Cyberposium: The Russians Are Coming

“True opportunities are not always obvious” was the main message from the well-known venture capitalist Esther Dyson, who spoke at the HBS’s technology conference Cyberposium 2002 on February 8th. The audience included a thousand plus business leaders and students from top business schools, who gathered from all over the world to listen and discuss the latest trends in IT. “Russia and its IT potential,” continued Dyson, “is an example of great opportunity.” Clearly, she was not talking about rocket scientists from James Bond movies. Dyson was referring to a number of IT companies started by Russians, that are successfully doing business in the US and Europe, employing programming and engineering talent in the former Soviet Union. Dyson has been a friend of Russia and one of its greatest advocates for more than a decade. She has been a mentor to a number of Russian IT start-ups that have expanded their reach across the ocean.

As if to prove Dyson’s words correct, over one fifth of the exhibitors at the Cyberposium TechShow were representatives from Russian IT companies. The effort to invite Russian companies to the TechShow was initiated by the Russian Digital Alliance (RDA), a non-profit association started by young Russian professionals committed to promoting Russian IT talent in the U.S.

Here are a few examples. Cybiko, financed by AOL/Time Warner, is a creator of wireless peer-to-peer RF technology and owns the first and largest peer-to-peer wireless network. BioLink Technologies, a biometric security device company with sound U.S. financial backing, featured a proprietary identification algorithm technology developed by Russian mathematicians. DataArt, a custom software development company, that four years ago spun off, Russia’s largest Internet portal. All these companies, started by Russian entrepreneurs are headquartered in the U.S., employ professional management and enjoy significant cost advantages from having their products and services developed in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

It is worth noting that a great number of U.S. companies, including Motorola, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Boeing, and others have uncovered this opportunity to enhance their cost structure and tap into a tremendous intellectual potential of the country with long traditions in highly technical education and well-recognized scientific achievements.
This is an example of uncovering global efficiencies. And an idea for your BGIE case on Russia this week!