04.27.22

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From Belarus With Love — Part V: From Start-Up to Success Story…

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series parts:

  1. From Belarus With Love — Part I: Schizophrenic EPO Policy
  2. From Belarus With Love — Part II: “Techwashing” an Autocratic Regime?
  3. From Belarus With Love — Part III: Apps From the Dictatorship
  4. From Belarus With Love — Part IV: “Software from Minsk” via Gilching and Rijswijk
  5. YOU ARE HERE ☞ From Start-Up to Success Story…

SaM Solutions in 1993

Summary: The EPO‘s partner in the east (SaM’s German proxy is how Team Battistelli dealt with Belarus) and its roots explained; António Campinos cannot simply pretend that the EPO dissociates from Russia and Belarus. For those just joining us, this ongoing series explores the double standards and the facetious statement made by EPO management last month as not only does the EPO work with Belarus but it seems probable that it led to erosion if not loss of data sovereignty in Europe’s second-largest institution, which deals with highly confidential documents from all over the planet. It’s important to understand the history and who’s involved.

The Belarusian software development company SaM Solutions was founded in 1993 by a group of graduates from the State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics in Minsk.

Information about the company’ early days can be found in an interview with Marat Ebzeev, the director of SaM’s “delivery center” in Minsk. The interview was published [PDF] in July 2015 by the Belarusian IT news portal KV.by under the title “Success Story: SaM Solutions”.

“Following discussions between Ludwigs and Bakhirev, plans were made to establish a Belarus division of Quantum and these efforts eventually led to the setting up of SaM Solutions.”According to Ebzeev, the founder of the company, Andrej Vladimirovich Bakhirev, graduated from the State University’s Department of Computer Engineering. After graduation, he remained to work at the department as an assistant. Subsequently, he worked as an associate professor and head of the department of economic informatics.

In 1992, Bakhirev participated in an academic exchange with the University of Kassel in Germany, which was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). During his time in Germany, Bakhirev visited CeBIT – the annual Hanover-based IT trade fair where he met Helmut Ludwigs, the director of SER Quantum GmBH, a German company active in the area of project planning for complex application services in the banking, insurance, industry/trade and public service sectors.

Helmut Ludwigs
Director of SER Quantum GmbH, Helmut Ludwigs.

Following discussions between Ludwigs and Bakhirev, plans were made to establish a Belarus division of Quantum and these efforts eventually led to the setting up of SaM Solutions.

In August 1993 Ludwigs travelled to Minsk to select a development team from a shortlist of candidates proposed by Bakhirev. The initial development team led by Bakhirev consisted of: Mikhail Vinogradov, Valery Grushev, Alexander Deev, Orest Mikhailyuk, Igor Repinetsky, Oleg Sukach and Pavel Khovrenkov.

“Jung became a partner in the SaM venture. The holding company – now SaM Holding GmbH – was originally named BELCAF Software GmbH and was registered at the same address as Jung’s own company CAF GmbH, namely: Am Bahnhof 4a in Gilching.”The fledgling company also received further significant assistance from other German sources, in particular from a Bavarian software entrepreneur Reinhard Jung, the director of CAF GmbH, an application development company based in Gilching near Munich.

Jung became a partner in the SaM venture. The holding company – now SaM Holding GmbH – was originally named BELCAF Software GmbH and was registered at the same address as Jung’s own company CAF GmbH, namely: Am Bahnhof 4a in Gilching.

Jung is now retired and his company CAF GmbH seems have been wound up. It is not known whether he currently maintains any links with the SaM group or whether he sold up his interest in it.

Reinhard Jung
Reinhard Jung, director of CAF GmbH based in Gilching, who became a partner in the SaM venture.

In 1994, SaM began to forge links with Siemens after the German industrial conglomerate placed an advertisement in a Belarus newspaper announcing that it was looking for software developers in Minsk.

Shortly afterwards later, three representatives of Siemens arrived in Minsk and were suitably impressed by SaM’s German-speaking development team during a joint dinner in a local restaurant. This led to collaboration on the development of a document workflow system.

SaM Solutions and Siemens
SaM developed close contacts with Siemens during its early days.

SaM’s Belarusian “delivery center” was originally located at 114 Nekrasova Street, in a rather desolate Soviet-era suburb on the northern outskirts of Minsk.

Nekrasova Street in Minsk
SaM’s original “delivery center” was located at 114 Nekrasova Street in Minsk.

In 2006 SaM Solutions became a registered “resident” of the Belarus High Technologies Park, the flagship project of the Lukashenko régime which had been established by Presidential Decree in September 2005 with the aim of transforming the former Soviet republic into a leading hub of the global “Digital Economy”.

2006 milestone: Belarus High Technology Park
SaM became a resident of the Belarus High Technology Park in 2006.

A couple of years later in 2009, SaM moved its “delivery center” to a new location at 15 Filimonova Street in a more upmarket district of Minsk, close to the HTP.

Filimonova Street in Minsk
SaM’s new “delivery center” located at 15 Filimonova Street in Minsk.

Around this time the company began to develop its presence in the US market via SaM Solutions US based in Richmond Hill, Georgia.

SaM Solutions at 20
In 2013, SaM Solutions celebrated “20 years of success”.

In 2013, SaM Solutions celebrated “20 years of success”. By this time, the company had an impressive array of “technology partnerships” with leading “industry names” such as Microsoft, Oracle and Sun and it could boast a host of “blue chip” clients like Siemens, Daimler, Deutsche POST, and the European Patent Office.

SaM Belarus technology partnerships
SaM has an impressive array of “technology partnerships” with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and Sun.

But if things were looking good for SaM, the overall situation in Belarus was becoming more precarious. Opposition to Lukashenko’s autocratic regime was slowly gaining momentum and demands for reform were becoming louder.

“But if things were looking good for SaM, the overall situation in Belarus was becoming more precarious. Opposition to Lukashenko’s autocratic regime was slowly gaining momentum and demands for reform were becoming louder.”Back in 2011, when prospective customers asked Andrej Bakhirev about the political situation in his home country he was able to reassure his interlocutors with the laconic response: “The country is – unfortunately – stable.” However, almost a decade later in 2020 an unprecedented wave of political unrest swept through the land.

In the upcoming parts we will take a look at these events and how they impacted on the burgeoning Belarusian IT sector.

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