From Belarus to Finland
Sciencesoft founded a subsidiary and hunts customers for its software development services
If you should find Belarus on the map, where in the world would you start your search? Behind the Urals? In reality, the country is located next to Lithuania. The distance between the Lithuanian capital Vilnus and Belarus capital Minsk is 170 km – not more than from Helsinki to Tampere.
The Belorussian IT company Sciencesoft has now founded a subsidiary in Helsinki and hired a Finnish IT industry veteran, Akif Ali as its CEO. Ali has been starting and leading several IT companies, such as 3D map technology developer Arcus Software and Comptel’s subsidiary Probatus. He has also worked as the CIO of Veripalvelu.
Ali is launching not only ScienceSoft’s software development services, but also the Belorussian society.
“Belarus is open, wide spaces like Ostrobotnia. The highest peak is only 345 above sea level. There is no oil or gas in the area, but know how is an important export product”, he says.
Belarus government supports high-tech companies and their employees with considerable tax relieves. There is a community of 15,000 IT professionals in Minsk and ScienceSoft has 250 employees in the region. The company offers outsourced software development, tailored software development and software testing services. The latest service area is in mobile solution development.
“The company has no domestic customers. The clientele comes from the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and lately also from Russia”, Ali explains.
In Finland ScienceSoft has already 5 customers which give work to 25 employees. Ali’s objective is to multiply the number of Finnish customers. He says that in Finland we are not very good at utilizing outsourced software development and testing services.
“There is a lack of skilled resources in Finland. ScienceSoft could help Finnish companies to focus on the most challenging projects.”
ScienceSoft can also help Finnish companies to start their own software development units in Belarus.
“If the customer is interested in starting a unit in Minsk, we can set it up with turnkey services. We have already done this with Tieto.”
Differencies in costs are considerable between Finland and Belarus. For example GDP Per Capita, when adjusted by purchasing power parity is double in Finland.
“One indication of the cost level is that the company has won Russian customers in the recent years. It is thus more inexpensive even for the Russians to buy software development in Belarus than to do it themselves”, Ali describes.
On the other hand, according to Ali, the markets define the level of salaries even in Minsk.
“If you master the most attractive new trends, you can price yourself. Senior level iPhone developers are on the top of the salary pyramid.”
ScienceSoft was founded in 1989 and its first software development product was for an American customer. It was an invention machine, a software that generated inventions. Company language was already then English.
“Many highly educated Belorussias have expatriated to get work. Noteworthy is that they have also returned to their home country”, Ali says.
Akif Ali’s enthusiasm for IT industry was originated in the computer club of Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu (SYK).
“SYK received a computer as a donation from the Kone Säätiö in 1972. It was an HP with 16 kb memory but not screen. Thanks to the computer, a computer club was founded and I joined.”
Many of Ali’s club fellows, such as Henry Tirri, the head of Nokia’s research centre, ended up in IT business.
Ali’s first computer software code also saw the light of day in the club, school board calculation program in Basic.
“d’Hondt’s election calculus method was ofcourse used.”
Ali’s first work experience in IT industry was a summer job as computer hall operator in the bank Kansallisosakepankki (KOP).
“I worked in three shifts there during the summer. There were some 20 magnet tapes in a row. Every single bank transaction made by the employees was logged on the tapes. And the tapes were kept safe in a vault”, he reminisces.