Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I recently attended the ISDEF conference for software developers in Moscow, Russia. The conference was nothing like I had envisioned. If any western developers have interest in working with Russian developers in some capacity, they really ought to consider attending the conference in 2005. The possibilities and potential in Russia is really remarkable. And if you have not thought about this in some way you ought to consider it, as there are great opportunities waiting to be explored!
The conference attendees were not hobbyist, many of them were involved in collaborative projects and multiple businesses. The efforts made to pool resources was something that western developers could learn from.
ISDEF Overview - Tuesday
Well the initial plan was to meet David Halls from Emetrix, in New York at JFK and fly from JFK to Moscow, but after sitting for a few hours on the tarmac in Salt Lake, David's plane returned to the gate with mechanical issues. His flight was postponed until the following day, but not before sending his luggage to LAX. Best estimates put his bags in Russia by Saturday (it is now tuesday) :-( I didn't expect the trip to be problem free, but I have to admit I'm really glad that my bags, are not in Los Angeles.
Fortunately for me I found Bill Dickson, Paul, and Brant all from Digital River were on the same very cozy flight with me. Just knowing someone else on the flight was helpful. Did I mention the flight was cozy? Ok, cozy is an understatement. Nine hours on a flight in the second to last row ..... with Garfield as the movie de jour was not a fun trek :-(
ISDEF Overview Wednesday
When I arrived in Russia I was greeted by Alexei and Roman (thanks guys!). There mission was to transport me to the Holiday Inn Vinograd about a 1/2 hour away.
The ride was harrowing, driving in Russia is like nothing I've ever experienced. Alexei, fortunately was a very good, but somewhat aggressive driver. A few days into the trip, it was clear that what a locals said was true, traffic laws and red lights were merely suggestions.
After arriving at the hotel I met Serge Petrov from SoftLogica and Alex Katalov from Elcomsoft, whom I had corresponded with via e-mail, but had not previously met in person.
It seemed a relatively quiet wednesday, with most of the early arrivals staying in the lounge and chatting. For the Americans this meant sharing travel tales, and struggling to stay awake. One of the guests from winrar ran into some difficulties with the police in Moscow while visiting the Kremllin, apparently he wanted to meet Putin :-(
I had dinner with Bill Dickson from Simtel and discussed industry innovations and changes, speculating on what the future might hold.
ISDEF Overview Thursday
Thursday morning after connecting to the hotel's wireless network from my room I went to breakfast and met Misha Dyachkov from Pingram Marketing. I've known Misha for a number of years and he was the one who convinced Dave Collins from Shareware Promotions and myself to attend the ISDEF conference.
Dave, Misha, myself and some of the Digital River group took the hotel shuttle (big cars are safer) to Moscow's City Center to "see" Moscow. We visited Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral. Then we headed back to officially register for the conference. The hotel shuttle was full of ISDEF attendees, and I had the opportunity to meet Vasiliy Tarasov from from Consult IT Now, as he allowed me to sit on his bag to make the ride more comfortable. :-)
Thursday evening ISDEF hosted a huge barbecue. A popular Russian band provided entertainment. The energy and passion for dancing was unlike anything I'd ever seen. I had dinner with Mike Granin and Denis from SoftIdentity. They are both from Siberia and they managed to dispell my preconceived stereotypes of life in Siberia. It was particularly nice to meet Mike and Denis because SoftIdentity just completed a new design for our FeedForAll application.
ISDEF Overview Friday
Amazingly even with the late night discussions and dancing, breakfast was packed. I met Serge Sushko from Alchemy Lab and MyPressRelease.net . Serge and I have corresponded online for a number of years, in fact he is a NotePage integration partner, so it was a real treat to meet him in person!
With more than 430 software professionals registered for the ISDEF conference you did not generally have to look to far for synergistic relationships. I spent much of the conference milling around and chatting with developers. While the ISDEF board had made accommodations to provide realtime translations in English for foreigners, I found that networking with the Russian developers more enjoyable.
Surprisingly the language barrier was not a problem. Most of the developers in attendance spoke english, or at the very least read English The handful of times that someone had difficulty understanding me (or vice versa), I was able to recruit someone nearby to translate. While my crash course in Russian proved to be completely useless, it did add comic relief to the conference. While my pronunciation of the handful of Russian words that I had learned on my own usually resulted in bursts of laughter from the Russians, I found them to be gracious hosts and truly incredible business people.
Surprisingly I was not overly nervous about my presentation on Relationship Marketing. I had my speech written out, which made the translation go a little smoother than some of the other English speaking presenters. I could explain an entire slide without interruption, and then Misha would translate for me. I think the lack of nerves was ultimately because I knew that Misha would make me sound OK (and he did) interjecting editorial comments and humor along the way. :-) Nikolay from Agnitum and Chad from eSellerate were also both on hand to assist with presentation material if the need arose (thanks guys).
Friday evening Digital River hosted a reception with games and competitions for attendees, similar to the four corner theme at the Shareware Industry Conference (without the sumo wrestling).
I met up with Alexander Gorlach from MAPIlabs. We've worked with Alexander, in the past and it was a pleasure to meet him in person. We discussed possible ways we might work together in the future.
ISDEF Overview Saturday
Saturday resulted in more networking, although the late nights were beginning to show on some faces, the resilience of the attendees was really quite remarkable. I spoke with Michael Popov from Computerra a popular russian computer publication. I also had the opportunity to discuss some of the contrasting cultural differences with Mykola Rudenko from Rudenko Software. Mykola is from Kiev in the Ukraine, and for those westerners that don't know the Ukraine is not Russia. A point Mykola quickly pointed out. ;-)
One of the sessions on venture capital ran late, so dinner was somewhat staggered. I sat with Tatianna from Abbyy Software who has a palm application that translates russian to English! No more heavy dictionary for me!!! :-)
For those Americans interested in going next year, but concerned about the security. The security leaving Moscow was *really* extensive, I went through 7 security checks and every single bag on the flight was hand searched.
There is enormous potential in the Russian market. I hope to see more Russians this summer at the Shareware Industry Conference and more foreigners at ISDEF in 2005. Bridging the east and the west will benefit both groups of developers. There are significant opportunities for exchanges and synergistic relationships.
PPT Presentations from ISDEF Sessions
All of these sessions are in English. Russian presentations will be placed on the ISDEF website.
Basic Search Engine Optimizations (Dave Collins)
The Website as a Sales Tool (Dave Collins) ** this is a great one!!!
A Global Solution for a Global Economy (Brant Pallazza)
Relationship Networking & Partnering (Sharon Housley)
Affiliate Marketing Today (Brant Pallazza)
Registration Incentives (David Halls)
ALL Powerpoints (Some in Russian
TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED AT ISDEF
1.) There are few hobbyist in the Russian shareware community, whether its the barrier to entry or the low cost of living in rural regions of Russia most Russian software companies have multiple employees.
2.) The business networking occurs all day and all night in Russia their is no distinction between business time and pleasure time.
3.) There are major industry changes underway in the area of registration services.
4.) The Russian community is very viral, and they strongly rely on each other for advice and recommendations.
5.) Relationship networking is key to growing into a variety of market segments. The best relationships are mutually beneficial. Partnering and networking is hot, more and more sites and developers are joining together to provide a value ad. Find ways to help each other.
6.) The software market really is global. US developers tend to be US centric and do not see the market potential in other regions or the possibility of partnering to reach those markets. Russians understand the benefits of reaching out of their circle and are eager to find others who will help them do this.
7.) While there are significant cultural differences between the US and Russia the underlying desire for business success is the same. The Russian developers were very open sharing ideas and information.
8.) Very few Russian developer's target specific audiences (or verticals) with their software. This is still an untapped market.
9.) Russian's were very honest and direct with their opinions, it was refreshing to cut through the niceties and get honest critical feedback about issues.
10.) It is safer to fly than to drive in Moscow.
Announcements at ISDEF
SWREG - Probably the most surprising was the announcement that Steve Lee is stepping down as CEO of SWREG. Get the full story about SWREG
DaveTalks - Dave Collins has announced a new look and format for his software article site http://www.davetalks.com
FeedForAll beta Announced - We announced the beta release of FeedForAll and RSS creation tool. http://www.feedforall.com
RSS4U - Mike Grannin announced a new project related to RSS. A free online newsreader. http://www.rss4u.com/
Thanks to the ISDEF board for presenting a great, professional conference and welcoming the westerners into your world. Also a very special thank you to Misha for encouraging me to attend the conference and ensuring that I was properly introduced to everyone at the conference!
As I understand it the ISDEF conference in 2005 will likely be held again at the Holiday Inn Vinograd, the hotel was very nice and were able to accomodate the needs of the conference. If you are a westerner contemplating attending please feel free to e-mail me with any questions related to the conference or travel. I will help you in anyway that I can.
About the Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for the NotePage http://www.notepage.net and FeedForAll product lines.