Today’s guest of the ItStarts! is Dmitry Titov who is an IT journalist, a native of Vitebsk who studied as a sociologist, worked on television, and got in the HTP as a press secretary.
What job to hold if you are a sociologist?
I was born in Vitebsk and then I realized that I wanted to get to Minsk with the guys who also left for the capital. I entered the Humanitarian Faculty of BSU and studied all 5 courses. I am a sociologist and a teacher of socio-political disciplines by profession. I did not do many surveys, but I actively participated in the census. Then it was not as digital as it is now.
In 2010, I attended the private course on advertising from Vkontakte, and I was offered one of the groups to practice at the Belteleradiocompany’s Television News Agency in the economic department. It was considered as “elite” because there were always skillful journalists.
For a year I went to the program “Good Morning, Belarus”, where I did all kinds of extreme things so that people would notice me like jumping on a bungee from the bridge, for example. Of course, it was not me who had invented this format, but I was looking for everything cool in Minsk, I tried everything on myself.
I was one of the few on TV who could climb into an inflatable balloon. They kicked me so I could ride across the Minsk Sea for 10 minutes, and that was funny.
And then in transit through the economic department of ATN, I got in the HTP.
HTP spokeswoman without interest in IT
Initially, I did not have a particular interest in IT. I did everything that I had to. I went to make a report about the railway, and the next day, to the Council of Ministers.
Later they offered to run the program "About gadgets." The name speaks for itself, I had to delve into the topic. So I started talking about new technologies from around the world and reviewing technology for one of the popular stores.
I could become a Belarusian Wylsacom if they would give me views and I would somehow more seriously approach the issue.
When the strategy to the IT development in 2017 was adopted it was necessary to single out one person who would deal with this particular topic, to communicate, travel, and make reports. And that was me. I began to actively visit the offices of IT companies and study what blockchain was. In the evening, my wife and I learned about cryptocurrency, so that later I could explain it to people in an accessible language.
Most likely, the director of HTP liked my presentation of information. It was like this:
Usevalad Yancheusky asked me who could become the press secretary of the HTP. Well, I thought and answered so modestly: "No one comes to my head except me." He said, “I think so too.”
Before me there was a position of spokesperson, there was a marketing department. But thanks to the decree and the director’s energy, some movement began. Now there is a team that creatively submits information both on the site and in social networks, and in life normally communicates with IT people. I guess I became such a person who added informality.
I felt that it’s impossible to communicate with IT people by script. They are not interested in it, you would better to speak their language.
Due to the fact that I listen to informal music, communicate with creative people, I probably somehow caught this wave, and I am comfortable with them as well as they with me, I hope.
How many workers are in HTP resident companies?
About 50 thousand people work in the resident companies of the HTP, and last year there were a little more than 40 thousand. Plus, some companies and startups are queuing up for registration. There are a lot of them, a whole queue that we hope to remove. There will be a huge enrolment at about 100.
Companies that filed documents in March will enter in October or November. We have the coolest guys in the registration department who are trying to help everyone by drawing up a business plan and going through all the procedures. But it all depends on what number the supervisory and expert counsel is appointed. It takes place every three months. Now there is a serious influx of people who were inspired by the decree, and the registration department simply can not cope. Among the newcomers, about 20% are startups.
There are companies with foreign capital, but they need a legal entity in Belarus. The last run was about 60 residents, there probably were from 5 to 10 American and European companies that opened with us.
How to get into the HTP and is it worth it to go?
To get to us, you first need to call the registration department of HTP residents. Tell us what your company is, how many employees are there, what is your business plan, whether there is a profit. And you will be guided when you can theoretically get into the Park and whether it is worth going at all.
If you decide to expand production, you need to change activities, come again and say that you want to do this, this and that. And wait for the next tip. Then we have an activity monitoring department that will track your business. There will be no reduction in production in this case.
One of the advantages of the decree was that we take startups. By the way, many media recently wrote that startups last year were unprofitable. But a startup can’t have an immediate boost because 9 out of 10 startups go bankrupt.
Many consider the scary punishment prescribed in the first decree and departure from the Park if the business plan is not fulfilled a minus of entering the Park. But practice says the opposite. HTP is trying not to fine, otherwise, we would not have started taking startups. There are no strict restrictions and complaints, we understand all the risks. And we do not residents to pay to the Social Protection Fund.
So entering is safe.
There are failures in between 5-10%. We will refuse entry only if a company has a weak business plan or does not fit under the type of activity. We may refuse at the very first stage, or maybe after a council at which they specifically explain the reason for the refusal.
eSportsmen in HTP
HTP is not only an IT platform. For example, look at Cyber Genesis. I went to the esports training camp with them. There is a cottage near Minsk where gamers live. I don’t know whether they have families, but they’re separated from their lives for two weeks, brought to this house, where they have their cook, gym, bathhouse, and they can even kick the ball in the yard.
Gamers said that it’s easier for them to work hard and show fantastic results for two weeks than to sit and play up to the midnight, and then screw it up. This is a pattern interrupt.
Our guys earn by playing Dota as an average IT specialist. Their salaries are about $ 2200 according to the statistics. They get salaries and prize money.
There is another interesting Mediola Compact project from FOTEK CJSC “Surgery of one day”. The company develops devices for laser surgery.
Need some kind of surgery? In the morning a person comes to the table, and in the evening he is already at home.
These devices are now implemented in some clinics.
In ecology, there are also projects, for example, R-NOX startup. They came up with a sensor for large laboratories in industrial plants which tracks how seriously the atmosphere is polluted.
The company was founded by a descendant of the Radziwills, Vadim Radziwill. He admitted to me, I don’t know just why he doesn’t make publicity on it. Vadim, forgive me for revealing secrets here if you lied.
Trends of Belarusian IT
Since 2017, I have been engaged in PR support for each set in HTP, there were already about 10. Since that time the coolest trends are in robotics.
I was stunned when I saw Belwest among the applications.
They have their own IT department, which works in the field of AI. It produces robotic carts that deliver goods to the desired point. They also make a smart system to track shoe sales around the world. Real industrial production, but deepens in IT.
There are a lot of companies that make hardware. Everyone knows Rozum Robotics. We want them to put their robot-cafe with us so we could lavish our guests an unusual coffee.
Many companies deal with the Internet of things, for example, INTELAB. The company is developing sensors that are implanted in human skin, and doctors can remotely monitor the health of the patient’s core.
There are no much talks about Gurtam, but the company does incredible things. For example, in Sri Lanka, using their system it is possible to control the call of nurses; in Sweden, they monitor patients with Alzheimer recording their fall and location; in Denmark, defibrillators are monitored and cause emergency help for heart attacks. For these purposes, there is a navigation system like Wialon and sensors that they also produce.
We want Yandex to bring a drone to us and we all rode together, we discuss this opportunity now. But while we have no roads for a drone, we need to digitize it.
But there are other companies, for example, the American company Mapbox creates online maps. They work in the Belarusian market. When I was a news reporter, I used to talk with them, and they drove me around the city. They had a navigator, but it was unusual. It colors objects with different colors, so the trees are blue and the people are red.
In which direction is HTP evolved?
Shortly HTP will hit the medical field. There are a lot of such startups, and soon we will have a big presentation for the Ministry of Health about what we have in the medical field and how we can help.
There are serious companies that produce cosmetology equipment Solar LS. Startups who are ready to make their virtual reality helmets with a headset and treat children with cerebral palsy. Lung Passport invented electronic stethoscopes, they cost people a couple of bucks, it is much cheaper than Polish ones.
We want to explain, show the state and the doctors that many features need to be used.
Now a lot of talks is going on how to spend the money that is deposited on the HTP account. Work is underway, bureaucratic issues are negotiated to support universities and startups.
In which IT fields the most money is?
In our country, the IT sector takes 3rd place in terms of the number of vacancies. There was even such information that IT specialists from Belarus earn more than in Russia and Ukraine, but this is unlikely. Ernst & Young estimated that the average earnings in HTP will be $2400 next year. But I do not think these forecasts are true. If we talk about an experienced expert, the salaries are like the following: a game designer earns $1500, a web designer earns $1000, an SEO specialist earns $1100, a business analyst earns $1300.
Will the HTP move closer to the people?
We looked at the offices in the center because in a sense it is inconvenient to be so far away. But they did not find a suitable building. There is talk about the premises on Yakub Kolas street, maybe shortly there will be presentations for the leadership of the city, and this will be realized.
But here we have one prayed room. It is the incubator. We call this room happy. Symbolically, at one time the OneSoil startup was sitting here, which our director Usevalad Vyachaslavavych Yancheusky drew attention to. The founders of the startup were called Slava and Usevalad, somehow it dug into his soul, and the startup itself was unique. He saw them at one of the conferences and quickly decided to give a platform for work. They had a large team and their own product, and as a result, they received $500 million of investments. They entered the HTP and moved to the office on Zybitskaya which is a great place to hold meetings.
And right after them, cool guys settled in the incubator, they make the world’s first touch-sensitive keyboards. And they found a major partner Prestigio, agreed that they would release more than 1000 keyboards. Here is such a good place.
We are currently rebranding these premises. We use it more as an audience to receive delegations. Now there is such a boom: the presidents of Uzbekistan, Armenia, and other countries came to us. We have 3-4 delegations per week who think whether to join the HTP or not. But in the future, we want to regulate the process and give this room to startups because the room is cool.
I would like to make another demonstration of technologies up to putting holograms with the face of a person who will meet guests and tell what is going on here. An exhibition is needed.
There are interesting offices in Belarus. For example, Wargaming has a cool office. Recently I was in Synesis, it’s very cool there, as I was told, everything is made from Belarusian materials, the founder of the company brings a lot of features and ideas from around the world.