In recent year the foreign media have discovered that Belarus can offer more than agricultural produce and tractors. In a new article, the Wall Street Journal is exploring the country’s ambitions as the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe.
The success of the industry is largerly credited, WSJ writes, to the country’s Hi-Tech Park, a 123.5-acre haven for IT companies in Minsk.
The park has helped pave the way with tax breaks and a vibrant ecosystem and has created an environment that fosters innovation, despite the government’s reputation for tolerating little dissent.
“One of the Hi-Tech Park’s biggest successes is Game Stream, a Minsk-based company that develops Wargaming Group Ltd.’s signature videogame, “World of Tanks.”
Launched in 2010, the game allows players to face off against other players in tank warfare; in October, it had nearly 12 million monthly active users on PCs and consoles, according to SuperData Research Inc.”, the article goes.
Wargaming, now based in Cyprus and with 16 offices worldwide, was created in Belarus 18 years ago and made a few niche games. But the global fame came with the creation of “World of Tanks”.
Today, Hi-Tech Park Belarus includes 164 resident companies and more than 25,000 employees; the bulk of the software developers are Belarusian. All told, 41% of the companies have been established by Belarusian investors, 35% have been set up by foreign investors and 24% are joint ventures, WSJ notes.
The article mentiones such global companies as Epam Systems, a global provider of software engineering and IT expertise, Viber, the creator of a successful messaging app; and Masquerade, a Minsk-born collective that recently sold its selfie app MSQRD to Facebook, among other successful tenants of the Park.
“Insiders here say Belarusian companies have an advantage over neighboring Russia: They look to global markets for their products from the outset. And unlike their Russian counterparts, many Belarisian software developers speak fluent English”, the author of the article adds.
Dmitry Matveyev, a partner at the law firm of Aleinikov & Partners in Minsk, notes another factor. While Belarus may have a political image that deters some investors, it has a legal system offering solid protection, he said.
That said, software developers and entrepreneurs alike are betting on Belarus. At the recent DevGAMM gaming conference in Minsk, over 1,300 participants gathered from Belarus, Russia, Poland and other countries to network, exchange ideas, show off their games and look for talent.
“Belarus’s [IT] community is very good, very friendly,” WSJ quotes Sergey Gonchar, MSQRD’s chief technology officer. “It’s small but everybody helps each other and knows each other. I think the climate here is very favorable.”
“Success stories and a business’s scalability are more important than politics,” said Nick Vyhouski, a co-founder of MeetnGreetMe, a small concierge-services startup. “Success stories like Viber, Wargaming are inspiring.”
Find the original article here.