Poland Is Outsourcing Heaven For U.S. Startups: Here’s Why

I recently had the pleasure of visiting several Polish software development companies, and I was impressed with what I found. We do a good job pre-vetting development teams before we do a site visit, so I wasn’t surprised that the teams were skilled, stable, and well-managed.

What did strike me was the degree to which Polish culture and history have come together to make Poland a perfect place for U.S. startups to outsource their development.

What Makes Poland Desirable

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Like many Eastern European nations, Poland has excellent universities and is particularly strong in engineering and mathematics. This provides a steady supply of well-trained IT grads joining the workforce each year.

Also like most Eastern European nations (especially post-Communist countries), Polish culture celebrates science and engineering, and computer science has become a reputable, desirable, and popular career choice for young people. It’s a nice, virtuous circle of motivation, support, study, and workforce advancement.

But here’s the part that makes Poland so interesting for U.S. companies: Despite the supply of great developers, there aren’t that many mature Polish IT startups or technology product companies.

There are few exciting startups and a handful of great product companies, but beyond that Poland exhibits a typically continental European attitude regarding business-creation; they rank a tepid 85th in ease of starting a business (World Bank).

Given that the virtual circle doesn’t yet extend to include a vibrant startup or VC-fueled tech ecosystem, U.S. clients don’t have to compete with local companies to get their hands on a great developer team.

Finally (and I heard this a lot from Polish software developers), the culture of Communism into the 80s, when combined with the economic environment of the 90s, prevented Poland from developing a generation of seasoned IT managers who are aligned with current IT culture.  The city of Krakow may be a startup hub for Poland, but that culture still needs years of growth before local firms can digest all the great technical talent.

Poland has a new generation of great software engineers who are looking for jobs where they can use new technologies to make cool things – and most of the shops that offer that kind of work are outsourcing companies.

A Perfect Opportunity For U.S. Startups

The alignment for outsourcing between the U.S. and Poland is excellent. Young Polish software developers “get” the startup world. They speak Agile, Scrum, and Kanban. The time difference isn’t so bad. They love Ruby, Node, and Angular.js. All the startup buzzwords are in full effect, but most of the best developers are already working at services companies, building MVPs and tech products for U.S. clients.

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As offshore destinations go, Poland has a few other advantages, too. Travel to Poland is easy. You can find developers who can speak English well. Smaller boutique shops that understand startup culture are common, at least in Krakow and Warsaw. The infrastructure is good, trains are on time, and the Internet connections are solid.

There is one disadvantage to Poland – it’s pricey. The currency exchange is favorable, but Poland is far from being a poor, developing nation that is desperate for foreign currency. Expect rates for premium developers to be more along the lines of Moscow or Kiev prices, sometimes even higher.

Are Polish Software Developers Worth The Higher Price?

This isn’t a yes-or-no question, but certainly Poland is a great choice for startups that are willing to pay a premium price for a team that will stand and deliver 100% of the time. Most startups want the absolute best developers and they’re would be willing to pay premium prices, but in reality, many startup companies can’t afford to hire top U.S. developers – that’s why clients go offshore in the first place. For these startup clients who need to take advantage of overseas savings but are still willing to pay rates near the top of the market, Polish software developers can be an excellent choice.

When we connect clients with the best developers and we can work with a wide variety of price ranges. For our clients who are looking for a hot startup development team and need to have great quality, cultural alignment, and a generally easier outsourcing effort, Poland is now a top recommendation.

Photos by archer10 (Dennis)

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Dave Hecker

Co-Founder at SourceSeek at SourceSeek
Dave is a seasoned technology executive focused software delivery, quality, process, and helping clients succeed at international software outsourcing.
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  • jose Salvador

    Hey Dave, I’m late your article but it’s a good read, thanks. Personally, don’t you think that moving forward, it would be nice if people with clout like yours start referring to Poland as part of Central Europe? Geographically, that’s where she is and she’s no more Eastern than her neighbor Germany yet no one refers to Germany as Eastern Europe since the unification. The point I’m trying to drive at is that the Cold War was yesterday and having endured enough blows from all sides, Poland has grown economically too. Historically, WW2 was a war they lost twice after being invaded by the Nazis then being handed to the Soviets as bargaining chip by no other than Churchill and the Allies. As if that’s not enough, the West continues to undermine Poland by constantly referring to her as Eastern Europe giving her an unstable or risky classification for doing business in. I’m some don’t mind since that makes labor cheaper for entrepreneurs like yourself and since the average American doesn’t know any better, this misinformation keeps going. Similarly, have you checked Poland’s literacy rate? Again, thanks for the article.

    • Hi Jose –

      Thanks for your comment. Honestly I have never once heard Poland referred to as being in Central Europe! I checked on the internet and there is a lot of disagreement on how Central/Eastern Europe is defined. Interestingly, wikipedia puts Poland in both!

      I wouldn’t say that ‘the west’ (which is also an ambiguous term) is really undermining Poland by referring to it as being in Eastern Europe. Poland’s reputation has never been better in the US as it is now, and it’s known to be in the EU and a modern place. Generalizations such as ‘the average American doesn’t know any better’ is really not helpful as these are the same generalizations about Poland that you are taking issue with. But, given the massive population of Polish people and the positive image of Poland in the US, I would say that the distinction between East and West is not as significant as you think from the American perspective.

      thanks, Dave

      • jose Salvador

        You’ve made some good points Dave. However, I suggest you forgo the web and ask the Poles themselves. Apart from my wife and her family aside (biased), according to the Poles I met in Poland, Polska is Central but of course, everything is relative and in the end, we’re not changing anything after all. That said, you’re right in that, from an American perspective, the East & West isn’t of much relevance but aren’t you starting to get the feeling that for the first time in a long time, the ‘American’ perspective is slowly starting to not matter as much? I don’t have empirical data for the rest of Poland but amongst the few I’ve met, this distinction matters to them and I agree that it does affect how they’re viewed from the outsde. Personally, I can see how being referred to as part of the Eastern bloc (evil communist, backwards, etc.) can be detrimental.

        To your point, in regards to Poland’s positive image, again everything is relative and as such, I’m curious what your definition of ‘positive’ is in this case since providing a cheaper labor force than in the U.S. or Germany can be viewed as a positive as well. However, if you’re referring to the reputation that Polish people have in countries like England, U.S., and Germany, I would argue that for the most part, the words ‘Maid/servant’ sadly come to the fore. Recently, I was surprised to find out that most of the Americans in my sphere of influence did not know/realize that some of Poland’s gems include Madam Curie, Chopin, Copernicus, Esperanto, and those Polish mathematicians who broke the Enigma code before Turing did, and this is in the age of the internet. Having grown up in Asia, there are lots of things that fascinate me about human behavior, history (how it’s taught and twisted) and the balance of power amongst nations especially America. I grew up believing in everything I was told about it and although I still love capitalism and the good ol’ USA, I admit that my recent trip to Poland has changed how I perceive some things to say the least. I suppose that’s why I’m extra sensitive and mindful of the cultural, social, economic, and technological aspects of life between these two countries.

        In light of that, your points are well taken and again, thanks for your points of view.