Emerge 2019 – Minsk, Belarus

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5 days staying in Minsk during Emerge conference. The notes about the travel, conference, and opinions about the future.

It’s not a secret, ex-Soviet Union region (Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Central Asia), as we call it now New East region, has been traditionally strong in natural sciences such as mathematics, physics, astrophysics, chemistry, engineering.

For a long time companies abroad came to Eastern Europe to fetch the best talent. Now, the table has turned, and the region is booming with exceptional companies and founders on their way to success.

New East is the place of successful companies such as MSQRD and AIMATTER, acquired by Facebook and Google respectively, Grammarly, GitHub, Wargaming, Yandex and many more.

Minsk is gathering momentum. International attendees and guests do not require a visa to travel to Belarus for up to 30 days if flying into Minsk.

EMERGE’s mission is to unify the region and change the perception of it. Welcome to New East, the powerhouse of deep-tech.

Before the 2-days conference started, there were organized side events, pre-parties, and workshops. Two days of the main event – Emerge conference was among 2100+ smart, cool, idea-driving, creative people from 38+ countries.

The 70+ Investors from VC from USA, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine; Accelerators from Baltic countries

During all this time it was a time of possibilities to understand better which air New East breath, what the role of Minsk and people living there have for next years.

Sergey Gribov workshop at Emerge in Minsk
Sergey Gribov’s workshop about Negotiations at Emerge in Minsk

Sergey Gribov, Partner at Flint Capital, has a wide experience in the startup ecosystem (Israel, USA, East Europe) and strong education base. Having the workshop about negotiation was a great opportunity to learn the best practice which could be applied in any sphere of life, not only in the investment industry.

Brief notes about it:

– You need to have integrative bargaining, non distributed
– It’s better to negotiate all points/questions than 1 by 1. If you have lots of questions, at the end of the negotiations, it is better not to leave one point, better to group 2-3-4
– Win-win value => at the beginning 
– Start with a plan: if we have 10 questions, at the beginning let’s speak about the strategy of how to do it better for both parties
– The less you need from the negotiations, the less you need to get, the more your strength in the context system

Also, we discussed BATNA => best alternative to a negotiated agreement. This is your main source of strength in negotiations.

Win-win negotiation:

  • Separating people from problem
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Coming up with options for mutual benefits
  • Insist on objective criteria
  • “Log rolling” – to find opportunities to give in those positions that are not important to you, instead of receiving concessions where necessary


  • Identify your BATNA
  • Do everything to improve your BATNA
  • Alternatives that improve your options, if you can not agree
  • Try to understand which BATNA is from the other side.
  • Think over all aspects, what interests of the other side, what is important, what is not very
  • Determine whether you want to make the first sentence
  • Know your alternative BATNA
At the end Sergey Gribov had lots of questions from the participants

During 7 hours workshop, we had practical tasks which helped to understand the real use of techniques, how to use psychological manipulations, what to do with tough tactics against you. It was very useful for everyone.

On the next day, the director of the av.by car sales service, Dmitry Geranin, spoke how to form a community around the brand and afterwards participants had a short run along the route prepared by the speaker.

Tech Running Club – Lecture and Sport

Impressions about Minsk

  • The city is super clean, with night water street cleaning
  • Only 2 years ago people started opening bars, cafes. Before it, Vilnius was a weekend destination
  • Food: average price for 1 plate at an economy place is around €1, in the good restaurant – €3-4. Tasty and good service.
  • Transport:
    • from Minsk airport 30-40 minute drive you have two options – a bus for €2 or taxi for €11 (Uber & Yandex.Taxi)
    • around city – metro, bus. I took 20 rides ticket at €6
  • Banking card is accepted everywhere
Founders Day at Emerge in Minsk
Founders Day in Minsk

The day before the Emerge conference was dedicated to startups and named as Founders Day, pre-conference invite-only event. A set of various activities and interactions with invited investors, mentors, successful entrepreneurs, and partners were aimed to prepare teams for the pitching competition, as well as consulting them on their business model, growth opportunities, scaling, marketing and sales strategy, communication and pitch to media.

The next days – the 2-days conference was intensive time: Startup Alley of circa 100 startups at Startup Alley, two main scenes of European and American speakers, startup pitches competing to win prizes and meetings inside Falcon Club Arena (organizers used the meeting app Pine, which worked really well and had a great UX).

Startup Alley at Falcon Arena Club

The second day of pitching, networking, and amazing keynotes has reached its zenith and we are here now to tell you how it was. The main intrigue of the day is EMERGE CHALLENGE Winner.

From over 250 applications 50 teams were selected to move forward to Semi-finals and were pitching at X Stage yesterday. The jury selected 11 most remarkable teams for the Finals. Among the pitching teams on Future Stage, we have seen RedTrack, Reseptron, SPEAKUS, StringersHub, Swipio, Usedesk, Viqeo Inc., WebTotem, WehireAI Inc., Wiserstate and EPICO. 

Russian startup Usedesk has grabbed €10K equity free cash prize from Flint Capital.

Accelerator Rockstart has offered 1 team — WehireAI Inc., a trip to their Selection Day in Amsterdam to compete with dozens of the best startups for the spot in Rockstart accelerator. 

Startup Wise Guys accelerator has also found its favorite teams — Werbot is going to get fast-tracked to Selection Bootcamp to join Startup Wise Guys accelerator in Estonia or Lithuania. During Selection Bootcamp 30 pre-selected startups will compete for the place in a 3-month program where 12 best startups will be chosen by world-class experts and VCs. 

The surprise of the day is the investment promise from TheUntitled Ventures fund who has chosen startup BONAKA — the biotech company that develops techniques cleansing complex industrial equipment with bacteria.

Organizers EMERGE conference
Organizers EMERGE conference

I would like to thank all participants, organizers, who made such a great event for the startup ecosystem of New East. Talented peopled people live everywhere and one of the crucial points of nowadays is to connect them, help understand the reason why startups in the developed ecosystem raise money fast, what investors ask and which technologies will be tomorrow.

The next Emerge will be on 29-30 May 2020. Find more information about it here.

Short information about Belarus and local startup ecosystem

  • Total population counts 9.5M with 2M living in the capital, Minsk
  • The IT product and services segment has been growing at a fast pace since 2006 when the Hi-Tech Park (HTP) was established. Now it is one of the largest IT clusters in Eastern Europe and revenue reached $1,4B in 2018
  • The ICT sector currently has a workforce of over 85K, including some 34K in the IT products and services segment. 30K developers live in Minsk There are currently no official statistics on the overall number of ICT specialists in Belarus, but it is conservatively estimated at over 115K (EY 2017 report)
  • Exports of IT products and services increased from 2005 through 2016 from 0.16% to 3.25%
  • Education: 1° place in overall Google Code Jam ranking, 2003-2016
  • Labor: in IT $2K avg salary in 2016 vs $2167 avg salary in 2018. The average monthly salary in Belarus is about $400
  • The best-known companies include the captive centers of IHS Markit, Playtika, Netcracker, Viber, Yandex, Fitbit, Ciklum and SK Hynix. The birth and dramatic growth of Belarus’s IT industry has been made possible by the country’s system of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.
  • Famous startups: MSQRD (Facebook acquisition), Aimatter (Google acquisition), World of Tanks (one of the five most profitable MMO games with over 140 million registered users)
  • EPAM – 360 outsourcing company, considered one of the fastest-growing public tech companies in the world (Forbers 2017)

Being under strong economic crisis Belarusian president decided to facilitate more the IT development sector and in 2017 he signed the law with such main points:

Legalized blockchain, smart contracts, mining, ICO and cryptocurrency in the country:

  • Economic entities are exempt from taxation of activities related to cryptocurrencies and tokens, including mining, in particular, token exchange (cryptocurrency) transactions. The exemption applies to income tax, VAT, tax on simplified taxation, income tax on individuals
  • In 2019 – first Belarusian crypto exchange Currency.com

    The decree extends the existing benefits for HTP residents, in particular:
  • reduced income tax rate (9%)
  • an exemption from income tax and VAT, instead, the HTP residents pay 1% in favor of the HTP administration
  • English law instruments. That means non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, convertible loans, options, irrevocable power of attorney for HTP residents and their deals
  • Visa-free entry is applicable to HTP residents’ employees, owners and shareholders. Temporary stay (without residence permit) is extended up to 180 days for those mentioned

New East has a chance to become a strong startup hub in the next 7 years.