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After Facebook acquired Belarusian startup MSQRD you might want to hear more from this ex-soviet country, whose IT industry has been mostly focused on outsourced software development for the past 20 years… But it is also a place where founders of internationally successful tech companies were born, including Apalon, PandaDoc, Kino-mo, MapsMe, and TaxiStartup among others.
In the last days of February, I checked out TechMinsk Investors’ Night, a final pitching event after a one month-long pre-acceleration program for early-stage startups. Ten teams took the stage, and that’s how the jury comprised of mentors and investors ranked them:
The members of the panel saw the most potential in the fintech startup called Alta. It uses artificial intelligence technology to create a financially-literate buddy for you. Alta represents a financial assistance service, where a user can get recommendations regarding bank product offerings. The service can also give answers to questions on financial topics, like “what is leasing”, as well as pay your bills. Then it gets even more tricky. Alta can track your expenses, categorize them and give advice on how to optimize them. You can ask “how to save money”, and the app will ask you to input some info, then it will crawl its database for the best deposit offerings and direct you to the bank website with an application form. And all the communication with Alta looks like a message request with a friend. The technology also supports voice requests.
At the moment, the service works as an extension to Telegram messenger, but Pavel Litvinko, the founder of Alta, is planning to launch a standalone app. Unfortunately, the service is currently available only in Russian at the moment, but they are planning to “teach” the foreign language to Alta.
Belarus doesn’t have a well-developed startup ecosystem yet, but most successful tech entrepreneurs were at the Investor Panel. Among them were Yuri Gurski, Vice-President New Product Development at Mail.ru Group, who made 4 successful exits in the past five years and is one of the most active mentors in the local startup community. He is the mentor to MSQRD (acquired by Facebook), Maps.me (bought by Mail.ru Group). Also on the panel was Aleksandr Chekan, CEO of TUT.by , the largest internet portal in Belarus, startup mentor and investor in MeetnGreetme.com.
The organizers invited foreign guests from Lithuania to judge the competition: Jean-Baptiste Daguené and Arvydas Bložė, investors from Practica Capital. Arvydas Bložė, CEO at Startup.lt, commented to GoalEurope on the state of the Belarusian startup scene: “The local startup ecosystem, and the one of the CEE region, is usually characterized by brilliant technical talent, that can build amazing technology and products. However, we yet do not have enough people that can shape it into a successful business in a somewhat coherent manner, like top-notch business development, sales and marketing people. I would really advise on investing in such talent to be available for the ecosystem.”
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vita at goaleurope dot com