The continued rise of the CEE Region with Anna Franziska Hunger and Adam Górniak

The CEE talent market has received a lot of attention over the years, renowned for its highly skilled and driven tech talent but faltering on international expansion. This community hosts a plethora of diverse talents

The playing field has heated up again, more recently with CEE headquartered start-ups seeing an increase in funding by 44% in 2022. Now Sam Altman’s OpenAI are scouting in Poland with the view of establishing a European HQ out of the region. It’s fair to say that it is potentially a more exciting time than ever to be a Central Eastern European tech company with big aspirations.

The region hosts 6% of the global developer talent pool, with its amazing computer science and math-focused higher education systems it’s no surprise! 

In conversation with Anna Franziska Hunger (Talent Partner @ Kaya VC) and Adam Gorniak (Ex Chief Revenue Officer @ Booksy), we discussed what challenges companies face in the region both from a talent perspective and also from a commercial perspective.

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How would you describe the strengths and weaknesses of the talent in the region?


Discussing the topics with people and talent leaders in her portfolio, Anna said there was a consensus about the history of great software houses in CEE, breeding talent for engineering roles alongside the high-quality education in STEM with ambitious and hardworking students coming out of the programs”. “Plus a thriving tech community that is excited about building start-ups and finding solutions to challenges. While product design and management talent is not quite on par with the US just yet, they are quickly catching up as the ecosystem is getting stronger.”


“The cultural aspect is probably the most challenging part when it comes to hiring commercial talent,” Adam shared. “In comparison to advanced tech startup markets like the US or Israel, finding individuals who can paint the sales narrative and lead on the story-telling seems to be a little more difficult. Of course there are exceptions but finding individuals that can think big and believe that what they are building and selling is world-class is more difficult to come by.” 

What are some key tips on hiring locally in the CEE region and any learnings for companies HQ’d in CEE looking to expand into new markets internationally?

Some key tips from KAYAs talent leaders include: “Culturally, people in the CEE region prefer more direct communication, they want to understand why things are happening, work has to make sense and therefore you need to be able to present with a good story. Although a big difference when hiring in the region versus internationally is that most people in CEE do not care as much for the “fluffy” mission/vision statement, they want to understand the raw truth about the company and where the challenges are.”

Adam: “Understanding how to qualify for sales or marketing roles in the US market for example can be difficult, everyone talks a good game but what is real and what are people actually capable of is difficult for a lot in the CEE region to accurately assess. Focusing on hiring CEE talent that have extensively worked or studied abroad seems to be a good bridge, those entrepreneurs or talents seem to have a broader perspective and because they have been surrounded by like-minded individuals that have seen success, it creates a higher level of aspiration and motivation.”

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What excites you most about CEE tech right now and what would you like to see happen/predict will happen in the next 5 years?

Anna: “So much progress has been made within the start-up ecosystem in CEE over the last 5 years, new teams forming, products, investments, acquisitions and as a net result a couple of unicorns have been born in the region since then. As a result, the foundations are now in place for what I think will be an incredibly exciting 5 years ahead. CEE has been put on the map in terms of a tech ecosystem and the global market is now competing for talent here. The next 5 years will only be even more important for the region, with the recent advances in AI, more skilled talent will be required and Central Eastern Europe has it, combined with the growing eco-system, tight network, and excitement around starting companies, I predict even more great start-ups to emerge from the region.”

Adam: “Larger tech corporates are investing into Poland for example, companies like Snowflake, Google, Microsoft, potentially OpenAI in the future. I predict that over the next 5 years, plenty of talent will spin out of these companies. They will build their own start-ups which will go on to be very successful and provide the next wave of exciting businesses in the region.”

This might just be the region your next amazing hire comes from!