The word “startup” has long ceased to cause bewilderment in Belarus. This Eastern European country is dynamically accelerating its IT world with hundreds of lucrative tech companies that are already standing on the world’s progressive development frontline. Foreign investors have been showing interest in the IT companies that originated in Belarus for quite a while now, and dozens of successful partnerships are only there to prove it.
In this article, you’ll get acquainted with the ever-developing IT sector of the Republic of Belarus as well as find out which of this country’s startups have skyrocketed to bring its founders immense profits.
The IT market of the Republic of Belarus is indeed promising. Starting from 2005 its economic zone that’s aimed at the IT industry, called High Technology Park (HTP), has been thriving. As of mid-2020, there are over 1.5k IT companies in Belarus, half of which are members of the HTP. Some of the most renowned ones among them are EPAM Systems, Game Stream that is better known as Wargaming, Itransition, and IBA Group.
Topping that, the Wall Street Journal has even stated the following about the country:
“Belarus is emerging as the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe.”
What is more, the country can boast having over 20 top-notch technological universities, geared towards “growing” skillful developers. Apart from that, it has also deserved a reputation of an outstanding and trustworthy outsource destination, including the fields of app development, UX & UI, and is a wellhead for those planning on hiring Magento developers.
Mentioning the Belarusian startup ecosystem, the capital city, Minsk, currently holds the 197th position out of 1000 cities in the StartupBlink ranking of the world’s startup strength list that’s split by destination. Additionally, TechMinsk is among the major local accelerators that have helped numerous Belarusian startups to grow and flourish. Finally, Belarus can pride itself on having developed outstanding applications and products that are used globally, for instance, the famous World of Tanks game.
Now that you’re briefly introduced to the country’s IT environment, let’s move on to those technological startup projects with Belarusian origin that thrived and brought a colossal profit.
The popularity of the MSQRD application that’s used for changing photo and video images and applying various live masks to your face in real-time using your mobile device is undeniable. Be it bunny ears, a funny mustache, gorilla face, or the look of a celebrity, this “try-on” app became a hit very rapidly.
The face filtering app project was developed by Masquerade Technologies, a Belarusian company. The founders of the startup (Eugene Nevgen, Sergey Gonchar, Eugene Zatepyakin) spent several years developing the technology that would be well-compatible with the mobile devices. Yet the company was created during the Imaguru startup hub’s hackathon in November 2015. At the start of 2016, MSQRD was listed among the most promising startups of Belarus. Lucky for them, this was the year when the topic of augmented reality started to thrive, add that to the world’s craze about selfies.
After receiving their first million users, in February 2016, the startup raised more than 1 million USD. In less than two weeks after that (in the very March that followed), the application was purchased by Facebook with the entire technology and art instruments. Although Facebook has shut down the app platform in spring 2020, this very AR face-filtering technology was implemented by them into Instagram, Messenger, and other products of Facebook.
Rated as one of the best health apps for women around the globe, Flo is among the most downloaded applications of its kind in the world (more than 100 million installs to both iOS and Android). Its main aim is to help women to track their menstrual cycle, plan a pregnancy, it also offers health recommendations. The product is expected to become the commercially successful one in its category.
The rather young Health Tech startup was developed by Dmitry Gursky and co-founder Yuri Gursky. The app was making its way up thanks to the support of the local investment fund Huxus. During the time of the project’s existence, it managed to raise over 20 million USD.
Another startup worthy of notice is Maps.me, a great and free offline replacement for Google Maps and its analogs. The greatest perk of this application is that it provides access to maps offline.
Thus, by pre-downloading the map of a region to a device, the user gets access to “navigator” or vehicle GPS functionality, the opportunity to pin locations, the chance to map a route both by car, bike and on foot, among other perks like allocating the nearest hotel. And all of this without the need to be connected to the internet or Wi-Fi as Maps.me uses GPS! This app is thought to be especially handy for making your way around a foreign country.
The startup was launched in 2010 by the founders Yuri Melnychek, Alexander Borsuk, Victor Govako with the main office in Zurich and the development hub in Minsk. In November 2014, the company was sold to Mail.ru Group, and already by early 2019, the app was installed more than 90 million times.
The messenger Viber that also has Belarusian roots is a favored app alongside analogous WhatsApp, Telegram, and Skype. Sending text and audio messages, files, stickers, and videos are one side of its functions. The app is also used for making calls, including video calls from mobile devices.
The project was first launched back in 2010 with Igor Magazin and Talmon Marko being its founders. The company was purchased by Rakuten (a Japanese company) in 2014 for an estimated 900 million USD. In 2018, the number of app downloads exceeded 1 billion times! As of today, Viber is among the residents of the Belarusian High Tech Park and has support and development offices in Minsk and the Belarusian city of Brest.
Last but not least, PandaDoc software is yet another Belarusian startup used by more than 6 thousand businesses around the globe. This software was designed to optimize electronic document management and it is easily integrated into the CRM systems that companies use (such as Salesforce.com, Zoho, Base, and Pipeline).
It solves the problem of tracking the actions that take place with the document that’s sent, including when it was opened, how much time a person needed to read it, if the document was signed or not, and whether there were any comments regarding it. Interestingly, PandaDoc became one of the first additions to be officially added to Google Docs and Google Sheets. Moreover, its QouteRoller service is an indispensable helping hand for creating, sending, and monitoring commercial offers.
PandaDoc was started by Sergey Borisyuk and Mikita Mikado. The project already attracted more than 20 million USD.
Wrapping up, of course, when a project is just at its infancy, it’s hard to predict whether success or failure awaits it, even if an amazing idea is behind it. But the five Belarusian ones mentioned in this piece are surely worth the attention. Hopefully, the developers from the Republic of Belarus will continue to make the world happier with their creations!
Alex Husar, CTO at Onilab with 8+ years of experience in Magento development services and Salesforce. He graduated from the Czech Technical University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Computer Software Engineering. Alex’s expertise includes both full-stack dev skills and a strong ability to provide project-critical guidance to the whole team.