Bel­gian ex­pa­tri­ate stops by to cre­ate new mo­bile apps

Kyiv Post - - Business - BY BOZHENA SHEREMETA [email protected] Kyiv Post staff writer Bozhena Sheremeta can be reached at [email protected] kyivpost.com. The Kyiv Post’s IT cov­er­age is spon­sored by AVen­tures Cap­i­tal, Cik­lum, FI­SON and Soft­Serve.

With thou­sands of tech spe­cial­ists leav­ing Ukraine each year in search of higher salaries and bet­ter lives, why did Bel­gian Tes Mat, a 46-year-old mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions de­vel­oper, move to Ukraine?

He smiles when he’s asked – and he’s asked of­ten.

But Mat likes Kyiv, and he has been en­joy­ing his stay while de­vel­op­ing sev­eral of his own iOS apps and work­ing as a free­lancer.

“I came here mainly to learn Rus­sian,” he says of his first visit in 2012. A friend from Lviv had pushed him by ask­ing: “Why do you need to go to Rus­sia? Come to Ukraine. Every­body can speak Rus­sian here.’”

Af­ter vis­it­ing Kyiv for a month, he even­tu­ally re­turned in 2013 and set­tled in.

Mat par­tic­i­pated in tech com­pe­ti­tions called Startup Week­ends in Kyiv and Odesa. Now familiar with Kyiv’s tech com­mu­nity, he en­joys work­ing in KyivWork­ing, a shared work­ing space popular among Kyiv’s tech free­lancers.

Though not part of his for­mal train­ing, af­ter the In­ter­net was de­vel­oped, he learned to make web­sites as a free­lancer. With the devel­op­ment of the iPhone, he worked on iOS-apps devel­op­ment as well.

The first app Mat cre­ated was Vo­cab Ninja, which he be­gan be­fore mov­ing to Kyiv. The app was launched on App­Store in May 2014. It helps to en­large one’s vo­cab­u­lary in any lan­guage by show­ing flash­cards with words. There have been around 1,000 down­loads so far, mainly in Bel­gium. Mat plans to add new func­tions and pro­mote the app via in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

Mat de­vel­oped No­ti­fyapp with Ilia Ts­laf, a Rus­sian-Is­raeli who now lives in Kyiv. This app no­ti­fies peo­ple on a con­tact list about the holder’s where­abouts just be­fore his or her phone bat­tery dies. The app was launched last month on App­Store. There are no ana­logues on the mar­ket at this point, ac­cord­ing to Mat. There’s no charge for it now, but the plan is to ad­vance the app with more fea­tures and charge a monthly sub­scrip­tion later.

Mat still gen­er­ates most of his in­come through free­lance work rather than his apps. He ac­cepts or­ders from Bel­gian clients be­cause he can charge them sig­nif­i­cantly higher rates than clients in Ukraine.

Ukrainian IT de­vel­op­ers can be more com­pet­i­tive on the mar­ket, Mat says, due to the fact that they are less ex­pen­sive. The high costs charged by Bel­gian IT de­vel­op­ers are pric­ing them out of the mar­ket, he be­lieves.

A pre­req­ui­site for any global IT de­vel­oper, Mat says, is English-lan­guage skills. This, and do­ing high-qual­ity work are the two most sig­nif­i­cant things for an in­de­pen­dent de­vel­oper, he be­lieves. With th­ese es­sen­tial skills one can com­pete glob­ally, and lo­ca­tion be­comes less im­por­tant.

Mat is un­sure how long he will be in Ukraine. “It would be nice to start work­ing to­gether with Ukrainian free­lancers here on apps for clients in Bel­gium, but it’s not nec­es­sary to start a big com­pany,” Mat says. “When I learn Rus­sian well enough, I will prob­a­bly leave to learn Chi­nese, Por­tuguese or Ger­man.”

Tes Mat, Bel­gian mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion de­vel­oper, talks about the pro­duces that he de­vel­oped in Ukraine on March 23. (Anas­ta­sia Vlasova)

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