JA CLUB TALK: Tobias Anhalt
In this issue of JA CLUB TALKS, the JustArrived.by met with a businessman from Germany Tobias Anhalt in order to find out why he decided to launch an IT startup in Belarus and how the IT sphere is developing in our country.
“In the USA startup did not work out for various reasons”
First time I visited Belarus was almost two years ago. I came from Hamm, a very small city in Germany, which no one actually knows. Before I came to Belarus, I had an experience of living in the United States for a little bit over a year. There I found my business, it was an artificial intelligence research startup in the Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, it did not work out for various reasons. However, I could learn English and quite a lot of business and IT stuff there. It was an amazing experience. I came back from the USA because I could not get visa. It is very hard to get visa there, so it is one of the biggest problem for foreigners who want to open business in United States.
“The market of programmers in Germany is very tough”
After my trip to the USA, I came back to Germany in order to check it out where it is better to found a company. The market of programmers in Germany is very tough. There are many programmers, but there are even more companies that need them. So, for a company it is very hard to find good developers. I was thinking about how I can solve this issue.
I started researching different countries. I knew a little bit about Ukraine, because my best friend is from Odessa. So, I was considering the neighbouring countries. I came to Moscow for a month, but found out that it is extremely expensive. It is actually cheaper to do business in Berlin. Latter I was in Kiev, but it was a year after Maydan. Then I googled and found out that Belarus has a lot of IT people in comparison to Germany, at least in LinkedIn.
So, I just came here and made some research of a startup ecosystem. I found out that salary for developers in Belarus half as much as in Germany and 4 times less in comparison with the USA. In Minsk, I also found Imaguru business club, where I met many people from my sphere and got a lot of useful information about launching a startup.
“You cannot expect to live here and do not learn Russian”
The first step here was not to hire programmers, but to find German speaking people here. I was happy to see that there are pretty many people who have good language skills, not just English, but also German. However, sometimes it is happened that I need to speak Russian with front-end developers. When I visited Russia for the first time, I wanted to be prepared. I had three week to learn some Russian words. As I did not have so much time, I just learned three hundred useful sentences in Russian. It was awesome and really helped me in Moscow. Now I study Russian on my own. To tell the truth I never studied grammar, just words and phrases. Also, I read books and mark all unknown words. I think that the language barrier in Belarus is very high. You cannot expect to live here and do not learn Russian. You need to make a serious effort to learn the language.
“We write a specialised software for different business sphere”
Now we have our entire company (customer support, sales, operation) only in Belarus. We literally moved everything from Germany to Belarus. My co-founder, who was a last-year student in Berlin, also decided to move to Belarus. In Belarus me and my friend have an IT startup, which mission is to write a specialised software for different business sphere. In order to make this software we do a thorough market research. We switch from one market to another market to create a software for the needs of this specific business industry. Our company has already made the software for 3 markets. Now we are moving to Education market (master classes and online seminars).
“In Germany, companies invest a lot in their employees, because they will work there for a long time”
Germany has a very specific work culture. People usually work in one company for their entire life. When I was looking for developers in Belarus, I found out that most of them changed their job every half of a year or every year. An employer needs a half of the year to train an employee. If he works only a half of the year then, an employer do not get so much profit from him. In Germany, companies invest a lot in their employees, because they will work there for a long time. In Belarus, finding people who want to stay for a long term needs consideration. Check people for their motivation and previous job experience and you will also find employees who want to stay in your company for a long period, you just need to look for them.
“It is difficult to compare the High-Tech Park in Belarus and the Silicon Valley in the United States, because they are completely different”
15 days ago I made an application for the membership in the High-Tech Park. It is very cool business program. For me it is too good to be truth. In the High-Tech Park members pay much less amount of taxes. However, I think that almost no one knows about this program in Europe, because the High-Tech Park do not make advertisement at all.
It is difficult to compare the High-Tech Park in Belarus and the Silicon Valley in the United States, because they are completely different. There are a lot of innovative companies in the Silicon Valley and founders have a great amount of capital to develop their business. It is quite easy to get investments there. The High-Tech Park is more about benefits that are not provided in the Silicon Valley. So, rationally speaking, if you have the capital, it is better to open your business in Belarus.
“I was surprised to find out that the rent of offices in Minsk is almost the same as in Berlin”
Before I came here, I thought that Belarus would be the same as Ukraine. But it turned out to be absolutely different. People are very nice and helpful. There is no bribes here, when in Ukraine it is widespread. Minsk is very clean even in comparison with Germany.
However, the rent of offices is quite expensive. I was surprised to find out that the rent of offices in Minsk is almost the same as in Berlin. That is weird, because the apartment rent is very cheap.
All prices in Minsk are much less than in Berlin. In spite the fact that food in Belarus is very cheap, you need to look at the products. What is cheap in Germany might be expensive here and vice versa. Also, you should take into account that national cuisine is different. I like Belarusian food, but I do not know how people can eat so much meat here. I think Belarusians eat meat every day, when Germans eat it once or twice a week. Even baby food contents meat.
“I lived in the part of Hamburg where it was 70% migrants”
When I came to Belarus, everyone asked me what I think about migrants in Germany. In Germany, I lived in the part of Hamburg where it was 70% migrants. It was considered to be a problem area in Hamburg. 70% of my neighbours were Russian and also some Turkish people. However, for me it was okay, not a problem at all. To tell the truth, in Germany people have very different opinions about migrants.