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5:39 PM  February 12, 2020

Wizards in snowdrifts: how breakthrough IT technology forged in Tomsk

© предоставил Сергей ДорофеевWizards in snowdrifts: how breakthrough IT technology forged in Tomsk

TOMSK, Feb 12 – RIA Tomsk. Tomsk has no other choice but to become an IT capital, experts say about the region’s development. The best "scenario" - is entering international markets, says Sergey Dorofeev, the founder of Rubius IT company. How many failures he had, what Apple pays Tomsk residents for, and why winter is good for breakthrough technologies - is in our material.

Brilliant designers and bad sellers

The first computer of Sergey Dorofeev was the old ZX Spectrum (which, by the way, many post-Soviet programmers started with). A programming book was found, got interested, enrolled in a club. Once the teacher called parents and said: "Your child is talented, you need to buy a normal computer".

© предоставлено департаментом труда и занятости населения Томской области
“The family was not rich (we lived in the Altai Kraithen), a certain amount was set aside for large purchases. We organized a family meeting. Mom was for an automatic washing machine - three boys in the family! She was supported by older brother. I, of course, was for the computer, so was my father. My twin brother refrained. An awkward situation arose, a decision had to be made ...

The cat sat on our side with my father, we counted it in half a voice and bought a computer", - Sergey recalls with a smile.

In 2002, he entered TUSUR (Tomsk State University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics). In his senior year he worked in several scientific projects, including the creation of software for the design of microwave circuits using artificial intelligence.

“We did cool things, put together a strong team. We wanted to sell, but it all came down to reports on grants and an endless pursuit of excellence. As a result, our team broke up.

Scientific leaders are often afraid to enter the commercial market ... We are a nation of brilliant designers, but bad sellers. In the USA, on the contrary, they quickly develop a prototype and actively commercialize it. After all, it’s not the strongest survive, but the one who adapts to the market more quickly. Therefore, by the way, in Russia there are a huge number of R&D centers of world corporations, but so few of their software products", - says Dorofeev.

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
"In 2005, I worked in a young startup, and my director was the chief programmer of Elecard. Through it we touched their corporate culture, we understood what an IT lifestyle should be like - freedom, direct relationships with each other, drive and ambition", - says Sergey Dorofeev.

Overcoming the Death Valley

Dorofeev tried hard to find himself in business. He opened a city portal with announcements, virtual 3D tours of Tomsk institutions, developed websites ... When already it seemed that the next company was an inevitable bankrupt, Sergey was joined by his postgraduate colleague - Sergey Koshevoy. The work was buzzing with activity with twice the energy.

“There were problems everywhere - both at the employee level and in interactions with customers. I constantly woke up with one thought: where to get money for salaries? Two years of exhausting work 12 hours a day without days off and holidays, you sleep badly, productivity is low, constant bickering with partner ... " - he recalls.

They hired consultants to learn how to "do the business", but they said the same thing: "Pay less to employees and have more customers. If you want a lot of money, then only kickbacks". But the argument “everyone does it” was not suitable for beginning entrepreneurs.

© предоставил Дмитрий Бубнов
“It all was disgusting for our values ​​- we wanted to work with cool guys as a team, not with “cogs”. And with customers we want to build relationships so that they say “thank you”, and not to twist their arms. The consultants warned us: “You will lose all your shirts with such an idealistic approach". And that's where it was going ...

But here we managed to win a million grant, a lot of money in those days! Sergey was called by a classmate who worked in ASCON company, that develops engineering software. He suggested spending this money on developing software for the design of power lines. Instead of the planned two months, we spent two years on it, but sales did not go as expected”, - tells Dorofeev.

At this moment, Tomsk citizens were noticed by one major Moscow integrator. He offered to buy the whole Rubius as a whole. Negotiations were going on for nine months, we didn’t want to lose freedom, but debts were growing, and by that time we just eat away the grant ... As a result, we opened a joint legal entity and transferred the entire project team to it. This was a salvation - it became possible to have a stable income, "lick wounds", and most importantly - to save Rubius, even if in fact it was hired labor.

“Failures are inevitable in the process of the entrepreneurial path - this is normal. When they are no failures there, it means that you are not growing. A true entrepreneur is not afraid of mistakes - he opens, makes mistakes, closes. And for the tenth time he comes to success, and due to accumulated experience he starts to maximize it. But nobody will remember about the previous nine attempts", - concludes Dorofeev.

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
“When we started business, it was impossible to get into corporate segment without kickbacks. Then it was normal, and we looked like aliens, no one wanted to work with us. But now mentality is changing, corporations themselves come to us and offer tasks without any murky schemes", - says Dorofeev.

Failures are normal

"We wrote a good code, we began to be recommend to others, and one day we were approached by representative of an American company that produces software for CNC machines (with numerical program control). He said: "Let’s do this: I buy you a geometric core and provide you with sales, and you develop a product on its basis at your own expense.

We thought - why not? We always dreamed of entering the international market, this motivated us. For two years we have been developing this project. The main difficulty was that it was necessary to integrate our product into another program that was not intended for this", - recalls Sergey.

As a result, Tomsk citizens took a technological risk - they blocked part of their windows with their own. "The user does not understand this - we intercept the mouse click at a certain moment and then work it out in our application. When we flew to America for a presentation, their engineers almost fell out of their seats: they say, this is impossible! And when they found out how we did it, they said, “you are wizards!”, - he explains.

Impressed, the Americans immediately suggested the Tomsk citizens to develop their new mobile application. "Can you do that? .."

“And smartphones era just began, it was 2008 ... But I said in a heartbeat "Of course we can!”. And then they send the task, we clutch our heads, in a panic we are looking for people who understand something about it ...

But despite the fact that we started without any competencies in this area, we managed to develop a software product for three platforms at once - iOS, Android and Windows RT, and we were able to meet the initial budget (for one platform). And when we arrived again and showed our decision, they were again in shock", - recalls Dorofeev.

The founders of Rubius received an offer to sell again, but again refused - even under pain of losing a client, which at that time accounted for 80% of the turnover. As for the first time, they found a compromise: they opened a legal entity - a 100% daughter of customers, where the entire team of the new project moved.

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
The first 7 years Rubius continued to double in turnover, during this rapid growth Anton Kudinov joined the company (left; in the center - Sergey Koshevoy), who at that time had his own company of 20 first-class specialists who also dreamed of working at the international level.

The sky is bluer

When the volume of custom development for Americans began to grow rapidly, the founder of Rubius had the idea to make long-term “sorties” in the USA.

“I never wanted to move to permanent residence - I’m a patriot in this regard: I like Russian culture, Russian cuisine, Russian language, Russian engineering school. Snow, after all! But it’s easier to resolve issues with the customer on the spot, and I've tried living in San Francisco for months with my family. I was disappointed with this idea pretty quickly ...

Living conditions and logistics were terrible. We rented half a house in a prestigious area, but there were fleas. To go to the store for normal high-quality food (as in Russia), it was necessary to spend two hours of life. Life is very expensive, for example, a doctor’s appointment is 10 times more expensive than in Russia, and his competences are doubtful: the prescribed treatment did not help”, - Sergey recalls.

But the biggest problem for him was the climate:

"The uniform weather is tiring, in addition, the sun burns everything out for 10 months of dryness. Then there are fires and smog. When I fly from California to Tomsk, I can’t get enough - there are so many different greens! And the sky ... In California, the sky is flat, there are no clouds. And we have multi-tiered clouds, a whole dimension up! I come - and take pictures again and again...".

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
"I traveled across America backward and forward. The best thing they have - is the attitude towards entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur - is a national hero. If something doesn’t work, he’s still brave person. At us people criticize - they say there was no need to stick out", - says Sergey Dorofeev.

"We are proud of origin"

Sergey considers the cool engineering school in Russia a huge reserve for the breakthrough of the country:

"We at Rubius are trying to prove that it is possible to do international business in Russia. For example, we have the Planyway product - a team calendar and timeline. It has 200 thousand users around the world, licenses are bought by major corporations such as Apple or IKEA and thousands of well-known companies. When they learn that the product comes from Siberia, they are surprised to the core.

This is our mission: to show that in Tomsk, in the taiga and on the neck in snowdrifts, can be forged technological innovations that are ahead of current technological progress. Of course, we don’t surround ourselves with nesting dolls and balalaikas, but we’re not shy of our origin", - Sergey Dorofeev emphasizes.

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
“There is a tacit agreement with IT colleagues: we are not engaged in brazenly hunting from each other. Our task - is to keep people in Tomsk: with competitive salaries, comfortable jobs, professional parties, cool projects. And the richer IT in Tomsk, the richer Tomsk itself", - believes Dorofeev

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