How companies buy Belarusian product business. Business case: Apalon
In November 2014, the American media giant Mindspark Interactive (IAC) acquired Apalon, a Belarusian mobile app developer. The company’s General Manager Zachary Roseman talks about the deal: concerns, the teams and their integration, adjusting processes, outcomes.
Before the deal
Apalon seemed an interesting company to us, as prior to the deal it had achieved tremendous international success in seven years. The company has repeatedly made it to Apple’s Top 10 mobile app developers. It wanted to develop further but lacked the expertise in product analytics that Mindspark had in abundance. The negotiations took about a year.
Certainly, we did have some doubts at first about whether we were doing the right thing.
First, organizational matters raised concerns. How do we set up business processes in New York and Minsk? I mean the financial and HR component.
Second cause for concern was Belarus’ legislative framework. We had never encountered it before, so the risks were very high. Essentially, our lawyers had to explore a completely uncharted ‘territory’ for a long time.
And finally, we worried about the cultural differences between the USA and Belarus. We started putting a multinational team together in 2014. At the outset, everyone had a different vision of the processes, thinking, mindset. How does one get everyone to look in the same direction? To that end, we had to find compromises, talk a lot. We implemented and fine-tuned the feedback culture based on reciprocity: we learned to give and receive sincere and constructive two-way feedback, to agree in advance on the expectations of each process stakeholder. That is how we’ve arrived at mutual understanding and productive interaction.
As you can see today, we’ve overcome all doubts and never regretted the deal for a split second.
Changes over five years
Since 2014, much has changed in the Belarusian IT sector and at Apalon in particular. As concerns IT, I see an exponential growth of companies that make quality products for the global market. It’s great to watch a professional community with high-level expertise grow. I believe your IT sector is headed in the right direction. It is pleasant to note—and even sometimes feel from our own experience—serious legislative support on the part of the government. Say, the High-Tech Park, tax breaks.
Speaking of Apalon, our company has tripled over the past five years. Two offices merged into a single organism. I am pleased to see how initially different teams have grown together and are moving in the same direction. We have significantly expanded our product portfolio— and improved the quality of the released apps at the same time: overall, the company has experienced a technological boost. We are now more considerate picking new niches and domains for product launches (again, thanks to the introduction of product analytics). Profits also went up, of course. I think the fusion of knowledge and skills of the American and Belarusian offices have come to show here. Thus, the company is developing rather than changing.
‘Talent hunting 101’ in Minsk
We create a dedicated team for each product. We actively hire experts from other Belarusian companies, as well as rely on our employees’ recommendations, scout for people at events and thematic websites, periodically engage recruitment agencies. Domestic specialists are good, but the demand for staff outstrips supply. Relocation is one of the ways of addressing this problem. The most important thing is for a potential team member to be energized with the idea of making the world’s coolest apps—and making them with us.
As mentioned, we are building a multinational team. Therefore, relocations to Minsk are commonplace. People moving here are mostly from the CIS—proximity of mentalities is apparent. But our activity vectors are diverse, including the Asian market and English-speaking regions.
In-house knowledge sharing among employees is important for us. However, we also willingly sponsor trips to educational events almost anywhere on the planet and invite experts to Minsk to share knowledge. Therefore, growth from Junior to Senior in the company happens organically—given proper intention and interest in work.
<mark>Belarus is a country with an excellent talent pool</mark>. I see ambitious and experienced professionals ready to handle most complex problems in development, design, marketing. Therefore, I find identifying particularly strong points of local experts quite difficult. Sure, it is impossible to know everything, so gaps in knowledge are inevitable. The ability to communicate and share knowledge helps.
My American colleagues are sufficiently convinced that one shouldn’t be afraid of coming to your country. It has all the right conditions for successful operation and business development.
Click here to read up on the history of the Apalon deal.
Mindspark Interactive (IAC)
- 10,000 staff worldwide
- 150 brands and products, including Tinder, Vimeo, Daily Beast
- 600M+ app downloads
- 50+ products
- 25M+ users monthly