Starting Up on the Island of Love
Victor Kislyi would for sure have been delighted with current market conditions in Cyprus, but even so, the strong-minded, iron-forged Belorussian young entrepreneur was never short of success. In August 1998 he deployed his units in Nicosia, joined them with home-based brainiacs from Minsk and started a quest to conquer the world with turn-based and real-time strategy warship games. Crown of the jewelry: the 2010 launched World of Tanks. A five-man startup in 1998, Wargaming turned into a four thousand plus employee business with over six million euros in net income. Reason enough for Cypriot authorities to reconsider their stance upon doing international business on the island of love.
Wargaming still is, probably, the most prominent startup brand in Cyprus, although Viber has also been on the list in some days until sold to Japanese Rakuten for 900m US-Dollars. But numbers have to increase, considering Cyprus’ possibilities. A sunny spot of land in the Mediterranean Sea, nice weather, ancient history and delicious food are sort of the items on a holiday checklist rather than on the map of an entrepreneur. But exactly this sort of relaxed life might provide the environment for good work, if only the government supported, which it now actually does. Starting February, Cyprus is on the run for alluring top talent from non-EU member states with an interest in innovative technological startups, by offering a scheme of several benefits, among others fast track visas for young entrepreneurs to come and settle in. Acknowledged as a tax heaven, Cyprus is already home to business angels, venture capitalists and cogent financial institutions, yet it largely lacks the beneficiaries. The new program seeks gifted IT people by promising low costs, easy access to capital and high chances of international development. As a matter of fact, going international should be a mantra of Cypriot startups, as the domestic market is only 800,000 large in population and still divided by the seemingly unending political conflicts between Greeks and Turks. But, on the other hand side, Cyprus is as cosmopolite as you can hardly get elsewhere, with English as a mother tongue, friendly people, vibrant and knowledgeable expat communities, comforting time-zone for doing business both to the East and to the West, membership within the EU, Eurozone, WHO, WCO, UN, ICC and the list might continue. It sounds more as an international marketplace where business ideas can be tested before jumping to a truly global level, rather than any sorts of national constraints.
So why not start up in Cyprus, especially when considering former best practice examples and the ease of access to foreign markets? The visa allows applicants to live and work in Cyprus for a minimum of twelve months and, if the business demonstrates growth potential, it can be extended indefinitely. Kislyi is nearing Wargame’s twentieth anniversary and all the odds to keep counting, which is a whole of a deal and a whole of inspirational for youngsters aiming to step in his Cypriot boots.