Emerging market startups engage Silicon Valley: Cases from Central and Eastern Europe
This article examines the challenges and opportunities of innovation-driven growth in Central and Eastern Europe. Drawing on firm-level survey research, we analyze the experiences of early stage Polish companies in Silicon Valley. We focus on the Polish Silicon Bridge, an international bridge organization that differs from conventional business incubators and accelerators by embedding emerging market startup companies in foreign innovation hubs. We situate the analysis in the context of the “Polish Paradox”. While Poland ranks as one of the European Union’s fastest growing economies over the past two decades, it is one of the EU’s weakest performers measured by innovation. The Silicon Bridge program aims to expand Poland’s innovation capacity by placing promising local startups in the world-class ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our empirical study demonstrates that international bridge organizations generate significant benefits–knowledge acquisition, mentoring, networking with prospective investors and strategic partners–for young emerging market companies seeking to enter the global market. The article thus augments the scholarly literature on global innovation ecosystems, entrepreneurial internationalization, and emerging market startups.