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New East is the New Black: what’s in it for investors?

Valeria Mingova
May 3, 2019 · 9 min read
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By KSENIYA SIDAROVICH, STARTUP & COMMUNITY MANAGER, EMERGE

EMERGE Conference, which takes place on 4-5 June in Minsk, Belarus, has its focus on the New East. As our friends from the Calvert Journal, a UK based media, stated it: New East covers Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Central Asia.

You can be thrilled about tech talent in the New East, you can question the region, but you can’t neglect smth is happening here. What exactly? It is emerging!

Why New East? Why Belarus?

Big guys spotted it right so in 2016 Facebook acquired MSQRD, a video filtering app from Belarus. Google did not wait long and in 2017 bought Belarusian company AIMatter, a neural network-based platform which detects and processes images quickly on mobile devices. Maps.me, which is also from Belarus became a part of the Russian tech giant Mail.ru. This offline map with navigation feature keeps saving lives of tourists worldwide when there is no internet at hand.

The roots of the successful tech stories go back to the legendary Belarusian tech brands which are now known worldwide. You’ve most probably heard about EPAM, World of Tanks, Viber, Maps.me and numerous younger companies whose success puts a particular focus on Belarus as a country of tech-talents.

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What else is so special about Belarus?

In December 2017, Belarusian Government thrilled the international audience with adopting crypto-currency law which legalizes initial coin offerings and transactions in crypto-currencies. It includes their exchange for traditional currencies on Belarusian exchanges, while all trades will be tax-free for the upcoming five years.

So, Belarus paves its Unicorn way in the New East Region and sets the ground for new tech stars to shine.

2018 was indeed a special year for tech-companies from Belarus. Out of 12,000 products across 22 categories on Product Hunt, 3 startups from Belarus topped the rankings in their categories and won Golden Kitty Awards.

Onesoil became the best AI&Machine Learning Product of the year. Its interactive map allows exploring and comparing fields and crops in Europe and the USA. Moreover, it merely looks at art!

Wannaby came first in AR Product of the year category. The app takes shopping to the next level and allows trying shoes, jewelry and apparel before making a purchase.

RocketBody was named the best Health&Fitness product of the year. The team has brought to the market a reward-winning personal AI-powered training app.

In the same 2018, FLO app from Belarus became the most downloaded health app worldwide.

New East success stories go beyond Belarusian borders as local Unicorns are arising in numerous countries of the region. We mean Ukraine and its world-known Grammarly. Y-combinator backed PetCube from Ukraine, while BetterMe became the fastest-growing family of Health&Fitness apps on the US market. Armenian guys have created PicsArt, #1 photo editor and pic collage maker on mobile. Hungary is the motherland for Prezi and Turbine AI which is using artificial intelligence for fighting against cancer. The famous Revolut company was founded by the UK entrepreneurs Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko who originally come from Russia and Ukraine. The three-year-old company which started from 6 employees at the Level39 Tech Accelerator in Canary Wharf has reached over 4.5 million customers in the UK and beyond and is valued at $1.7bn as of March 2019.

We’ve gone through the startup stories from the New East countries and put here some of the exciting ones.

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Bulgaria and its Local Unicorns

Bloomberg, Forbes, Weird among other media are coming up with new titles to describe the success of Bulgarian startup Dronamics. The team is developing a car-seized drone for cargo and soon are expected to replace traditional delivery and postal services. Brothers-innovators Konstantin and Svilen Rangelov won the Pioneer Award, while Konstantin also broke into Forbes 2017 European Ranking 30 under 30.

Another Bulgarian tech startup EnhanceCV helps candidates to get into the most desired today companies. Thanks to EnhanceCV over 500 000 candidates were noticed and hired to tech giants like Tesla, Google, Facebook, Spotify, Intercom to name a few.

Meanwhile, their colleagues from Bulgarian Startup Ecosystem help 500 Fortune Companies to go lean. Kanbanize, led by Dimitar Karaivanav, is a software management tool which helps companies to practice Kanban. It has already been appreciated in over 30 countries around the globe. The startup was backed by Bulgarian seed venture fund Eleven Ventures and is named one of the most successful startups in the region.

Thanks to OfficeRD, also from Bulgaria, coworkings can put their members on the driver seat and make them engage with each other. Guys are in the list of the best coworking management tools ever!

What’s up in Moldova?

Another 30 under 30 team is on our list — Moldavian founders of Planable. It is a life-saving tool for teams who collaborate on creating social media campaigns. The guys are trusted by an impressive list of companies among which are Volkswagen, Virgin Mobile, BMW, Costa Coffee, Mini, SkyTeam Airline Alliance… To be continued.

It is Moldavian startup XOR which is predicted to transform HR Industry with its AI Recruiting technology. XOR is an enterprise SaaS platform which attracts talent from over 500 sources, offers 24/7 support, has 103 languages in place and gives an instant response from the AI chatbot. It is expected that the tool can lower the recruiting cost by 50% and hire employees matching positions 33% faster. This product is chosen by IKEA, McDonald’s, Heineken and others.

Salt Edge is another inspiring example from the New East. Founded by the team from Moldova, the company has its offices in Toronto, London, and Chisinau. The team claims to have processed over 1 million transactions and has raised over $3 million in funding as of spring 2018. Salt Edge works with over 3100 banks worldwide which are over 250 000+ end users daily. The service adds value by providing data enrichment, financial health check, and payee verification.

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Undiscovered Bosnia

Shahriyar Mohammadi is a 25+ Iranian who moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) at the age of 10 years old and became the founder of one of the brightest startups in BH so far. Goody is the platform for companies to promote their products in a fun and interactive way while customers not only see relevant products but can also win goodies.

Erna Sosevic from Bosnia once left her job in the consultancy company to connect local companies in the country. With a relatively small local Bosnian Market, 3.5 mln people, Erna has spotted the lack of awareness about deals that local companies are offering. To change this, she launched Bizbook business platform. Now it is easy to have access to the offers from local companies which contributes to increasing sales and strengthening BH economy.

Russia

It gets to be quite a challenge to point at 2–3 startups among the many coming from Russia, so here are just a few talents who work hard to make it big. Founded in 2016, Sarafan Technology raised $1.3 mln being backed by the Admitad Invest and the former investors Sergey Dashkov and The Untitled Ventures, who will make it to EMERGE in Minsk on 4–5 June 2019. Sarafan Technology is an Artificial Intelligence Technology for clothes recognition in a photo. ClothesUntitledtion using AI technology has been quite a hot topic in the startup world which took Sarafan Technology Team some time to find their way in the market. Guys started with allowing customers to take pictures of the desired outfit so that the app could suggest where to buy the desired pieces. Now, shopping is happening straight on partners’ websites. Sarafan Technology widget allows buying similar to the shown in the image items right at the moment when a user clicks ‘buy this look’ button in the image. It’s a win-win: customers have a sky-rocket shopping while media get paid for every new lead for the online store.

Flying bikes have arrived. In 2017 Russian startup, grown in the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, introduced the first flying bike. In 2019 the bike has been purchased by Dubai police for patrolling the streets in busy areas. Hoverbike S3 can reach the maximum speed of 96 km/h and fly for about 20–30 minutes without recharging. It can go as high as 30 meters height even though 5–15 meters should be enough to execute the suggested tasks. Denis Saitgareev, Hoversurf’s Chief Designer, says that Honda and Yamaha from Japan have already shown their interest in the mass production of the Hoverbike. The team is looking ahead and planning to make a cargo-carrying bike in the future.

Another fintech story from Russia is a startup which brings banks to messengers. TalkBank.io applies Big Data and AI technologies to conduct all transactions through the chatbot in popular messengers. The founders promise that their solution relieves customers from downloading new apps, going to bank offices or calling call centers as what clients really want to get done fast with transferring money, topping up card or getting support. It deems to be the same easy as talking to friends in messengers. TalkBank.io has own cards which let the customers get up to 5% cashback from the purchases made with the company’s card.

Moving to the other side of the New East — the Caucasus.

Next after khinkali Georgian biggest innovation

It started with solving his problem. Back in 2008, Tamas Georgadze from Georgia tried to open a bank deposit across the border. This experience inspired him to launch an online platform for making cross-border deposits so that customers do not need to deal with administrative requirements in different countries, overcome language barriers or even travel to another country for authentication. Raisin is now Europe’s #1 Deposit Marketplace which has recently raised $114 million in Series D funding backed among others by PayPal and Index Ventures.

Next from Georgia is SHELF, TechStars 2018 graduates and winners of the Frontier Innovation Awards in California as the best real-world use case of blockchain technology. The team was also named the best European Blockchain startup at the BlockShow 2018. SHELF helps car sellers to reach out to more buyers, sell cars and get higher margins. They made it possible by creating the infrastructure for synchronized trades among multiple online marketplaces. The technology developed by Lasha Antadze and Pavel Kravchenko enables sellers to upload vehicles at one place, but run and monitor auctions on all interconnected marketplaces.

Does it seem to be true that New East is the New Black for tech talents and breakthrough tech-experiments? More is to come. As per the ‘Startup&Investment Landscape’ report prepared for Google for Startups, there are about 1 million developers in the CEE region where Poland is ranked first and accounting for 254 thousand developers, followed by Romania and the Czech Republic. Belarus is placed in the top 7 countries of the CEE with 45 thousand developers in the country. Slovakia and Croatia are slightly behind being the home of 38 and 34 thousand developers respectively. The report also states that 6 out of 20 countries who have the best developers are from the CEE — means every fourth coolest developer is from the CEE.

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Not only SOAD is rocking in Armenia

And not only coders code! SoloLearn from Armenia has been the way for more than 30 mln learners to have step-by-step guidance in how to code in 9 languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and more. It is available on the web and on any mobile device. More than a learning platform SoloLearn is also the largest community of mobile coders where you create and share programming content with peers around the globe.

EMERGE is the place to see these tech-diamonds on the way to their Walk of Fame.

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Valeria Mingova

Written by

PR Doctor. Areas of special interests: digital, blockchain, cryptocurrency, fintech, startups. Areas of expertise: PR, media relations.

Data Driven Investor

empowering you with data, knowledge, and expertise

Valeria Mingova

Written by

PR Doctor. Areas of special interests: digital, blockchain, cryptocurrency, fintech, startups. Areas of expertise: PR, media relations.

Data Driven Investor

empowering you with data, knowledge, and expertise

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