On November 17, Astana Hub hosted a special event to celebrate its fifth anniversary and to conduct the Demo Day of the hub’s fourth batch of the Silkway Accelerator program, implemented in collaboration with Google for Startups. During the event, IT companies presented their pitches to peers and potential investors, sharing the progress made both before and during the program.
In contrast to the grandiose Digital Bridge event attended by tens of thousands of participants this year, the Hub’s anniversary party resembled more of a gathering among close friends. Startup CEOs were seen chatting and preparing to present their ideas, while the Hub’s team members were cheering for them and congratulating each other next to an impromptu buffet. Developers engaged in discussions about the latest AI advancements by the Star Wars-esque press wall.
Shortly before the event commenced, Magzhan Madiyev, CEO of Astana Hub, and Bagdat Mussin, Minister of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry, joined the guests.
A QazMonitor reporter attended the event to analyze the key takeaways from the presentations by Magzhan Madiyev and Bagdat Mussin.
Minister Mussin congratulated the audience on the Hub’s anniversary and emphasized its role as the main element and industry leader of the country’s IT ecosystem. The Minister added that this ecosystem extends beyond the Hub itself, encompassing 12 regional IT hubs.
“To summarize, more than 1,300 companies have been registered in Astana Hub through the efforts of each of you. And that's not just 1,300 companies; that's 20,000 employees in those companies. Approximately, about 100,000 people are working around the Astana Hub ecosystem, and they are all contributing to the country's economy. The IT companies registered in the Hub drive the economy not only of the IT sector but the entire country, as digitalization permeates through these companies into all sectors and areas of the economy, increasing their efficiency and bringing economic value to the whole country,”
Minister Mussin followed up by highlighting the substantial results achieved through the Tech Orda program. He mentioned that about three thousand people annually acquire specialized education without visiting universities, thanks to the Tech Orda program through the voucher mechanism. He clarified that this program encompasses not only IT education but also accelerator programs and trackers. Minister Mussin expressed gratitude to the trackers who consistently support and guide the startups. He noted the startups reaching international levels and the presence of Kazakhstan in Silicon Valley, with plans to expand to the Arab countries and Southeast Asia. He emphasized Kazakhstan's investment in developing human capital and the significance of the ecosystem in contributing to the country's economy.
In conclusion, Bagdat Mussin switched to English, addressing the success of Astana Hub in terms of international outreach. He acknowledged Astana Hub as a flagship of the IT industry, not only in Kazakhstan but in Central Asia. He highlighted the initiative of the Digital Bridge forum and Digital Almaty, considering them regional success stories. He congratulated everyone and expressed a desire for startups to grow globally, becoming worldwide entrepreneurs. He wished for new ideas and initiatives to come to Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
Magzhan Madiyev opened the event by sharing the results of five years of innovation and IT advancements, providing a glimpse into the upcoming plans of the country’s largest digital center.
“Today is a very special day for us. We are officially celebrating our fifth anniversary. I have been personally involved in this project for 7 years. Very often we see our audience, the market, and IT companies thanking the Astana Hub team, but, in fact, a significant amount of work is behind the Ministry of Digitalization. So, a big thank you to you personally, Bagdat Batyrbekovich. I remember when we started working with you during the pandemic, when you were the President's advisor on digitalization and innovation, we generated a lot of ideas. And frankly speaking, I can't believe that many of the initiatives that we started are coming to reality today,” he said.
Then, Madiyev shared with the audience where the idea to create Astana Hub came from.
“I will tell you very briefly. I mentioned that the first time the idea to create Astana Hub came around was when I visited Silicon Valley, where I first encountered the concept of an innovation ecosystem. Since then, this initiative has been supported by the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and we have been actively implementing it all these years. Today, Astana Hub is a very large ecosystem that starts from the very beginners in IT and covers large companies, including Unicorns and decacorns,” said Madiyev.
The CEO of Astana Hub proceeded to share the achieved results and projections for the end of the year.
The number of our residents is growing almost exponentially, and so is our revenue. When we first launched the special tax regime in 2019, the total company revenue was only $40 million, and this year we project that we will close the year at $700 million. That's very good growth. But at the same time, you all know that our official target is export revenue, and that's growing as well. It is growing in a very interesting way. Very unexpected companies are showing results. We see Gamedev showing good results. Artificial intelligence, Smart Cities, and many other projects. Well, naturally, this whole story attracts private investment, which once again shows the effectiveness and demand for our solutions. In order for such solutions, people, and IT specialists to become more numerous, we are actively engaged in popularization, supporting YouTube projects, filming many podcasts, and holding many events.
Madiyev paid special attention to the Digital Bridge Forum, which has become the largest in the region. Then he spoke about the results of TechOrda and accelerator programs, including the Hub's flagship - Silkway Accelerator.
According to him, the Tech Orda program has shown very good results. Over 80 schools across the country are participating in it. It has stimulated a boom in private IT schools. Secondly, graduates who take courses from 6 to 12 months and graduate find employment with an average salary of $800.
“Speaking of Silkway Accelerator, you know what the results are. There's a company that got a $100 million valuation by going through this program. The guys fundraise actively. I think we will hear about them more than once soon. Separately, I would like to mention the blockchain center, which is showing amazing results. They started locally, held the first hackathon in the city, then at the national level, and now they are taking over the whole world with their programs. They have partnerships in Turkey, in Latin America, they are implementing blockchain initiatives in Argentina, and all this is done by the guys here on the third floor of our Astana Hub.”
It is noteworthy that Madiyev paid a lot of attention to gamedev startups in his presentation, emphasizing their results and attracting the attention of peers and investors.
“As you know, among our participants, there are companies such as Playrix, G5 Games – these are, we can say, world leaders in game development. Together with them and with their support, we created the program. In a few months, the teams created games from scratch and released them on PlayMarket and AppStore. When we first started, we didn't realize that we would achieve such great results among game development startups. I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of all colleagues and investors – please take a closer look at game development startups; they have a very promising future,”
Speaking about new opportunities and initiatives of Astana Hub, Magzhan Madiyev shared insights into the first success in Silicon Valley.
“You know, we have already sent 27 startups to Draper University in Silicon Valley. They are also showing very cool results. It's still too early to judge because we sent the first batch only in May. But, believe me, talking to these guys, we understand how impactful this program is, which completely changes thinking, and changes networking. And Silicon Valley [experts] are also learning, getting to know entrepreneurs from Central Asia, who make a very good impression. Tim Draper's visit to Digital Bridge this year is direct proof of that; he kept talking about how positive he is about the potential of our entrepreneurs from our region. To have our platform [in the US] all year round, not just during batches, we supported the creation of the Silkroad Innovation Hub, led by Asset Abdualiyev, a Stanford and Harvard graduate who has been there for a long time. We created a site, 300 square meters in the heart of Silicon Valley near Stanford University. All of you have the opportunity to go there and get support, networking, and counseling.”
Finally, Madiyev spoke about the new features on Astana Hub's digital platform, which will also be available on the company's mobile app in the near future.
“To make our system even more inclusive, we have been actively developing our digital platform AstanaHub.com for several years. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the platform has a lot of opportunities and very rich functionality. Not everyone knows about it, so please use it. This product is being created especially for you. And already on the sidelines of the Digital Bridge forum, we announced a new gamification module.
We have created a marketplace on the Astana Hub online platform. Now you have the opportunity to earn social coins [QM – the Hub’s own coin]. You earn it and can spend these funds in our marketplace. So far, we have started small – it's just merch, PR support, and some discounts on rent, but in the future, all our programs, all our support measures will be implemented only through the marketplace. Even participation in the accelerators will only be available in exchange for social coins. We believe this is the future of Astana Hub,” explained Magzhan Madiyev.
You know that our official KPI is export revenue. The President has set a goal to reach a billion dollars in export revenue starting in 2026. Hence, we need global recognition and partnerships around the globe to do that. The minister has already mentioned – we've already set up a platform in Silicon Valley, US; upcoming plans include the MENA region and South East Africa. We will definitely support the entry of our startups into these markets and their efforts to attract investments there.