Juha Christensen Chooses Ukraineby QArea Team on March 31, 2006
“Should you hire right people, you will reach the success even if the rest you do is wrong…”
Juha Christensen, ex-Symbian inspirer and drive, ex-vice president of Microsoft Mobile Division, ex-President at Macromedia, also being on board of Teleca, the largest Systems Integrator in the mobile industry, and Unwire, the leading mobile services company has chosen Ukraine to build his software development center in. Naturally, this center’s major activity is concentrated on software development for mobile industry which Mr. Christensen knows from inside out.
In this article we quote Juha Christensen, our good friend, who disclosed to Expert the most promising IT trends from his perspective and confessed of what makes Ukraine attractive for a foreign investor.
Q: This must be a very promising business since the ex-vice president of Microsoft became interested in it?
J.Ch.: Of course I have studied closely the telecommunications market trends prior to going into that business. I guess either vice-president or an ordinary programmer will make a thorough research of the market prior to setting to do a thing. Potentially, this is an enormous business; by the end of the year we will have two billion mobile subscribers in the world. At this we think the market has already matured for the process of user segmenting to start. Look at the segmented market for sportswear and sportsgear. I expect the same situation to occur in mobile industry in three to four years. Today, if you step in a cell phone store, you will be offered the same products a nine-year-old client is.
To my mind IT market offers many other perspective trends. These are not only cellular connectivity, but also telecommunications hardware components, wireless data transfer via Wi-Max, e-commerce. I could hardly imagine myself mentioning e-commerce after the crisis that outraged at the close of the last century, but now people seem to start making purchases via Internet again, which gives us much opportunity.
Besides, I can see wide horizon in creating various devices that would have functionality at the junction of cell phone and computer. At the moment you have Internet at home and in the office, but you need to have it everywhere you are. And, of course, there are plenty of opportunities for services which make something interesting on the handheld screen.
Actually, there are many beautiful ideas spring with many people, but whether they succeed depends solely on the way you implement it. The only advantage I possess — the ability to select right people to form the team. You will reach success if you hire the right people, even if you fail to do the rest the right way.
Q: Why did you select Ukraine to locate your development center at?
J.Ch.: We want to reach a little farther than usual software vendors do when signing contracts with Ukrainian outsourcers. We decided to allocate 95% of our development resources in Ukraine.
From the very beginning we identified some cities that were attractive for us from the development pool location perspective: San Francisco (Silicone Valley), London, my hometown Copenhagen, Tallinn, Nankeen (China), Bangalore (India) and Kyiv. We analyzed all these cities under a set of parameters: among the main ones were technical level, professionals availability, resource costs, inflation, political and economic environment, as well as something call culture competitive ability.
San Francisco, London and Copenhagen appeared non-attractive to us. Having considered the remaining cities more closely we made our decision towards Ukraine. Here, the technical skills of professionals are more advanced than in other countries. Besides, people in Ukraine treat their job with extended responsibility. And the last but not least, the Ukrainian culture is closer to us than Indian or Chinese one.
My main objective here in Ukraine is in selecting the right people. One of the main principles of the companies working in IT business is to select smart people for work. We aim at selecting the right people and transfer necessary knowledge, resources, skills for them to reach success.
During the next year our company Sonopia is planning to hire 150 people and for this purpose I will have to interview 750 applicants. We have already had meetings with many professionals in Kyiv and Kharkiv. So, I resumed that average engineering knowledge level is very high. One of the reasons is in good system of engineering education. We are not going to have an American, European or Ukrainian company. We are not going to have a headquarters in some particular country. I myself come from Denmark, other board members are from Australia, UK and other countries. We are a transnational company.
Q: And who do you prefer: skilled and experienced professionals or university graduates?
J.Ch.: At the moment we have been concentrated on hiring people who already accumulated significant job experience. This is required for a good base to be founded. And then we are going to hire people who possess various experience and knowledgebase. Major troubles we have when recruiting people with experience in telecommunications.
Q: Do you consider the Ukrainian market as perspective one for your products. As we know mobile business here is behind the Western countries?
J.Ch.: In Ukraine the mobile market is segmented obscurely. Though, I’d say the less segmented the market is the more attractive it is for us, the more opportunities we have to sell our products. Actually, any market has different consumers, different groups of people. But at the moment these groups are not being serviced. It is just amazing that the other markets are so tense segmented, while it is poor in the mobile market.
Q: When evaluating Ukraine, you must have also taken into account the country drawbacks. What is your remedy to dope the country to make it more attractive for investment?
J.Ch.: First of all, I realized it long time ago that there is no need to get the jitters when a new bill comes into effect. Earlier, I used to get upset each time the law was changed in Ukraine. Of course, I think government sometimes snaps hasty decisions and tries to move forward too fast. As a result there appear bills that has not been developed earlier. Each particular bill can be good in itself, but it still can bring down the rest law.
On the other hand, I think that still there is possibility to enhance law transparency in Ukraine. For example, I used to ask many auditor companies about employee wages taxation. And each time I got different answers. Transparency and simple rules are of major importance.
Besides, a back mark of Ukraine were some issues related to microeconomics. For instance, there is no residence of good quality here. But I am sure that while time goes on this problem will be solved.
The core to success may be the rapidly developing real estate market. In Ukraine they should build many residential buildings. When on my last visit to Beijing I saw a whole street of new blocks that were build there within 3 years. They have a serious attitude to that in China: they construct much thus stimulating development in allied markets of products and services. Thus, many new offices appear, apartments are built, many people come, capital is concentrated, and thus generated is demand for new services. I talked with many people here, and they explained me there were difficulties with planning big buildings construction in Ukraine.
You may think civil construction has nothing to do with the business I work in, but I assure you this connection does exist.
Q: Your ex-boss Bill Gates entered the Consultancy Board on Investments for Viktor Yushchenko. Did this affect your decision to build you business here in Ukraine?
J.Ch.: This made me more confident this country is awaiting for right things to be made. From my experience I know that Bill is a forceful speaker.
Investors, when viewing a country to come to, also consider the people of office. Thus, such a Consultancy Board consisting of well known businessmen can be taken positively.
Perhaps, in order to attract investments from the U.S. it would be useful for Viktor Yushchenko to promote more information from his family story, and about his wife. Americans are big patriots, and you President’s family story can be very interesting for them.
I think, in the next ten years Ukraine has every chance to implement a very interesting development scenario. Many companies will engage many skilled people to work for them, and thus great future awaits Ukraine. In ten years I see your country prosperous, with highly developed entrepreneurship activities and economy.
Based on the interview taken by Maxym Blagonravyn
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