Co-authored by Darya Korsak, a tech blogger in search of high-tech gems that are to become next game-changers; a software development trend watcher in the know of the inner workings and gotchas of tech business that are usually off the radar of the general public; and part of Softeq team.
It's no news that Silicon Valley, NY and other major pioneering tech venues are among the world's largest hosts for masterminds. An everlasting tendency for countries struggling to build their own valley, alley, ground, or any other equivalent of national tech hub is no news either. There always is a space for great minds fountaining with innovative ideas that change the world for the better.
Thus, let's consider three locations where some 20 years ago there weren't a well of tech business opportunities. However, now they are home for quite a generation of first-rate tech experts and inventive entrepreneurs enlarging the ranks of serious market players.
# 1 Belarus: Still Impossible to Be Executed?
Still being a sort of off-the-beaten-track destination for many tourists, Belarus is a renowned tech hotspot with excellent engineering culture. Having been baptized by the Western media as the residence of the last living dictatorship in Europe, Belarus nevertheless holds itself out as a welcoming environment for tech establishments. The launch of a massive tech hub took place in 2005 when Belarus's Hi-Tech Park (HTP) was established in Minsk. The membership looks exceptionally beneficial for them: the resident companies are exempt from corporate taxes (VAT and profit tax included), let alone customs duties.
Definitely, none of the achievements would have happened without those bright intellects that have been struggling to gain a wide recognition and be square with all the world at the tech market. The success story began with NASDAQ-traded EPAM Systems, Skype-killer Viber, and the world-most famous tank game developer Wargaming. The past couple of years yield a boom of prominent local startups evolving at the international arena and attracting attention of VCs and investors. One can mention quite a collection of noteworthy projects by Belarusians or the country's expats: from the offline maps Maps.Me and Kino-mo 3D display for air projection to SplitMetrics A/B app testing tool, Toothscanner and NWave aimed at the Internet of Things market, PandaDoc document automation software and WISP SaaS solution for HR purposes.
Within a surge of enthusiasm from the challenges, Belarusian authorities have been carefully building the infrastructure for startups support. And yet there is a peculiarity about having a tech business in Belarus. These days it is more about either service-oriented or foreign offshore companies' prerogative. The real-world situation is that a newborn business should get ready for a certain administrative red tape and the general absence of low interest credits at the very beginning. That's why, brilliant Belarusian entrepreneurs are often focused on exporting their activities. Another fact is that it's quite difficult for a startup to grow into a large lucrative business by operating on the internal market. The small size of the domestic market, as well as a low paying capacity of Belarusian customers set a serious limitation. What's left then? Either to gear your tech product to some offshore market or jump into outsourcing business. That's one of the reasons why Belarus has become an incubator for tech brainpower, and companies offering software development services take the full advantage of high-quality programming talent available at competitive rates.
# 2 Brazil: a Vast Network of Skipping Connection
An ongoing political drama and economic turmoil in Brazil seems to become its permanent state. Still, the 200+ million people country boasts one of the world's most rising economies and a firmly established middle class. Recently, we can also observe a steady development of Brazilian tech startup scene reforming healthcare, education, and other major state systems.
Most tech and startup hubs focus in São Paolo that generates the largest GDP across the country, while Rio de Janeiro hosts the second biggest share of them. Recife's Porto Digital ventured in 2000 has been also struggling eagerly to attract skilled workforce under the roof. Not for nothing - they quite made a go of it tending to become an exemplary entrepreneur environment giving a creative tech touch to social development solutions.
Well, who's got enough ardor to raise and breed the generation of Brazil's smart entrepreneurs? Namely, they are the major national "Atlases" that have facilitated the creation of many tech companies - they are Start-Up Brasil, SEED, and Sebrae RJ. The cultivated startup area brings about a whole lot of trailblazing and rewarding businesses like Nubank, one of the most lucrative finance startups, GuiaBolso financial management platform hitting the App Store without any marketing campaign, Hotel Urbano just about to become the most successful travel agency in Brazil, and a list of other noteworthy smart novelties. This year SAP also steps into the area with its Startup Focus program. Brazilian cryptocurrency adepts rejoice as well, as the capital now hosts BitcoinToYou startup office.
However, what makes some business pioneers stay aloof from the Brazilian ground? The discouraging components are overpayment for services due to somewhat underdeveloped infrastructure and the Internet access problems here and there, risk aversion stemming from the past decades' financial instability, a decentralized start-up network, and the lack in seasoned tech entrepreneurial environment necessary for start-up mentorship as well as costly capital.
# 3 Jordan: a Monarchy Protégé, a MENA Tech Pioneer, and a GDP Foremost Producer
Gaining momentum in the international tech industry arena, Jordan can rightly be claimed one of the richest Arab world's tech goldmines. Armed with the royal blessing and investments, the country's tech hub emerged into a constitutive sector of the state economy that raises about 12% of its GDP, hosts 300+ startups and 600+ tech companies, and offers 84,000 jobs. The $175 million sale of Maktoob Internet portal to Yahoo in 2009 is a true testimony to Jordan's tech success.
Encouraged to the utmost, Jordanian monarchy hurled itself to nurture local talents into a potent generation of entrepreneurs. That's what a sovereign ruler should be like nowadays: Queen Rania pays her respects to social media with her YouTube channel and Twitter account and supports business newcomers through the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship (QRCE).
Local authorities contribute to establishment of communities and organizations like Jordan Open Source Association, Amman Tech Tuesdays, and GeekFest. A significant part of the credit in forming a healthy and strong startup ecosystem goes to Oasis500, which is nothing but an investment accelerator pioneer in the MENA region, attracting international players that now amount to 20%.
To start or not to start-up in Jordan? There are several major factors to consider before venturing out to Jordan. First, potential "angels" are extremely risk-averse and thus seemingly disinterested in VC funding. Second, the societal and environmental support are not easily obtained as well. Third, as it goes with a number of startups, the lack of know-how in business modeling, marketing and project management often becomes a disruptive factor.