Last week I had a great opportunity to attend COFES Russia outside of St. Petersburg. As with all COFES events, it was a gathering of interesting people, in an interesting place, having interesting conversations. And as usual, I learned a lot. Here are seven indicators of the increased success of Russian software companies.
- Raw Talent. The prerequisite for any country to be a strong producer of software applications is a strong talent pool. And it’s no secret that Russia produces LOTS of very talented science and mathematics graduates, especially well-suited to the deep math required in the engineering software domain. Many successful U.S. and European-based software companies have relied on that talent for a few decades.
- Confidence. For those who work with Russian development teams, this one may not come as a surprise, since they have a reputation for great pride in their skills, ideas and code. But I am referring to the rising sense of confidence that they can create great products not just for the Russian market, but the world.
- Business vs. Technical Decision Making. Previously, Russian programming teams were known for their desire to do it all. But I now sense an openness to embrace business-driven alternatives that can best support fast and focused innovation, especially when it comes to the question of “build vs. buy.”
- Recognition that User Experience (UX) Matters. Historically, developers of engineering applications, particularly those created in Russia, worked from the premise: “Our customers are engineers. They care about the accuracy of the algorithms and quality of results, not how easy it is to use or how nice it looks.” Well, it turns out that engineers are humans too. All things being equal, if given the choice between a painful experience and an easy (or dare we say enjoyable) experience, they'll choose the enjoyable one. I heard lots of talk about bringing in outside talent in the UX area, demonstrating a positive perspective shift on user experience.
- The Cloud Flattens the World. If your software is structurally solid, provides value and caters to the user experience, who knows (or cares) where it is developed or hosted? As software companies and users embrace the cloud, the location of the company that created it will become increasingly less important. Previously you built a product and focused your sales locally for logistical reasons before branching outward. Today, when your service goes live, you can reach anywhere on the globe. Instantly.
- Partnering. After engaging in multiple presentations and conversations, I got the impression Russian companies are particularly good at partnering. A number of them compete with one another in some ways, but partner in other ways. I won’t try to dissect why this is, but it seems natural to them. That philosophy will serve any company in good stead; particularly as they seek to grow into new markets. You need partners.
- Funding. The United States is fortunate to have a robust investment community to help good ideas grow and flourish into successful companies. However, Venture Capitalists are not the mechanism in Russia for helping start-ups form and grow. Russian government agencies are now starting to recognize that nurturing the software industry is good for the national economy. The result is a growing pool of resources software companies can tap into to turn their ideas into reality.