Kharkov, Ukraine is one of the most important IT outsourcing centers worldwide. For a number of reasons you can call Kharkov the Silicon Valley of Europe. With several top notch universities, an excellent infrastructure and Ukraine’s steady economic growth, Kharkov is the first IT outsourcing choice for many US and EU companies. IT agglomeration at its best.
With so many first class IT providers based in Kharkov it’s only a logical step to set up an office center that will host IT companies under one roof bringing a pool of IT talent, know-how and expertise together. This new IT center in Kharkov is called Voomy IT Park, Kharkov and today we are speaking to the initiator of this ambitious project, Vitaliy Stavropolskiy.
Vitaliy, please tell us a bit more about yourself. You studied at Kharkiv National University of Radioelectronics and worked as Marketing Director at KyivStar, Ukraine’s largest mobile phone carrier. When and how did you conceptualize Voomy IT Park?
I received a Master’s degree in Computer Science and started my career in the industry as a database design engineer and programmer, but being a student I was attracted by the process of transforming an endless set of data into information to base policy decisions. This was the subject of my dissertation and this is where I’d like to realize my potential. I had the chance at Kyivstar, where I grew professionally as an analyst, and subsequently had an opportunity to gain experience in marketing and sales. I like the process of creating new products. And I see a good opportunity to implement such a desire in the most dynamic sector – in IT.
Some information about my career is available at: http://ua.linkedin.com/in/vitaliystavropolskiy
Originally the idea was to engage in business incubation, but as it turned out, already existing business incubators in Ukraine are in want of quality and professional projects. Demand exceeds supply. The available human resources are quite reasonable (at least to be fought for), but the start-up culture is not at a high level. In addition, there is no complete ecosystem for “critical mass” and successful development of new projects. Therefore, we set out to take part in the formation of the startups market in Ukraine and commenced with an infrastructure project, the creation of an environment that would facilitate meeting the demand of investors for investment projects.
My first thoughts about the arrangement of services for small and medium enterprises, and more precisely, for Professional Service Firms, arose after reading Tom Peters’s book ”Re-imagine!” in 2005. The main idea was that further globalization processes in the world will take place not at the level of large companies, but at the level of global cooperation and competition between individuals and professional service firms. At the same time I was planning to focus primarily on the IT industry. The reasons are: this industry is one of the fastest growing; Ukraine is competitive enough in this industry; I have specialized education and experience in the field, and the most important, I just love IT. But at that time the implementation of such ideas in Ukraine seemed premature. I returned to it in 2012. During this time the idea has undergone some transformations. Its form, similar to the current one, was acquired after my participation in the Management tour to Silicon Valley in March 2012.
So Voomy IT Park is a technology and business center for Kharkov based IT companies that want to use the Silicon Valley model to bundle their resources and achieve their goals faster. Now, you have mentioned ‘we’. As far as I understand Voomy IT Park is your brainchild and you have found supporters and partners for this project along the way. I’ve recently seen a video featuring Mr Dobkin, your mayor who is involved in Voomy IT Park too. Is that true? Who else is part of this project?
You are absolutely right when you are talking about speed, because time is the main value of VOOMY. We will do everything to help its residents achieve their goals more quickly, without wasting time, for example, on a trip to the tax office to deliver statements or to the gym to keep in shape. Therefore, the park will provide a number of services both for work and for life. For example, to allow the time for a manicure among the highlights of the day is at least an hour of wasted time for a trip. Searching for the right people (for example, to produce video for YouTube or to collaborate on a project) can take days. We believe that a certain category of independent developers and small companies may consider such savings of time and means as convenient.
Of course, I’m not the only one working on the project. I managed to find like-minded people who are very happy to implement this plan. Without them the VOOMY IT-park would not exist. They are professionals in their field, inspired by the idea, striving for continuous development, very interesting people. Our team continues to take shape as we move from stage to stage. For the time being it consists of 12 people. Some of them give great advice, some work on the project every day. I will talk about them (or they about themselves) on our site when it is ready.
We are very grateful for the public support of the governor on September 7 within the IV International economic forum “Innovations. Investments. Kharkov Initiatives!”, in which we participated. The implementation of this project without the support of authorities involves additional risks to the investors, and therefore it was important to have it. Consequently we were able to convince the regional leadership that our project will have a positive impact on the image and economy of the city. The project itself is not public and is implemented at private expense.
A question I’ve been meaning to ask you is what exactly does VOOMY stand for and how do you pronounce it?
VOOMY (to be sounded as [‘vu:mi]) – is an adjective, made from the expression «va-va-voom».
Va-va-voom: The feeling you get when you’re filled with inspiration or full of excitement and energy.
Origin: 1950s (originally US): representing the sound of a car engine being revved.
Our logo: «The business that makes me go va-va-voom» in Russian sounds like «The business that makes me drive».
Voomy business is a business that captures and inspires, energizes and gives the desire to create. I hope we will be able to launch a variety of start-ups in the IT-park providing them with everything necessary so that they could “start the engine” and turn into a lucrative business.
4) You mentioned that the VOOMY team currently consists of 12 people. What about your investors? How many of them do you have and is it possible for companies outside of Ukraine to invest in VOOMY, too?
VOOMY IT-park in itself is a kind of start-up. We received investments enough to attain a certain stage. Our investor is a person with a lot of business experience, who knows how to work with commercial real estate, so besides money we got an adviser and assistant, that is sometimes called the ”smart money“. For us it is enough to bring the project to the next stage and phase (round) of investment. If there are willing to take part in the project from abroad, I think we can find the common ground.
Great interest is now being manifested in the project, and we are determining options for further cooperation. These options are not limited to simple investment. Someone may be willing to jointly implement legal services for local companies to work in the European market, someone might want to create a function of sales of products designed here to the U.S. market. We are interested not so much in money, but in the partnership that lets us and our partners achieve more together. Definitely we look forward to working with business incubators, venture capital funds, which are interested in invested in high-quality long-term projects carried out by professional, motivated teams.
I’m glad to hear you have received all these kinds of support and we at English-Team are going to think about how we can contribute to the success and growth of VOOMY IT Park too. In the meantime, can you please give us an idea about the timeframe of the project? When do you plan to have the first tenants?
You are already making this contribution, showing interest in VOOMY IT-park and offering this interview. So thank you very much indeed! By the way, the organization of regular foreign language courses in the IT-Park is one of our top priorities. The design of the building includes the appropriate training classrooms. So companies with educational programs can be of a great benefit for the park and its residents.
This year we dedicated to preparatory and design work. Next year the main effort will be associated with the construction and the expansion of partnerships. The opening of the park is planned for 2014. However, even now we support ideas we are interested in, help the teams requesting assistance to find investments for their projects, find a place to work. Later these teams will be able to move into the park, but now they are our main experts we discuss planning and design solutions of the future park with. After all, we create it for them, so it is important that they agree with what we’re doing.
What kind of language training are you going to offer through VOOMY IT Park? Will it be a ‘blended learning approach’ where you provide e-learning in combination with face-to-face coaching? Also, for what languages are you going to offer the training?
Our team is working on the creation of infrastructure, but we are not going to provide all of the services ourselves. An organization that will provide an appropriate service will form their approach to learning. Who will it be and how they organize their work is difficult to say right now, but definitely both a set of languages and teaching methods will be selected based on the needs of residents of the park.
What is the capacity of VOOMY IT-Park? How many people can work there in total?
The number of occupants simultaneously residing in the building was previously planned at 800. However, not all of them at any given time will be directly engaged with work (the provision is made for about 600 people). Someone will talk over a cup of tea in a cafe, one will be in the gym, someone will train in German. It is noteworthy that the co-working feature allows us to have more residents than workplaces, as not all of them need constant work.
Do you already have a prospective tenants list? Which of Kharkov’s IT companies do you think will be using VOOMY IT-Park?
In the first place, the VOOMY IT-park will be of interest to freelancers. Not necessarily programmers, but also people of other professions that are in demand in the IT-industry.
We also expect to generate interest among small companies (5-10 people) who want to find a compact office for a reasonable fee.
Since the recreational and other common areas are shared, it is not necessary to equip, for example, negotiation halls or to put table tennis tables for each residential company. This infrastructure can be used together, allowing them to create a good, competitive environment for employees and to save costs at the same time.
The formation of the desired creative atmosphere is not limited to furnishing the space. Working close to associates allows the exchange of ideas, knowledge and experience through personal communication, to find partners for the implementation of ideas. First, the positive atmosphere is created by the people themselves: open, ambitious, creative and developing. Our task is to create conditions that attract such people.
We can provide part of the area to larger companies (with more than 100 people), those who see the benefit in such proximity to the independent teams. This adds more flexibility to the formation of teams for temporary projects for larger companies, allows examining the talents that are outside of the company, and also to motivate their employees to participate in various events held in the IT-park. You can also use the infrastructure of the park when it is necessary (for example, a conference room for 300 people for a corporate event or a hotel room to accommodate foreign or non-resident guests). The availability of co-working zones also allows the company to easily handle the increase in the number of employees, because in addition to the constant area one can always rent a temporary space equipped with everything required.
Now I get the idea. VOOMY IT-Park provides the infrastructure for teams of independent IT specialists and small companies to pool their resources and talents so they can share experiences, come up with new solutions and work on projects together. That’s brilliant and unfortunately, we don’t have something like this in Leipzig. Can you already give me a ballpark figure as to the costs of renting office space at VOOMY?
Perhaps, the time and the market will make some changes, but the estimated price range is possible to determine. The subscription price for the individual developer (freelancer) will be between $ 100 and $ 200 a month. This fee will include the workplace (several different types), the Internet, personal cell for storage of personal belongings, use of recreational facilities, shower and kitchen. The cost of renting a compact office area of 35 sq.m. will amount about $ 400 per month with the possibility to use meeting rooms and other necessary premises. It will be possible to rent a smaller office area (about 15 square meters for about $ 150), and larger (around $ 10-15 per square meter).
Relationships with service companies (providing services to residents of the park) will be based on a different, individual basis.
English-Team would like to rent a freelance unit. Is it possible to already sign a lease contract? Also, what is the minimum lease period?
I would be very pleased to see English-Team in our park. Though we are not ready to submit a Lease Contract for signing, you can send a preliminary application to the email address: email@example.com. Later such an application can be left on the site.
We offer different types leasing options. The minimum rental period for some areas is one hour. But I am sure that if the team wants to have its own private place and is ready to decorate it according to its desires (and we will encourage the design of their jobs and the area around them to suit their own taste and imagination), they will want to rent a room for a longer period.
I have just submitted to pr at voomy.biz English-Team’s formal request to rent an office unit at VOOMY IT-Park. Can you already tell me what English-Team’s office address will be in Kharkov?
Your future address: P.O. Box 61037, Moskovs’kyi ave., No. 138A, Kharkiv, Ukraine
The office number you will be able to inquire for later.
That’s amazing. I’ve checked the address and it seems to be a very good location. The metro station Moskovs’kyi Prospekt is nearby and it’s across from the Sun City Plaza shopping center. I look forward to moving into your new Kharkiv office in 2014. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
And thank you very much for your interesting questions!
Please also read VOOMY-IT Park to open by end of 2013.