CeBIT 2014

This week we are working at CeBIT fair in Hannover. It is one of the biggest computer fairs in the world, and it is the starting point for our business in Germany. We did not expect much from the fair itself. Our product is something between financial consulting and software, and the fairs are more about pure software or even hardware solutions. However, we have got new contacts, made the first steps to support visibility in the market and trained ourselves in the presentations.

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On Wednesday Alt-Invest broke through to the big screen, but on other days we were much less sensational.

We did not buy a stand. Instead we bought a place at the Hannover Impulse stand, the company that supported us while we were creating the subsidiary. We used this stand as a base for negotiations with potential partners and job candidates. The fair also was a cause for me to see our new German office and to meet the first local employee. The office is a bit far from the centre, but in an excellent brand new building. It looks very nice and our room is perfect. Andrey Senov, our commercial director, underlined several times that the office building has a shower, next to our office, which is very good if you come in for one day for meetings. He was joking, but taking into account all my plans for this year, the idea of flying from city to city having showers in offices looks plausible though not very pleasant.

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As we worked all the day at the fair and in the meetings, our visit to the office happened to be in the night :).

The fair is packed with Big Data businesses. The term is so popular that every company that works with the Internet or databases regards as its duty to put ‘Big Data’ in the title of the stand. Our hall specialised in CRM, so the quantity of Big Data businesses was beyond all measure. Here are some robots, some cars and a little bit of everything. It is enough to spend a day or two, but boring if you spend long days here for a week. The territory of the fair is vast and I cannot see how they can cover the investment in it. For example, I am writing this text in the huge conference center (it is on the left in the photo), and the center is nearly empty though it is Wednesday, and the main fair of the year is in full swing. I guess that the answer is very simple: they cannot. So my expectation is that CeBIT as I knew it is dying and it is my last time here. It is a good event, but it is losing the former importance it once had. Who knows though? Conferences at other venues flourish and the problems here can be tactical failures instead of a global trend. Anyway, it was pleasure to have a place to hide out from the continuous noise in the hall.

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Our hall and the futuristic conference centre.

And now, after all the preparations, it is the first week of our real work in Germany. Hurrah!

We are starting in Germany

Our German subsidiary is making now its first step. We will be participating in the CeBIT fair in Hannover, and you can meet me at stand H17 in hall 6, from 10th – 14th of March. Also, I will present our solutions at a short seminar.

One interesting point is the finance of our start in Germany.

I have been running my business in Russia for 15 years. All of those years I worked in the investment industry, and the most advertised part of that industry is government supported venture capital and small business support. I know many key people in this market niche and I am an expert about how it works. Without surprise, I tried to get some investment and support for my business. However, every time I found that it was cheaper for me to earn money than to break through the red tape and get the support.

Now we have got support for our project, but from German government.

The German system of support for new businesses and foreign investors has impressed me by its contrast with the Russian one. We met people that listened to us, were open and clear in their offers, helped us at all stages of the process and eventually gave us the resources we needed to feel more comfortable in the beginning of our project.

We opened the office in Hannover, and the agency that is helping us is a municipal company HannoverImpuls. They provide us with one year rent-free office room and some money to cover services and equipment acquisitions for the office. Earlier they also gave some money for the legal procedures and led us to the necessary contacts for our marketing events. All in all, it was not much money. They covered about 5-6 thousand Euro of our expenses. Still, together with the contacts and their guidance, it was enough to make the entrance to the market less risky and to remove all doubt about the decision to start business in Germany.

So we are here now, and the second part of my big plan has started: Oxford and Germany. Let’s see what we can get of them.

Trade mark

We have received confirmation: our trademark ALT has been registered in the UK. Sometime earlier, it was registered in Germany, and in Russia we have owned it for more than 15 years, so now we control the trade mark and our domain name (alt-invest.ru/de/co.uk) in these countries. By the New Year, the number is to grow to eight countries, and at that level we will stop for a while.

The process of trade mark registration is probably the most bureaucratic among all registration procedures in the world. In the case of our trade mark, we started in about January, and now only two countries of eight have finished the registration. On average, it takes about a year to get the protection of a trade mark, and the term does not vary in different countries a great deal. In Russia the problem grows even more serious, as you cannot check availability of a mark without help of a patent attorney, therefore the possibilities of free research on the matter are limited. In the international system of the World International Property Organization all data are more accessible, and one can look for any available information of the marks (http://www.wipo.int/romarin).

Unfortunately, that is only part of the information. It covers the marks registered under the Madrid Protocol, which usually means registration in many countries at once. For example, there are some registrations in Russia for the word ALT in different classes of goods and services that were made only in Russia, and they are invisible to the WIPO. That looks strange to me, as all the databases are automated, and the solution to the problem looks quite straightforward.

But anyway, we have done it, and that is good news.