Oh My God, Krakow! On the Power of Social Hashtag

Incredible things happen in Krakow. Careful observers of the Polish startup scene probably know that for some time now on Facebook and Twitter the #OMGKRK hashtag can be seen ever more often. It is not a coincidence nor, against what the skeptics might have claimed, a temporary anomaly. This informal brand, maybe rather something like a flag or an emblem, has momentarily united plenty of people. They have set themselves a single goal – to jointly create the coolest startup community in this part of the globe.

Recently my text about Open Coffee KRK, one of the most interesting initiatives on the Krakow scene, was published on AntyWeb. At the time of writing it I did not know yet that this scene literally in a moment was supposed to stand on a threshold of huge changes and even bigger possibilities. In November, Tyler Crowley turned up by Wawel. An entrepreneur, mentor, but most of all an animator of local communities. He has helped to build startup communities in Los Angeles, later he did the same in Stockholm. He had achieved great success in both places. He wanted to do the same… actually no. It is not that he “wanted” but rather “decided”. Tyler Crowley came to Krakow and said that he will do exactly the same thing here. I remember one Thursday morning, when he dropped by Open Coffee KRK and told about what he has managed to achieve within a year in Scandinavia. Once in Stockholm there were several active startup groups, gathering several dozen, at times several hundred people. Then came Tyler. Let us fast-forward 12 moths to see Sweden’s capital city as a place where the community has blossomed incredibly, grew and developed to now bring together thousands of people. You are where Stockholm was a year ago, he declared and assured that we are about to take the same step forward as the Vikings’ descendants.

It was a short but nice and very substantial presentation. As I have it in my damn habit, I approached it with certain distance. Obviously, Tyler Crowley is not just anybody and surely knows what he is talking about, but he was supposed to sojourn in Krakow only for a couple of days. What can you achieve in several days trying to animate the community of a major city? Well, today I have to face the facts and admit I was a doubting Thomas. On the very same day as Open Coffee KRK, in the evening, another edition of Startup Stage, one of the biggest local events in this field, was taking place. There were over 300 people in the room. Indeed, among them was Tyler… and a little bit of magic. The guest, who was promising, as I then claimed, a pie in the sky just in the morning, was now walking the talk and ordered that Krakow community needs its own hashtag. By a way of vote we have chosen #OMGKRK. Thus, Krakow scene (funnily enough during an event aptly containing the word “Stage” in its name) changed fundamentally. Tyler Crowley came flying from the sky and brought the promised pie.

But what is it all about, what is so special about a mere hashtag some may ask. I could not answer it better than Pawel Nowak, the creator of PressPad and one of the active animators of Krakow startup community, who wrote on his blog: A hashtag for a community like ours is like a flag for a country. We wave it proudly and stand behind it all together. Conceited? Undoubtedly. Pompous? Sure. Real? Damn right! Such a simple step as suggesting a single, common symbol for all had an amazingly mobilizing and stimulative effect on the local startup people, #OMGKRK has started to be used overnight by every mother’s son linked to the local community- from investors, through entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, activist up to visiting startuppers coming to Krakow on different occasions. In the Krakus Castle there are several bigger and lots of smaller groups, projects, communities. Now all of them found themselves under a single banner. Thanks to #OMGKRK one can be up to date with everything that is happening in startup Krakow and make others be up to date with your initiative. Meetings, new ventures, offers of cooperation, interesting articles- these are all elements out of witch, with the use of one simple hashtag, a core is created, around which the life of the local community revolves.

A couple of days after the creation of #OMGKRK the biggest skeptics could still wonder if it is only a temporary energy boost, or if the startup unity will really hold at Wawel. Now there are no more doubts. Better yet, it seems that enthusiasm is growing day by day. It is because the ambitions of Krakow community reach much further than just a common hashtag, which is gaining a growing popularity in social media. A website is under construction, which will serve as a guide to the life of this community, there are more and more interesting project rising with the goal of promoting Krakow as a place for startuppers, and within a couple of days an open Christmas party will take place, during which one will be able to meet representatives of various creative environments. And this is only the beginning!

Several times I have come across an opinion that Krakow has ambitions to become Polish, or even European Silicon Valley. Personally I wholeheartedly hate this definition- this is obvious BS and not just because we are talking about totally different scale, totally different culture, totally different history, totally different everything. A lot more important reason is that Royal City simply does not want to be Silicon Valley. Second, third or any other. Krakow may be several times smaller than Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin or London but it has no reasons for complexes when compared against these places. It is extraordinary and unique, and its dwellers carry a potential, which in the startup world is now released faster than ever. I would like to make a point at the end of this text by saying “and it is all because of a single hashtag” but then I would lie severely. Because in all truth it is all thanks to the joint effort of dozens or even hundreds of people, who have led this community to the stage at which it could evolve this way. And #OMGKRK has constituted only, or as much as, a catalyst for an inevitable reaction.

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