For the first time, company from Poland won the international Startup Europe Awards promoted by the European Commission. Wojciech Syrocki, founder of RoboCamp, received the award on Wednesday evening in Brussels. In the finals participated 84 startups from 14 different countries.

The “Eurovision for startups” has reached its grand finale. For the first time, the StartUp Europe Awards have chosen the best startups in Europe in 10 categories.

The most creative startup was chosen not only based on its innovation. The jury also considered such criteria as the cultural compromise, or sustainability. Every participating company had to take into account various social issues: gender policy, social inclusion and collaboration with NGOs. Moreover, the startup had to include the entire Europe in its business plan, not only one country.

The jury decided to name RoboCamp the best startup in the Creative category and underlined that they have every possibility to go global.

The jury of Startup Europe Awards 2016 have decided to award the following startups: Robocamp from Poland (Creativity), Tespack from Finland (Energy), INZMO from Estonia (Fintech), Windcity from Italy (Green), NeuronGuard from Italy (Health), VyzVoice from Luxembourg (ICT), CityCrop from Greece (Smart Cities), TempBuddy from Ireland (Social), Waynabox from Spain (Tourism) and APSU from Spain (Water).

Startup Awards EuropeStartup Europe Awards supports startups at local, regional and national level. The entire initiative fosters innovation and collaboration between private and public sectors of the European ecosystems. “Besides, it creates a network of contacts that will allow to inspire and give visibility to all the local startups so that, by using this network, they can scale their services and products at a global level”, added Juanma Revuelta, the Director of Finnova’s Startup Europe Accelerator.

The objective behind this initiative is to identify local role models that could become an example to follow for other entrepreneurs and public administration. StartUp Europe Awards supports local investors and fosters unconventional solutions that encourage the growth of entrepreneurship throughout Europe.

The entire initiative is promoted by the European Commission, supported by the President of the Committee of the Regions and implemented by the StartUp Europe Accelerator by Finnova Foundation.

Carlos Moedas, the Commissioner of Investigation,Science and Innovation managed to put into words the ambition of many people who made this project possible: “I want to create the kind of environment where the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish … Entrepreneurs are the stars, we’re there to help and support them.”

At the European Commission, we want entrepreneurship, which propels the economy and the employment, to develop not only in few cities, or regions. More people should be able to benefit from it.

– Isidro Laso, Head of Startup Europe

The elimination started in November 2016 on a national level. Out of all companies that enrolled to Startup Poland Global, only 100 teams were chosen.

First, they took part in mentoring and advisory sessions. Then, during an intense training lead by Piotr Bucki, 50 teams acquired techniques and strategies of self-presentation. The seminar ended with presentations in front of investors and mentors, after which the jury made their decision and selected the final 10 teams.

The final ceremony of StartUp Europe Awards 2016 was opened by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani: “We should cultivate good ideas and help them to grow. We need to invest more in digital technologies and create a genuine European single market where our young companies can develop.”

The purpose of the Startup Poland Global program was not only to familiarize participants with the necessary skills to create, present and sell their solutions. We were determined to help the laureates go international. We keep our fingers crossed for RoboCamp and hope that their journey towards the global market can commence.

– Julia Krysztofiak-Szopa, President of Startup Poland

RoboCamp teaches how to teach coding and robotics. The company offers comprehensive solutions developed by educators, psychologists and engineers. They organize online training for teachers, create exercises and entire courses available through their e-learning platform and provide equipment for robotics workshops. What’s more, the teacher can seek their assistance during the lesson.

RoboCamp encourages children to learn physics, mechanics, biology and to solve problems – whether they appear in the code, or in the real life.

Interview with Wojciech Syrocki, founder of RoboCamp – the winner startup of Startup Europe Awards 2016 promoted by the European Commission

How did you earn the title of the most creative startup in Europe?

Wojciech Syrocki: Europe and the world stand before new challenges – it concerns the education sector as well. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children who are in school today, will work in professions that were not invented yet. Now, let’s take a look at the closer future. It is estimated that in 2020 we will lack almost one million ICT specialists. On one hand, technology rapidly changes our world and creates new demands, but on the other hand, many things remain the same. One of the professions that will never go extinct is teaching. Without teachers, we surely won’t be able to educate the lacking one million ICT specialists. Therefore, we need interesting and creative solutions through which we can equip teachers with new competencies. Those are the products and solutions that RoboCamp offers. And I believe this is why we were chosen.

RoboCamp first appeared on the market 10 years ago. During this time, many companies organizing robotics classes for children were founded. What makes you special?

Wojciech Syrocki: We began as the first company to organize robotics and programming classes for children in Poland. During more than 10 years, we have gained a lot of experience and learned how to do it. However, as I’ve already mentioned, the demand for education is far too great and we wouldn’t be able to teach all those children by ourselves. Therefore, three years ago we decided to share our knowledge and experience with others. We decided to transform our materials into software and offer it as a service. We created an e-learning platform, where we publish our online materials for teachers, who want to conduct classes in their schools. And it worked out! Currently, our materials are used by hundreds of teachers, who teach tens of thousands of children. These schools are often in villages, or towns – places that we wouldn’t be able to reach, if we decided to conduct classes on our own. Also, we made a huge step and managed to stretch our offer towards India and Africa. Actually, this is yet another factor that makes us different from our competitors – we always choose to be innovative and create solutions that can reach every corner of the world.

How do the coding classes with RoboCamp look like?

Wojciech Syrocki: Let me start by saying that anyone can conduct these classes anywhere. Anyone who has ever worked with children, any teacher can conduct programming or robotics classes. Coding does not have to be difficult and there’s no need to be afraid of it. All you need are the right tools, willingness and materials prepared by RoboCamp. And working internet connection to access them. Once you’ve gathered all necessities, you can incorporate programming and robotics into IT lessons, or organize after-class programming and robotics classes, even during a summer camp. The possibilities are abundant. Simply go to our website, select the course that interests you the most and order your equipment online. Several days later, you can start your classes with children. For additional preparation, you may even take part in our webinars. What’s really important is that we assist teachers throughout the process. They can count on our team when preparing the workshop and thanks to the online connection, we can help teachers even during their lessons! This solution assures our clients that they won’t be left alone with a topic that’s completely new for them.

Which countries can use your services?

Wojciech Syrocki: All of them! Our materials are available in several languages and because they are accessed online, anyone with an Internet connection can use them.

What is the market of coding and robotics classes for children like worldwide?

Wojciech Syrocki: In Poland, it’s not bad at all. We are not lagging behind the rest of the world as far as the access to such classes is concerned. I believe it’s partially thanks to RoboCamp. Nonetheless, there is still much to do. The most important task it to introduce robotics and programming classes into schools, because it is the only way every child can be given opportunity to learn, despite its parents’ budget. Neither is it very difficult, nor very expensive. For the price of one multimedia board, we can furnish the school with equipment, manuals and training for the teachers – which makes a complete robotics workshop. And when the classes in school do happen, they are overwhelmingly popular among children. For example in Suwalki, where libraries invested in such workshops, over 1000 children participate in classes every month.

What are your plans for the nearest future?

Wojciech Syrocki: We want to go wherever we haven’t been yet. Soon enough, we start an interesting project in Africa and this autumn we begin training teachers in Australia.

About the author
Dominika Skrzypek
International Education Specialist
Dominika is a lover of languages, learning, and all things robot-related. She holds a BA in Education and an MA in English and French Translation. At RoboCamp HQ, Dominika’s role is to oversee content and prepare educators for their first robotics lesson. Away from the bustling office, she specializes in translating children’s books, films and educational materials.