As is known, numerous developers and entrepreneurs from CIS countries with post-USSR background are actively moving to the Baltic Region these days. We have seen the whole startup teams and even medium-sized offices settle down in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia in search of the better business environment and European best practices. Peter Antropov, a famous IT entrepreneur in the region, shares his views on Belarusian programmers’ community, describes the working conditions in Latvia and presents his own strategy of a new product launch.
A former co-owner of the popular regional social network “Odnoklassniki”, Peter Antropov was also involved in the startup project named ‘Roamer’ and participated in ‘Lokali.se’ service development. Roamer is known as an application replacing the expensive roaming services all the travelers had to pay for when going abroad. Roamer allows making phone calls via a phone card of the local operator or just with Wi-Fi connection keeping the same phone number. For the users preferring real phone calls to Viber or Skype messengers, this seems to be a perfect solution. Now the app is available in 10 languages, which implies a kind of global target audience.
While working on Roamer project, Peter’s team came across the problem of the whole system translation and realized that there is no good service for a website localization, which gave them an idea of developing their own service called ‘Lokali.se’. For now this startup is launched only in the neighboring markets of CIS and Lithuania, but the further expansion is expected.
According to Peter Antropov, before moving to the new markets, it is essential to finish the prototype of your product, present it to a small audience and study the reaction. Usually, all the bugs and shortcomings come to the surface only when the service is in use. Thus, the first customers will help you with the product enhancement. Then you can search for investors and try entering another market. While choosing this ‘another market’, entrepreneurs tend to operate under two possible strategies. Firstly, you can put great efforts into real market research and then target a particular region, assuming that it will be a total success. Alternatively, you can launch the product in several markets at once and then see which one brings you most profits. This second variant was picked up by ‘Odnoklassniki’ and ‘Yandex’ developers. Unfortunately, both strategies involve certain risks and losses: either you spend too much on research, or waste time and money translating your application into several languages in vain. Anyway, the product always needs promotion, which can actually be started on your own blogs and in media.
Peter Antropov was born and raised in Riga, Latvia, spent several years in Ukraine and, of course, visited the other neighboring countries, that is why he has a good understanding of all the existing differences in mentioned ecosystems. Speaking about Latvia as a small country, Peter distinguishes the startup company ‘Ask.fm’ (analog of Formspring.me), a rather big company ‘One.lv’ which got the ownership of ‘Odnoklassniki’ and the service ‘Infogr.am’ which managed to attract 1,5 million euros of investment. He also mentions the local funds dealing with European investments and distributing them among the startuppers. Latvian IT industry can be characterized by a big number of 500-employee outsourcing companies, cooperating with clients from Russia and Europe, and a record low rate of unemployment among the programmers. In contrast, Belarusian IT industry is famous for the great variety of specialists with different majors and extremely high payment demands. Also, there are way more freelance workers in Belarus compared to Latvia. Since Belarusian programmers are too ‘expensive’ for Latvian customers, Peter refers to a small number of cooperation deals and therefore, little knowledge about Belarusian companies and startups.
Finally, Peter Antropov explains why so many companies of CIS-origin move to the Baltic States. He points out the urban advantages, actively emerging European standards and what is more, the absence of language barriers since Russian is not a problem here. But the main reason, understood without saying, is a mature entrepreneurship ecosystem.
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