Neil Patel

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Poland’s entrepreneurial landscape is not for the faint-hearted, but Maciej Zawadzinski’s journey is a testament to the power of resilience and innovation. Born at the tail end of Poland’s socialist era, Maciej experienced firsthand the seismic shift from socialism to capitalism, shaping his perspectives and aspirations.

His story is a remarkable blend of determination, technological prowess, and strategic foresight. In this exclusive interview, Maciej talks about his experiences building his company, facing rejections when trying to raise money for it, and eventually exiting. He has now transitioned to an investor’s role.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Early Days: From Katowice to Wroclaw

Maciej was born in Katowice, an industrial town once known for its coal mines and heavy industry. As Poland transitioned from socialism to capitalism, so did Katowice, gradually becoming a hub for technology and innovation. This environment undoubtedly influenced Maciej’s path.

At a young age, Maciej moved to Wroclaw, one of the Polish technology hubs, to study computer science. However, academia wasn’t his primary focus. His passion for technology led him to self-teach software development, starting with installing his first Linux system at just thirteen.

By the time he was in high school, he was already programming and developing a deep understanding of operating systems. This hands-on experience laid the foundation for his entrepreneurial journey. Maciej remembers buying books about learning to program at 14-15 years old.

Since Maciej was always involved in organizing computer science courses and conferences with some friends, he didn’t really focus on his studies. As he remembers, first-year computer courses in Poland were more theoretical, but Maciej was only interested in the practical aspect.

First Foray into Entrepreneurship: Brand New Media – The Advertising Network

Maciej’s entrepreneurial spirit first materialized when he co-founded Poland’s first blog advertising network. This venture was born out of a simple idea shared with a friend, which they developed over numerous meetings and late-night coding sessions.

Maciej remembers taking care of the coding while his friend managed the graphic design and marketing. They launched the business after the summer break and quickly started getting clients. They also ran fundraising campaigns and started to get traction.

Despite initial skepticism about paying bloggers, the duo managed to create a viable business model, acquiring several hundred blogs and landing campaigns with prominent consumer brands. They ran the blogs on the network and hired around 15 to 20 people. However, the venture faced significant challenges.

After two years, they struggled to scale the business further and clashed with their majority shareholder, leading to an eventual exit where they sold their shares. Although it wasn’t a lucrative exit, it provided valuable lessons that would shape Maciej’s future endeavors.

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Building Clearcode and Incubating Piwik PRO

Undeterred by his first venture’s limited success, Maciej founded Clearcode, a software development company. Leveraging their expertise in advertising technology, Clearcode started by developing solutions for clients.

Over time, Maciej’s vision expanded beyond service-based work, leading to the incubation of several products within Clearcode, including the highly successful Piwik PRO and Kanary NEST.

Piwik PRO, a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Analytics, started as an open-source project. Recognizing its potential, Maciej and his team developed a commercial version that targeted enterprises and data-sensitive industries.

Piwik PRO operates on a SaaS licensing model that charges users a fee for using the product based on the usage.

As a result, the amount of data they are processing with the platform is like a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Analytics. Piwik PRO also offers some extra capabilities that may not be found in other analytics platforms.

Despite early challenges, including a skewed focus on R&D over business development, Piwik PRO eventually found its stride, growing to a remarkable €12M or $13.3 ARR with minimal external funding.

Navigating Challenges and Celebrating Success

The path to success was far from smooth. Fundraising efforts were met with skepticism due to Clearcode’s dual nature of providing both services and products. The company has 70% of its tech workers doing product and just 30% working on other aspects like marketing, sales, etc.

Many VCs were reluctant to invest in a company that wasn’t exclusively focused on product development. However, Maciej had a technological background and knew the technology that could help them create a great product.

Maciej recalls that, at its peak, the company had more than 200 people since it was a services part and Piwik PRO was the product.

He describes himself as a hands-on person who has always been involved in every aspect of the business and finds it hard to delegate. Even so, he quit the CEO position and moved on to a more supervisory role.

The Clearcode Acquisition

In the initial years, the company didn’t have much growth but could afford its software development since it was making profits, which Maciej and his team were rolling back. Eventually, he found an evergreen fund willing to invest $2M, recognizing the value in Clearcode’s hybrid model.

Storytelling is everything that Maciej Zawadzinski was able to master. The key is capturing the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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This investment strategy paid off. When Clearcode was eventually sold, the valuation matched the initial investment, effectively returning the capital while retaining the highly valuable Piwik PRO.

The company’s success culminated in an exit reportedly worth over €50M or $54M, a testament to Maciej’s strategic acumen and perseverance.

Maciej looks back at the acquisition when the initial transaction fell through because of the economic environment and the fund was putting on hold all the transactions in Central Europe.

Although Maciej and his team were disappointed with the setback, they rallied because of another offer they got from the network market.

Sometime in 2022, they started the process again, which Maciej retrospects to have the worst timing ever to start pitching to private equity funds. Although the company had great metrics, it couldn’t attract much interest or the right term sheet.

It took several months to get an acceptable offer to shareholders and Maciej. After several hits and misses, they finally accepted an offer from a buyer who had been a Clearcode client in the past.

Maciej and his team accepted the offer because of their long-term business relationship with them. However, the buyer had to partner with a private equity firm to raise the necessary funds to buy the company.

Transitioning to Investment and Mentorship

After selling Clearcode and Piwik PRO, Maciej turned his attention to supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs. He started out as an angel investor, and now, his new venture, a venture capital fund, Hard2beat, aims to fill a unique niche in Poland by being led by a seasoned entrepreneur.

Drawing from his extensive experience, Maciej hopes to offer not just capital but valuable insights and mentorship to early-stage startups.

Maciej’s advice to aspiring founders is simple yet profound: be directly involved in sales. His experience taught him that founders who actively engage in selling their products tend to drive the most growth.

This hands-on approach and a deep understanding of technology create a powerful formula for success.


Maciej Zawadzinski’s journey from a small industrial town in Poland to becoming a successful entrepreneur and investor is inspiring. His story highlights the importance of resilience, continuous learning, and strategic focus.

As he transitions into his role as an investor, Maciej is poised to significantly impact Poland’s startup ecosystem, fostering a new generation of innovative and successful entrepreneurs.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Resilience and adaptability are crucial for navigating Poland’s evolving entrepreneurial landscape.
  • Early hands-on experience with technology can lay a strong foundation for future entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Building a successful business often involves learning from initial failures and leveraging those lessons.
  • A hybrid model combining services and products can be a strategic advantage if managed well.
  • Direct founder involvement in sales is essential for driving significant business growth.
  • Securing investment may require finding investors who understand and value your unique business model.
  • Transitioning to an investor role allows successful entrepreneurs to mentor and support the next generation of startups.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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Neil Patel

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