but uh, we have a pretty good margin on, on our tools, and we don’t really mind cooperating with lots of partners.

SAL DAHER: That is very promising. Very promising. Rafal Kosno, I am very grateful that you could, could come in be on the Angel Invest Boston podcast all the way from Poland. Uh, promising young entrepreneur and uh, I, I look forward to hearing more about Waywer in the future. Uh, it sounds like a very promising venture and I’m, I’m grateful to Adam de Sola Pool for making this possible.

RAFAL KOSNO: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here with you.

ADAM POOL: Thank you. (Pause).

Katarzyna Sawicz, Ph.D., Founder of InnovaLab, a New Way to Make Branded Products Hard to Counterfeit


SAL DAHER: We are very happy to welcome now, Katarzyna Sawicz, also a Polish entrepreneur. She is the founder of InnovaLab and Katarzyna, we will call you Kate to make things easier. Welcome to the Angel Invest Boston podcast.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Welcome, thank you for invitation. It is pleasure to be here.

SAL DAHER: It’s great that you’re here, uh, with my colleague and friend Adam de Sola Pool also of Walnut and other angel groups here in Boston. So, Kate, please tell us a little about yourself. What, what is your background?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: I am PhD in chemistry.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: I graduated from Krakow University of Technology-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And also post graduated courses at Stanford University. It was uh, part of internship learning uh, my background.

SAL DAHER: In what field?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: It was general about uh business and …-

SAL DAHER: Oh, okay. What’s your PhD is in what field?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: PhD in chemistry.

SAL DAHER: In chemistry. Okay. Chemistry.


SAL DAHER: Excellent. And uh, so tell us a little bit about the problem that you’re addressing with InnovaLab.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: So, our company have developed a unique solution that answers the problem of counterfeiting in the world. In Europe alone-

SAL DAHER: Of counterfeiting?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Counterfeiting in the world-

ADAM POOL: In the world.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: In the world. Yes.

SAL DAHER: Oh, in the world, okay. Okay. Counterfeiting of physical products?



KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And um, this problem is about, only in Europe about 400 billion euro per year-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: So, it’s a huge amount.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And the challenge is that authentic and counterfeits look very similar even identical.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: So, this is the challenge. So, um, what we offer is a solution, which would give the original manufacturer to protect them from counterfeiting and uh, save their money and uh, what we offer is a complex marking system which consists of our own marker called Manufacturer DNA because it’s a kind of signature-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Introduced into the material and also a mobile-

SAL DAHER: When you say DNA, it’s biological material?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: No, no, no. I explain it-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Later, but uh, it’s like DNA.

SAL DAHER: Like DNA. Okay. Okay.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Yeah. And uh, also mobile detection device of our construction and the method of how to implement and verify it-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And you can imagine that this marker is introduced into the material make a special, unique code like DNA that is easy to verify using only our device-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: It’s also some kind like, of the insurance policy for the manufacturer uh, because it’s a great proof during the complaint procedures to prove that this is the original one or, or not-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And its, it’s also completely new way of marking products and materials in the whole volume because we can mark for example the whole batch at one time, and there is no need to mark them separately and uh, marking technology can be implemented during the production over material processing-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And the markers are special uh, substances-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Which we create, develop, and they’re individual to our customers-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And they’re introduced into the material in very small amount and they’re invisible to the human eye. Only by this special device of our construction.

ADAM POOL: What type of materials are these? Is it like leather or tea or glass or metal?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Our solutions are dedicated to mainly industries like mostly plastics, plastic processors, polygraphic plants, and so now we are focused on construction chemicals because this is the big problem in Poland and Europe to make sure that, that the material, construction material you, you buy, it’s, it’s very safely and-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: High performance. Yeah?

SAL DAHER: So, is your material inert? For example, in cement, if you were putting it in cement-


SAL DAHER: Is it going to affect the function of cement or …?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: No, it’s uh, it doesn’t change the marked product. Nor uh-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Physical chemical features that’s, it’s very small amount and, and, and it’s completely compatible to the marked material.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And how is it that you detect the presence of the material?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: This is uh, by examination by our detector. It’s a mobile device. It’s very small, comfortable. Uh, it’s a software and hardware and uh-

SAL DAHER: Is it, is it uh, does it flash light on it, what does it do?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: I can’t say because it’s our know how-

SAL DAHER: Oh okay.


SAL DAHER: So, you have a way of detecting the chemical product in materials-


SAL DAHER: Using uh, a bit of software and a little bit of hardware-


SAL DAHER: Using a regular smart phone or does it have to be specialized hardware?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Our mobile is compatible with for example, uh, mobile or, or the computer because you have to use the detector but-

SAL DAHER: So, so, there is a dedicated device that is used for seeing this? Okay.




SAL DAHER: Okay and what traction have you gotten? Have, have you sold a few systems to a few producers?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Uh, at the beginning, we focused on three industries, plastics, plastics processors, and the polygraphic plants, and our first customers are uh, big international companies-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Like Tikkurila or R.R. Donnelley. Uh, now its LSC Communications and, and Argus so the demand is confirmed for sure.



SAL DAHER: And uh, so you, you are receiving revenue from these companies, now?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Yes, yes. We have a few projects and uh, half of our clients are now paying customer and the, the rest of them, they’re still on the implementation phase-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And we have to do the industry trial and so on. It takes uh, some time.

ADAM POOL: And what brings you to Boston as part of the MIT Enterprise Forum Polska Program? Why, why come here now?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: It’s a good opportunity to do networking and to, to find, because we are, now we are looking for an investor for the first round so it’s also because of looking for investor and also new customers, contacts, and, and mostly networking so it’s a great opportunity for us to be here.

SAL DAHER: That is tremendous. What is the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome to get to the point where companies can use your product?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Okay so, I think that the biggest obstacle was during the installation, uh, company, uh the lack of entrepreneurship background, yes?

SAL DAHER: Ah, yes.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Because uh, in typical education system, for example, in Poland, we don’t have opportunity to learn entrepreneurship, and so I think it’s very important because it’s very useful not only to, to establish company, uh, but also in, in daily life, yes?

SAL DAHER: Ah, yes.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: To be entrepreneurial. So, it’s highly important so I look for that opportunity how to get the, the background uh, and how to learn the, the, the business.

SAL DAHER: So, to become a scientist is very hard. You’re a smart young woman. There are obstacles but you can do that because there is a track already to become a scientist, but to become an entrepreneur, there is no track. How did it occur to you that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Do you have a model that you’re following? Did someone inspire you?

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: During my doctoral studies, I cooperate with industry and I met some company, a big Polish company which produce products for car renovation, body car renovation and they are had problem with counterfeiting because they uh, they sell uh the whole system for a body car renovation-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And um, during the uh, complaint proceeding, they, they had problem to prove uh, this is what I said before, that some of the component was replaced, replaced for the worse, cheaper-

SAL DAHER: Oh, cheaper substitute. Yes.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Counterfeit and the whole system-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


SAL DAHER: Failed.


SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And, and, and the blame, the, the, the main producer was blamed for it so I thought it is a good idea, and so I try to develop this, this idea and this technology and after that, uh, I took a few-

SAL DAHER: So, you were the inventor of the technology?



KATARZYNA SAWICZ: So, after that, we had a few great opportunities to participate it in um, contests-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: For young entrepreneurs.

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: It was the competition for the best business plan and for the best business startups-


KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And we won both, uh, competition-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: We got some money for, for developing of our business and also we won the ticket for the Global Technology Symposium in Paulo Alto-

SAL DAHER: Oh, wow.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: And we, we participated also in the international competition for the startups. It was a great experience too, and the opportunity to, to speak uh, first time with the investor and so on-

SAL DAHER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: So, after that, I decided to, to set up company, and it was the beginning of InnovaLab.

SAL DAHER: This is very, this is really fascinating. Do you have any other thoughts or any questions, uh, Adam?

ADAM POOL: Well, I think this is a very interesting example of how people in Poland have transformed from pure academics into entrepreneurs and while this happens all the time at MIT, there, there is a lot of training that goes on of MIT of their graduate students and how to be entrepreneurial with their lab results-


ADAM POOL: It is still in the infant stage in Poland and so Katarzyna, you’re a great pioneer.


SAL DAHER: Yes, we both applaud you. This is tremendous that you’re doing this. So you saw the problem in real life. You went back to your lab, and you created the solution for that and, and then you got uh, you know, IP protection, uh, you know patent work and so forth. This is really very, very impressive. Very impressive.


SAL DAHER: So, Katarzyna Sawicz, right, I thank you very much for coming to our studio to be here and I wish you just tremendous success, and I think you will have tremendous success with this really very, very clever idea. Thank you very much.

KATARZYNA SAWICZ: Thank you very much.

SAL DAHER: Sergejs, Tomasz, Rafal, and Katarzyna, I am most grateful to you all for participating in helping make this a really great podcast. Thank you very much. Uh, I also thank our listeners for tuning in and invite them to leave a review on iTunes. This is Angel Invest Boston, conversations with Boston’s most interesting angels and founders. I am Sal Daher. I’m glad you were able to join us. Our engineer is Raul Rosa. Our theme was composed by John McKusick. Our graphic design is by Katharine Woodman-Maynard. Our host is coached by Grace Daher.