Belarus Hi Tech Park
HTP Resident Startups Spoke About Why They Gave Up Stability
5 January 2016
The success of an early-stage company depends on many factors, including the development environment. Head of HTP business incubator Yury Sudarev told KV.by about startup activities, and startuppers explained why they have left a stable salary job and are getting by with little while anticipating a bright future.
Typically, startups do not have extra money and have to save on everything and work in rented apartments or coffee shops. To solve this problem, a coworking center was opened on the ground floor of the HTP business incubator. It hosts IT-related seminars and conferences almost every day, thus making the atmosphere truly creative.
"Coworking is a new form of the working environment. Our coworking space is divided into a number of areas: areas for studying and working, a hall for public events, a London-park-style recreation area and meeting rooms," introduces Yury Sudarev the HTP business incubator.
"This is our wall of fame featuring photos of founders of the HTP companies EPAM, Viber, Apalon."
A free basic course in innovation and entrepreneurship was launched to provide expert advice and support to startup companies. "We have a special program in innovation and entrepreneurship providing training in areas useful to companies at all stages: intellectual property issues, legal aspects, guides for creating presentations, marketing activities, business analysis, etc. Major events are held in the evening, the participation in the program is free, of course," says Yury Sudarev.
Everybody who has a startup project or just a good idea is welcome to the coworking space. Not only IT professionals but also designers, marketers, lawyers and people from other spheres are working there. "Coworking helps to find like-minded people, share ideas, team up and create a company," notes Yury. According to the head of the HTP business incubator, the level of the startup does not matter when the company comes to the incubator. Here startuppers get support at all stages of development: from refining an idea and building up a team to establishing a mature business.
If a team has already been formed and registered as a company and has a working prototype or a final product, it can apply to participate in the HTP business incubation program.
In December 2015, 7 startup companies were selected to reside in the HTP business incubator. The Hi-Tech Park provides working space and such options as mentorships, assistance in attracting investors, etc. Four of the startups previously worked in the coworking center (Open Space). Their colleagues, startuppers who are working in Open Space and participating in the educational course, share their experience.
"Little by little, we will do it"
We noticed that many people take different courses but quit them in the middle,” says Sergey Drobyshevsky developing an online education helper. "Our application will help to choose courses offered by all platforms, automatically create a schedule in accordance with individual preferences and export it to Google Calendar. Thus, each user will have an individual schedule."
PUSHKa team has chosen the HTP business incubator because they consider it a good opportunity to gain more knowledge and make new acquaintances. "We needed a place to meet and discuss our plans and work on the project so the HTP business incubator HTP appeared to be the very place we needed," explains Sergey.
"I remember the workshops on legal issues – the details you usually pay little or no attention to. Here, we determined the direction for further development. We have generated some ideas to implement on our online platform – tests to determine likely peculiarities in the educational process and the most interesting and useful courses for a certain user."
"The investor is not as important for the startup as the mentor"
"The objective of our application is to make life easier for people with diabetes," says Maxim Yashin, a representative of the startup Diabetes Studio. "The existing mobile applications do not offer a comprehensive solution for people with diabetes. Our application is localized in English and Russian, and we are currently working on a Spanish and a German versions. The active implementation of the project began several months ago when we came to the HTP business incubator. Here, we have learnt what mistakes we made, where to go and how to develop."
According to Maxim, everyone in the business incubator is positive and ready to help each other. "During the four months in the coworking, we managed to systematize our knowledge and filled the gaps in the areas which were terra incognita for us, for example mobile apps promotion. People come to the incubator because they have a desire to make something but lack knowledge and understanding of how to make it right," says Maxim.
Thanks to the business incubator, the team changed the development strategy and their attitude to the project. Soon they will go to Amsterdam to participate in TNW Conference 2016. "Now we understand that our task is to create a good product with the large number of loyal users. If the application is popular and has a lot of downloads, there millions of ways to make money on it," says Maxim.
"We have caught the right train and are very happy"
Solving Mill is a software product for enterprises based on the theory of inventive problem solving and system analysis enabling engineers to solve their tasks and find innovative solutions. The team had the finished product when they came to the HTP business incubator. Andrey Bobchonok explains why they have chosen the incubator: "Where else could we go? Having our own knowledge is good but the HTP business incubator has a large network of people – leaders in the field, who are willing to share their experience."
"We are lucky to have caught the right train. Now we are deriving inspiration from the business incubator for strategies like entering the market, positioning and sales. We are receiving profound training in legal aspects. Many topics are addressed in a way clear to even an inexperienced person." The team likes the atmosphere of the coworking itself: a crowd, you can exchange ideas with other teams and broaden your horizons.
"I was always afraid to start my own business"
A global scheduling and touring system − Ontourcloud. "Our project is designed for B2B, for the event industry," explains Oleg Tikhonov, director of the startup company. "We are developing the engine ourselves as we did not manage to find anything suitable for our project. In the business incubator our company started to grow and has enlarged from two to twenty people."
Although Oleg did not have any experience in running a business, now he manages the company with many partners and investors. "I am aware of certain guarantees; I have more self-confidence due to the coworking. Here I can practice pitching or public speaking as long as I wish. There are no disadvantages in the business incubator at all. Though when a startup turns into a company, it gets uncomfortable in the coworking and a need to separate arouses," notes Oleg.
The team came to the HTP business incubator when signing an agreement with an investor. Here they have a final battle before the start. They are facing the most complicated challenges in developing, according to Oleg. "We are creating something nobody has created before for some reason. And there are some difficulties. We are trying to learn peculiarities of the market (they are different everywhere) because it is important for the sphere we have chosen. We want our product to be useful for people and musicians could easily plan their tours."
"In a startup you learn to value resources you have"
"We developed the project Nalanga for the contest GlobalLearning XPrize," outlines Alexey Kruchenok, a team leader. "It will be an android app to teach children languages and mathematics with the help of educational games. The app is localized into English and Swahili (a regional language in Africa). Currently we are working on a prototype which will include a game engine and a prediction module based on artificial intelligence to build an individual educational program."
Previously, Alexey worked at Apalon and PandaDoc. Due to the HTP business incubator, he could meet such experts as Oleg Khusaenov (Zubr Capital) and Yuri Gurski. According to Alexey, the most important thing the HTP provide is a dialogue with people from the world of large capital who explain what is the startup movement from investors' point of view. Here Alexey learnt why some startup teams get money for development, and some get none. "In the business incubator you can learn from others' experience without making your own mistakes. Many our illusions were shattered here; now we understand that if Plan A does not work, you must switch to Plan B. The HTP gives an opportunity to solve a lot of problems and tasks a startup faces. Participating in GlobalLearningXPrize is the best opportunity to spend six months of our lives – we could not think of or do anything more excellent for that time," believes Alexey.