Belarus Is Ready to Begin With Venture Capital Investments

emerging europe belarus outlook ebrd

Angel Investors in Belarus
Fact Box

Yuri Gurski - serial entrepreneur with 4 exits: Viaden Mobile,, and MSQRD and a mentot of Belarusian start-ups.

Yuri Zisser - the founder of TUT.BY and One of the first angel investors in the region. Area of start-up interests: travel, healthcare, e-commerce. His recent investment is Blinger, a tool integrating popular messengers with corporate helpdesks.

Recent exits of Belarusian entrepreneurs: Apalon (mobile App company was acquired by IAC), (open source offline maps acquired by, MSQRD (face masks App acquired by Facebook).

More than 3,500 young Belarusians graduate every year, from 14 state universities, with majors in Computer Science and other IT-related disciplines.

Alexander Chekan

About Alexander Chekan

Alexander Chekan is the CEO of the largest Belarusian online media outlets — TUT.BY — and a mentor of a number of Belarusian start-ups. Alexander conducts regular mentor sessions for start-ups and he is the host of an online business conference in Minsk. He has an EMBA degree.

Although there is a lot of tech talent in Belarus and the start-up ecosystem is blossoming, when it comes to venture firms and angels’ groups there is a huge gap between talents and available funds.

There are some good reasons for this. There are 1,000 IT companies in Belarus but only some 10-15 per cent of them are successful with their own products. Mostly they are service businesses: This model seems to be safer and more sustainable but it has limited growth potential. Service businesses such as EPAM usually have their salesforce and marketing teams where the customer is — that is, in the US, Europe or Asia. As a result, there are not enough skilled business professionals here in marketing, sales and business development domains who can develop own products.

So there it is a vicious circle: there are few business people, which is why there few product companies and there are few product companies that can produce business alumni. 

However we can actually see an evolutionary spiral and every year more and more developers are creating their own start-ups and learning how to build businesses. There are people from World of Tanks creating data tools, guys from Viber working on social ecommerce projects, EPAM alumni developing the next Jira killer and so on.

Now we see hackathons every week and investors are coming to Belarus in quest of the new MSQRD. But still there is no venture fund in Belarus because Venture Capital (VC) needs a pipeline of investment-ready projects to choose from. If a VC does even two deals a year, it means they will be looking through hundreds of projects with good potential and many of them are already funded by angels. 

Angel investments in IT must be made with smart money. Where does smart IT money comes from? Naturally there are two sources: the savings of the top managers of IT companies and the exits of IT entrepreneurs. Moreover, angels usually invest in risky ventures at around 10 per cent of their net worth or annual income, so we can divide the potential capital ten-fold. Even the extremely successful IT entrepreneurs in Belarus are young enough to concentrate on their own “next big thing”; they’re just not allowing themselves to pay attention to anything else. 

These circumstances lead to a handful of active angels who are mostly working, hands-on, on their portfolio projects.

If we compare Belarus with neighbouring countries such as Lithuania, Poland and Russia, we can see a huge infusion of governmental / EU free money in VCs. It looks like the time 50 years ago when governments were giving away money for health-care to keep people alive: Thirty years ago they cared a lot about education, wanting people to find jobs for themselves and nowadays they are supporting entrepreneurship in order to encourage people to create those jobs. However, in Belarus the government still supports the state-owned heavy machinery plants, despite the fact that the IT industry requires much lower investments in infrastructure. The good news is the Hi Tech Park launched business incubator — free office and co-working space for start-ups — but it is still not enough.

The community of angel investors is growing, both quantitatively and qualitatively. There are some informal meetings and Facebook groups, as well as mentor sessions at the Hi-Tech Park incubator and other co-working spaces. This June, a group of investors from Belarus went to the US to learn from the American colleagues. The three-week programme was devoted to all aspects of the venture ecosystem.

Naturally foreign VCs and strategic investors are already hunting for start-ups from Belarus. The first visits began more than five years ago and now a new investment manager lands in Minsk every week, to explore the market. Just a few funds are risky enough to jump into a seed-stage start-up from abroad, but when it is big enough to raise millions, it can raise them from all over the world, and usually the company is already incorporated in the US, the UK or Cyprus at that moment.

As for the local VC/AI community, it is evolving and although there are no formal structures yet, online groups and private meetups exist. At the moment the best way for a foreign VC is to cooperate with local community leaders and/or co-invest with them is to have hands-on control.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


Young Well-Paid IT Specialists Are Making Belarus Known Internationally

Winds of Change for Belarus’ Reinsurance Industry?

Belarus: The Importance Of Diversification

The Next Four Months Crucial For the Belarus-EU Relations

Will European Business and Institutions Bolster the New Trends That Have Appeared in Belarus?

PandaDoc — Rolling Sales Procedures Together So Everyone Succeeds

Emerging Europe Live: CEE — The Outsourcing Destination

The Belarusian real estate market is on the up

Foreigners choose Minsk and Gomel as Belarus’ most attractive FDI destinations

OECD: Belarus Has to Find Its Own Belarusian Model to Emerge

One Belt One Road: a Big Task for Europe

The Reality Is More Interesting Than the Misconceptions

Invest in Belarus: looking beyond politics to the future

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Italy and Belarus: A Relationship Based on Complementarities and History

Brexit Is a Great Opportunity to Attract Foreign Investors to Belarus

Why Is Belarus Tech Booming?

Belarus-Turkey Investment Forum to increase investment and trade between the two countries

Emerging Europe Live: Life in Belarus As Seen by Foreigners

Innovation Brings Great Opportunities to the Belarusian Economy

Belarusian Tech Companies Lead a Global Technological Advance in Outsourcing and Product Development

Foreign Investors: Belarus Offers Opportunities But Further Improvements Are Needed

Belarus’s Election Tests the EU’s Global Strategy

Encouraging SME’s Development Will Help Build Belarusian Economy

Belarus Has To Make an Extra Effort To Change Investors’ Perceptions

Join our networking seminar in London on November 30

Belarus Is Where the New Silk Road Heads For Europe

EBRD Emerging Europe Outlook on Belarus 2016

Germany and Belarus: Thinking Globally Acting Locally

Emerging Europe and the EBRD host the Outlook on Belarus conference in London

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

Germany Is Not Letting Belarus’ Small Downturns Put it off Looking for Investment Opportunities

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Or My Personal Experience of Doing Business in Belarus

Business Opportunities in Belarus Encourage Outside Interest

The Shopping Experience Is Set To Go Global in Belarus from 2017 Onwards

Belarus: MOST Builds a Bridge to the Future

Long-time Neighbours Need to Share Awareness, Plus Trade & Investment

High-Tech Park in Minsk is growing rapidly

Belarusian Economy on a Diet to Change its Financial Outlook

New investors interested in Belarus’ Great Stone Industrial Park

‘No’ To a Monetary Union With Russia

The Belarusian Banking Sector Moving Towards Modernisation Despite Some Challenges

Bringing Belarus’ Cultural Past to Life for Belarusians and the World

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

The essence of the Customs Union is protectionism

Belarus US Business Relations Thrive as Conditions Improve

FocusEconomics: Belarusian Economy to Grow in Q4 2016 and Onwards

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

Belarus and Singapore Share the Same Factors for Economic Success

Smart, reliable and promising

Belarus: Navigating the geopolitical storm

The Proof of a Country’s Readiness to Attract Foreign Investors Lies in the Development of the Insurance Market

The Eurasian Economic Union Fails to Bring Belarus Closer to Big Brother

The Belarusian Financial Sector: An Industry in the Process of Restructuring

Cautious Upturn in Emerging Europe Haunted by the Spectre of Uncertainty

Donald Trump

Brexit Makes Waves Across the European Union and Beyond

HTP: Belarus’ Engineers Are Leading a Cool Revolution

Belarus is Bringing Opportunities for European Companies

Great Stone

The Deep Roots of Currency Crises in the Former Soviet Union

“e-Belarus”: Embracing the Internet and its Possibilities

The UK and Belarus: A Partnership to Introduce the Real Belarus to Europe

UK Shores: the New Frontier, a View on a Series of Fortunate Events

Belarus Is One of the Top Outsourcing Destinations of 2016

Belarus and the EBRD:
Working to Expand the Country’s Strengths and Success

Lukashenka seeks to avoid commitment to Russia’s geostrategic goals

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

Belarus: On the Way to a Market Economy?

Belarusian Economic Recovery May Downgrade Intended Reforms for Competitiveness

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

From Denmark to Belarus — A Personal Experience of Business

Belarus Is Making the First Steps onto the International Finance Floor

Belarus is the most creative EEU country

The EU Is Encouraging Belarus to Join the World Trade Organisation

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

The Great Stone Industrial Park — Making Doing Business Easy in Minsk

The Belarusian Economy: The Challenges of Stalled Reforms

Belarus: Changing Old Ideas And Mixing With the New in Belarus’ Export Market

Central And Eastern Europe At the World Property Market

Belarus Has Set an Example for Others to Follow

Breaking trade barriers with CIS has never been easier

Falling Student Numbers and Declining R&D Result From Lack of Funds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *