Over the past year, more than a thousand of foreign IT specialists have moved to Belarus for a higher salary and cheaper life. Likewise, many Belarusian IT professionals are locating themselves in Silicon Valley or the international offices of Google, YouTube and other companies. Some work in Belarus and develop IT products that often appear in the world rankings. Here comes the top 5 successful Belarusian apps used worldwide.
A face app that provides face recognition with life filters appeared in Belarus in 2015. Named as the best start-up of Belarus, MSQRD reached the peak of popularity at the beginning of 2016. Face masks were downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide as MSQRD lets users try realistic masks of animals or celebrities (Barak Obama or Leonardo DiCaprio with Oscar). Facebook noticed MSQRD very soon and bought the company in March, 2016. According to different assessments, MSQRD cost Facebook $150mln. The company reached its success partly due to the careful targeting of particular content in a specific country.
“One thing that we quickly realized from the start is that we need to localize the app beyond the text. We didn’t just translate the description and captions of app screenshots. We chose various masks for the first app screenshot for different storefronts”, said Yauhen Nyauhen, a cofounder of MSQRD.
Viber turned out to be a game-changing product on the tech market in 2010 as it allows for finding a person and connecting for free via a phone number. In 2014, the company was bought by Japanese Rakuten and continued its immense growth. For now, Viber has introduced customized stickers, providing people in each country with the stickers topical for that territory. At early March 2019, Viber had more than 1 bn registered users. Technically, Viber is only coproduced by Belarusians, but one of the production offices is situated in Minsk.
This revolutionary app for travelers solved the problem of many tourists depending on Wifi or SIMcards. A user simply needs to download an offline map of a city when connected to the network. Since then, it is possible to navigate without connection. The founder of MapsMe,Yury Melnichak, had worked with Google maps and came up with the project idea in 2010. Besides, the app creates clear routes and indicates objects such as groceries or pharmacies. In 2014, the app was bought by the Russian company mail.ru.
Flo has become one of the world’s most popular apps for women. It is a health tracker that provides forecasts on menstruation and ovulation cycles; in addition, it helps to keep a record during pregnancy. Flo suggests various online tests and articles personalized for a particular user. More than 30 professionals in medicine from Harvard, Oxford, Yell produce content for the app.
Today the company’s value is around $250mln. Based on AI technology, Flo can produce realistic forecasts on women’s health. At the end of 2017, Flo became a Global Winner in the US annual start-up competition Red Herring 100. One of Flo’s founders, Dzmitry Hurski, is not planning to sell the company as it is growing popular and attracting new investors. Among them are model Natalia Vodianova and PayPal founder Peter Thiel.
Another product for travelers, Eightydays, emerged in 2016, in the same year it received the Startup of the Year 2016 Award. So far, it is the only service that has a function of multi-destination planning. The app can create a complete travel route with unlimited stops and destinations. According to its CEO Aleh Tsikhanau, it takes the app from 10 seconds to 1,5 minutes to construct a multi-destination route, whereas it took around an hour in the beginning. Eightydays is customized for choosing best-located airports as well as the quickest and the most convenient transportation means. In December, Russian designer Artemy Lebedev invested in the company and became its co-holder.
Alesia Rudnik, belsat.eu