At the end of the year, when the accounts are reduced and the lines are underlined, the pluses are written on one side, and the minuses on the other, on the positive side one item prevails. It is the information technology sector, popular IT, which has continued to grow briefly this year in the 2020 pandemic.
In the first 10 months, according to the data of the National Bank of Serbia, the export of ICT services reached almost 1.5 billion euros, more than the export of agriculture. The growth compared to the first 10 months was as much as 28 percent.
It is estimated that the size of the domestic IT market is around three billion euros.
This year in the field of IT in our country was marked by three news items.
In June, Nordeus, the creator of the popular online game Top 11, was bought by the American company Take Two, the owner of some of the world’s most famous video games for 225 million euros, with options to reach 378 million if certain goals are achieved.
In early October, the American company NCR opened a technology campus in New Belgrade, in the construction of which it invested 100 million dollars and which will employ 5,000 people.
The third, probably the biggest news so far came in September from Microsoft.
The founder and director of the Microsoft Development Center in Belgrade, Dragan Tomić, has been appointed vice president for engineering (VP for engineering) at Microsoft.
This is a recognition not only for him, but also for the development center in Serbia, which has become one of the largest outside the United States in the last 15 years since it was founded.
According to Dejan Cvetković, CTO of the Microsoft Development Center in Belgrade, only the last expansion of the Azure Data team for 150 engineers since November last year was an investment on a par with development centers from America and Asia.
When asked what are the comparative advantages of Serbia in relation to other countries in this area, Cvetković emphasizes the startup mentality.
“Let’s start from the angle of the company I work for. We have built a Development Center that represents a strong and significant contribution to the company and society. This year, we received confirmation of that through the appointment of Dragan Tomić, our director, as Vice President of Engineering at Microsoft. This is important for Belgrade, but also for this part of Europe. However, in addition to that, what has remained unchanged from the beginning is the startup mentality, so the main motivation for employees is to create innovations and move the technical, mental and organizational boundaries. I think that is something special that we own, now I mean our entire industry. That startup IT mentality and innovations, creativity among people, in the end the passion for our work – I have the impression that it is somehow characteristic of us,” says Cvetković for Danas.
According to him, the Microsoft Development Center in Serbia has been one of the leaders in the development of the digital ecosystem for years and someone who invests a lot of resources in the development of education in Serbia.
“Everything that happens in the company affects the further growth and development of the entire IT industry. The last expansion of our Azure Data team was an investment on a par with development centers from America and Asia, and now with the current newly opened positions in the same team, more than 40, the investment continues. So there is always room for new investments so that you can continue to make a strong economic contribution.”
Cvetković notes that Microsoft’s development team in Serbia numbers about 500 people, “and in the beginning there were only three of us.”
Now the trend of employment continues, we are looking for software engineers who will work on the development of Azure Data service.
“Also, MDCS is always especially open for our fellow engineers. I must mention that we also employ people from outside Serbia, which is what brings another higher standard to culture in terms of diversity of approach to the problem, when it is ‘mixed’ with our experiences,” our interlocutor noted.
The Serbian IT industry is well positioned on the world market. As proof, there are some very successful companies competing on the global stage. The number of people working in the IT sector is growing, and this trend will certainly continue, given that new generations of children are coming who are quite well-versed.
“So, the trend is positive, but we should always work on improvement. We must use the opportunities for better performance in the education sector, research sector, but also further incentives for startup companies. The IT industry has somehow developed so far separately from other branches. What we need to differentiate, IT technology is a tool, any change requires a man. The term “digital transformation” is not new because we have all embraced the digital world. In order for industries and sectors to merge and begin to be completely transformed digitally, it takes time and it is necessary for the person who makes that decision to change, to really do it, because in the beginning he opposes it. It seems to me that despite all the obstacles in the coming period, we will move from the Cloud era to the era of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence,” concludes Cvetković.
According to estimates recently made by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, 43,500 people are employed in IT in Serbia. The growth of this sector was decisively influenced by the arrival of some large companies, mainly through the acquisition of domestic startups.
This year, the German Continental opened a factory of electronic components in Novi Sad, which will partly produce products designed in their research center, which opened in 2018, also in this city.
Last year, Comtrade sold its part of Digital Services to Endavi, and a year earlier, Epic games entered our market with the purchase of the Novi Sad startup 3lateral, which specializes in computer-generated characters.
A year earlier, the American Nutanix, otherwise one of the fastest growing companies in the world, bought Frame, an American-Serbian startup that deals with “cloud computing”, for 165 million dollars.
In the field of energy, Schneider Electric bought DMS, an IT company that makes software for managing power systems.
The number of takeovers and partnerships is much longer and will only increase every year, because the startup scene in Serbia is becoming more and more lively.
According to Nebojsa Bjelotomic, director of the Digital Serbia Initiative, this year startups from Serbia managed to attract investments of over 35 million euros for their development. In 2020, investments in our startups amounted to 20 million euros.
“We are also noticing an increase in the total number of startups. For their further development, it is necessary for the founding teams to become multidisciplinary. Currently, our scene is dominated by startups whose founders are exclusively engineers and developers. It is necessary for startups to have much more domain knowledge from traditional industries and people with experience in business, economy and finance,” believes Bjelotomić.
He points out that the demand for developers and IT engineers on a global level is not waning.
“The presence of development centers only increases the chances that other leading companies will also open development centers in Serbia and helps us keep up with the world. Those who are already there are building infrastructure, not only in terms of engineers, but also other profiles they need – such as project managers or human resources specialists. Such resources are very valuable, and they also raise the attractiveness of our market,” said Bjelotomić.
But the question is whether big companies are stifling the freelance and startup scene. Are there enough people to work in development centers and to invent a new Windows in the “garage”. Bjelotomić believes that one does not exclude the other, but on the contrary, large companies provide greater opportunities for startups.
“Current needs and demand for IT staff leave room for all actors. In my opinion, development centers have a positive impact on the development of the freelance and startup scene. They provide both contact with the latest technologies and insight into the needs of the global market, based on which a startup can identify a market segment in which it can find its field of action or see a problem that can solve commercial success. The cooperation that development centers usually have with other international markets opens the possibility for startup founders to meet and cooperate with potential co-founders or clients. One of them is the startup Ydrive, which is working on the development of maps for autonomous vehicles and is just an example of a startup with multinational founders who worked in the development centers of multinational companies where one of them is from Serbia. For potential freelancers, they are a source of contacts or a stable job,” says our interlocutor, Danas reports.