Prowly, a Polish public relations social networking platform, has scored $1.1 million in pre-Series A, the company announced last week. It’s clearly an important step for the company whose Brand Journals are changing the way B2B companies push themselves, but it’s also an opportunity to look at the explosive growth of Poland as a startup tech hub.
“Our business model is based on monthly recurring revenue, which makes it very transparent and allows us to prepare relatively precisely plans for growth,” said co-founder and CEO Joanna Drabent. “On the other hand, it’s attractive from a potential client’s viewpoint, since the platform can be thoroughly tested before making a decision to use it long-term.”
The round was led by Internet Ventures FIZ and digital marketing agency Bluerank. Past investors include the Ventures Hub and IQ Partners. They already count Spotify, IKEA, National Geographic and Poland’s largest online payments company Allegro among their corporate customers. The new funding will be invested in their current efforts to expand abroad, which have already landed the Polish startup in Belgium, the UK and the U.S.
“As soon as we had the first idea of what Prowly should be, we managed to find our very first investor – IQ Partners fund” co-founder and CEO Joanna Drabent tells Geektime. That investment was small — $70,000 — but it got the job done. “The investment we received helped us during the launch phase, so we were able to focus developing the tool and finding its first buyers.”
The crux of Prowly’s services include Brand Journals, a social function that consolidates companies’ social media accounts, blogs, and media in one place. Like other platforms, Prowly comes decked out with analytics on posts and stories’ performance, email stats and even how many attachment downloads the emails had.
“The idea behind the Brand Journal is to aggregate brand’s communication in one single place, so that a journalist – as a person potentially interested in knowing more about the brand – could find all the right info without browsing tons of pages. This is how the Polish press office of Spotify uses their Brand Journal.” Besides Spotify, they’ve had customers in the guise of Hill and Knowlton Strategies Poland. Then came their next big customer, Polish e-commerce giant Allegro.
“Allegro Group launched their ‘Allegro Magazine‘ using our Brand Journal, full of hints and articles useful for a potential customer and built around current trends, smart shopping or brand’s news. Prowly Brand Journals are flexible and allow a high level of customization, but if there are any special needs, our team is there to match them.”
Leading a Polish startup revolution
Drabent’s pivot into software services for PR was an organic development from her background with her own PR firm. It was there that she noticed that the tools they had been using just weren’t getting the job done as she thought it could be.
“Traditional tools we used – and which are still in use by most agencies – like spreadsheets, heavy-weight press releases sent to broad, non-personalized contact lists never really matched our needs.”
She says it’s been a time of explosive growth for public relations, with fast-developing tech that integrates well into her industry’s business. “We live in wonderful times,” she says.
“Back in that time, project management already had some useful SaaS tools that helped save a lot of time. All that was the basic insight that motivated us to start working on a tool that would help PR pros save their time, but also improve the quality of media relations management.”
Poland currently counts about 2,400 startups, with more than half of those companies in three cities: Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan. That’s the conclusion of Startup Poland in their first annual report covering the Polish tech economy for 2015. Two thirds of those companies are B2B services and one third of all startups report 50% annual growth, with the bulk of those providing enterprise SaaS services. One third of those startups, by the way, have at least one female founder. With Drabent at the front for Prowly, the company represents the Polish startup ecosystem pretty well.
“More and more recognizable events are hosted here, with key regional initiatives like Google Campus in Warsaw,” says Drabent. “In parallel, the number of Polish startups that have gone global is increasing rapidly, with Brand24, LiveChat, Estimote, Zortrax or SalesManago just to name a few. We are extremely proud that we can be a part of this community as everything seems to be going in the right direction.”
Prowly was founded in 2013 by CEO Joanna Drabent and CPO Sebastian Przyborowski, employing 12 people in their offices in Warsaw. Prowly is a member of The European Tech Alliance supporting the European Commission in the Digital Single Market (DSM) project.
“The Polish tech and startup scene is getting stronger and bigger with every single day. Although cities like London, Berlin, or Tel Aviv usually come first when you think of startup-friendly communities in Europe, the situation is changing and we see it in Poland as well.”