Russian Entrepreneurs Exchanging Moscow for Vilnius

company_cutetown

10 June 2014

To avoid political risks, to make the attraction of investors easier and to accelerate their development in the Western market, Russian startup companies choose the Baltic States as their headquarters.
Not so long ago, Russian startup company Game Insight announced that its headquarters will be moved to Vilnius. A week ago, Russian Planner 5D startup team began its work in Lithuania, too.

The founders of Planner 5D, a company working in the sphere of interior design, Alexey Sheremetyev and Sergey Nosyrev, have been in Vilnius for a week already, and they promise to move more members of their team to Lithuania in the nearest future. Mr. Sheremetyev told us why the team had chosen Lithuania as their headquarters.

— Why did you choose Lithuania of all EC countries?
— The climate is wonderful here, and the country is situated in close proximity to Russia. It’s very comfortable for us here. We’ve been paying much attention to the Russian market before, and our headquarters was situated there, that’s why it is important for us to be not so far from this country.
Lithuania is in EC, which makes it simpler to visit Western countries from here. Besides, not all members of our team can speak English; they feel OK in Vilnius, because Russian is widely spoken here. 

— Will you transfer all your team to Lithuania, or will you have a Russian office, too?
— A part of our team will still be working in Russia, but our main headquarters will be in Vilnius.


— Not so long ago, the founder of the VKontakte social network Pavel Durov announced that he and his team are leaving Russia due to the political pressure, and there were many heated discussions on this point. Are you moving your headquarters to Lithuania for political reasons, too?
— No, there are no political reasons behind our decision. The main reason is, we want to reach the Western market, Europe and the USA, and it is easier to reach this goal from Lithuania. There is a larger distance between Russia and Europe which makes it hard to communicate with our partners in person.
I do not know what Durov feels, but, speaking about our team and other startups I know, we’ve never experienced such problems. We had no clashes with the government. On the opposite, in Moscow we’re working in the quarters which were allocated for free by Russian authorities.
There are many incubator zones for growing businesses in Russia, so I think that the situation is very good, really.

— Have you discussed other options while searching for a new working place?
— Yes, we thought of many other countries, but finally settled upon Lithuania. We thought about the USA, too — we were there a couple of years ago; but at present Lithuania seems like a better choice. 

— What team is going to work in Vilnius?
— At present, only the founders, that is, Sergey and I, are here. In the nearest future we expect two or three of our employees in Russia to come to Vilnius. We’ll search for local employees, as well.

— Please tell us more about Planner 5D.
— Our project allows you to create the interior design in virtual space; this method is available even for those who do not have special skills.
In 2010, Sergey and I were working in one and the same company as a programmer and a designer. We shared several projects. We worked together and once encountered one and the same problem. I’d just bought a flat and was planning to furnish it, and Sergey had bought a patch of land and wanted to build a homestead there. We were trying to find an electronic tool that could have helped us, but found nothing.
Of course, there were some, but they did not suit us. We wanted to work with a really good product. So, we created a prototype ourselves and realized that we could do such things.
Unfortunately, we forgot all about this product for a year. Then, I saw that one investor, Igor Matsanyuk, was looking for the new promising teams and was ready to invest in them. We decided to make a try. I wrote a letter and got the answer on that very day. 
We chucked up our job at once and in two days we were already sitting in a new office, working upon our own product. 

— And what was the amount of investment?
— $150 000. At first, we worked together, just the two of us; but in a year we started creating our own team, because we did not have time for everything already.

— And how did your business develop later on?
— We released the beta version of our product in half a year, but we did not use any marketing tools at the time. We just made a release and asked our friends and colleagues to give their feedback.
Open software was released in another six month.
We were quite surprised. When we started working at this project, we never thought it will get so popular with the users. We thought this project was for a limited group of users, and did not expect there were so many people who wish to change their environment.
We assumed that we will have about 100,000 users in the first year, and that this figure would reach 1,000,000 in a few years. But in the first month only we got 30,000 users; in two months we had 200,000, and our millionth user appeared in just half a year. 
And now, after two years and a half, we have more than 3,500,000 registered users.

— Who are the Planner 5D users?
— We have about 25% users from Russia, 15% from USA, 10% from Brazil. The remaining users come from other countries.

— Do you have any strong competitors? What do you think is your advantage?
— We believe that in our sector ours is one of the three major companies.

— How are you planning to earn money?
— One of the ways is to sell certain furniture via our web-page. The other is an opportunity to buy additional functions.
— Thank you for your interview.


Jonas Gavelis, the StartupHighway program representative, claims that Lithuania is attractive for Russian projects, because here these are not treated as Russian business, so there are no political risks. 
’This helps the company bring in further investments,’ Gavelis noted.

Read the original interview at delfi.lt