Culturally, socially and historically, Silicon Valley and Moscow are worlds (or at least 5800 miles) apart. But in a small pocket of Moscow, a growing number of entrepreneurs – supported by a growing number of enthusiastic local venture capitalists – are beginning to make the Russian capital a key pushpin on the tech startup map.
The international success of these startups will ultimately dictate how the Russian high-tech community is viewed, but there is a raw (and at times admittedly naïve) passion for creating high tech that has begun to get Russia international attention. Being part of this tightly knit and communally supportive group of Moscow-based startups for the past three years, I’ve learned first hand – alongside my fellow entrepreneurs – just how challenging it can be. For many of us, the big question is: when and how should we expand into the United States market?
Our startup, which allows website visitors to place calls to companies through their browsers, couldn’t wait to launch in the United States. We knew that’s where the biggest customers would be, where our most tech-savvy users would be, where the best startup advisors would be, where the top venture capitalist firms set up shop. But we put all of that on hold and bunkered down to focus on the technology and on acquiring customers in our own hemisphere first. Like a game of Risk, gradual expansion was probably the best business decision Zingaya made in the first year of our startup.
Here are three reasons why debuting in your own country before launching in the United States might make sense:
1. Good developers can come cheap
We’ve since moved some operations to the United States, which includes hiring American staff. That’s feasible for us now, but early growth and software development might not have been possible if we weren’t able to hire Russian programmers for a more reasonable cost (for us, at least) than the market rate of similarly skilled developers in the U.S. Technical knowledge is increasingly rapidly in places like Eastern Europe, and the global gap between U.S. developers and those abroad has narrowed significantly.