Last friday I had the pleasure to attend a meeting with Pitch Johnson and mingle with senators, professors, American embassy officials, Polish government officials and the president of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. What a company…

The meeting was hosted by USPTC which is a Silicon Valley based non-profit organization founded by a group of senior U.S.-based corporate executives and business leaders with professional, technical and practical working experience and accomplishments in both Poland and the U.S.

The goal of USPTC is to help companies and innovators make the right contacts to expand trans-Atlantic trade, investment and cooperation in the fields of information technology and biotechnology.
pitch johnson warsaw

During that meeting Mr. Johnson talked about conditions which must exist for entrepreneurship and innovation to flourish. And the conditions are:

  • Freedom
    • political,
    • economic,
    • personal
  • Government support
    • stimulating commercial banks to support innovative SMEs,
    • indirect co-financing of innovative projects,
    • opening patent and information offices,
    • educating in the field of commercialization and e-ship,
    • moderate taxes
    • existence of public stockmarkets
  • Entrepreneurial climate
    • role models like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates,
    • social acceptance of entrepreneurship as a lifestyle,
    • social tolerance for failure,
    • celebration of risk-taking and success,
    • support for informal social networks,
    • availability of talent, engineering and business skills
    • availability of capital for start-up and seed projects

After listening to Mr. Johnson with attention I concluded that the ‘entrepreneurial climate’ part is something I could help to cultivate. In fact I am doing that already.

After returning from Silicon Valley in December 2006 (I was invited there by USPTC) I started thinking about organizing a grassroots unconference for internet innovators. Tommorrow evening is the first such event called ‘innowatorium’ which stands for laboratory (laboratorium) of innovation.

There is no set agenda. Every participant has 15 seconds to introduce him/herself. Everyone may come and present. Everyone may interrupt and give comments or ask questions. Everyone may propose to change the rules.

Despite lack of media sponsors, advertising campaing or even set agenda the idea of such an open event was very well received in the Polish blogosphere. The number of participants is expected to exceed 150.

The response was so good I even got invited today to Polskie Radio to talk about innowatorium and inspiration coming from Silicon Valley and USPTC. You may listen to it on January 31st at 7.30 AM Polish time.

But thats not all folks! On 28th of February there’s going to be a little more formal event in Warsaw called TMT.Ventures ’07 which I help to organize. The main topic is fostering innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. Special guests from Benchmark Capital and Index Ventures are going to add some global perspective while the President of the Warsaw Stock Exchange is going to talk about the Polish AIM – an alternative stock market for young and innovative companies. It’s called ‘Nowy Rynek’ and it launches in Autumn this year and will surely boost the entrepreneurial climate. Rafal Stroinski – US PTC Director – is one of the panelists at this event.

So there are more and more events building that nice California-style climate which is required for innovation to grow. But we still get lots of snow in the winter. I guess you can’t have everything in life. Anyway, it was great to meet Pitch Johnson in Warsaw.

Bio

Franklin “Pitch” Johnson, Jr is a pioneer in Silicon Valley venture capital and has been active in that field since 1962. He developed and taught a course in entrepreneurship and venture capital at Stanford for 12 years from 1979-1990. It was the first venture capital course taught in a graduate school of business.

Since that time he has been an advisor to students creating entreprenurial plans as Business 390 projects. He continues to work as a venture capitalist in his 41-year-old firm, Asset Management Company of Palo Alto. His most recent publication was a paper called “Entrepreneurship and Democracy” in the Hoover Digest, 2005, No. 1.

In the area of entrepreneurship and privatization, Mr. Johnson has served as an advisor to several eastern European countries since 1990. Mr. Johnson is an active jet pilot, is a close follower of the sport of track and field, and has attended ten Olympic Games. He is also chairman of the board of San Francisco Opera Company.

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