DOU: Interview with Karl Robb, Independent Board Member at EPAM and Ajax Systems

Developers.Org.Ua interviewed Karl Robb, Independent Board Member at EPAM Global and Ajax Systems – read the highlights of the insightful and inspirational dialog:

Ukrainian tech market from a foreigner’s perspective:

  • “Ukraine is a place that clients enjoy visiting. It’s a short direct flight and had simpler easier visa processes as well as a bigger selection of foreigner-friendly services and facilities, with a strong pro-European culture and importantly a large population with one of the world’s largest per-capita outputs of Computer Science graduates Mathematicians and engineers. So simple access, good soft skills, high-quality education, and simple transparent rules for business visitors made Ukraine my favorite choice.”
  • “Ukraine is the most expensive outside of the EU. But it has good people, a good soft culture, a good level of English, Western mentality, open society, easy access physically, and geopolitically popular. Americans and Europeans have a lot of empathy with Ukraine.”
preparing companies for IPOs:
  • “Ajax is a very different business than EPAM. But the biggest challenge Ajax faces is the same — it’s attracting high skilled professionals, in a globally short supply and competitive employment market. You do that by focusing on building a good brand for both employees and customers… Investors don’t want to invest in companies that make a profit, but nobody knows how. They have to see a sustainable, repeatable, extendable, profitable model.”
  • “My job is not to run AJAX or to perform operational functions. It’s to guide and mentor senior execs and make sure that compliance governance and international financial norms are fully adhered to.”
  • “Ajax has Ukrainian founders, Ukrainian R&D heads, designed in Ukraine, built-in Ukraine, tested in Ukrainian…I truly believe it is not only the most impressive truly Ukrainian company but one of the sexiest, coolest and advanced brands in the world today.’
  • “Do you know how much it costs to develop a small IT product? Between 2-3 million dollars. Do you know how much it costs to roll it out on the market? In legal and marketing costs? Minimum 4-7 million dollars. . . And then if you want to test it on all the different environments, all the different browsers, on all different currencies and languages, and fund the entire company for 1-3 years while you have no material revenues, it costs about 15-100 million. Then you’re in the game to play and the vast majority fail.’
  • “The window of opportunity to create another EPAM, Luxoft, or GlobalLogic is gone”
  • “What I mean by native — is that it is built around interaction, not technology. Of course, there is a market for great devices. There is a fantastic Ukrainian little exercise watch for people with heart problems, called Mawi Band. My lawyer invested in it. And I know that some Ukrainian guys are working on a health monitor for animals”
  • “The best entrepreneurs are identifying the problems that people would really love to solve, preferably MUST Solve, and then working on technology to do it. People will always pay for a product that solves a problem. Especially if the cost of not solving this problem is high”
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