Today we start a series of articles about people who fuel events and run local communities. The first article is about our fantastic Minsk lead, Andrei.
Hi, I'm Andrei Bondarenko, I was born in Gomel, the city in Belarus, grew up in a conventional family and was a child, preferring games with friends, walking, and playing sports to studying. From the first grade, I studied at the ordinary state school and used to be a frequent contestant of Olympiads. After the 9th grade, and a year of serious preparation, I passed the necessary exams and entered the best school in Gomel - Physics and Mathematics Lyceum, which is widely known for its graduates, as amongst its students, there are many talented specialists working at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other well-known companies.
After the 11th grade of the Lyceum, I entered the University. At that time, I considered builder to be a reliable profession providing a piece of bread. Hence, I joined the Construction Faculty training Civil Engineers. In the second year of education, I realised it is not my cup of tea and started looking for other ways to express myself. As if by the wave of the hand, a watershed meeting happened in my life. I came across the company of developers, who opened me up the prospects of the IT environment and inspired me to take my first steps in this direction. I enrolled in Google courses on SEO and Adwords and started learning how to programme.
Almost at the same time, I began searching for work as I needed money for a living and was invited by Belorussian local Internet Provider as a Sales Manager. I enjoyed the job, and it came easily, it seemed I naturally knew how to sell. In less than no time, I became the best in the department, despite the fact the others were much older and more experienced. Simultaneously, I took various coding bootcamps and gained new skills.
Acquired skills kept me on the hop as I wanted to use them to advantage. The idea popped in my head rather quickly. I was still a student, and my idea aimed to ease students' life, and as a result, I created an app allowing students to check the timetable online. It went well as the University allowed me to proceed and launch a test version. Despite the fact the payment from University did not even cover my expenses, I regard it as a success because I helped almost 50 000 students to simplify their life. Scores of people worked to support the app, and it was downloaded by more than a quarter of all students. Enthusiastic reviews made me think it was popular and useful, although it did not last long as all improvements and actions had to be made by hand and required a lot of assistance. As for my career achievements, in that period of time, the rival of my employer hunted me and I continued working in that area. My results were impressive, I loved my job and earned a good salary, but a thirst for new experiences and knowledge forced me to start searching for new ways of my potential realisation, and my restless mind called me to new heights.
Closer to the end of my fourth year at University, I decided it was time to begin a new chapter in my life and joined my friends, Maksim and Vasily, who had just started working on their project- BotCube, where I became acquainted with chatbots technology. They invited me to build the Sales Department as they knew me as a high professional in sales, while they were not a dunce at it. We had worked together for several months when summer recess started, and I decided it would be a good idea to take a break. I am the kind of person open to new experiences and ideas, and as a member of the ISIQ students program, I set off to India. I was a volunteer who aimed to teach local children English, and at the same time, it was an impressive cultural exchange between us. I told stories and acquainted them with Belarus, and they were my guides to the world of India. I explored the country and absorbed new knowledge for several months, and it was a great reset.
In August, I returned home and found my friends from BootCube in the middle of removing to the USA. Before my departure to India, we prepared a presentation for the prestigious US accelerator Boost VC. In July 2017, the startup BotCube was selected for this accelerator in Silicon Valley with a bot platform for restaurants and coffee shops. As I have mentioned, in August 2017, Max and Vasya went to the USA and left BotCube without leadership, offering me to become CEO. We tried to collaborate remotely for several months, but it was a failure leading to the team's complete disintegration. Anyway, I was not going to give up, as I believed in chatbots and their abilities. Therefore, I decided to gather a new team under my leadership and continue moving forward. Until the end of 2017, I delved into technology, learned to program and make bots myself, found a technical co-founder, and took on the first major client - it was the largest retailer in our country, Euroopt.
Closer to the end of the year, I was invited to the largest Digital conference in Belarus as a Speaker. This participation allowed us to gain a reputation and many useful contacts and future clients. We worked hard, learning, exploring, doing lots of things with our own hands and by the end of 2018 the company had already comprised four members!
In the fall, we moved from coworking space to our first office in the city center. Back then, we had only ten clients, including the Nike brand. In October 2018, I took part at the ChatBot Summit as a representative of the leading agency in Eastern Europe. Chatbot Summit is the largest conference in the chatbot and AI industry. At the conference, I got to know the leaders of the industry and gathered many useful contacts. But the main event of that time was a meeting with Facebook where we discussed the Facebook community creation in Minsk. On December 24, 2018, I launched the first methane in Minsk, the speakers of which were the founders of MSQRD.
2018 was a year of our rapid growth and development. I attended many conferences, participated in dozens of meetings, and as a result, our team grew up to ten members, including both regular employees and freelancers. By the end of the year, we launched approximately 3-4 projects a month, which was a great breakthrough for our team. Also, 2018 was a year of my graduation from the University. By that time, I knew my mission, and immediately entered the master's program at the country's leading IT university, BSUIR, half of all IT specialists in Belarus were graduated from. For the master's degree, I chose a specialty related to Product Approaches to the Projects.
2019 was an intense year too, we continued working, growing strongly as professionals, and attracting more clients, and the quality of our service was also improving for the best. We called upon deep professionals who joined the team, raised salaries, and started making our own product, which allowed us to collaborate with such giants as Nestle, PepsiCo, Kimberly-Clark. Talking about Facebook community work, we made more than ten community meetups, inviting famous representatives from the IT area and the chatbots market, like Manychat.
In 2020, I found a new interesting field to study - Product Management. I started self-development and explored the subject deeply, and now I am able to provide help to other companies consulting them. For example, for six months, alongside with my work at Botcube, I consulted MobiWise, a startup that raised more than $200,000 and at the moment, I advise AzurApp, a subdivision of AzurGames, which has a turnover of more than $10M per month and make the list of the top 5 publishers of mobile games.
Being aware of my work on community development, at the beginning of 2020, I started making meetups for founders. Everything went smoothly, as I united 50 of the most active and progressive founders from Minsk with startups raising millions of dollars. In January of 2021, COVID appeared in our lives, so we had to suspend all the meetups and continued in the online format. After the situation in August, everything has completely stopped. As far as you remember, in August, we had elections, and protests throughout the country began. The revolts are remaining, and at the same time, the Government implemented stern measures against the society.
In 2020, I completed my Master's degree at the University and moved to the UK searching for a better place to implement my knowledge and create something big and socially important without any impediments.