When Michał Borkowski launched the start-up Brainly, in Krakow, Poland, in 2009, he and his two co-founders did something that once would have been extremely difficult. Brainly, which helps children research tough questions on their homework, raised the $500,000 it needed from private investors in Poland — a formerly Communist country that traditionally has not been a hotbed of Silicon Valley–style deal making — as well as from backers in Germany, where the start-up financing ecosystem is more mature.
Brainly went on to raise $9 million in series A funding from investors in the U.S., Berlin and Moscow in 2014. Fueled by that money, the "pre-revenue" start-up is focusing on growing beyond its 55 million users, who are mostly based in Russia. In a push to win U.S. clients, 10 of its 80 employees now work from an office in New York City.
"In Europe the funds are focused a lot on international traction," said Borkowski.